A couple years ago I shifted my approach to celebrating International Women's Day (IWD) and talking about diversity and inclusion by doing exactly that - celebrating.
This included stronger boundaries firmly enforcing this change in my personal brand - I want to celebrate the accomplishments of women, underrepresented minorities, and other marginalized people, not continue to ask them how they are going to acknowledge and "cure" all tech of diversity and inclusion issues while somehow also still doing their day jobs, while also shouldering significant unpaid, unnoticed, unappreciated labor at work and home.
Around the same time I made a conscious effort to shift my approach, I pulled together an all day livestream event - a celebration - where women spoke about the work they were doing at my current employer, what they were passionate about professionally, and it was like sprinting a marathon but I felt so fulfilled by the end of the day. Exhausted, but fulfilled.
At nearly 10 years into my tech career I understand I'm privileged. I'm still here. I'm thriving. I'm feeling more supported than ever. I acknowledge that not everyone is in the same position I am for a variety of reasons including privilege.
But even when I say I'm thriving, I've recognized that I can't be all things to all people and I need to protect myself and my emotional and cognitive bandwidth or slip from thriving to surviving... again.
More plainly put - I don't have lived experience I want to share or a corporate brand-friendly answer to most questions on this topic. Nor do I think this would add value to anyone, including myself.
I don't want to be the token women on a panel. I don't want to be THE technical woman (because there is only one). I don't want to be the moderator for a manel (man-panel) because we need more women. I don't want to spend more hours thinking about all the terrible things that have happened to me and other women when we just want to do our jobs.
However, I do want opportunities to showcase my expertise.
So ask me about my career path, my accomplishments, how people management is going, how strategic leadership is going, how I'm finally feeling like I'm an expert in my field. Invite me into your spaces to talk about my expertise. Acknowledge my expertise.
Ask the allies their thoughts and how their actions are going to improve things for women. Allyship requires work - are they committed to putting in the work? Are other allies holding them accountable?
And, finally, respect the boundaries women put in place to protect themselves. She's not being difficult, she's being purposeful.