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April 21st, 2022

Your Brain At Work LIVE – S7:E05 – Workplace Woes and Wins: Women’s History Month Wrap Up

In this episode, we’re joined by two special guests: Gwen Young (COO, The Women Business Collaborative) and you—by way of the perspectives you shared in our community surveys!

We sat down with Shelby Wilburn (Community Manager and Host, NLI) and Joy VerPlanck, DET (Senior Insights Strategist, NeuroLeadership Institute) to surface intersectional insights about gender equity around the world.

The panel explored how unconscious bias manifests itself in our workplace relationships and talent pipelines, and dug deep into the complicated truths about how our factors like gender, race and identity can impact our career journeys. We were also beyond grateful to investigate questions and amplify the stories of viewers like you.

Episode Transcript





[00:00:02] SW: Welcome back to season seven, episode five of Your Brain at Work podcast. Throughout Women’s History Month, we’ve gathered insights and stories from women in our global community. And this week’s episode, we’ll have a lively discussion highlighting the experience of women in the workplace. Our panelist, Gwen Young and Joy VerPlanck will share their professional efforts towards advocating for equity. Listen in as we close out the month by thinking deeply about women in the workplace and beyond. 


I’m Shelby Wilburn, and you’re listening to Your Brain at Work from the NeuroLeadership Institute. We continue to draw episodes from our weekly Friday webinar series. This week, our show is a conversation between Gwen Young, Chief Operating Officer of the Women Business Collaborative; Dr. Joy VerPlanck, Senior Insights Strategist at the NeuroLeadership Institute; and moderated by myself, Shelby Wilburn, Community Manager and host at the NeuroLeadership Institute. Enjoy. 




[00:01:00] SW: Hello to all of our viewers across the world. Welcome back to another week of Your Brain at Work Live. I’m your host, Shelby Wilburn. Throughout Women’s History Month, we’ve gathered insights and stories from our global community, and this week’s episode is geared towards having a lively discussion, highlighting the experience of women in the workplace. 


For our regulars, you know the drill. For those of you that are new to Your Brain at Work, welcome to the party. For some context, it is the title of one of the bestselling books by our CEO and Co-Founder Dr. David Rock, and it’s also the name of our blog. As always, we suggest putting your phones on do not disturb, quitting your email messaging apps. We really want you to get the most out of today’s discussion. Stretch, grab some water, relax as we settle in and have a deeper discussion on women in the workplace. 


Now, let’s introduce our speakers for today. Our first guest is a former Army Military Police Captain with a doctorate in educational technology. At NLI, she works hands-on with content and product development using her background in organizational leadership and instructional design. She’s leading the charge on our solutions for organizations on de-escalation and hybrid work, turning the best and brightest insights into reality. Let’s welcome Senior Insight Strategist at the NeuroLeadership Institute, Dr. Joy VerPlanck. Joy, great to have you here today. 


[00:02:17] JV: Thanks, Shelby. Great to be here. 


[00:02:19] SW: Great. Our next guest is Chief Operating Officer of the Women Business Collaborative, and alumna of Smith College, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and University of California Davis, Martin Luther King Jr. Law School. She has pursued a career of international public service and humanitarian relief, international development and human rights. She has worked across the globe to promote economic development, good governance and peace. She’s developed strategy, programming and advocacy in areas of humanitarian policy, international affairs and international development. Please join me in welcoming Gwen Young. Gwen, it’s so great to have you here today.


[00:02:57] GY: Thank you so much, Shelby. Great to be here with you and Joy and the whole community.


[00:03:01] SW: Wonderful. And normally, this is where I would pass the mic off to our CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. David Rock. But today, I will actually be staying on to moderate the discussion and share some information from our team. So you know me as your weekly host. However, I am also the Community Manager for the marketing team, working to develop NLI’s digital relationships to engage with our current and new audiences. So I’ll be sharing some insights from our team today that are specially tied to Women’s History Month. And let’s get going. 


