Thursday is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is #PressForProgress, which aims to build on the momentum of recent women’s equality movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp — and to serve as a call to action to continue fighting for gender parity.
Businesses and activists around the world will commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, including Arkadium, a New York-based tech company that has been co-led by Jessica Rovello since its founding in 2001, which will hold its first-ever in-house celebration.
“All of the men have been planning in secret for the past month or so, and all the women have time planned on their calendars for surprises. I’m really excited about it,” Rovello said.
Rovello has worked in the male-dominated tech industry for more than 20 years and has faced her share of “stuff you would never dream of saying to a man” — including a body-part specific nickname a past boss would call her to her face. But because she and husband Kenny Rosenblatt started AI and content provider Arkadium in their mid-20s, “gender equality has never been an issue in our business, and we have a huge amount of women in leadership roles,” she said.
More than half of Arkadium’s top executives are women, and more than 26 percent of its U.S. workforce and more than 39 percent of its Russian employees are, too.
“It’s definitely very high for a technology company,” Rovello said. “We decided to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”
That’s not to say Rovello didn’t face gender disparity as president of Arkadium, however, especially when the company sought outside capital five years ago.
“I was always inevitably the only woman in the room at every discussion, and very often I would ask questions and the answers would be directed at my husband,” she recalled. “People would ask me what my role was and what exactly I contributed — things that would never happen to the guy sitting in the room.”
After seeing that, Rovello and Rosenblatt swapped titles, with her assuming the role of CEO and he of president.
“Women gravitate toward companies where they see other women in leadership roles,” she said.
When asked what advice she could offer to other companies striving to close the gender gap, Rovello’s answer was simple.
“You just do it,” she said. “I think it’s great this is now part of the conversation, which can be scary and difficult for some companies, but only great things can come from this.”
And with measures like New York passing a state law banning salary-history questions for job applicants last year, “things like that will add up and start helping change the future,” Rovello said.