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Why It’s Time for Women to Rise UP

Rawan Shawar Rise Up

As a senior software engineer at ACI Worldwide, Rawan Shawar helps to guide her team’s priorities and enhance processes at both the team and organizational level. Recently, Rawan was selected by the organizers of Money20/20 Asia to be part the Rise Up Class of 2019.

In partnership with Women in Payments, Rise Up was created to address the gender imbalance in the leadership positions within the financial services and fintech industries. It is designed to provide support and actionable skills for women working to take the next steps to increased seniority within their careers. A cohort of 30 women were hand-chosen to be part of this year’s program.

I took a moment to talk to Rawan about her experience being part of the program this year and what she expects to get out of it.

Nidhi Alberti: Rawan, first let me congratulate you for your achievement in being selected for Rise Up. How does it make you feel?

Rawan Shawar: I am deeply honored, humbled, and very excited. This is especially true after the organizers confirmed there were hundreds of applicants, out of which thirty of us were selected. I was greatly interested in joining this global network of women who believe that their growth and success is further developed by helping others around them succeed. This is a positive move toward inclusion in the workplace. It felt right to apply, and being accepted was priceless validation.

NA: Tell me a bit about your experience at Money 20/20 Asia after being selected. What did the organizers have in store for you and the other honorees of Rise Up 2019?

RS: The experience was one that I will never forget. As one of the organizers, Monique Ruff-Bell, said, "Rise Up impacts 30 women who will each go back and positively impact 1000.” The organizers of the Rise Up conference made sure my cohorts and I had no idle time while in attendance with back-to-back schedules. We were paired with board members, founders, CEOs and senior executives from around the world. It was also encouraging to see previous Rise Up 'Power Players' come onto the stage as presenters and mentors.

We talked about a plethora of topics including unconscious bias, building a support network, benefits of inclusion in the workplace, navigating a career with family, career development, and mentorship vs sponsorship. I am motivated to use this information in my self-development and the development of those around me in the work place and beyond.

NA: What did you learn from your cohorts at the event?

RS: There was so much to absorb from my cohorts; they were phenomenal women of strength, compassion, and intelligence.

From blockchain experts to regulators, serial entrepreneurs and executives at leading financial institutions, I learned how these women’s dynamic careers tie into the financial industry and into ACI specifically. Even today, we are actively updating each other with wins we have achieved after the academy ended, and we continue to exchange a wealth of technical and business knowledge in these discussions.

I was also reminded that we should never feel alone; we all have our individual struggles, whether they be at the workplace or in our personal lives. The stories are plentiful, including the woman who had to help her toddler battle leukemia while maintaining her career, the woman who had to drop out of school to support her family and parents, the woman liaising with foreign government agencies to help refugees. Each woman lives to tell a tale of success through these challenges. The attitude of perseverance and finding that support network was always the guiding light in each of these stories.

NA: Are there other events in store for the honorees?

Yes! The Rise Up power players are encouraged to apply and participate in future Rise Up events and my involvement in the future would be as a contributor and speaker. What is also worth mentioning is that we are encouraged to help recommend individuals in our organizations and networks who would be interested in being a part of the Rise Up program. (Hint!)

NA: In your view, what do programs like this do for women like you, who are looking to grow in the industry?

RS: As a Rise Up Power Player, you gain a tribe, a wealth of knowledge from the networks, friendships and connections made, and you leave recharged to be an even better you in your day-to-day responsibilities.

By joining the Rise Up network women like myself are better positioned to climb the corporate ladders of success, while helping to lift others in the process. It starts with the day-to-day routine; as an example, I am applying newly learned processes in my daily responsibilities with my team. I am also further refining my strategy for long-term career development so I can maximize the successful contributions I bring to my team and organization.

The best part about it, is the development of women is a win-win, because it feeds right back into the growth of society.

NA: What else should we do as an industry to help drive the gender imbalance?

RS: Involvement of every individual, including men, will help make a change at the industry level. While this may seem counterintuitive, there was a theme that was evident in the conference, which was to make sure men are included in the process. They are our allies.

I am fortunate enough to say that it is very true for me at a personal level. My late father was always a top advocate for my professional development and education. He was a cheerleader who encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone to take on the next challenge; his words continue to live with me today. The same goes for my supportive husband, brothers, male mentors, colleagues and friends. By making sure they are aware of the opportunities for improvement within our industry today and keeping them involved throughout, they will be key advocates in the process of balancing for better.