S 4 E8

March 24th, 2021

EPISODE 8: Busting Gender Myths and Fixing Gender Parity

Last December 156,000 people lost jobs due to the pandemic—and all of them were women. Not just a high percentage of them. All of them. This could be the biggest backward step for women’s representation in the workplace we’ve ever seen. While there are many factors at play, there is one hidden culprit that has an outsized impact—gender bias. In this episode NLI Senior Consultant Deb Campbell facilitates a panel discussion with Francine Rosado-Cruz; Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Davis Polk & Wardwell; Janet Stovall, Senior Client Strategist at NLI; and Elizabeth Haines, Professor and Social Scientist at William Paterson University. Together they unpack the research about gender bias, how it shows up in the workplace, and how organizations can put us back on the road to gender parity.

Episode Transcript



[00:00:06] GB: Last December, 156,000 people lost jobs due to the pandemic and all of them were women. Not a high percentage of them, not even most of them, all of them. And it comes as no surprise that black and Latino women have been disproportionately affected. This could be the biggest backwards step from women’s representation in the workplace we’ve ever seen. While there are many factors at play, there is one hidden culprit that has an outsized impact; gender bias. The bias shows up in our brains, in our behaviors, in our homes and in our offices. So we invited a scientist, a storyteller and a practitioner to help us understand why and how gender bias continues to hold women back in the workforce and what we can do to stop it.

I’m Gabriel Berezin, and you’re listening to Your Brain at Work from the NeuroLeadership Institute. We continue to draw our episodes from a weekly webinar series the NLI has been hosting every Friday. This week our panel consists of Deb Campbell, senior consultant at NLI; Francine Rosado-Cruz, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Davis Polk & Wardwell; Janet Stovall, senior client strategist at NLI; and Elizabeth Haines, professor and social scientist at William Patterson University. Enjoy.


[00:01:22] DC: Before we start, I want to first acknowledge the fear and sadness and pain that I and probably most of you are experiencing as we learn about the murders in Georgia. These events and the global headlines about other events impacting historically underrepresented groups really underscore the work we have to do to mitigate bias in our workplaces and society. So my thanks to you for being here and for your help in doing this work.

So let’s talk about how bias shows up in our workplaces and what we and what our companies can do to address it. Among the many topics in the news that came up about a month ago, as I listened to a podcast, there was a statistic reported that really made me sit up in my chair and pay attention. And I didn’t hear much about it for the next few days, maybe even a week, and now suddenly it’s gained a ton of media attention. That statistic is that the all the jobs that were lost in December 2020, 156,000 of them were lost by women and predominantly women of color. Additionally, based on a McKinsey report, one in four women are considering downsizing their career aspirations or leaving the workforce altogether. And now we understand that two and a half million women already have left the workforce permanently. All of this is primarily a result of the pandemic.

Our panel discussion today, in it we want to share with you the research that illuminates some of the underlying issues that are driving this exit from the workforce as well as creating other challenges for women in the workplace. We want to talk about how both gender, bias and racial bias are at play and then really dig into what companies can do to address these underlying issues and stem the outflow.

I have to tell you, when we all met, there were so many topics we could have chosen to cover about women in the workplace. And we chose our topics today based on our connection with neuroscience, NLI’s area of expertise, and also because they were currently relevant not only in North America, but around the world. In future webinars we’d really like to cover additional topics on women in the workplace or gender in the workplace more broadly where our focus on neuroscience can add value to the conversation. So I want to alert you that at the end of this session we’ll be putting out a survey to gather your feedback. And there’ll be an opportunity there if you have specific topics you’d like to see us address in future webinars, please tell us then.

Okay. So I’d like to jump in and start with our first section here about unconscious gender bias being a barrier to gender parity. Elizabeth, let’s start with you. I’d love it for you to briefly share with us some of the essential research demonstrating how unconscious and even conscious bias impacts our behavior in the workplace.

[00:04:36] EH: Thanks, Deb. Yes. So one thing that we know about gender, and that is fundamental in person perception, it’s oftentimes the gender or presumed gender is the first piece of information that we learn about a person. Ad what that does is that organizes our information about that person. It allows us to fill in the gaps. And we can’t turn it off. It is automatic and unconscious. And so we fill in the gaps regarding the likely characteristics, the traits, the preferences, the capabilities and the likely roles that that individual occupies, so at least this automatic stereotyping.

One thing that we know is that, “Isn’t stereotyping something of the past?” Nothing can be further from the truth. In my own research I showed with a data set from 1984 and then we gathered data again in 2014, gender stereotypes have not changed in 30 years. Now that’s surprising for a lot of people to get their head around, because haven’t women’s roles changed? Haven’t they entered the workforce and received those and earned those top management roles? Yes, they have. But what we find is that the fundamental categories that we perceive in terms of men and women have not changed. And what we call it, it’s called cultural lag. So even though men and women have changed their actual behaviors and roles, we still view men and women in very gender stereotypical and traditional ways. And so what I’d like to do is talk a little bit more about the ways in which men and women are typically perceived.

