Seattle Culture

Trailblazing Women: Merrie Williamson

Executive Vice President, Chief Customer And Revenue Officer, Equinix

By Merrie Williamson June 10, 2024

A woman with curly hair, wearing a green blouse, smiles in front of a wooden slatted background.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

I’ve been in the technology industry for more than 25 years. I’ve had an incredible career journey taking me from building microchips in a silicon manufacturing plant for Intel, to the big stage recently with Microsoft’s Satya Nadella speaking to developers at this big AI moment. Along the way I have been asked to speak about my own journey as a woman who has navigated a male-dominated industry, and I reflect more generally on my own lived experiences as a Black woman in America. I’ve seen great progress since I entered the workforce, but also see a lot of cultural burdens that persist. I’d like to propose we retire, and say farewell, to a couple of ideas.

The first is this concept of work-life balance. The boundaries of work and life since the pandemic began more than four years ago have blurred. It is a slippery slope where work-life balance means “doing it all” with unlimited boundaries. Work-life balance cannot include setting goals to become an unrealistic superwoman.

Organizations must evolve to accept that women (including parents, caretakers) offer exceptional talents, and managers and teams should create a culture that allows for flexibility, boundaries, and realistic conversations on workload. Such a culture would create space for honest discussions and mature managers that care about employees while driving business outcomes. will thrive and succeed, and not just for working women.

The second concept I want to retire is this burden and language of imposter syndrome. Almost every event, panel, or women’s conference that I’ve attended in the last decade has special sessions on imposter syndrome (generally defined as an inability to believe that success is deserved). As much as I applaud the wisdom of the women speaking to this topic, I don’t believe this is the baggage women should self-identify with.

If you look up the word “imposter,” it means deception and fraudulence. We are not imposters. We belong in the rooms, in the roles, in all spaces. We should allow ourselves discomfort, space to be vulnerable, and to learn new things. We should learn to ask for help to bridge our learning gaps.

My ask to everyone — from managers to mentors to peers — is to help us reframe this concept of “impostering” to learning, that being tapped for a new opportunity is something positive because someone believes in you. Women specifically need to retire the concept of “imposter” and turn it into “growth discomfort.”

A wise woman recently told me, at the perfect time, that instead of asking, “What if it all goes wrong?” ask yourself, “What if it all goes right?” Life is imperfect. We are all imperfect, but embracing hard things is how we grow. Women have so much energy to give to the workplace.

I want to see this energy spent on growing, innovating, discovering, and not on being superwomen or imposters.

Follow Us

She Stood Up To Sit

She Stood Up To Sit

UW student couldn’t find babysitting jobs, so she started her own service

Grace Schmidt began babysitting when she was 12 and, like any enterprising college kid, wanted to earn extra money when she enrolled at the University of Washington to study nursing in 2018...

Seattle Podcast: Peter Tomozawa: World Cup Baller Elevates Seattle, ep. 2

Seattle Podcast: Peter Tomozawa: World Cup Baller Elevates Seattle, ep. 2

Seattle Podcast: Peter Tomozawa - World Cup Baller Elevates Seattle

Seattle Podcast: Peter Tomozawa – World Cup Baller Elevates Seattle

Trailblazing Women: Angela Dunleavy

Trailblazing Women: Angela Dunleavy

CEO, Gourmondo

Years ago, when my children were very young, I attended an extended education seminar at the University of Washington to learn about corporate board governance. One of the lecturers was a founder of a venture fund, and a woman I deeply admire. She was successful, poised, self-assured. If there was anyone who could impart wisdom…