"Wow," "Wow," "Wow," I heard myself saying in my head throughout Under Secretary of the United States Navy Janine Davidson's speech at Merkle's 4th Annual International Women’s Day broadcast. As a distinguished graduate of Air Force Squadron Officers’ School, Janine flew combat support, airdrop, and humanitarian missions in the Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East and was the first woman to fly the Air Force’s tactical C-130. Sitting on the floor of the auditorium in Merkle’s London office (we had a full house!), I felt like a little girl watching her heroine walk out of the TV screen and into a Merkle conference room!
When she talked about women of one generation paving the way for the newer generations of women in the U.S. military, a lightbulb turned on in my head – I owe the women (and men) who have been driving diversity in the business world, especially those at Merkle, a sincere “thank you.”
I am a minority on multiple levels – I am a woman in a traditionally male-dominated Industry, an immigrant to the U.S. from China, and a U.S. employee working overseas in Merkle’s London office. I could easily be the first to say "I don't belong here" and hide in my cube where I "belong" – a quiet Asian woman hiding behind a screen full of numbers.
But the women and men I’ve worked with at Merkle have opened doors for me so often that I’ve never doubted my potential to have a successful career at Merkle. As a woman, I have dedicated mentors from our Women in Leadership (WiL) Mentorship program with whom I feel safe sharing everything; as an immigrant, I have co-workers with whom I spent Christmas Eve because my family is in China; as a U.S. employee relocated to U.K., everybody in the office knows my name and has welcomed me!
As a matter of fact, as someone who’s quite junior on the corporate ladder, I’ve had one-on-ones with every senior leader I’ve requested time from. And no one has ever said “no” when I’ve asked for this time, including our CEO, David Williams! After my lunch with David was scheduled, I kept thinking that he would have to postpone because of all his responsibilities that surely were higher priority than having lunch with a relatively junior staffer. David showed up on time and I had a life-changing conversation. The way he described his leadership of the company is exactly how I aspire to live my life – taking risk, being vulnerable, and leaning into the unknown.There are areas to improve and progress in our industry, and Merkle is not exempt from the challenges that all businesses face. We are tackling the underrepresentation of women in senior leadership by digging in to better understand and change the underlying factors and biases that contribute to gaps in performance, promotion, pay, and overall engagement and retention. But I'm grateful that Merkle has never been shy about being bold for change. We acknowledge as a company the path to progress, and are a united front in leading the industry, and ourselves, towards the future.
Last year, Merkle partnered with the ANA/AFE on their #SeeHer movement, to accurately portray women and girls in media. Since launching WiL three years ago, we have had business leaders, a news anchor, a non-governmental organization president, a social activist, and now the Under Secretary of the United States Navy, as speakers at our WIL events. Above all, we have the commitment of the CEO and the executive committee to being a diverse organization that is a great place to build our career. As David wrote in his recent blog post, “every person who works for our company should have a fair chance of fulfilling their dreams. ... And if that means making it to the upper ranks, then I want my employees to have a fair shot at that, whether they're male or female; black, white, or brown; heterosexual or homosexual, and the list goes on. I want the best talent to run our company. Period.”
For these reasons, I say “thank you” to everyone who makes Merkle a great place to work and has played a part in creating a culture that enables an individual like me to not only feel like I belong, but to also be confident in contributing to the conversation and encouraging others who want to join this adventure with us.
Yes, we are bold for change.