Stereotypes are descriptive, prescriptive and proscriptive. The first part is that they describe what men and women typically are, okay? The second fact is that they are prescriptive. So they have an element in terms of norms or behavioral standards by which we should all occupy. So it’s about what men and women should be like. So women should be kind, nurturing, warm, always smiling and concerned with other people’s needs and goals. Men should be assertive, aggressive, competitive, dominant and decisive and concerned with breadwinning and oftentimes their own goals in terms of orientation. And then lastly stereotypes are also proscriptive in terms of what each gender should and shouldn’t be. Men are not allowed to be weak or emotional. Women are not allowed to be rebellious, stubborn, cynical or arrogant.

And what these stereotypes do is that they keep us in our gender lanes. In society we get constant backlash and so forth from not acting in accordance with those gender stereotypes. And how that plays out in work is that oftentimes – Well, there’s research that supports this that the stereotypes and the traits associated with being male also overlap with being manager. Think manager, think male. So there’s more overlap. So men seem naturally to fit into those types of categories and roles.

Similarly when women occupy managerial and high power status roles they tend to receive backlash, backlash in the form of not liking, disregarding, oftentimes lower competence evaluations, but most importantly some of Laurie Redmond’s work has shown that they’re also at increased risk for sabotage and actually people withholding information from them as a result from not for being too gender atypical. So those are some of the basic ways that it operates.

[00:08:03] DC: Wonderful. Thank you. Are there any implications of gender bias or gender norms for trans women or non-binary individuals that we can share?

[00:08:12] EH: Yeah, because they don’t neatly fit into like – For non-binary especially, they don’t neatly fit into each category that they may kind of – They they’re at increased risk for harassment and discrimination because people love to use social categories people feel not at ease if people don’t quickly identify – Like you can’t categorize them. That leads to uncertainty, ambiguity and that oftentimes creates a little bit of a kind of backlash. Just like for biracial individuals, they receive a lot of harassment in terms of like, “Well, what are you? The same thing goes for gender as well. So the less you neatly fit into those categories, the more kind of disruption.

We know that just like saying the doctor she, or the nurse he actually creates at a brain level a little error term in your prefrontal cortex. It actually is kind of like it’s incongruent with what we expect and that oftentimes um gets to a little bit of like dislike and just like that’s weird and not being familiar with it as well. So yeah, not being able to meet with those categories does really create those kinds of biases.

[00:09:13] DC: Yeah. Thank you, Elizabeth. I appreciate that. And I want to make a quick comment too. You spoke about men in leadership. And one of the things that also came out in that gender paper that NLI produced was NLI tends to like to talk about there’s conventional wisdom and there’s the research. And what we found in terms of the conventional wisdom is that nearly everyone thinks that men are better leaders. Women and men both tend to think that men are better leaders. Yet the research shows that women outperform men in 12 out of 16 general leadership skills. So it’s really a tricky thing about this aspect that you’re talking about, how things have changed and behavior has changed, but the stereotypes are staying the same.

[00:09:54] EH: That’s right. And there’s no like gendered leadership style. It’s a powerful leadership style that really – It’s really not gender. It’s power that creates the leadership style. So a lot of people think like, “Oh, women have a different leadership style.” That’s not commensurate with the meta-analyses on leadership and gender.

[00:10:10] DC: Great. Thank you. So let’s talk a little bit about how this research illustrates what’s going on in our workplaces. Francine, I’d love to hear from you. You’ve worked in two very different industries. Have you seen gender bias play out differently or similarly in those industries?

[00:10:25] FRC: That’s a great question, Deb. Thank you for asking. In my experience in working in tech and now in big law, the needs of women in leadership roles are similar and the path to leadership is what differs. So if you think about uh the big law field, it can be in most instances quite linear the path to leadership. Whereas in tech, it’s more of a career lattice than a career ladder. So what that means in terms of women’s development and promotion into leadership roles is that our role as DEI professionals, we need to have different interventions at different times.

At Davis Polk we partnered with NLI to introduce the seize model through decide, through behavior sprint, and our intention behind that was to really have a shared and common language for us to talk about the different biases that can show up especially in a couple of areas. I’ll talk about one right now. When we are thinking about performance and performance management, we found that at times the feedback could be biased. There could be – Especially if you think about distance. We have an apprenticeship model within big law, and that means a lot of face time. So as we shifted to the remote work force, how do we leverage what we know about distance bias and making sure that especially those who were working parents or had elder care responsibilities that we were given them the feedback in real time when they needed it to help them with their performance and their development. So that’s just one of the ways specifically within big law. Whereas in a company, like I was at Microsoft before, we had a practice of remote workforce already. We certainly in my career there, which was primarily as a remote worker, that distance bias didn’t come up as much.