So for those of you that are new here, just to give some background on our organization, we are a research-driven Institute. And in the past 20 years, plus 20 years, we’ve done over 50 research papers related to different topics that also aligned to our solutions and products that we offer to clients. That client range being 61% of fortune 100 companies, and of those countries, we also operate in over 24 countries. So we have expanded around the globe. We are an organization that’s really working to help make workplaces more human through science. 


And tie it to today’s episode, obviously, this is a super important topic, and we have done relevant research. And so we have some papers here that are outlined, our SEEDS model, the science of inclusion, debunking gender myths. These are just a few of some of the things that we’ve done to really dive into the research and understand how the topic that we’re speaking on today impacts diversity, equity and inclusion. 


We’ve also had some recent publications. So our content team worked really hard this month to highlight stories in different capacities for this topic at hand. We’ve even had some of our wonderful team, Christy Pruitt-Haynes here, who was featured in Insider for her work on working moms. So we’ve been really working to try to develop content that aligns and can really tell the story of women in the workplace. 


So because of that, our marketing team thought it would be really interesting to get a perspective from you all. And so at the beginning of the month, we asked, “Do you think work would be different if nobody knew your gender?” We broke that down into three segments. So 41% said yes, significantly. 30% said yes, somewhat. And then 29% said no, not at all. Now, we took that a step further to really understand the scope of the responses that we received from women versus men. And that is reflected here. Clearly, you can see that there is a drastic difference, and women did respond higher. But also noting that, right here, where you see no difference, the number of men increased. So I want to pause right here for a second. Gwen, what are your thoughts? When you see this data? What is it telling you? What is the story that you’re taking away?


[00:05:44] GY: Thank you, Shelby. My thoughts are, in some ways, it’s not a surprise, right? Because of what I look at every day, or what we look at. And the three words that come to mind on this are bias, culture and perception. And all of that matters in the workplace, right? So when I look at this, it’s how effective people feel, how effective they feel their opportunities are. And this goes to there is a gender bias into perception matters and gender. So those are the sort of thoughts that just immediately come to my head. And then women do, there is a gender bias. There are opportunity biases, which I know we’ll talk about later in the presentation. But so, I’m not surprised, unfortunately, that this matters. And I think the trick is making sure that all members of the workforce understand how the rest of the workforce feels or the barriers that they’re facing, or how the culture is impacting them and not just one particular group of people in the workforce.


[00:06:39] SW: For sure. And, Joy, I know that you have a story that’s somewhat related to this.


[00:06:44] JV: I do, yeah. I could probably fill the hour with stories about my experience, because as many people who may have seen a couple of previous episodes ago may have heard some of my stories when I was sharing with Will Kalkhoff about working in male-dominated industries, of course, in police and military and also in tech. 


But I have a recent story. Last night, I was sitting around a campfire with a group of predominantly men and talking about some of the previous work I’ve done. And they were shocked. And the reaction was – The relevance to the campfire, is they said, “Oh, you don’t want to sit too close to the campfire or you’ll smell like campfire.” And I said, “Oh, it reminded me of the time when I was a park ranger.” And they said, “Wait. What?” And I said, “Oh yes, park ranger for a little bit.” And they said, “Do you have to have some kind of degree in forestry for that?” And I said, “Yeah, unless you have a background in law enforcement.” And they said, “Wait. What?” I said, “Oh, yeah. I was military police captain for a little while.” And they were shocked, the dramatic response. And I couldn’t help but think that might have been different if I was a man what the reaction would have been. 


But I also want to share with the audience that it’s not always men that react that way. One of my first jobs when I came out of the military was working physical security, access control systems and things like that. And I was in an art museum, working in the art museum. and I was walking around doing key control or something. And one of the women that worked there said, “Can I ask you a question?” And she looked me up and down and she said, “What made you get into this line of work?” And just, immediately, the judgment that I felt of did I choose an industry that was inappropriate for me because I’m a woman. Is it because I’m presenting feminine? Why is that? And so I think it’s just really important for us to know that sometimes women do that to other women as well. So we need to check ourselves and the things we’re saying to each other. 


