Today I had the privilege of appearing on Frank Maduri's podcast, "Undivided", and discussing the gender divide at work. Unfortunately, a very timely topic. I've included the podcast below for your listening pleasure, along with the transcript below.
1.When we consider gender roles and the societal/cultural approach to them; What was the starting point?
To avoid a long history lesson-
Where this tends to start with most people is the culture or the environment in which we’re raised - and how gender roles are defined for us. Our exposure to what’s encouraged as “normal” behaviour sticks with us through most of our lives - especially when it’s being reinforced everywhere we go - at home, school, media, etc.
Very often, behaviours that are praised or encouraged or valued in boys are very different than the behaviors, that are praised, or encouraged, or valued in girls. Assertiveness in boys is often seen as a good thing, while in girls - that same behaviour could be called bossy or another b-word.
These gender norms get cemented into us - and it can be very difficult to break free of them - for both men and women.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to add here, that I feel particularly blessed with my childhood in this regard.
I was raised in a home where both my mom and dad worked, they both shared equally in cooking and cleaning, they both contributed equally as coaches on my competitive softball team, they both taught my sister and I to be high-achievers. In my house, I was taught that receiving success or reward was based on merit.
It was almost a utopian, bubble that I lived in. When I got out into the real world, at one my first jobs out of college, I learned that most workplaces don’t operate on meritocracy - that outperforming other people, is sometimes not enough for women…
This realization made me pretty darn angry, which is why I’m so passionate about this topic.
2. The workplace statistics were shocking to me (I will refer to them in show intro) and to some people I know – what factors led women at a 50% clip to feeling undervalued at work? What are some of the consequences?
If you're not being paid properly - you can’t feel valued. If you’re continuously passes over for promotions, you can’t feel valued. If you’re low balled in a salary negotiation, you can’t feel valued. If your ideas and opinions are discounted or stolen, you can’t feel valued- or respected for that matter.
When a workplace is not operating on meritocracy - or actively limiting opportunities for a select group of people - based on something they can’t change - like gender - it’s highly demotivating.
As for the consequences - here’s another stat for you - 40% of women in the US are the primary breadwinners in their family - pretty safe to say, women paid for their work, would benefit more people…
The other consequence, and I think we’ll dive into this a little deeper later, is that with fewer women able to rise - there is limited opportunity for women - women know this, so it creates a more competitive environment among women - not necessarily in the workplace overall, but among women specifically - and this actually impedes the progress of all women.
3. Some listeners are aware that harassment and code of conduct policies are in effect at workplaces: but how effective are these policies?
Just like laws are only as good as the ability to enforce them, harassment policies are only as good as the ability for people to use them -
If the victims are the ones bearing the impact of reporting harassment - there is a serious problem with the policy - there have been reports of women being sent to counseling - not the harassers, women be transferred or functional demoted - while the harasser keeps his job; women threatened with losing their job -
If the victim is persecuted in any way - the policy is no good.
THe other problem - is that most of these policies are reactive - and not proactive - and therefore, they put the onus on the victim to come forward - when really - it should be everyone’s proactive duty to ensure that a work place is safe.
Note - rarely ever is it ever in a women's interest to report harassment...because rarely does it end well - you could be branded a liar and fired - and there aren’t many women I know who have the resources to lose their job or launch a lengthy legal battle.
4. What role do N.D.A. (non-disclosure agreements) play? (example: female executives/senior level jobs cannot disclose what has gone on in prior jobs)
So - this is a very interesting question. I was just listening to an interview with Gretchen Carlson a couple weeks ago.
As you might remember, Carlson was the news anchor who launched a lawsuit against Roger Ails at Fox last year. When she first filed - and first went public - she got torn apart in the media. She was called vile names, no one believed her, the whole narrative we’re unfortunately very used to hearing - it wasn’t until other women came forward and corroborated her claims with claims of her own, that people believed her and eventually the case settled in her favour.
Now - a year later - she’s working on a bipartisan bill that would ban the sort of agreements you’re talking about - she wants to specifically ban private arbitration for harassment and assault cases, because ultimately - it protects the harrasser - he (and it’s almost always a he) can continue on with life as usual, and no future employer or employee will know that he’s a potential danger to workplace safety.
Gretchen Carlson seems to be a woman on a mission these days, so I hope she’s successful with this bill.
