Avaya Women in Tech Celebrate International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day falls this year on Tuesday, March 8. According to the United Nations, “International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”

I got the chance to sit down with two of Avaya’s top female leaders – Amy Olli, senior vice president and general counsel, and Morag Lucey, chief marketing officer – to talk about their success as female leaders in a multi-billion dollar technology company. Our discussion was a lively dialogue on gender parity, work-life balance and mentoring. Here are the highlights from our conversation:

What has been the biggest professional challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career and how did you do it?

Morag: I think the biggest challenge is yourself. What’s standing between you and success is really your own ability to understand that you can do anything you want to, and your ability to adapt to the situations and take advantage of the opportunities that come along.

What one piece of advice would you want to give to women who are coming up in their careers? 

Amy: Be authentic, be who you are, and be perseverant. Do not allow obstacles to get in your way. Be patient, but also be perseverant, because plenty of things change in the world and quite a bit is realizing that you could be able to be anyone you want to be.

What’s one common mistake you see women making as they’re coming up in their professional careers?

Morag: A common mistake I see women making is they often try and be more like their male counterparts, which they shouldn’t. They should just be who they are.

Amy: Another common mistake is at the other end of the spectrum–being quiet or very uncomfortable in an environment, so they don’t have that kind of presence that often results in opportunities.

What woman, or group of women, inspires you? 

Morag: There are so many inspirational women. The one who was the most inspirational was my mother, who was very much a self-made woman, and who in a later part of her life, when she found herself in a situation that she had to go to work, became a scientific officer for a water research company. Very inspirational.

Amy: For me, it was my grandmother. I spent a great deal of time with my grandmother growing up, and she was incredibly inspirational because she didn’t ever graduate high school, and was the most outspoken, and really bright woman you could ever imagine. She really was self-made and encouraged us to be able to do anything that we really wanted to do. It’s a level of self-confidence that, ‘If I can do it without any kind of education, there’s no doubt that you’ll be able to do anything you want to do.’

Thinking of the next generation of women in the workplace, what do you think will be their greatest challenge as they build their professional careers? 

Amy: I think one of the biggest challenges for the next generation of women in the workplace is that we have made little progress in the proverbial glass ceiling. We don’t have as many female CEOs as we should.

Morag: It’s on us to make sure we are–and not just females, but males as well–bringing the next generation of women into the discussions and letting them experience how those discussions are happening, and participate. … The beauty is, we’re a communications company, and so we’re at the bleeding edge of how people communicate. We’re still learning, so we need to learn from the generations coming up and vice-versa.

Learn more about International Women’s Day and the #PledgeForParity