5 Women Talk About How The Women's March Changed Their Careers

The impact of last year's Women's March will be felt this coming weekend, as women across the country take to the streets again on the anniversary of the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.

For some women, last year's march was more than just a protest — it became a movement that made them seriously reevaluate their professional lives for a number of reasons. Ahead, we talk to five women who were inspired to make a career changes after the Women's March.

Katherine Siemionko

Siemionko was one of the key organizers of Women's March NYC last year. A former Goldman Sachs banker, she left Wall Street last April to organize full time. She's now the founder and director of the Women's March Alliance, a group that aims to raise women’s voices through education and activism.

"After the Women's March, I had an opportunity to start my own nonprofit," says Siemionko. "We had the basic necessities to start an organization."

She says she was scared to make the change ("I'm not paid at all, so that was a huge pay cut," Siemionko adds), but she also felt called to be a leader and believed she had the ability to contribute to the movement by encouraging other women to speak up, organize events where they could learn about their rights, and learn how to become advocates for themselves.

Though the Women's March last year was decidedly anti-Trump, Siemionko says that was not her motivation for leaving her job.

"This had nothing to do with Trump, this is pro-women," she says. "I left because women don't have equality. It doesn't matter if Hillary was elected; it doesn't matter if Bernie was elected — women would still not have equal rights. It was my treatment at my job, and I saw the opportunity to speak out at the Women's March," she continues. "I think a lot of women felt the same way: that we've been hiding in the background for a while, looking for an opportunity to express ourselves, and that was what the march was. [It] was successful because women were so tired of being held back."
Penelope Chester

Chester was working in tech and management consulting when she got a call from a former intern asking for help to organize the Women's Marches in Canada.

"It took on a life of its own, but I think we were all very driven by a sense of purpose and the importance of the moment," says Chester. "Even in the moment, it felt like there was definitely going to be an after. We didn't build up all this momentum to peace out the next day."

Organizing took up most of her day, and her employer became less thrilled about that over time. "There were a couple of discussions with my employer at the time where they said, 'Look, you don’t work for the Women’s March, you work for us.'"

Chester decided to leave that job, and says she feels lucky she was able to do so financially. Now, she is a coordinator and board member for March On, and she says she has no regrets.

"For me, the Women's March and the resistance movement had become a very important part of what I was doing every day. I felt like that was more meaningful, and what I was being called to do at the moment. It's been such a joy to work alongside really motivated, confident, and excited people who want something better for our country."
Catherine Vaughan

Although Vaughan's career changed before the Women's March, the movement solidified her decision to leave the corporate world to work in politics.

"I ended up leaving McKinsey for a few months to work on the Hillary campaign. I was inspired by [that work] to leave and have a political experience, which I never really had before [the campaign]," she says.

Vaughan is the CEO of Flippable, a platform made by a group of former Clinton campaign staffers that uses data analytics to determine which red districts can be "flipped" into blue ones.

"It almost wasn't a decision, the urgency of the moment felt so strong," says Vaughan. "I didn't feel like I have a choice. I couldn't go back and do the job I had been doing before."

Although she gave up a secure, high-paying job for one that didn't give her a paycheck for five months, Vaughan says the move wasn't surprising to those around her who knew of her passion for mission-driven work. She's encouraged by what she saw at the Women's March last year, and is excited about this year's theme.

"I think the fact that this year's Women's March is called 'Power to the Polls' is a huge step forward. Protest is valuable in an of itself, [but] I think we went from an expressive mode of protest to a very proactive, electorally-focused mode of protest. That's incredibly empowering," Vaughan says. "Not only do we have a voice that we can use on the street, we also have a vote we can use at the ballot box."
Martha Shaughnessy

Shaughnessy is a PR veteran who founded her own agency, The Key, and ran communications for the San Francisco Women's March last year. Although she hasn't quit her job per se, the march had a big impact on her as a small business owner.

"The Women's March helped me institutionalize several things about how and with whom we work," says Shaughnessy. "We have preferred pricing for women and minorities, [are] committed to always having nonprofit and social impact clients in our portfolio, and have structured the way we work to help meet women where they are — flexibility around childcare, good benefits for families and young folks, and hours that shift around the life needs that most often hit women."

The employees at her agency are all marching this weekend. Shaughnessy says last year's march inspired her to create a work situation that was different than the status quo.

"As a business owner, you think: I have to look at the top line and the bottom line, and it'd be so much less expensive if we did it this way," she says. "People told me women of childbearing years were hard to invest in, while I had a baby and a toddler at home. Being at the Women's March and seeing people wearing their babies and holding their signs was a real kick in the ass to do better."
Sarah E. Myhre

Myhre is a planet and ocean scientist at the University of Washington. She says the Women's March influenced the way she sees her career and has empowered her to stand up to men in her field who talk over her. It has also inspired her to organize: Myhre founded the Seattle chapter of 500 Women Scientists, a grassroots movement of female scientists fighting for a more inclusive scientific community.

"Since the Women's March, I've done an enormous of organizing and growing. I saw it as a very transformational moment personally and professionally," says Myhre.

Sexism in science has gotten more media attention in recent years and for Myhre, the march empowered her to question the gender dynamics in her field.

"What I've encountered as a scientist is that my speech is not received in the same way as my white male colleagues. There were parallels between what I was experiencing as a scientist inside of this toxic and misogynistic cultural moment," she explains. "Coming to terms that my professional life is defined by this misogynistic system has been enormously instructive to me. It's shown me that we need to change the world, I don't want to be quiet."

Did the Women's March change your career or professional life? If so, email us your story.
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