Inspired by Esther: How women shape history

  • Posted on March 27, 2024
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Inspired by Esther: How women shape history

By Beth Bolivar with contributions from Camryn Friedman, Aviva Shooman and Stephanie Wachtel

As the Global Chair of the Women’s Employee Network (WEN), Women’s History Month provides me an opportunity to reflect beyond my day-to-day work and to recognize the role that women, both historical and present, have played in supporting my achievements.

I am well aware of the key figures that fought to give women the opportunity to participate in basic activities, including the right to vote and to work on equal terms. Many of us know the histories of Ida B. Wells, Frida Kahlo and Rigoberta Menchu, women I have always revered. Since we also celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim this month, we can look back even further to the story of Esther in biblical times to see how women can change the course of history.

Through a collaborative effort between WEN and the Jewish Employee Network (JEN), we found many parallels between Esther’s journey and our own – whether we’re just starting in our careers or supporting the development of other women.

Speaking up and building your network

When Esther, a Jewish orphan, ascended to the throne of Persia, she faced a perilous choice: remain silent or risk her life to save her people. Finding the courage to speak up is a lesson embraced by Camryn, one of our WEN members and a JEN Board Member, as a new Analyst navigating her career at Avanade:

“I joined Avanade in August, just a few months after completing my undergraduate degree. The transition from academia to consulting initially overwhelmed me, but I decided to leverage my sociability and extroversion to further my reach and immerse myself in the company’s many facets.

I delved into organization charts and reached out to people whom I thought would take me further in my career. I put time on their calendars to chat and quickly found myself learning about how Avanade functions as a company and the mutual benefit between employees and the company. Since I was simultaneously looking for my first project at the time, these networking opportunities allowed me to market who I am, what my values are and how I would be an asset to projects.

I thought I was following the perfect combination of upskilling, involving myself in Employee Networks and other “plus ones,” and making my name known, but months went by and I continued to be turned down or overlooked for project roles. I just needed one person to give me a chance. I turned to my network to express my struggles, and many emphasized that it’s “who you know” that will get you that next role. I couldn’t help but feel down and hopeless, despite being reassured that I was doing everything right and would land a role soon.

After six months, my networking finally paid off with an opportunity to do some internal work in the generative AI space with Modern Workplace. Even though it wasn’t chargeable work, it was the opportunity I needed to prove what I could do – and ultimately led to my first client-facing project with similar technologies.

Like Esther, we too can seize pivotal moments, advocate for change and alter the course of our careers.”

Planning and preparation to reach our goals

Esther’s transformation occurred when she recognized her agency. She moved from a reactive posture to a proactive one by planning her strategy to influence the king and defeat Haman’s plot to kill the Jews. Her deliberate and thoughtful actions – from positioning herself in the courtyard to gain the king’s notice, to organizing the banquets for the King and Haman, to waiting for the right opportunity to reveal her true identity – demonstrate the significance of preparation and strategic planning.

As a career adviser, this point resonates for Stephanie, one of our JEN Board Members:

“We have so many opportunities at Avanade for professional development, including training and certification, preparing for promotion to the next career level through projects and leadership roles, and giving back to the community through corporate citizenship and Employee Networks.

Like Esther, good planning and preparation, such as creating clear priorities in our career growth platform and working closely with our career adviser throughout the year for guidance, are key to achieving our goals. As women, we possess unique strengths — empathy, compassion and intuition. These qualities, akin to Esther’s wisdom, guide our strategic compass. By leveraging our natural gifts, we can navigate challenges along the way with grace and resilience.

Mentoring and advocacy

Another one of Esther’s gifts was her ability to leverage her relationships. Mordecai served as Esther’s mentor and guardian. He encouraged her to use her position to intervene on behalf of her people. His guidance and support empowered Esther to take action and rise to her position.

Similarly, within our professional circles, we find mentors and allies who champion our growth. By fostering mentorship and advocating for one another, we amplify our collective impact.

As a Senior Director, as I reflect upon my own career, I have valued mentors and coaches immeasurably. I have worked in many types of companies, each with their own, unique culture. I relied on mentors, both formal and informal, to guide me in the intangible aspects of those organizations.

Just as Mordecai guided Esther, we can uplift fellow women, nurturing their potential.

In the pages of the Book of Esther, we find not just a narrative but a blueprint — a roadmap for resilience, advocacy and empowerment. I hope these examples inspire you to learn more about the stories of Purim and Esther and reflect on your own professional journey. Happy Women’s History Month!

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