Be True to Yourself and Find Your Passion
“The glass ceiling is a metaphor referring to an artificial barrier that prevents women and minorities from being promoted to managerial- and executive-level positions within an organization,” writes Julia Kagan, personal finance editor with Investopedia.
I was first invited to the table in 1998, when I was hired as an engineer to “support” the team at General Motors, which at the time was predominately male. While this may sound like a meaningful role, I was often asked to fax documents, take notes, and ignore the big picture. Whenever I asked questions about the strategic drivers behind certain decisions, my male colleagues would respond, “Why are you concerning yourself with problems so big?”
I listened and learned and pretended I didn’t know how to work the fax machine, so I could set my sights on something bigger. I loved technology. I was a developer. I wrote code. But I also had to earn my seat at the table by taking a lot of notes during meetings. I wrote everything down for two reasons: to serve the team and to absorb as much knowledge as possible.
Thankfully, because of the hard work and savvy of progressive individuals and organizations, the workplace has become a much more inclusive place over the past two decades. At HARMAN, Diversity & Inclusion isn’t just something we talk about, it’s what we do, Bringing underrepresented voices to the table is a priority for us, from the top down, and is supported through several resources, including the HARMAN Women’s Network and the HARMAN Young Professionals resource groups.
I recall when there was still a big question about whether or not women could really “have it all.” As mother to three boys, I chose to fill my bucket with equal parts work and parenting—both things I am incredibly passionate about. But, when I was carrying my third son in 2003, a colleague said, “It is so nice to finally see you start a family.” This was someone I’d worked closely with for years, but I never shared a story about my children or being a working mother. At the time, I thought it would be perceived as a weakness, but, in retrospect, I realize that talking about my family at work is an asset. My family is one of my greatest passions, and they inspire me to think outside the box and consider alternate viewpoints.
Today I have achieved many of the professional goals I had when I first took my seat at that table. I have lived around the world and carried the title president, executive chief engineer, and senior vice president. I also start every engagement defining myself as Lynn Longo, the mother of three sons, married to Kevin Longo, lover of technology, and automotive executive. There is no barrier—metaphorical or physical—when you know who you are and what your passion is.