International Women’s Day 2019 – Creating Role Model Ladders & Women Who Inspire Us

Patrick AndersonPosted by

Today is International Women’s Day (8th March 2019), one of the most important dates on any calendar. This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter, a rallying call for us to build a better, more gender-balanced society. As IWD emphasizes, women and society have come a long way – but there’s still a lot more that can be achieved.  

Creating Role Model Ladders

At Tasktop, we recognize that solving difficult problems in society and tech requires different points of view and perspectives. We believe that gender equality is an essential part of what makes businesses thrive. In the words of our CEO and Founder, Dr. Mik Kersten, “The more gender, socio-economic and ethnic diversity we get into tech, the better the ideas and solutions we will discover.”  

Through collective action and shared responsibility, we truly believe that organizations can help ensure women in tech see attainable next steps for their careers. To that end, we’re running a live panel discussion today with a cross-section of Tasktopians on creating role model ladders (1pm ET). You can join the conversation by clicking on the image below:

For a flavor of what to expect, check out Nicole Bryan, our VP of Product Development, speaking on the topic at GOTO Copenhagen last year:

Today’s webinar is one of a number of initiatives that Tasktop runs or participates in:

Yet we’re not a company to rest on our laurels. We know that just like a quality software product or digital transformation, the work is never done. We can always improve. A free and fair society demands continuous attention, input and support from all of us. To not bury our heads in the sands. To be vigilant and engaged when injustice is prevailing. To stick up for one and another. To be kind and emphatic. Because when everything is said and done, it’s all we really have as tenants on this earth.

A more equal world also needs heroes and role models – so we asked Tasktopians about the women that inspire them:

Women that inspire you

Rianne Maharaj, Digital Marketing Strategist

“Oprah Winfrey is someone that I have looked up to since I was 7 years old. What I love the most about Oprah is the fact that she grew up in a world that statistically would have brought anyone down (she was a black woman in the deep south, with a single mother, who was abused, and lived in poverty), but she became one of the most successful people in the world. I admire how she continues to teach the world to love, have an open mind, and to practice the art of self-actualization. Oprah’s ability to spark happiness in the hearts of millions of people is a true inspiration.”

Erik Pena, Senior Director of Professional Services

“Jeannie Willette was my first manager when I became a people manager. Technically, I knew what needed to be done with the software that I developed. Managing people and all the complexities, along with the firehose of new demands for my time and attention, was not something I was prepared for. Jeannie had somewhere around 200 people in her organization. I was a small part of that then, but you would never have guessed that if you needed to talk with her.

Jeannie always pushed me to think about how people feel and what motivates them. She also would be supportive of my decisions but question them if she thought our stakeholders would not like said decisions. I still hear Jeannie’s voice in my head at times in my career.”

Laurel Heenan, Marketing Programs Manager

“There is no one version of woman and with that comes diversity and power. I’m inspired daily by women who take action to help create #balanceforbetter – in tech, science, politics, music, and every industry in between. Without every version of woman, the future is dimmer.”


Kevin Stark, Software Engineer

“A woman that continues to inspire me is my mother, Donna. As an accomplished nurse, she made an impact in countless ways throughout her career. Whether it was working in hospitals, teaching prenatal classes, or working with research groups to improve life-saving vaccines, her commitment impressed upon me the importance of taking pride in one’s work. At home, she was superhuman. Taking after her mother, she baked her own bread, made her own pasta, and pickled her own cucumbers – all while raising two children and maintaining a loving marriage. Through how she has led her life, she has demonstrated to me how to learn to do things for myself, be grateful for all I have in my life, and to continue to grow as an individual. Thank you Mum!”

Zoe Jong, Director of Revenue Operations

“I am inspired by the strong capable women in my family.  My mother, a Californian surfer turned successful architect turned Canadian cattle rancher turned tech exec, she’s shown me I can do anything that I put my mind to. She taught me that although the path may be difficult, it will always be worth it. She carries a heart full of strong advice and affirming words for everyone she meets and to embody her spirit and bring the joy she does to everyone around her has been my life goal.

My sister is the most successful woman I know. A C-suite executive and a philanthropist, she has always shown me how to be proud of my work, to take opportunities that approach me, and give me strength to do anything. She is passionate and compassionate, and she inspires me every day to drive for my own success. Both of them have always pushed me to be more capable, to be more courageous, and reminded me that I am enough, and I am inspired to bring that to others in my life because of them. Be kind and open, and create an equal future for all.”

Patrick Kennedy Anderson, Content & Editorial Manager

“I’m neither ‘pro-women’ nor ‘anti-men’. I’m just ‘Thumbs up for the six billion’Caitlin Moran (British author, journalist and speaker)

“Caitlin Moran has long been one of my favorite writers. She grew up on a council estate in England with eight siblings and has been sticking two fingers up the patriarchy and the dusty establishment with swagger and style since time immemorial.

Caitlin’s unadulterated tenacity, frantic charm, sweet and sour tongue, and pneumatic drill writing style enabled her to forge a successful career in music journalism when both journalism and music were a glorified boy’s club (and by all counts still are). After making her name in music – drinking the Britpop era under the table in the process – Caitlin has gone on to enter the wider public consciousness with national newspaper columns, bestselling books, sold out live shows, panel shows and lots more. To do that not just as a woman but as a working-class woman without industry connections or the bank of mum and dad is truly a remarkable feat.

Crucially, the 43-year-old (!) entwines an intoxicating brand of girl power and egalitarianism into her work that cuts through the bullshit. The kind of vigorous, pragmatic, reasoned and self-aware voice that is becoming increasingly rare. Reading her books How To Be A Woman and Moranthology was like finding a missing chapter to existence. Not only did her work edify and empower me as a young man, it gave an important voice to my then-teenage sister (an impact that wasn’t lost on my mum, who also became a fan). One of my favorite memories is wrestling over Caitlin’s newspaper column every Sunday, all of us eager to laugh and learn from one of the most impressive women around. 