[00:12:24] DC: Nice. Thank you. Elizabeth, let me turn back to you, because we started this whole thing off talking about the pandemic. And the pandemic has really brought both caregiving and work into the home. Domains that till now really kind of artificially drawn a line between and said, “Okay, we’re not going to talk about the dynamics. We’re going to ignore the dynamics between them.” But the reality is now that they’re both in the home. Those dynamics are really showing up for us in real-time. And I wonder if you could speak a little bit to how gender biases are playing out before our eyes and the challenges that women are experiencing during this pandemic.

[00:12:59] EH: Yeah, it’s creating havoc. Let me just say that. I think a lot of us feel this. Traditionally, stereotypes are prescriptions, but they’re also force fields. And so their force fields that pull women towards caregiving and men towards breadwinning, and even though women and men are doing both more and more now. So in situations of crisis when there’s a sick child, when there’s a crisis, we tend to go back to much more traditional roles. And so what we’ve seen is women orient again much more towards the caregiving world even if they’re still breadwinning in the workplace. And so think about the three ways in which women carry the burden of caring for other people’s goals and needs. They do it with a physical labor of caring for young children and elderly parents. They do this in the emotional labor of making sure that everyone’s emotions are well satisfied. And then they also do it with a mental housework. That’s some of my own research as well, that it’s not only the emotional and physical things that’s doing all the reminding, all the remembering of what other people’s goals are. And that takes the cognitive cost as well.

And so with the pandemic, we used to have better segregations. People used to go to work and then you kind of put it aside. And now there’s just the scope creep of everything. And so it’s really impairing women’s ability to really demarcate those two roles in very important ways. Anecdotally, and also I think through the survey data, is that women are really monitoring young children in terms of their online education, and that’s very disruptive in terms of being able to have the cognitive space to perform one’s own abilities and tasks. And if women don’t do that, remember, these are prescriptive. If you don’t prioritize family and caregiving and so forth, you’re seen as a bad mom. However, that if you do prioritize breadwinning or you try to balance it, it’s just hard, where men don’t have those same kinds of pressures. In my own research we know that when men are with a baby in the park, like he’s a wonderful man, and he goes to a t-ball game while that he kind of sneaks out of work, that’s okay. That scene is really good. But if a woman prioritizes work over her family, she’s seen extremely negatively, when she goes on a business trip when a child is sick. We have really good data around that too. That the perceptions of the same behavior across parents really changes as a function of one’s prescriptive gender role. And so that’s really kind of important to think about in terms of how other people are perceiving us, both our community and other people at work. And we have multiple masters in terms of our social perceptions in that way. So it’s been extremely challenging for women as they manage all these multiple roles.

[00:15:40] DC: Yeah. Thank you. And one of the things that we talked about, the women leaving the work workforce purposely because of the pandemic, and the McKinsey report that I referred to women in the workplace 2020 actually calls out that the women they talk to who are planning to leave the workforce or downsize their career aspirations are doing so primarily because of this caregiving responsibility. So this caregiving is really showing up as challenging in terms of keeping women in the workforce and keeping them at the levels of contribution that they’ve been making till now.

So I’d like to move on to our section on the impact of intersectionality. As I mentioned earlier, the pandemic has had an outsized economic impact on women of color with the predominance of jobs lost lost by women of color. And this is on top of the impact of the virus itself and the violence against the community. It’s a lot. So let’s talk about where companies can make a difference when it comes to women of color in the workplace. We know that diversity is better. That diverse teams are smarter, but we haven’t realized their full potential yet.

Elizabeth, we also know that in addition to gender bias, racial bias has an impact in our workplace. Tell us, if you would, a little bit about the essential research on the interplay of racial bias and gender bias, women of color.

[00:17:09] EH: Yeah, the main idea is that if you’re a member of two marginalized groups, like being a woman and a person of color, you’re at risk for double jeopardy, and that’s the additive effect of having two kind of marginalized identities. And so what we know from that research is that women of color are at greater likelihood to be harassed at work, to experience microaggressions. And so that increased scrutiny to all of their behaviors and so forth. And just so you know, in terms of microaggressions, people are very um knowledgeable about that. But saying like, “Oh! You went to Harvard? Your parents must be so proud.” And the assumption is like, “Yeah.” They’re paying the person a compliment, but there’s an assumption made about that person’s group of origin that that’s much higher than what would be expected for her. So even though the intentions are oftentimes nice, it’s really singling that person out in terms of their difference. Commenting on hair, those are other kinds of things that happen often times as well.

