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They Won’t Stop Until You Stop

By Paige Kassalen

International Women’s Day is March 8th, and this article is for the women who continue to face challenges, biases and double standards in their careers.

I was having a conversation with a group of my friends recently. First, I want to say that I am so proud of the amazing network of women in my life for founding companies, climbing the corporate ladder to senior consultants, directors and C-Suite executives, and even having the courage to take major career pivots when they weren’t feeling fulfilled.

In this conversation, one topic that came up was a concept that once a major milestone was hit, like turning 30, reaching a decade of work experience, or being promoted to the C-Suite, some of the challenges facing us in the workforce would subside.

Unfortunately, we all shared a similar experience. No matter what milestone we hit, we were still viewed more as the mentee, rather than the mentor, treated like our prior experience or education came with some “catch” that made it less legit, or assumed to be an intern, instead of a decision maker.

We all thought hitting those big milestones would make this stop, but then my friend said, “Paige, they won’t stop until you stop…” And I realized I had never heard a truer statement in my life.

So here are three ways to not stop, even when you want to:

Remind Yourself that You Are Not the Problem

I once had a manager who told me he did not perceive me as a leader.

I sat there in his office looking dumbfounded. I was an ambitious young woman who thought she was doing everything right to set herself up for a successful career.

Then, I asked “why?”

I received an answer that it was “just an impression” or “a sense,” but there was nothing he could really pinpoint. This was a moment where I realized that I was not the problem.

I used to think I could control everything related to the way I was perceived. I thought if someone wasn’t listening to me that I just wasn’t talking loud enough, or if I was not given recognition for something that I was operating too behind-the-scenes. I never wanted to blame an outcome on my gender.

My mentality has changed, though. It is too much of a mental burden to put this completely on us as women. We cannot control the way people act, especially when it comes to unconscious bias.

Of course, we need to find the proper balance because everything is not due to gender, but these scenarios do happen.

We need to focus our energy on figuring out what steps we need to take to move forward, instead of dwelling on what we could have done differently to have prevented the situation.

Forget the People Who Said We Couldn’t

We’ve seen the posts before — “To the person who said that I could never… [insert accomplishment]… look what I just did.” I’m not going to deny this is a cute way to highlight a big accomplishment, but something even more empowering is to show someone that their lack of support and doubts meant so little to you that you instantly forgot it.

We should not carry around the weight of unsolicited, negative comments; instead, we should collect and carry around all the positive words of support. Our careers are too short to waste time trying to prove someone who doesn’t care about us wrong.

Get Comfortable Pushing Back

One time after finishing a keynote presentation outlining a few takeaways from different experiences in my career, someone rushed up to me to tell me that a few of my points were wrong. I politely told him I disagreed and explained why. He got visibly angry and turned around and mumbled something at me under his breath as he walked away.

I thought this was the strangest encounter. I gave a presentation, someone said I was wrong, I stood up for myself, and that person got mad at me. I’m not sure what the person expected me to do, but I can only imagine that he expected that I would agree that I did in fact get the main takeaways from my career experiences wrong.

As women, sometimes people expect us to immediately take their advice, listen when they talk, and not push back.

We don’t have to follow this status quo, though. They won’t stop until we stop, so we need to be strong. We need to get comfortable pushing back and standing up for our ideas. We need to be ready to stand our ground because it’s the only way for us to keep moving forward.

This International Women’s Day, I’m vowing to never stop, and I don’t want you to stop either. Remember that you are not the problem, and you cannot control everything. Forget the people who said you couldn’t and, instead, carry the positive messages of the people who said you could. Finally, get comfortable pushing back, because you need to stand your ground to keep moving forward.

They won’t stop until we stop, so together, let’s make it exhausting for anyone out there that isn’t happy with how much we all accomplish together.


Paige Kassalen

Paige Kassalen has an electrical engineering degree from Virginia Tech and a Master of Information Systems Management from Carnegie Mellon. Kassalen began her career as the only American engineer working with Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe. This role landed Kassalen a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list along with feature articles in Glamour, Teen Vogue, and Fast Company. Since Solar Impulse, Kassalen worked in the manufacturing and finance industries to create implementation strategies for a range of emerging technology trends from autonomous vehicles to machine learning. She was the Chief Operating Officer at CrowdAI, a start-up named by Forbes as one of the most promising AI companies in 2021. CrowdAI was acquired by Saab, Inc. in 2023, and Kassalen now serves as the Chief of Staff for the strategy division.

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