[00:08:27] SW: Yep. And I want to continue on here and talk about some of the data. We just presented an infographic earlier this month sharing some of the recent data on gender inequity. So this is kind of broadly speaking that we know that women still earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2021. But I want to ask, Gwen, what can you add to this as a global perspective? And how does this change when we introduce intersectionality?


[00:08:57] GY: I’ll start with the intersectionality piece on this design. I’m sure many of us know. But if you look at 80%, omen earn for every dollar earned by men, when you start to break that out by women of color, for example, you come down to Hispanic or Latino women earning 57 cents, and African-American or black women earning 64 cents. So what that tells you is that it does matter in this expanse when we say all women, all groups of women. We often don’t measure this even by Asian, or disabled, or indigenous women, for example. So we really need to look at the intersectionalities. 


And it is a global movement for pay parity or pay equity, however you define that, right? It’s interesting that it’s enshrined in law here, but we’re still not there. Globally, this is the same case. Many women across – I’ve spent my career in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is very apparent in a different way. And it’s the underemployment factor where women are often in the informal versus the formal economy, number one. Even in the formal economy, let’s choose the health sector or medical profession. Many women are underemployed. 66% of the work workforce being women in the healthcare sector, but only under 20% being in the leadership sector. It’s the same in the education sector when you look at who runs schools and who runs libraries and so forth. So part of this goes to just the pay equity, which we’re all working on. And it’s a global column. Part of it goes to underemployment and full employment for women and every other group.


[00:10:21] SW: Thank you for that. I also want to share that this data is alarming and that we’ve made a lot of gains, and it’s starting to go backwards. We’re seeing a course reversal, which is something that really needs to be paid attention to. And men are continuing to climb the career ladder at a faster pace. So we still have – We’re making gains, and we still have a long way to go. 


One other thing that I want to unpack a little bit more is even though we’ve got these issues with pay, we’ve got these issues with position when we get into these positions, we’re seeing that our contributions are appreciated. Our employees feel taken care of. They feel that we’re focused on helping them manage their workload better. And this one, this compounds a problem for women in the workplace. I think it affects certainly correlative to burnout, which is something we’ve been talking about a lot and a couple of weeks ago. Christy Pruitt-Haynes and Emma Sarro talked about the differences in men and women and their ability to take downtime. And also, how we are, by nature and nurture, designed to care for other people. 


And so that adds on to the assimilation that we’re doing the struggle to try and get there. What I’ve talked about with Will Kalkhoff when you enter a room and you automatically have to prove that you belong there and know what you’re about to talk about. And on top of all, that we’ve got this intrinsic desire to care for those around us. So I think that that’s really a compound situation that’s leading a lot of women to go, “You know what? I’ve had enough. It’s just exhausting. Maybe it’s time for me to look at something else or get out of the workforce.” Anything to add to that?


[00:12:03] GY: Yeah, I was nodding when you were saying that, right? I mean, it marries up against two different factors. One is a lot of the research shows, in the private sector and the sort of corporate sector, more than 30% female leadership in a company, your profit margins go up by six points. Globally and public policy, it shows more women in government can raise your GDP. 


But I think what the current recent pandemic, and I call it the endemic, has taught us, too, is that we’ve seen a shift in companies, at least in the United States, away from sheerly shareholder to stakeholder. And now you’re managing employee life experiences. And that management, that connection, that understanding the four parts of how you become a leader, or the four parts of how you sort of stay in the workforce, it’s not just sort of job tasks in and of itself. It’s your well-being. It’s your sense of belonging in a company. It’s your sense of inclusion. And women tend to be better at doing that and really bringing people along in that way. 


[00:12:55] JV: Yeah. Shelby?