On the other side of the coin, not only do you have increased scrutiny towards women of color, you also have intersectional invisibility. And what that means is that oftentimes their contributions are not remembered or even noticed in meetings. And so there’s some really good research that demonstrates that when women of color make comments that they’re forgotten or they’re attributed to someone else. So that’s a common finding in the research about, but it’s more likely to happen in women of color. So you get this kind of additive both increased attention in terms of like you’re different and then and then also this kind of increase in visibility. So it actually operates in both ways.

[00:18:45] DC: Wonderful. Thanks. Janet, this is an area that you have a lot of expertise. Please talk to us now about how the research illuminates what’s going on in our workplaces. How do racial and gender biases impact women of color in the workplace?

[00:18:59] JS: Well, the thing is to remember also this is not new. Kimberlé Crenshaw, who’s an American lawyer and a professor developed the term intersectionality about 30 years ago, and she did it from a legal standpoint with several cases that said basically people were being judged and then sentences were being meted out or not meted out based on one aspect of a person’s personality with either gender or race. And her point was there’s a unique space where they intersect that makes something completely different happen.

And so what we see in the workplace is that it shows up sort of the intersectionality exacerbates the inequity that already exists. So there’s an inequity between men and women, but then there’s an equity between women and other women. For example, the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action in America have not been women of color. They’ve been white women. And that’s because the workplace views diversity and gender as a sort of monolithic thing. It doesn’t discriminate between, which is an interesting word. But it doesn’t diversify diversity.

So when we talk about doing things in the workplace and putting in DE&I programs for women, we don’t dig a little bit deeper to figure out that there are different categories within women. And as a result it’s an older report, but a report came out in California, and it looked at women in the workplace and white women had 82% more managerial jobs than African-American women did, 67% more than Latinos and 57 more percent than Asian-Americans. So there’s difference there. The pay gaps between men and women are narrowing but they’re not narrowing the same way when you inject race into the discussion. So the gap between white men and Asian women is projected to close in 22 years. For white women, it’s going to take 50 years. For black women and Latinas, it’s going to take between 350 to 432 years respectively for this gap to close.

And the answer is not even solved by greater education, because for white women, greater education sort of decreases the gap. The weird thing is, for women of color, it may increase the gap. I don’t know the logic behind that, but that’s what happens. That’s what the research shows us. And women of color aren’t promoted equally. And when women of color do achieve, there’s a different toll. Elizabeth talked about that a little bit, so the expectations. But microaggressions in toxic environments exact an emotional toll and there’s emotional tax. And catalyst pointed to it and did a survey and said that 58% of black women reported being highly on guard in the workplace. So we have to realize that there is inequity within the inequity and there’s disparity within the disparity and all that has to do with the intersectionality between race and gender.

[00:21:59] DC: Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you. You used the word power. Do the subjects of women; black, white, Asian, Native American matter in how comfortable workplaces and the population in general are with, say, black women and how they show display power versus how white women show or display power? And I’d love to hear either from you, Elizabeth or Janet, on that.

[00:22:22] EH: Yeah, that’s great. And I always research. So I’m going to give a research example. And just so – Yeah, there is some data to suggest that white women and black women, as Janet observes in her subtests. But also I want to mention that most gender stereotyping happens at the sub-type level, and that’s the psychological term for intersectionality. It’s gender plus your other category. So it’s too broad. Gender is too broad to really try to understand some someone. So we try to like figure out other information. What are some other categories does this person fit into?

Power operates a little bit differently. So white women because, they are supposed to be nicer, kinder, warmer they’re oftentimes thought of as not as intellectual, not as smart, kind of ditzy and so forth. When they use power, they’re much more rejected. Black women tend to – There’s some data from Robert Livingstone that says that black women don’t get penalized as much because they are seen as kind of more assertive to begin with. And so there’s different kinds of standards for them.

I don’t want to say that it’s better to be a black woman. I would never say that. All the data shows that the double jeopardy and the intersectional invisibility far out swamps all the other things. But that power, it does operate very differently. And also like for Asian women, like those women aren’t expected to use power. So when they are very direct in those kinds of ways, they’re also rejected. So the interplay between subtypes and intersectionality and the use of power really does vary quite a bit in terms of the person perceiving it.

And I just want to also circle back on the way in which a woman or man leads does not differ per se. However, women and men and different subgroups get very kind of different backlash for it because women in general are expected to be nice and kind when you’re a leader. You’re supposed to be very direct, authoritative. Tell people what to do. And that is rejected more when it’s coming from a woman than when it’s coming from a man. And so that little difference that we see, that little bump in terms of black women getting a little bit more respect is just as a function of like what is expected in terms of these other stereotypes.

