Last year around International Women’s Day, we at Future of Field Service launched a Women in Field Service series of content and we’ve continued that series since. Along the way, I’ve received mostly support from women (and men) in the industry and have had the wonderful opportunity to hear many women’s stories of hurdles, growth, and triumph. But I’ve also faced a few questions of, “If you really want equality for women, why keep calling them out?” The first time a woman asked me this, I had to really think about what my answer was. What I landed on, and still stand by, is that while it would be ideal NOT to have to call women’s issues out so that they get the attention they deserve – and even more ideal to live in a world of equality where these issues didn’t even exist – we’re simply not there yet. And until we are, it’s important to normalize the discussion so that we can continue to advocate for equality and drive change where it needs to occur.

The theme for this year’s IWD is #EachforEqual, and as the site says, “We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements.” For me, writing the Women in Field Service series has been an honor – I have really enjoyed hearing each woman’s story and helping share those perspectives with our broader audience. I think we all learn so much when we’re willing to be open and honest. We have a great lineup of women for upcoming additions to our series, but as I began putting the interviews in place I started thinking about the fact that I have never really shared my own story and thought it only fitting in asking these women to open up that I do the same.

The first question I usually ask women in the interview is around the challenges she has faced. When I think of my own experiences, there are three cringe-worthy moments that immediately come to mind:

  • “Maybe if you offered to sleep with our clients we’d make more money!” This was said jokingly to me by a male colleague when I was a young woman just starting out in her career. I should’ve stood up for myself and asked him if he’d ever dream of saying that to a man, but I wasn’t confident enough so I forced myself to laugh along even though I didn’t find it the least bit funny. I faced other instances of sexual harassment as well before I felt able to stand up for myself, including inappropriate comments and unwanted physical touch.
  • “Why don’t you just stay home and take care of your kids? Childcare is too expensive.” I heard this the week I returned to work after maternity leave with my second son. I was so taken aback at this question and was deeply offended to have my desire to continue my career minimized in this way. I’ve also been unfairly paid for my work as compared to my male peers and have been told I have poor emotional control for voicing strong opinions with conviction in the exact same way male colleagues had.
  • “So who takes care of your kids when you travel for work? My wife could never leave our children like you do.” As a working mom of two small children, I always feel I’m failing somewhere despite having a track record of somehow making it all work. Questions like this, which I hear often, feed the inner voice that tells me I can’t simultaneously excel in my career and be a good mother to my children.

The second question I women in interviews is to discuss the flip side of these challenges – the opportunities that exist for women in service. And as service, tech, and IT evolve the opportunities are immense. There are so many organizations working hard toward diversity, inclusion, and equality. My employer, IFS, is a great example that I’ve had the benefit to experience personally, but I also see it in the companies I interview – Otis Elevator, DISH, Bureau Veritas, and Schneider Electric are just a few great examples. Service itself is changing, how it’s delivered and what it takes to succeed – there are more career paths and options for women than ever before. It’s a very exiting time and while I think it’s important to discuss the challenges we’ve had, it’s also important to acknowledge those embracing the work it takes to improve the work environment for women and for everyone.

Finally, I ask what advice interviewees would give a fellow woman just starting out in her career. Mine would be to get comfortable pushing beyond your comfort zone. Whether that’s speaking up when it’s hard to advocate for yourself, deciding to learn a new skill that you find challenging, or taking on a new opportunity even when change is scary. Go for it even when you don’t feel ready. And always look for ways to help others. Building authentic relationships and being willing to offer your time or insight or help freely is always a wise investment.

Thank you for reading my story! I am excited for the content we have coming up this week to honor IWD and am so thankful to have the opportunity to help these women share their stories. I truly love this industry and, having been a part of it for 13 years, I have had a front-row seat for the progress that has been made. While we still have work to do, it’s apparent in the conversations I am having with service leaders – women and men alike – that there’s immense commitment to continuing to build diversity and achieve true equality.

Sarah Nicastro
Author

Field Service Evangelist, Future of Field Service