In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, we want to introduce you to some of the women behind ADRA’s mission. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, so we asked our team for their best advice about challenging gender bias in their roles and work.
Dr. Ann Gibson
Name: Dr. Ann Gibson
Title: Vice President for Finance
Describe your role with ADRA:
The CFO at ADRA International has a leadership role in financial decision making at the agency, including providing strategic financial input to senior management. This leadership role also includes primary responsibility for the planning, implementation, managing, and running of all the financial activities of the organization, including business planning, budgeting, and forecasting.
Your #ChooseToChallenge Advice:
Hurrah for young women who want to work in financial areas! The fields of accounting, auditing, and finance need women because these fields require careful attention to detail as well as the ability to think strategically and broadly. Industries and organizations are recognizing that women are uniquely blessed with both of these talents—the ability to pay attention to detail AND at the same time, see the big picture. As a result, women are more accepted in these fields today than was true 30-40 years ago. But that does not mean that bias does not still exist. Thus the question remains: How to prepare oneself to meet and disabuse the bias that still exists?
First, meet all the educational requirements for the position you are seeking. This means obtaining the necessary degrees (bachelors, masters, doctoral-level) in the appropriate areas of study, as well as obtaining any required professional certifications (CPA, CMA, CIA, etc.) that might be expected. In addition, in today’s business world, excellent computer skills are a must!
Second, develop strong inter-personal skills so that you are prepared to work with all types of people. This includes appropriate cross-cultural training and excellent communication skills, both oral and written, in English. Experience in working in teams is also a necessity in today’s workplace, including understanding how to manage a team successfully.
Third, strengthen your problem-solving skills and develop sound judgment. Be dependable; never over-promise, but if you promise to deliver, be sure you deliver exactly what is expected by your superior. Be a person of integrity. Your word should be sufficient for someone to rely upon. Guard your integrity. It is easily lost, and difficult to recover once lost.
Finally, some general thoughts. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and to grow, even if the opportunity seems small or involves a task that seems unimportant. Every response you give to any offered opportunity will be a chance to grow, and by showing a willingness to learn in every environment, you will build a reputation as a person who wants to increase their knowledge and wisdom.
Find many mentors. Interestingly, men over 50 are often more willing to be mentors than men who are under 50. I suspect this is because men over 50 are more secure in their own professional place and therefore less likely to see a woman as competition for a position. Seek many mentors, because you can learn something from everyone—whether it is something you want to emulate or something you want to avoid. Women mentors in higher positions are harder to find, because there are fewer women in higher positions. But if you find a female mentor, they can offer much in counsel and example. You will find that successful people, both male and female, are generally happy to share their experiences and offer counsel to those who follow.
Finally, as a Christian, let God be God. This is the most difficult, and may sound almost impossible, of any advice I can offer. Western culture teaches everyone, but especially women, to push one’s way forward, to seize every possibility, and to demand one’s place at the table, certain that if one does not ask, even demand, the doors will not open because of discrimination and bias. This siren song is almost impossible to resist. With this cultural training, it is very easy to play God and plan our own lives and our own advancement.
However, often those who push their way upward in position or insist on promotions overstep their knowledge and experience and as a result, fail to meet the challenges or demands of the new job. Failure is not only disheartening but also disabling. Growth and acquiring the necessary experience to be successful requires patience, a positive attitude, and faithful performance of current tasks. During the growing time, one may wonder whether one’s talents and dreams will ever be recognized and realized. Remember the biblical illustrations from the life of Moses that teaches us that moving ahead of God never works out, while the life of Joseph reminds us that even when the path seems to be short-circuited, with God in charge, the end will be more satisfying than we can imagine.
Ellen White puts is this way in Ministry of Healing, page 477: “If any are qualified for a higher position, the Lord will lay the burden, not alone on them, but on those who have tested them, who know their worth, and who can understandably urge them forward. It is those who perform faithfully their appointed work day by day, who in God’s own time will hear His call, ‘Come up higher.’”
God is greater than man’s bias. Be prepared; be learning; increase in wisdom and experience; and let God be God.