Localization Business School: The success of Women in Localization

Women in Localization is currently planning its ten-year anniversary. It will be celebrated around the world with satellite parties and a larger event in Silicon Valley.

On September 8, 2008, three women had a vision and changed the face of the localization world for good. They started Women in Localization, a small local networking group that would go on to become an international organization with 4,000+ members, with chapters in 11 countries and counting.

That success is not the astonishing part of the story — they did it without funding. There are no membership dues, no government grants. No one has a membership card or number. To become a member, female localizers join a LinkedIn group and follow it on local social media platforms. There are only two requirements to join the LinkedIn group: you must be a woman, and you must work in a localization-related field. Elsewhere, such as at events and on advisory boards, men are also involved.

How did Women in Localization become one of the largest professional organizations in its industry with limited structure and resources?

The answer lies in one concept: contribution.

In 2008, three women wanted to be heard. They wanted to sit at the decision-making table and they believed they deserved the same compensation for their work as men. They were also up against the global financial crisis of 2008/2009 and funding to go global was hard to come by.

Against this backdrop, the founders, Anna N. Schlegel, Eva Klaudinyova and Silvia Avary-Silveira, did something so simple and ingenious that it would rock the paradigm of business in localization. They connected their small group with two emotional forces: a need to avoid the pain of being disadvantaged and the desire to contribute.

They created a forum in which professional female localizers network to share their stories, learn, provide innovative content, mentor and peer-coach each other. In other words, they contributed to a shared solution rather than dwelling on the problem.

This is the main lesson from Women in Localization. What we choose to focus on determines how we feel. When we are focused on contribution, we experience that there is always a way, always interaction; a commitment that defines us as rare and extraordinary individuals. Contribution creates a spiritual bond and requires us to go beyond our own needs.

Contribution is the fuel that three leaders from Silicon Valley used to inspire sisterhood across the world. Being at one of their events just makes you feel better.

It’s not about making more money, receiving more recognition, or gaining more power. It’s about ensuring balance in life — having fun, being loved and respected, and growing professionally and spiritually. It’s about the fulfillment that friendship, collaboration and growth can bring.

When employers and communities do not allow women equal means to make a living and the same avenues for a rewarding career, women feel constricted. To this day, managers advise women to change employers if they want the same salary or the same path to advancement as their male counterparts. Their own institutions do not give managers the tools to adjust wages radically enough.

There is still work to do. The founders continue to ask themselves: “What is good for our members? What do we need? What can we do today to provide for our future?” They go where others fall short, and they consistently link their actions to something bigger and higher than themselves, in the name of their members.

Today, more than 4,000 women across the United States, Argentina, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Catalunya, the Netherlands, Poland, China, Japan and South Korea keep elevating each other into leadership positions and local chapters. They educate, train, mentor and coach thousands of their peers in local events across the globe. The waitlist for new chapters is long. However, the board aims to grow methodically and with a solid foundation.

The future of Women in Localization

Women in Localization has been on a transformational journey since its inception. Hard work and a new strategic focus have moved the organization on track to become a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation later this year.

As a further result of continuous evolution, it is most notable that this work was overseen by the first male board advisor, Duaine Pryor. Women in Localization is by nature inclusive and firmly believes in fostering relationships with men who support equality, inclusivity, and support women and women’s issues.

Men are welcome to attend events and there are currently two men on the board of advisors. Duaine Pryor and Fabiano Cid serve with long-time supporter of the organization Mimi Hills, and former board member Allison McDougall.

All committees and chapters that work under the board’s supervision are sponsored and mentored on a regular basis. The board has clear values and goals; it builds and fosters key partnerships and manages the organization like a well-oiled machine.

One of  the organization’s main goals continues to be the creation of female leaders by offering women new leadership opportunities often lacking in the workplace. The board is extremely committed to this point and it is also part of the board’s succession plan.

Its mission remains “the fostering of a global community for the advancement of women in the localization industry.” These three pillars are the focus, and all activity lines up to this mission.

The current board is taking it to the next level under the leadership of chair and cofounder Schlegel, veterans Liesl Leary and Loy Searle, newcomers Michele Smith and Sonia Oliveira, and the remaining two founders, Klaudinyova and Avary-Silveira. The latest additions to support the board are Bridget O’Brien, senior talent director; Vilma Campos, chief technology officer; and Monica Bajaj, chief compliance officer.

They will continue to build on their core group of supporters, such as Carrie Fischer, Lynda Roslund, Luciana Vecchi and Mary Rosberg, who served on the initial board for several years and helped get the organization off the ground. Others include Katell Jentreau, Stephanie Gabriel, Elena McCoy and Theresa Marshall, who served on the board a little later and played an essential role during the organization’s biggest transformational period.

A particular shout-out goes from Women in Localization to Allison McDougall, who served on the board for most of its existence and led the organization last year as the chair of the board.

The widespread success of Women in Localization would not have been possible without all of the leadership teams doing the work of the executive committees sponsored by the board, as well as the teams managing the global chapters and spreading the mission and message of Women in Localization in all the different corners of the world.

The upcoming anniversary party will celebrate the accomplishments of the past ten years, and will include all past and present major contributors, board members and friends of Women in Localization. Currently, they are planning guest speaker and dance floor details.