By listening to those three incredible women – and every female colleague I work alongside at Tasktop – I really can’t go wrong with improving myself and the society around me.”

Tina Dankwart, Senior Pre-Sales Engineer

“The writer Brene Brown. Her books have become constant companions in my life. They remind me to be kind to myself, yet fierce and courageous. To venture into the arena of life and if need be get my ass kicked but always daring to be me, and acting according to my values.

And Audrey Hepburn: feminine, strong, stylish, intelligent, caring. She is the perfect role model – achieving great things without ever giving up femininity or style (too often we feel we have to become like men to achieve great things or be heard! She reminds me not to go down that road).”

Nicole Bryan, VP of Product Development

“I’m reading Michelle Obama’s book and it strikes me that she is inspiring on so many aspects of being a woman – a mother, a professional, a wife. She is vulnerable, yet purposed. She is real. I could envision having her to dinner at my house and genuinely talking about what makes being a working mom and wife both wonderful and hard. She wouldn’t judge. She wouldn’t preach. She would simply listen and have relevant, down to earth, practical tips and suggestions. That is what we all need.  

“There’s also Gail Murphy, one of Tasktop’s co-founders, is a constant mentor and coach in my life. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve said to myself “What would Gail say/do?”. The answer is always reasoned, well thought out and practical. She makes me want to strive to do more just by watching her accomplishments. I feel lucky that she is always willing to take the time to let me bend her ear. I learn from it every single time. Plus, she is super fun to have a glass of wine with and complain about raising teenagers.” 

Laura Horner, Director America Sales East

“My dearest daughter, you inspire me. I look at you and I see me. A young me, that’s innocent, naive, confident, and ready to take on the world. You, my love, are the future and you inspire me to be a role model, positive influence, and teacher. I strive to help you to see the beauty in life, the goodness in others, and that ultimately, you can be anything you put your mind to.”

Laksh Ranganathan, Senior Solutions Consultant

“If I had to think of a woman/person who has made a huge impact on me, without a doubt I would have to say it is my mother. She came from very humble beginnings and never went to college, yet she could give my dad’s tax accountant a run for his money. Always resourceful with a can-do attitude, no challenge was too big for her; she is always ready to learn and embrace technology. She gave up her career to take care of me and my brother because we were far away from a family and a support system for her to be able to pursue both. If it wasn’t for these circumstances, I have no doubt she would have been extremely successful professional. Ever since I was girl, she taught me to believe in myself and my instincts. She is an inspiration, a driver to pursue my dreams and a motivation to make my son proud of me as I am of her.”

Patricia Ceron, Demand Generation Director

“Coming from Latin America where gender equality is not necessarily an immersed value in society, my mom’s attitude towards life and her self-conduct were very influential for me while growing up. Her way of living with confidence and courage largely contributed to my view of the world and how I fitted in it.

I always recall her frequent reminders to look for self-actualization, financially and emotionally, and to live as one of her favourite songs says “my way”. I grew up listening to her saying “when you go to the university…”. Today I know that my path was marked that day and I am thankful to know that what she inspired me to achieve was a professional career of independence and success and not a traditional role beside (or behind) someone who will outshine me.

What I admire the most is her ability to rise above her own socio-cultural circumstances and independently develop this progressive attitude (unusual for her surroundings) that was so impactful on my life and my sister’s. Today I can be a fulfilled mom and a wife and a successful professional because she instilled that view on me. Thanks for showing the path of independence and strength to me, mom.”


Ashley Fong, Product Analyst

“I have had the privilege of being surrounded by strong women throughout my entire life. From co-workers, to friends and to classmates, there has been no shortage of inspiring role models. But the two that truly stand out are my mother and sister.

My sister has always helped raise and take care of me. From a very young age, she was making dinner and making sure I got to bed on time. Not only is she the first women in our family to go to university, but she is also the first person ever to go to university within our family. Her determination towards achieving her PhD in Food Microbiology has been nothing less than awe-inspiring, and watching her work towards her goal and dreams inspires me to work harder towards mine. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without my amazing mother who made her way to Canada in the ’80s.

The journey my mom went through to get to Canada was not an easy one. Growing up in communist China, she was forced to be the breadwinner for her family where she often had to take care of her younger brother. When she finally got married and moved to Canada, my parents worked hard to provide a better life for me and my sister.

After working below the minimum wage in the back of restaurants, they decided to open up their own business. For 24 years, my mom worked seven days a week, 10 hour days with only Christmas Day off (my favorite day out of the whole year!), while slowly learning how to speak English by talking to customers. She not only provided a roof over our heads and food on the table but through her grit and determination, she showed us an undeniable work ethic that my sister and I adopted at an early age and will continue to harness throughout our lives.”

Lara Jundi, Visual Design & Communications 

“Art preserves moments in time when something or someone can become an inspiration. That’s why I chose the statue of Diana of Versailles, the Roman Equivalent of the Greek goddess Artemis, for the blog image. In Roman mythology, Diana is the goddess of the hunt and moon and birthing. The statue, which sits in Paris at the Musée du Louvre, is a powerful and poignant work of art. Instead of the common portrayal of a woman as a damsel in distress, Diana is immortalized on a hunt like an action hero. She is strong, alert, in control. That message continues to echo through the ages through art, reminding us that while we’re in a new time of struggle in society, we can still channel the spirit of Diana and other role models to create a better world for ourselves.”