March is Women’s History Month and March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD) — a time where the past and present contributions of women are spotlighted and put into perspective. This year, International Women’s Day is adopting the theme, “Choose To Challenge,” a rallying cry meant to prompt all who hear it to challenge bias and inequality, uplift women and their achievements, and promote inclusivity.
Matthew Tilley: This year’s IWD theme is “Choose To Challenge.” What does that mean to you personally?
Kerri Payne: The theme is a constant reminder to look at the world around us to ensure we keep up our own end of the battle for equality. We are so very fortunate to work for a company that places a huge emphasis on empowering and supporting not only women, but also every aspect of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In my experience with Harland Clarke, a Vericast business, decisions are made based on based on skill, tenure, or another merit — not gender. It’s great to work for a company that just last year was honored by Forbes as one of America’s Best Employers for Women. Together, we must all continue to choose to challenge to maintain this same equality for the future in workplaces everywhere, but we also must not dwell in what looks may deceive and take in the full picture.
Maria Benavides: “Choose To Challenge” is a powerful invitation to thoughtfully dedicate ourselves to listen, and contribute to creating space for one another’s voices. Hopefully, we also practice self-reflection in tandem with an openness to learn from and be inspired by the multitude of individuals in our communities, (virtual) workplaces, and even the world. Each of us have an incredible opportunity to do our part to help build an effectively kinder, consistently safer, and measurably more inclusive place for all women and all people.
MT: You recently became a co-lead of Women+, a new Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Vericast. How did your involvement come about? Why is this important to you?
KP: Before the creation of Women+, I was an active member in the Harland Clarke Women’s Network and served as an officer on the community committee in late 2019–2020. Women+ is now a mix of the legacy built by both the Harland Clarke Women’s Network and the Valassis Network (Valassis is a Vericast business), each with their own unique ways to build the bonds, promote, and empower the women of our great company.
The combined ERG comes at a time that is so crucial as we become one Vericast and continue to build and bond from the strengths of one other. I am honored to be in this role with Maria and look forward to the amazing things that lay ahead with the amazing cabinet and committee members that we have in supporting roles and the general members that will continue to be involved. Sometimes it is hard to break out of our own little mold and departments, and this group gives us the opportunity to break out and interact with other aspects of the business we don’t know about.
MB: First, it is an honor to serve as co-lead for Women+ at Vericast with Kerri, our amazing committee co-chairs and members, and all of the Women+ members. I long wanted to become more meaningfully involved with our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) mission, and women’s empowerment. When Women+ emerged, I expressed that I wanted to help in any way possible. We have learned so much from the incredible foundations left from the women’s networks in our organization that came before us. We have a lot to live up to, and a lot of wonderful work ahead of us.
MT: What steps are being taken by the Women+ ERG to demonstrate Vericast’s commitment to supporting the personal and professional advancement of women beyond International Women’s Day or during Women’s History Month?
MB and KP: We strive to create inclusive and engaging opportunities (and contribute to a culture) of on-going connection, empowerment, open discussion, development, and ways to serve others. While the scope of this commitment goes beyond a single day or month, it is vital to our celebration of IWD, and as we honor Women’s History Month.
As part of a planning team led by our events and engagement committee co-chairs, we are excited for our International Women’s Day of celebration and virtual events at Vericast, happening later this month. Taking on the “Choose To Challenge” theme, we are featuring a keynote speaker, insights from female leaders within our organization, and sessions focused on cultivating positive change for ourselves, and our communities.
Since most of us are still working remotely, virtual engagements are some of our greatest assets. In honor of Women’s History Month, we have dedicated pages of our internal Women+ site to include a timeline of women’s achievements and milestones in recent history. We also connect site viewers to learn more about some (out of countless many) notable female figures over the last 50 years. We further look forward to spotlighting women leaders in our organization, and having those features reach social media audiences.
MT: What advice would you offer on what individuals can do to personally be an ally/support to women (beyond what the company they work for might be doing)?
MB and KP: Please remember allyship is critical to moving everyone forward. By listening and learning from one another, each of us can take on the much-needed role of building a world of clear integrity, true diversity, lasting equity, and meaningful inclusivity.