[00:12:57] SW: Yeah. And so, I think, tying back to the points that were already made, it’s not just pay its position. We can see that as you start to climb the ladder towards corporate leadership, that number drastically declines. And we would also be remised, again, going back to Gwen’s point, about marginalized groups and intersectional identities, where that number staggers even further in the range of people’s ability to be able to have access to those leadership positions. And even from my own personal experience of being a black woman in the workplace, I think that it is something that I’m mindful of. And I understand the impact that it has as my role progresses and as I progress in leadership. And so it is very important to also understand that there are so many nuances to this conversation in all regards, and that it’s really important when you are trying to address this in your workplace, that you are making sure that you are taking all of those nuances into consideration.


[00:13:54] GY: Yeah. I think what’s interesting is, like you said, the two things that drop off that kind of – That early manager level is where the drop off starts. And then even the intersectionality that even McKinsey pulls out where women of color come in at 17% or 30%, and then end up at 2% to 3%, right? And that difference between that and white men or white women is also quite interesting.


[00:14:17] SW: Yeah. So kind of continuing on into the conversation now that we’ve set that groundwork, we are obviously a science-based organization. And STEM is something that drives our company. But it is a growing industry. And right now, looking at all of the industries, while this is an issue that does impact every area, it’s really prominent in STEM. So we’re going to pass it back to Joy as she has some experience within technology and is going to just share some insights and have a conversation around that.


[00:14:44] JV: Yeah, thanks, Shelby. So yes, this is where I get excited and also a little nervous about the progress that I’m not quite seeing yet. So let’s talk a little bit about STEM. Where are we? We now make up 48% of the workforce. We now make up 27% in STEM. So that, on the surface, looks pretty good. But I want to flag some things for our audience, and, Gwen, get your perspective on as well. It took 50 years to get this far. I mean, this is not something to be like, “Yay! It’s been 50 years, and we still have a long way to go.” And also, that 48% of the workforce, that only looks good if you missed the whole first 15 minutes, 20 minutes of this webinar, where we talked about the fact that we may be equally present, but we’re not equally paid and we’re not equally in leadership. So there’s still some concerns there. But why has it taken so long? And also, I will add that 27% in STEM, there’s a lot of industries that are still male-dominant. There’s no indication that stem should be one of those. So Gwen, what are we looking at here? Why is it taking so long?


[00:15:55] GY: Well, I think you’re looking at a couple of things, right? I think one of the reasons this is taking so long in STEM in any other industry is that a lot of this goes to changing sort of organizational practice and then perception and culture, right? So we’ve got the one piece where we’ve all heard and we’ve been working a lot on women speaking up, or raising their voices, or getting trained in coding and sort of coming out. I mean, I think in STEM, at least 60% of the people that come out in an undergraduate degree of undergraduates in STEM are women, right? And you can break that down, whether that’s computer or engineer, where you break that down. But they’re not ending up maybe in entry level positions, and then they’re breaking down much like these other professions at that leadership level. And that goes to kind of mentors and role models. Role models are important, right? Having mentors and role models of men and women, all different types of groups, is important. Bias, and behavior, and culture, we keep coming to that, whether it is conscious bias or unconscious bias of how you feel. And then just not equal growth opportunities. The opportunities presented, whether that’s networking, or whether that’s being tapped or given visual projects so that you can grow in the role or be included. That’s not happening at the same rate for women that it is happening for men. 


And so it mirrors other professions, but it’s particularly dominant in STEM, right? We call it the Google effect. And that was what almost 15 years ago that we have that conversation, right? And are still trying to get past that on the upside. We were doing some research the other day, and how many women are Chief Information Officers, because these STEM roles or these tech roles, as I call them, are rising across all industries at a rapid rate. And women are filling those at a slightly higher rate. So there’s an opportunity there as these types of roles grow and as the educational pieces are built in, but we’re still suffering from organizational policies, mentors, biases and culture.


