A reflection & sharing of stories at Endless OS Foundation on International Women’s Day.
A collaborative blog post with the women I admire. With International Women’s Day as a source of inspiration, the women of Endless OS Foundation came together and we reflected on the significance of the day, looking back at our individual journeys and experiences. We are a diverse group of women who live and work across four continents spanning Taiwan, UK, various states in North America, with a new member joining from Brazil. It has been inspiring to hear the lived experiences of the women of Endless.
In exploring the significance of International Women’s Day, we all agreed that it is an opportunity to see women for who they are and to celebrate their choices and achievements on every level.
Here are 5 of our stories, and I'll get us started.
Oby Bamidele, VP of Operations and Finance: For me, International Women’s Day (IWD) is about celebrating womanhood and breaking social norms that limit and hinder the progress of women. I grew up in Nigeria until I moved to the UK at the age of 15, and the emphasis as a growing girl was always that a good education and career were the focus of my life. However as an adult, that message seemed to change where the focus was on getting married, having children and belonging to a family in a way that seemed to diminish my personal ambitions.
It’s been a journey learning to manage the tensions between embracing my goals and aspirations and the demands of family life and expectations. The inclusive culture at Endless has been invaluable in allowing me to prioritise both areas without the feelings of inadequacy that can arise when managing my schedule, especially over the last twelve months of the pandemic.
IWD is an opportunity to reflect on how far women all over the world have come in the face of challenges, disparities and inequalities – whilst there is still a lot of work to do.
IWD is always an opportunity for me to reflect on how far women all over the world have come in the face of challenges, disparities and inequalities. Whilst there is still a lot of work to be done, I believe there is much to celebrate such as the recent appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as Director General of the World Trade Organisation. She is the first woman and African to lead the organisation and as a fellow Nigerian, I am inspired by her tenacity and fortitude to break barriers and forge a path for other women to follow. She didn’t allow those barriers to stop her from pursuing her personal ambitions even in the face of stiff opposition to her appointment.
Other women who have inspired me are Kamala Harris, who became the first African and Indian American female Vice President of the United States, and Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am also inspired by two younger women, award-winning writer and poet Amanda Gorman who recently became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, and Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate and activist for female education. Seeing the strides these young women are making fills me with much hope for my daughter who is a passionate creative.
In today’s modern world it is unconscionable that millions of people are without access to technology, and in many communities women are most disadvantaged. I am proud to be part of an organisation whose mission seeks to democratise access to technology and close the digital divide so that people can gain the tools and learn the skills they need to create their own opportunities in life.
This article's five contributors.
Top row: Oby, Geri, and Sabrina. Bottom row: Bunmi and Vanessa. (Shown left to right.)
Geri Vahey, Program Director:
I am honored to celebrate this International Women's Day with my Endless teammates. Throughout my professional journey at tech companies large (Apple, Macromedia) and small, none match this team's dedication to closing the equity gap through technology. I’m grateful to be here and share my unpredictable journey.
I am the youngest of five children of immigrant parents and was from an environment (Humboldt Park on the west side of Chicago) that didn't particularly foster curiosity about career opportunities. Through some luck I got involved in graphic design in college, which began a spate of 5-year tech careers that brought me to the heart of Silicon Valley in the roaring 90s. I got to wear a lot of hats, all with communication at the heart, and appreciate the opportunities that the software industry afforded.
Software management and drumming: both environments have historic diversity challenges to overcome, but it is my hope that we see opportunities growing in band rooms and boardrooms everywhere.
For sanity and stress relief, I play drums in the San Francisco rock band, The Seagulls. I’ve been struck by the parallels between software management and drumming; both require clear, direct communication that helps teams move forward in unison. Unfortunately both environments have historic diversity challenges to overcome, but it is my hope that we see opportunities growing in band rooms and boardrooms everywhere.
Sabrina Harvey, Finance & Operations Manager:
In all honesty it never crossed my mind to think of IWD as anything other than another day, but after coming together with the women at Endless it has made me stop, think and reflect on our lives. We come from different backgrounds, have different stories to tell, and yet all seemingly come together for the same purpose: to give everyone the same opportunities to be proactive, creative and most importantly learn. We all believe everyone has that right, and it's our mission to help connect people and communities to technology. And while we are a small group of women at Endless, our presence is far-reaching.
I grew up in a working-class family, my parents are of mixed cultural backgrounds and I am the middle sibling to two brothers. I was both un/fortunate to have grown up experiencing a variety of life-developing experiences alien to most. My father was in the RAF which gave way to travelling and exposure to multicultural families who all came together from around the world and lived as one community. In my youth this is all I had ever been accustomed to, and there were never any limitations set on what I as a woman could do.
