International Women’s Day 2021: Choose to Challenge

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, honoring the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. We also take stock of how…

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Mark J. Barrenechea

March 8, 20217 minute read

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, honoring the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. We also take stock of how far we have to go to make gender equity a reality.

International Women’s Day is particularly important this year—as we have seen many of the gains made over the past decade threatened by the effects of the pandemic. Women are more likely to work in industries heavily impacted by the economic fallout and have been more likely to step back from careers because they are taking on greater responsibility at home.

I am an optimist about the future. However, it is clear that we must do more to ensure the pandemic doesn’t erode the important advances that have been made or impede the further progress that is needed.

The pandemic cannot slow change.

We cannot let the pandemic overturn all of the amazing progress we have made for gender equity over the past decades—yet this is exactly what is at stake. According to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Risks Report 2021,” 70% of working women say their careers will be slowed by the pandemic. Women—particularly women of color—have been laid off, lost their jobs, or have been forced to quit during the COVID-19 crisis at a much higher rate than men, creating what has been termed a “she-cession.”

But there has been progress as well. In the U.S., Kamala Harris broke longstanding barriers, becoming the first female, first Black and first Asian-American Vice President. In Canada, the Senate achieved gender parity for the first time—a huge leap from just a few years ago in 2015, when only 36% of senators were women. And in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain—the UK’s largest and most diverse national Muslim organization, with over 500 member organizations—elected its first female leader, Zara Mohammed.

Further, female leaders around the world have been lauded for their best-in-class responses to the coronavirus pandemic, leading Bloomberg to declare that “2021 is a tipping point for female leaders.”

These incredible strides forward give me great optimism for the future and serve to remind us of what can be accomplished when we #ChooseToChallenge.


The social unrest of 2020 touched us deeply and doubled our resolve to put equity, diversity and inclusion at the forefront of the conversation and at the forefront of our business. We believe that International Women’s Day is more important than ever this year, both as a celebration and as a call to action.

This year’s focus for International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. This could not be a more fitting rallying cry, as the world rethinks some of the most fundamental aspects of our society. “Choose to challenge” means challenging and calling out gender bias and inequalities wherever we see them—from microaggressions to systemic injustices. It means challenging the status quo. Choosing to celebrate women’s achievements. Taking action for equity.

OpenText is playing an important role, and today we choose to challenge. A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.

We Choose to Challenge

Today, the OpenText global workforce is composed of 29% women (compared to 25% for leading technology companies). Our Waterloo employee base is 44% women, Makati City is 44%, Richmond Hill is 33%, Reading is 40% and Bangalore is 30%. Globally, our leaders are 25% women (compared for 21% of leading technology companies).

Overall, OpenText is leading in our industry, but now it is time to lead beyond our industry, and be reflective of society. There are three clear reasons why this is important: (1) our customers expect us to lead, (2) we seek the best talent and (3) it is the right thing to do. These three reasons guide us to be more reflective of society and seek leadership beyond our industry.

Gender equity is critical for the success of our business, and we are deeply committed to creating a culture where all voices are heard. The future at OpenText―and the technology industry as a whole―must be an inclusive one.

How will OpenText challenge? We say, challenge the GAP.

At OpenText, we plan on supporting #ChooseToChallenge by challenging the gap in gender equity. Here are the gaps we see in the technology industry, and our calls to action:

  • The employment gap – expand recruiting and hiring to include virtual and flex-office arrangements
  • The degree gap – increase internships and university partnerships
  • The retention gap – create specific awareness programs, bias training and clear visibility during reviews and career events
  • The culture and experience gap – mentor programs, WIT events, active affinity groups, and external events such as Grace Hopper help to create open dialog, awareness and action
  • The pay gap – equal pay for equal work. There needs to be zero tolerance; if there is a pay gap, fix it.
  • The leadership gap – diverse slates for leadership positions
  • The accountability gap – openly present progress and data in an annual Corporate Citizenship report

This is how OpenText will #ChooseToChallenge.

Challenging Across All of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Our approach to gender equity is part of our broader efforts to put equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) at the center of our company in a very intentional way.  We are a global business, looking to drive sustainable change across our global workforce and communities.

In 2020, we launched eight ED&I Impact Teams across the company, each focused on a vital area to lead the charge as we turn our ideals into action: Analysis, Supplier Diversity, Civic Action, Cloud Developer Community, Awareness, Mentoring, Recruiting, and Community Investment.

OpenText ED&I Impact Teams

A few key highlights of what our Impact Teams have already accomplished:

  • Launching a Women in Technology mentoring program
  • Creating an ED&I-focused recruiter role
  • Committing to present a diverse slate of candidates for all senior leader positions
  • Putting an ED&I lens on our Navigator Fund charitable giving and volunteer efforts
  • Making ED&I an integral part of OpenText’s internal Career Day and career development efforts

Women in Technology Community

This past year, we have also strengthened our Women in Technology program by creating an internal WIT Affinity Group, supported by our new Impact Teams. Since its inception less than a year ago, this group has evolved into a robust community with representation across every continent and over 600 participants.

This network looks to nurture the career development of women in technology, both inside our company and out. To date, it has held two global webinars on topics that the community identified as important to them: career management strategies, and effective mentoring and coaching. 

These ideas have expanded into a monthly leadership workshop empowering over 300 members to own their career journeys and share their successes across our network. Our WIT group has also launched a collaborative mentoring program for 100 women, and plans to expand that reach in 2021.

International Women’s Day Panel Discussion

In two days, OpenTexters globally will be tuning in for a live panel discussion that I will host for International Women’s Day, featuring key female leaders at OpenText, including: Madhu Ranganathan, EVP & CFO; the newest member of our Executive Leadership Team, Kristina Lengyel, EVP Customer Solutions; Renee McKenzie, VP, Enterprise Business Systems; Christina DeRosa, SVP, CMO, SMB & Consumer; and Karen Terrell, President U.S. Public Sector.

I am greatly looking forward to our discussion, centered on insights about women in technology and diversity and inclusion, as well as learning more about our panelists own unique career journeys and experiences working and leading in the tech industry.

OpenText International Women’s Day Panel Discussion

International Women’s Day Challenges

And finally, we were inspired by the theme of #ChooseToChallenge so much that we are holding our own set of challenges for OpenText employees to advocate for change throughout the upcoming year.

#ChooseToChallenge: OpenText Global Employee Challenge

I hope these challenges have given you some ideas for ways you can support women and raise awareness in your life too. I urge everyone to be an ally—not just for today, but all year long.

Watch our International Women’s Day video, launching our Global Employee Challenge and showcasing some of our enthusiastic employees around the world:

We believe that those in a position to change the world for the better, should. That is why at OpenText, we #ChooseToChallenge and we will challenge the gap.

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Mark J. Barrenechea

Mark J. Barrenechea joined OpenText as President and Chief Executive Officer in January 2012, and also serves as a member of the Board of Directors. In January 2016, Mark took on the role of Chief Technology Officer and was appointed Vice Chair in September 2017.

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