[00:24:39] JS: And follow up on that. The research probably does show. And I think I can understand that it would be true that it would be expected or maybe allowed more for black women especially to be a little bit – Appear more powerful. But the reality that I’ve seen in the workplace is that when it plays out, no matter what the expectation may be, the response is not beneficial, because the concept and the trope of the angry black woman is real. And so even though black women may exercise that power and may be given you sort of the expectation of it, when it actually happens, I’ve seen personally that you’re penalized for it because you’re not supposed to be that. When you’re aggressive, you’re angry. And I think that that has a lot to do with just what our biases are about what women are supposed to be and what women of color especially are supposed to be. So I think, again, that intersectionality kind of clouds sometimes what the research says when it actually gets into practice thanks.

[00:25:46] DC: Thanks, Janet. Thank you.


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[00:26:31] DC: Francine, let me check in with you. I’d love to hear if you have seen women of color experience these biases in any of your organizations and if you’ve got a perspective on this power question as well.

[00:26:43] FRC: Yeah, it’s fascinating. And I think even within the diversity dimensions, there’s also a power play. I will say being part of the Latinx community, I do see even within that community there’s been a lot of conversation especially since last summer on colorism, right? If you’re Afro-Latina, how does that show up? And so even within – If you identify as a diverse person, because of the social messages that we get, I do see – And what we’re trying to do is some internalization of those messages and those biases. And I think the other panelists have spoken to that very well in terms of some of the stereotypes that we are. It’s just an added barrier for women to break through women of color to break through in order to be promoted. So that’s really how I see it show up.

Again, Asian-American women, being the quiet leader – So when I think of it as a DEI practitioner, it’s how do we talk about the paradigm of success and what it means to be successful and to really challenge that paradigm of what leadership looks like. So bringing it back to the workplace, that’s really core to what I need to do to help shift the culture and how we think about power and leadership.

[00:28:10] DC: What about women in appearances? Have the bias changed around appearance for women over time and has there been any research that found whether men are being judged by their looks as well? So I would love to hear from any of you on that one.

[00:28:26] EH: So when I first spoke about gender being primary and person perception, there’s actually four categories. Attractiveness is one. And men who are attractive seem to get the most benefit in terms of what the research says and so they don’t get any penalty associated with being less attractive, or it’s not true for women. So women get some benefit, but they’re also seen as low incompetence. And so that’s a problem. So there’s no trade-off for men as there is for women, but they are penalized for being less attractive.

[00:28:59] JS: And of course, once again, intersectionality plays a role here too, because we’ve got one set – Women of color have to adhere to a whole different set. So there’s the set of rules about attractiveness that have to do with women in general and what’s okay. And then women of color have a whole another set of hoops to jump through, whether it’s hair. Is your hair natural? Is it processed? Do you wear bright colors? I wear bright colors. I don’t care. But I mean the thing is we get judged for things like that.

And it’s especially true – I think it’s a bit of a challenge because often you’re the only one. So you stand out anyway. And people are looking to you and people bringing their biases about who you are. So it’s definitely an issue. Once again, it’s one that’s exacerbated when you have another category that you have to try to fit into and work around in.

[00:29:57] DC: Right. Right. Thank you. Thank you both. All right, so I’m going to move us down to our third section here. I’m super excited to move to solutions, because as we spoke, the panelists and I had a chance to speak several times earlier and they have a lot to share with you about the things that we can do to help mitigate these biases. As we all know, equity is better for everyone including businesses. So let’s talk about how to get there.

NLI’s culture change model guides us to focus on priorities, habits and systems. We call it PHS; priorities, habits and systems. And when companies want to change culture or behaviors, they tend to focus on the priorities. We prioritize this. We’re going to prioritize the culture change. We’re going to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion, but they often forget that priorities are important but insufficient. That we really need to be focusing on what are people’s behaviors. What are their habits and how do those need to be shifted in order to have habits that are really supporting the right behavior we want? And are the systems actually in alignment to support the priorities we have and help support people performing those newbie habits?

So NLI encourages companies to pay close attention to all three to affect culture change. And, Francine, I know that Davis Polk is making plans for returning to the office in the not too distant future and has put some important effort into forming some new habits that mitigate both gender and racial bias. And I’m wondering if you’d share a little bit about what you’re all doing.

[00:31:34] FRC: Yeah, for sure. So this has been really top of mind for us not only through the pandemic. How do we stay connected as a firm? We really pride ourselves on our culture and the space has really eroded our ability to connect in meaningful ways. There are two specific things that we are doing. We have a summer associate class. Those are interns, if you will. People that we’ve identified as future lawyers at Davis Polk, and each summer they work and they enjoy a lot of camaraderie. They learn side-by-side with lawyers. And this will be the second summer where this will be remote. So in the spring we will be rolling out a behavior sprint that’s part of NLI’s solutions called Include. So it’s really focused on how do we ensure that people’s voices are being included? How do we ensure that we are demonstrating behaviors that show that people are valued and that they matter and that we care about them? That’s very hard to do when most of these people have never stepped foot in a Davis Polk office.

