International Women’s Day 2023
How Risk and Change Led me to a Global Career
On International Women’s Day, the first thing I think of is gratitude. I have a whole global village of women (and men) I want to thank for guiding me in my life and my career. There have been many people to whom I’ve turned for advice, support and the occasional reality check. But not one of them, ever, said to me, “Dipa, as a woman, you can’t do that.” No one ever told me that my gender would determine who I could be, what I could do, or where I could go.
I am here because my parents, teachers, friends, colleagues and leaders embraced equity.
I know that’s not the case for every woman. But for me, it started well before my career journey. It started the day I was born. To know me is to know the people who made me. My parents were born and raised in Bangladesh, a country abounding in beauty, but lacking in opportunity. When they wed and considered having children, they knew they would have to leave their homeland behind and start a new life somewhere that offered better prospects for raising a family. They chose Australia.
My brothers and I were born and raised in Sydney. I went to college there. I built a career there. When an opportunity came calling from the U.S., it came with the kind of inherent risk that accompanies all change. Many women of my generation were not taught to be risk-takers. But all I had to do was look at my mom. In her, I saw a strong woman who braved so many risks to make a change that would, ultimately, improve all of our lives. And so, with a completely supportive husband, we accepted life in the U.S., not just a job, but a life—two children in tow, all the adjustments, the new home, the new schools, the new everything. Was I sure we would succeed? No. But even if we didn’t, I knew I had earned an opportunity to stretch myself and my career and, in the process, teach my son and daughter how to embrace the possible.
There are no rules to embracing risk, except: Do Not be Afraid. Easier said than done, I know. But don’t be afraid to seek out guidance and mentorship from women (or men) you admire. People like to know they’re admired and appreciated. Don’t be afraid to apply for that job. The worst thing that will happen is that you will see your gaps. And that’s a good thing. You might not get the role, but you will have a much better understanding of the work you’ll need to do to close the gaps. Don’t ever ask yourself if your gender is a liability. Act as if you’re on a level playing field even if some of those who come to play assume you’re not. Surprise them. Because the benefit of having a woman in a key role is best understood when you show them your value organically—by being your authentic self as you happen to knock their expectations out of the park.
After a few good seasons, you might just find yourself coaching the team.
By birth, I’m an international woman. By luck, I’m the child of risk-takers. By design, I’m a professional who leads and motivates others the way I would wish to be led—with empathy, advocacy, a powerful sense of equity, and a fearlessness that I hope is infectious.