Speaker: Michelle Koert, Key Account Director, Google Cloud
Why is Women’s History Month important to you?
Michelle Koert: Women's History Month is very important to me for many reasons. But what is most alive in this moment and in the world is the war between Russia and Ukraine. This one is very personal to me because of another women's issue that is rarely talked about in the workplace and that is infertility. After nine years of an infertility journey, my husband and I were overjoyed to finally be pregnant with a dear surrogate in Ukraine. It was a total miracle. However, over the 1st 72 hours of Russia's invasion in Ukraine, our surrogate mother went through a horrific miscarriage in a hospital with bare bones medical staff and without anyone by her side. She felt completely abandoned, alone and scared. I stayed up with her in the hospital the entire time on video wishing desperately I could be there in person but doing my best to comfort her, sing to her, pray with her telling her that everything would be okay. We need to have each other's backs. My commitment this month is to do everything in my power to get her and her two young children out of Ukraine to safety. And to bring a stronger voice to the issue of infertility in the workplace. 23 million pregnancies worldwide end in miscarriage every year. That's 44 for babies who are lost every single minute. And most women and couples go through this pain in silence, suffering alone. I believe that this could be another Me Too movement. A holistic worldwide reform of care is so deeply needed and the era of telling women to just try again is over. I believe the most important diversity role for women in our organization is to embrace and educate our men on the real challenges that women face so they can be deeply informed on how to help and support. Diversity is not just a women's issue, it's a human kind issue. The Okinawans in Japan have a tradition called the Moai where they assign life advisors to their children at birth, who help guide them through life's celebrations and challenges, in health finances, parenting, career education, etcetera. It's the ultimate form of community. And science has actually been able to tie this beautiful tradition back to longevity and why the Okinawan people live to be greater than 100 years old. I think every employee should have their own personal board of advisors who they know they can trust to be there for them when in need. Who have their best interests at heart. And who are there to help them reach their highest potential. When someone is going through a personal crisis, which will happen at some point in our careers, it will impact the quality of our work. The woman in history that has inspired me the most is my mother. Who was taken out of high school when she was 16 years old to work in a factory to help support her family. She met my father when she was 17, was married at 19 and raised four beautiful children by the time she was 26 years old. All while running a full scale farm and working night shifts in a factory while we were sleeping. She is my real heroine. I believe the biggest challenge facing the next generation of young women entering their careers is one of asking. Asking for what they need, both personally and professionally. These should not be separate. Women have such a hard time with the art of the ask and most companies would be honored to help if given the chance. We're doing our companies and other women a disservice by not sharing our voice. We also need more women in the boardroom making key, impactful decisions. Women who are compassionate versus combative, benevolent versus violent, contrarians versus controlling. And there is no doubt that this is our time.