The second thing that we are worried about, concerned about prioritizing is the return to work in the fall. And with that comes a whole class of first-year associates. So these are lawyers right out of law school who come to join Davis Polk. Again, never have been within the walls of Davis Polk. And in the fall we will be rolling out Voice, which is another behavior sprint solution. So really helping us create that psychological safety for people to put their voices in the room. So we’re thinking about how do we accelerate and create the supports for all of our associates and what is the readiness for our workplace to take in. It’s over a hundred people. Summer associates a hundred first years. So it is a big impact on our culture. So really thinking forward to how do we be intentional and how we demonstrate inclusion to everyone.

[00:33:42] DC: Wonderful. Thank you. Janet, how about you? What have you seen work well to mitigate bias in your past organizations?

[00:33:51] JS: Mentioned earlier the concept of diversifying diversity. But at the end of the day it’s really about the data that companies collect. The concept of understanding equity and inequity by walking around really doesn’t work. And so collecting data is important, but the question is what are you collecting data for? If you’re just doing it sort of in general, that doesn’t help you. So I think that when we talk about trying to really improve equity and work on gender bias and deal with the intersectionality of gender and racial bias, that I think you have to deal with the intersectionality that needs to happen in your data.

So if you’re collecting data, for example, on women in general just on a gender basis, you may not be aware that that imbalance is happening. For example, before I came to NLI, I worked for UPS, and UPS had programs in place in our operations division to promote women of color because it was awareness that women were getting promoted women of color were not getting promoted. In order to get to that awareness, somebody had to dig into the data.

So my advice to any company that’s trying to figure this out is first start by diversifying the diversity. Identify where the intersections are and avoid these sort of holistic diversity initiatives, diversity for diversity’s sake. Recognize that diversity does not necessarily, in fact, never necessarily equates to inclusion and that you have to invest in upward mobility, which means paying attention to who’s where? Who’s moving? Are they moving at the same speed? That’s data. You can get it. You can collect it.  You can use it. And then you have to differentiate that data. Ask yourself how granular it is. Track all the different personalities and all the different facets of difference and set goals for that.

The question I always say to any company that’s going on a diversity, equity and inclusion effort is start off by asking yourself, “What are you solving for?” What do you need to solve for? And then you go build data systems to help you figure out whether or not you’re getting there, when you get there, and then you build systems to make it happen. And you have to police the pipeline. I mean, that’s the problem. You cannot promote people if they’re not in a position to be promoted, which means it’s too late when you’re looking around at a certain level to say, “Well, who’s there to promote?” if you haven’t been looking all the way back down the pipeline to figure out how they get there. That goes back to differentiating the data.

If you’re just looking for women to be in one place, but you’re not looking for the intersectionality of different types of women, then you may find out when you get to the point that you want to promote people that there’s nobody there. So you have to address workplace inclusion. And NLI has a lot of solutions that are designed to help work with our biases so that we can then think about the data we’re collecting. We can then start asking different questions about what it is we need to solve for and we can start talking to different parts of the organization that collect this information to ask, “Are you doing what we need to do? Are you finding what we need to find to actually get us where we’re trying to go?”

[00:36:59] FRC: Actually I have an add-on to what Janet just said. We looked at what are the moments that matter in someone’s career on their way to promotion and retaining people? And we did exactly what Janet said. We had been looking at third through fifth-year associates and it said, “That’s actually way too late.” We have to start earlier in their career. Understanding what are the types of assignments they are receiving, because that is key to their development as a lawyer and puts them on the track to promotion. So it really is – I agree wholeheartedly. You have to start having these conversations and looking earlier who’s getting lost in the mix? And that is especially true in this remote world. So leading with the data, amen to that. Thank you, Janet, for bringing that up.

[00:37:47] DC: Fantastic. When organizations are mostly run by men, they are the decision makers about organizational change. So I assume they need to be a large part of the solution too. I see a lot of information on what women can do to combat bias, but wonder how organizations are successfully addressing this from the top as well.

[00:38:07] FRC: I think it’s just not one particular thing. I know you have to lead with the head and the heart. So we already talked about the data. So I won’t continue down that path, but it’s really through – And what I learned through the many years of doing this work, you have to combine that with the storytelling, right? And I can give an example. When I was at Microsoft, we would have these quarterly reviews with executives around how they were progressing in diversity, equity and inclusion. And we always started with the data. And being an engineering company, it’d be very easy to get lost in math camp and try and understand the shifts in the data. So instead, what we started to do was put the data a little bit later in the deck and start with the stories. Like here’s who left. Here’s what they said in their exit interview. So it really was driving through emotion and that storytelling, to here’s the experience of people. And that’s really what changed the conversations to focus on what’s really going to make a difference. What can I as a leader do differently? Like who do I need to be sponsoring? Who do I need to be mentoring? Are there managers that we need to work with to ensure that they are developing and providing opportunities to people equitably? So I’m a big fan of storytelling combined with the data to help move people to action.

