Women’s Equality Day is August 26th. It commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote in the U.S.
In honor of that day, we sat down with two members of our leadership team, Alea Kennedy, VP of Revenue Operations, and Shiri Ronen, SVP of Customer Success, to learn about their careers, the challenges they’ve faced as women in the workplace, and how they empower women in the workplace.
Describe your career path. What was your journey into your current role?
Alea Kennedy: My career path is pretty non-traditional. I started my career in risk management, both on the client-facing side and then internally managing a risk management portfolio. Then I pivoted to business school and worked in investment banking for 3 years. I then pivoted again into corporate strategy and more specifically sales strategy and revenue operations. I’ve been in that field for the last decade-plus. In my role, I think about how we can maximize the growth of the given organization as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Shiri Ronen: I have an interesting professional journey, I actually started my career as a software engineer! I believe career progression is like a jungle gym and not a ladder. I personally jumped from one place to another before landing in customer success. After starting in software engineering, I moved into third-tier support management and then did a 180 and opened a meringue bakery with my sister. Following that I restarted my tech career in first-level support and then landed in customer success. I’ve really had a lot of experience everywhere which has made me into who I am today!
Did you face any challenges as a woman in the workplace? And how did you if you did, how did you overcome them?
Alea Kennedy: For me, the biggest challenge that I faced is related to the stereotypes and narrative that society has placed and I think, frustratingly, still places on women. The way that has translated into the workplace for me is when you know you’re being judged not for who you are and the quality of the work that you’re doing. But really, you’re being judged based on who you are relative to that stereotype or narrative that a given individual has in their head around what a woman should be.
In any given scenario all you can control is how you’re going to handle and react to scenarios. So for me, it’s been just being excellent at what I do and everything within my control, then I think it frees you up to then take action. Move yourself into an environment where you are valued for who you are and the quality of your work, and surround yourself with individuals that are in your corner. Remove that kind of negative narrative from what you’re doing by getting yourself to a place where that’s not happening.
Shiri Ronen: Being a woman in tech you’re many, many times a minority. It’s much more comfortable to be with people like you. I think naturally I kind of learned how to deal with these environments and overcome the challenges that we have as women where we’re more quiet or waiting for a turn or things like that. All you can do is almost fake it to make it, be more vocal, share your thoughts and opinions, and push forward rather than wait to be invited.
What are some ways that we can empower women in the workplace?
Alea Kennedy: At SevenRooms, we can empower women by continuing to make sure everybody has a seat at the table. There are unique contributions that anyone can make, women included. Making sure that we are filled with people who are mindful of giving women space and value differentiating perspectives is so important. The best way you can empower women is to surround us with other Roomies that share in that vision and are mindful about continuing that vision.
Shiri Ronen: As a woman, it’s a little bit easier for me to see the challenges that we face. We’re wired differently which makes our challenges unique. One way we can empower women is by making sure all voices are heard. So for example, if someone is quiet in a meeting it’s important to get them to share their thoughts. You can do that by inviting them to talk during the meeting or following up one-on-one after to get feedback. We shouldn’t assume that if someone is quiet they have nothing to say.
Another way to empower women is by being equitable in our hiring practices. An internal report from Hewlett-Packard found that men at the company would apply for a promotion if they met 60% of the job’s qualifications. Meanwhile, women at HP would only apply if they met 100% of the qualifications. In a way, we’re potentially turning away a lot of women when we create challenging job requirements. So, if we’re aware of this while we’re hiring, we can encourage women to apply and be part of the job pool.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about empowering women or the challenges women face?
Alea Kennedy: I just really appreciate that SevenRooms cares about this topic and gives women the space to share their stories. It’s so important, regardless of where you’re at in your career, to hear other women’s perspectives so we can all be more aware of our own actions. By shining a light on women, companies give power to women. Throughout my career, I’ve been able to learn from other women. While learning from others doesn’t prevent certain situations you’re able to anticipate them. It’s hard to get there on your own without having a community and hearing other women’s stories, so I’m glad I’m able to share mine.
Shiri Ronen: One of the biggest challenges for women is being a mother and working full-time. There are these ups and downs where some times are more tiring than others. I think taking a deep breath, believing in ourselves, and knowing that we will not be perfect as a mom, we will not be perfect at work, and it’s okay. We need to remind ourselves that it’s okay because it’s easy to forget with everything that’s going on in our lives.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Interested in a career at SevenRooms? Learn more about our open roles.