5. Some research supports that women change their communication patterns (talk softly) at work around men. Can a change in these types of behaviors help or further damage women at work?
Yes - we need to work on that for sure. Me included. This is a sort-of hangover from the gender norms and gender behaviours we pick up along the way.
And it’s not just tone of voice, it’s our word choices. We try to mitigate what we say to ensure that we’re not being offensive, to make sure we’re not rattling the gender norms that someone expects from us too much.
A few things that I catch myself saying - which are pretty common among women - are:
“I think”, “I could be wrong, but”, “does that make sense?”
These are words of doubt - and we don’t need to pile on any more reasons for people to doubt us at work.
If you’re saying something - it’s clear the thoughts belong to you - you don’t need to say “I think”. You also don’t need to give your listener reason to think that you could be wrong or that you don’t make sense...these filler words aren’t helping to position ourselves at work as leaders.
And, one other one - which is “I’m sorry”. This one is my major hang-up, probably because I’m a women and a Canadian, but, I try to stop this as much as possible. I’ll say it for the most ridiculous reasons. I’ve got myself saying “I’m sorry, but I’m hungry. Do you mind if we get dinner soon.” Why am I apologizing for being hungry?
So definitely - our communication is something to be aware. of.
6. How do we bridge the divide between the treatment of men and women in the workplace? In society, in our homes?
Well, I’d like to say - people are people - and we should all be treated as equal human beings at work.
We all have dreams and desires and needs - and we should just be respectful of one another as humans.
But, as woman - I’m a little too impatient to just sit back and wait for the world to catch-up - as I know other women are as well, from talking to them.
So, I lot of what I address in my coaching and resume writing business, is helping women better promote and market themselves, to increase their competitiveness at work and help them better showcase their value.
7. What is the most effective way to make that change?
So, for women, we can be better marketers of our own abilities and value. And this can be really difficult for some women, especially if she has this idea that it’s inappropriate to promote herself.
Sometimes it can take a lot of digging and deep work with someone to help them uncover their value and strengths - it’s just not something that seems to come as naturally to women as it does to men. Probably, it stems from being discounted or railroaded in the past, but it’s important to lead with value.
If you’re looking for that promotion, or raise, or new job, you need to be really clear about the value you’re bringing to company.
From a resume standpoint - my goal is to always write a resume that is so compelling, and so choc-full of value, that calling that person for an interview is a complete no-brainer. And again, those resumes, are all centered around accomplishments and how the candidates skills will deliver valuable impact.
8. The news cycle has unfortunately been dominated with headlines about sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood, by politicians, and with the “me too” campaign on social media. Has this level of awareness helped the cause of gender equity or has it had an opposite effect?
I don’t have a problem with awareness - it’s good to be aware. And yes, when stories like this arise, my blood tends to boil.
Harassment at work, is unfortunately, incredibly common. Across all industries and across all career levels. From the lens of what I do as a career coach, I see this as part of a continuum of behaviour, a continuum of women being viewed as less than.
Of course women aren't going to receive the respect, the pay, or the promotions they deserve if there is an underlying culture that allows harassment to exist - which is predominantly perpetrated by men in charge or in positions of power. The pervasiveness of the harassment we've seen come forward is a message to women that our autonomy as a person and our rights to be treated as an individual come second to the desires and entitlement of men.
As a women, it's hard to be seen as a person with value to offer - if you're being seen as an object or as something to be taken advantage of for someone else's personal desire or agenda. So, of course the wage gap still exists and of course the glass ceiling still exists.
However, I am encouraged by one thing - and that’s the volume of women...if women are feeling safer sharing their stories, if women are more emboldened and feel more supported with coming forward, it’s a good thing.
9. What is “Shine Theory” and how can it help?
Shine Theory - it's a term coined by Anne Friedman - she’s a journalist who also has a great podcast (full disclosure, I’m a loyal listener to Call Your Girlfriend)...the idea here is that the shine from one woman, rubs off on those who surround her - so, by being an ally for other successful women, makes you seem more successful. Advocating for other women at work, makes you seem more competent and successful.
And it works - this was tried at the White House by female staffers under Obama - they called it “amplification”. If one woman had an idea or a strategy, the other women would keep repeating it and crediting the woman who