[00:39:33] JS: Francine, you are singing my tune as a communicator. I’m loving to hear that. I have a firm believer in having worked with CEOs talk to them and talk to senior leaders. And what I’ve seen in the company is we know sort of in general understood that if it’s a top down, it has to start at the top. The commitment starts at the top. You need the CEO involved.  You need the CEO committed to making change.

Well, I would argue that not just the CEO. There’s another little group of folks that report to the CEO that have to be engaged too. Clearly, whoever is in charge of people. So, HR. I don’t believe DE&I need to necessarily live in HR, but that person has to be engaged. Whomever is in charge of the largest number of employees, for example, at UPS that was who was head of operations, because 80% of the employees were in the operations area. The legal – Where your head legal person is? Because so much of making diversity work sits in compliance.

But then the person that speaks, to your point, Francine, I think that often gets left out of this are the communicators, whoever the chief communicator is. Because at the end of the day, what communicators are very good at doing is connecting dots. And so each one of those people that’s in that group that has to make a difference, it has to be on board along with the CEO. They’re dots, and they’ve got dots underneath those dots. If you don’t bring communicators in until after you’ve done whatever you want to do, sometimes you might not do the best things, because communicators are very good at asking very difficult questions and filling in gaps and pointing the things you might not have thought about. And so when you want to forward a diversity initiative, you have to be able to, like Francine says, tell the story. And so what does the data mean? How does it connect? What does it say about who we are as a company and what we’re doing in our efforts? That’s where the communicators fit in. And if they’re not part of the equation, if they’re not at the table, it’s a lot harder to try to tell that story on the other end after all the decisions have been made.

[00:41:39] DC: Fantastic. Thank you. I just want to reiterate the storytelling in my own experience as a consultant working with executive suite members. When we bring the data findings back and we bring quotes from focus groups and interviews, anonymous of course, but it’s the reading the quotes and hearing what people are saying. That really pulls at their heartstrings. And here they are the leaders of this company. They think of it as their baby. What they’re really trying to grow and evolve. And when they hear how people are experiencing in the workplace, it just really revs up their commitment to making change. So love the comments about storytelling and how important that is.

Elizabeth, I’d love to check in with you. We’ve talked about men in leadership and how to engage men in leadership. Perhaps we can talk more generally about how do we engage men as allies to support women you know across the organization, at all levels in the organization.

[00:42:39] EH: Yeah. I’m going to talk about something that a lot of people don’t want to talk about in HR, and it’s kind of bridging the gap from work into home and maybe doing some work in terms of how women are negotiating with their partners regarding roles and responsibilities and guilt and so forth. And so this has been kind of the third rail. HR doesn’t want to talk about what’s going on at home, because that’s a private experience, but it is really essential if we’re going to create space for women at work to turn off their brain in terms of the mental house work and reminding people of things. So I’m a big advocate of that. And so having conversations with partners. Again, I’m not assuming that everyone is heterosexual. But in fact, in same-sex couples, it’s great because they do negotiate on the basis of individual interests and because they don’t have gender as salient as the basic divider. So we do find that those couples are much more egalitarian and they act as a really great model for how to negotiate and have those conversations. So they’re really kind of in top of mind.

But like having conversations about like, “Hey, you can remind yourself about some of these things.” There’s a lot of work around reminding in couples.  Yeah, ask Siri to reset a reminder. I shouldn’t be the one always reminding you about your goals, because that takes up really important real estate for me that I’m using for work. And by the way, don’t just like help out. Be responsible for. A lot of men mistakenly believe that their partnerships are equal because they’re doing kind of some of the work on the side to help out and try to be an equal partner. If you’re going to help out, you just take on that stuff and take it off the plate so that your partner doesn’t have to deal with it. And so that’s another recommendation that I make.

Back in the workforce, I want to go back there for a second and just being allies. And men and women are not from separate planets. I know that like men are from Mars and women are from Venus. They come from the planet earth. And so I always like to say that, that we actually have more similarities than differences. And most men like Gabriel so beautifully, nicely mentioned at the beginning, like men love women. They have sisters and aunts and mothers and friends and partners and so forth. And so really making men an ally at work and that it’s important. And oftentimes that legitimacy coming from men saying like, “Hey we need to work.” What about black women? And what about like Latino women like in terms of the microaggressions? And being like, “Hey, what’s the purpose of that point?” Like kind of calling people out for their misbehaviors is really important because oftentimes we put it back on the women that they’re the ones to say they’re being harassed like it’s up to them to say something. And quite frankly, most people say nothing when they’re harassed either with microaggressions or all these kinds of things because we’re so shocked that it’s happening that we don’t have something kind of locked and loaded into that kind of witty repartee back. And so we let it go because we also don’t want to seem angry and be labeled as that because then we’re the problem. So having men as allies be like, “Dude, like don’t be that dude.” And just kind of calling it out because this is unacceptable, because when it’s not called out, it’s seen as normative and it’s okay. So those three things, making men responsible for versus helping out, being responsible for reminding behaviors and then making men as allies and legitimizing kind of the negative things that are going on. Like, “Don’t say that. That’s not appropriate.” So three important points there.