The downside to this was having to face reality when settling back into civilian life from day one and seeing the prejudices that people have towards others for any given reason – sex, religion, race, culture, the list goes on. This suddenly made the world a very intimidating place. My education suffered at its most critical having to leave from one country to another in-between exams, but this didn’t stop me from building the life I wanted for myself. At one pivotal point in my very young adulthood I had two jobs working full-time, while studying at college full-time, raising a teenager full-time (my younger sibling), and taking care of a household and all the bills on a low income wage. I believe in life we are here to learn, grow and not be held back by constraints. I learned not to take anyone or anything for granted and to work towards my achievements and successes even when things don’t seem fair, but at the same time try to not take life too seriously.
I am happy and proud of where I stand today, and want other women to be able to feel the same sense of accomplishment – no matter how big or small.
To work for Endless and help give others these opportunities by lifting a few of the constraints and maybe just make life a little bit easier, means so much to me. I am happy and proud of where I stand today and want other women to be able to feel the same sense of accomplishment, no matter how big or small. I started out with only a small pocketful of money and a return plane ticket to Cyprus (should I fail at making a life for myself). I got my first job as a hotel maid and server and have gone on to become the operations and finance manager here at Endless. I am married to a man who has worked hand-in-hand with me to make the home I couldn't have imagined possible, and while my life has and continues to have many unforeseen ups and downs (s**t will happen), as individuals we pick ourselves up, we carry on, we stay strong.
Vanessa Chang, QA Engineer:
I'm grateful to share my thoughts of International Women's Day for the first time.
I live in Taiwan, a traditional Asian culture country, where males are more valued than females. Luckily, our society is also growing while I am too. Last year, we passed a registration for gay marriage, which is a big milestone for the LGBT community and also embraces the topic of women's rights. I see a big movement in gender equality, which also embraces the rights of women to speak up and express themselves in Taiwan, and the whole world. Fortunately, I work in Endless, which offers a gender equality working environment that allows us to express our thoughts and appreciate everyone's efforts.
For me, celebrating International Women's Day is more about encouraging people to be themselves regardless of their gender, and to listen but not judge people with a different standpoint – these are the traits and the power of women: strong and gentle-minded.
Hopefully there is a day when all people are living in a truly equal society without any bias or stereotypes, and we as people appreciate each other for being our true selves.
For me, International Women's Day is about encouraging people to be themselves regardless of their gender, and to listen but not judge people with a different standpoint.
Bunmi Esho, Program Director:
When I think of International Women’s Day, I’m taken back to my time as a middle school student at an all-girls boarding school in Nigeria. During my tween years (12-15 years of age), at a time when I was navigating through puberty, I was also learning what leadership looked like through student leaders, teachers and our Headmistress, Mrs. Coker. *Who, by the way, was the ultimate boss!*
Being surrounded by women leaders, supporters, coaches, mentors and advocates who look like you early on in life makes a difference. I know it made a difference for me. It’s because of that community I became a chemical engineer. It’s because of that community I volunteered in college and at the start of my career journey. It’s because of that community I became an educator, a nonprofit leader and a philanthropist. It’s also through those early experiences that I knew and believed that I could do anything and be anything, including travel the world, and live and work in Southeast Asia.
My role, my voice and my memories, can help shape what is to come for girls like me. Your dreams are endless!
When I moved to Southeast Asia in 2015, it was the first time that I noticed International Women’s Day being celebrated. It made me really take stock of America's place in the world when it came to gender equality. Six years later, as a part of the Endless OS Foundation, when I think of the work we’re doing to dismantle the barriers around digital access in the United States and abroad, I think of the tween girl of yesteryears. My role, my voice and my memories, can help shape what is to come for girls like me. Your dreams are endless!
Thanks to the women of Endless for sharing their stories – how you sparkle! ... and thanks for taking the time to read our post. I hope you have been inspired to connect with your colleagues, family and friends to share your own stories, challenges, and the futures you see. I truly believe these conversations are key to harnessing the power we have as a global collective – of women, unified in the causes that capture our imaginations and hearts.
About the author: Oby Bamidele is the VP of Operations and Finance at Endless OS Foundation (EOSF). She started out her career as a management accountant and subsequently transitioned into General and HR Management. She has over 10 years senior management experience working in tech startups, where she’s been instrumental in building the internal capabilities and overseeing business operations.