[00:46:00] DC: Great. Elizabeth, thank you very much. When we spoke previously you shared with us a number of innovative things that Davis Polk has done to address the specific challenge of care giving during the pandemic. Obviously that’s been an important factor in terms of women’s ability to continue and do the things that they need to be doing in the workplace. So I’d love to have you share a few of those with us.

[00:46:21] FRC: Oh, absolutely. I’d love to do that. We pretty quickly pull together people from various parts of business services to create programs and initiatives to support both working parents, those who have elder care responsibilities and also those who are isolating alone. That was the group we were really concerned about. Being headquartered in New York City, we have a lot of people who are moving from other parts of the country sometimes living on their own. And when we were all sheltering in place, what can we do in support of them?

So we created community-based groups. So we had a together apart group for people who are living by themselves. We had a parenting group for those who are now educators and parents in home. We had a frontline group for those who had family members who were on the front line and they were worried. Whey when they come home, do they have to take off all their clothes? Like what are the protocols?

The other thing that we did from a programmatic perspective was offering back-up child care, back-up elder care, tutoring at a discount, college prep coaching, all of these things that are just an added – That were more complicated being isolated at home. Yeah. And then the last thing I will share is key to the development of our attorneys and especially our women attorneys is business development and their own professional development. So we had organized a pretty high-profile speaker to come in and offer a virtual talk on sponsorship and how to gain sponsorship. And then we had a networking event right after that. And when we thought about the needs of our audience, we thought there very well could be working parents who their babysitter if they had one would have left at that point. If they’re single, they’d have to worry about, “How do I keep my child occupied at this time?” So we actually did some family program which ran concurrently with the event so that people who are participating and networking and building their business connections could fully engage. So to tie back what was said earlier, you really no longer can think just the workplace. It’s like what’s happening outside of the workplace that is taking their time and energy and how can we support them?

[00:48:42] DC: Fantastic. Thank you, Francine. So I want to conclude now, I have a call to action for you. I’d like to encourage you to follow the lead of the panelists and the organizations we’ve been hearing about today and take bold and intentional steps to mitigate gender and racial bias in our workplaces. So thank you for attending. I’ll turn it over to you Gabe.

[00:49:05] GB: Thanks so much, Deb, for facilitating this discussion and, again, to Francine, Janet and Elizabeth for your contributions. I don’t mean to pat myself on the back, but I knew this was going to be a good session. We definitely want to hear from you about what you thought today, but also what else NLI can do to address your issues of gender in the workplace. So that’ll be one of the questions in the survey that should be coming through.

A couple quick additional programming notes, next week, March 26th, we do these every Friday. It’ll be 12 p.m. Eastern, we’re going to talk about hybrid work. Francine was sort of bringing that into focus a little bit today. So we’ll really dig into some brain-based advice on how organizations can really manage that efficiently. On April 2nd, the following week, we’ll be talking about the surprising power of autonomy for improving organizational performance as we welcome a guest from General Mills who took a uniquely progressive approach to employee rewards in these times. The podcast that these episodes turn into has over 40 episodes for you to dig into. So you can subscribe on the platform of your choice; Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, you name it. Lots to dig in there. And we also asked to hold the date if you can for the summit in November. We had our biggest of our 20-year history in 2020 and we’ll be going virtual again this year. It turns out people really liked it. Not to mention it was about an eighth of the price that it normally is. So keep that on the calendar.

Otherwise, this concludes our formal presentation for today. On behalf of the NLI team and our panelists, we hope you celebrate the leaders at your company that identify as female. I’d like to recognize again our brilliant panel today, really role model strength, integrity, brilliance and clarity in their efforts to make the world a more fair and equitable place. So thank you to all four of you. And thanks again for joining us out there. Have a great rest of your day and hopefully we’ll see you next week. Bye everybody.

[00:50:54] DC: Thanks, everybody.


[00:50:56] GB: Your Brain at Work is produced by the NeuroLeadership Institute. You can help us in making organizations more human by rating, reviewing and subscribing wherever you get your podcasts. Our producers are Cliff David, Matt Holodak and Danielle Kirschenblatt. Our executive producer is me, Gabriel Berezin. Original music is by Grant Zubritsky and logo design is by Ketch Wehr. We’ll see you next time.


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