[00:17:46] JV: I’m glad you brought up mentors, because that’s something I’ve heard somebody in academia recently told me. They were encouraged to find a female mentor that would help them in this industry, help them navigate the challenges of being a woman in this industry. And that places additional burden on the female mentors, because there’s already few of them. They already are having to work harder to prove themselves. They are already having to work harder to get their names on equal byline for journal articles and academic research. And now, they have to take on any woman that comes in the door and be their mentor for them as well. So there’s that challenge, which isn’t even really spoken of.


[00:18:28] GY: But I’d like to broaden it slightly. I’d just like to bring in a couple of points for the audience and to get your thoughts, Joy. So one is it doesn’t always have to be a woman. It could be a man, right? And when you talk about like women in the intel field, and you know, in the military field, right? And I will say to a young woman who will say, “Where should I network?” And I will say both groups. Don’t go and network only with one particular group where you need to network with those, empower those that have the opportunities. 


But the other thing, it’s also two other points. It’s also brought in the mentorship. Its allyship and sponsorship. And allyship, which is a term coming out relatively recently. But allyship starts with men allying for women and women allying for other women and other groups, right? So I think that sort of allyship sponsorship. But it is hard. But it also doesn’t have to be – I always talk about whether it’s mentorship or sponsorship, depending on what you’re looking for. It’s harder at the top because people have less time, to your point. And maybe less opportunity to do that because if you’ve got so much on your plate and so forth. But it can be with people at your level and at your peer level so that you’re sort of moving up and figuring out where you need to be. And I’ll always say, at whatever point you are, you could be 30 and you could still be a sponsor or mentor to one of your colleagues as well. So I think it’s thinking a bit broader potentially. Not discounting anything that you said, but just throwing out kind of a little bit broader perspective on it I think is important.


[00:19:47] JV: That’s a great point. Why do we always look for somebody similar to us to help guide us through a path? Yeah, great point. I want to talk a little bit also about my own personal experience in tech, coming up in tech. The message does matter. I was fortunate and that I had my aunt was pioneer of women in tech. She worked for Atari back in the 70s. I went to a progressive international school where my first experience in tech. I wrote my first code in about fourth grade. I think my sister was in high school and probably needed help with their homework and wanted me to do it for her. And I think I probably did. But I learned it at an early age. Learned it from my sister or with my sister. I had no reason to believe that I could not do this. And then I think I wrote my first code in C++ about 10 years later and just kind of progressed from there. 


This happened about two weeks ago on my LinkedIn feed, I noticed from the school, a message that they presented, like, “Hey, here’s our great computer science program.” It’s all boys learning how to code. And I think it’s just important that we recognize where those messages creep in. This is a progressive school. They do actually know better. But they didn’t even think of it of what this message might send. 


And I think that, in tech, tech tends to attract people that don’t necessarily care that they don’t belong. Like, tech is an industry that I love, because your awkward is always welcome. It doesn’t necessarily prevent us from entering the field because we don’t necessarily care that we don’t belong. It’s when we get into the field that it really starts to become difficult to manage. But I do want to talk about how it’s still an incremental growth. It’s really, this is what we’re looking at for projected in 2022. Almost 33% of tech are representation in the tech industry and only 25% of those are in technical roles. 


One of the other problems that happens is when women in tech, even if they belong in the tech industry, go into an industry that is not tech or is still predominantly male. An example I’ve got is I worked as a technical trainer on a tank and Bradley live fire range on a mountain in Korea, a couple miles south of the DMC. We would run the technology that would raise and lower targets for tanks to shoot out downrange. I would work side by side with tank – Tankers are all men. Side by side with tank master gunners. We call them Mike Gulfs. 


And for a year, I sat two feet away from a tanker, and the only words he said to me – Never looked me in the eye. And the only words he communicated were if he had to tell me there was a tech glitch that I needed to check out. And after a year, he finally said something to me like, “So what are you doing this weekend, Joy?” And I was so shocked that he spoke with me finally. I couldn’t even respond. I just said, “Oh my gosh, my gulf, he finally talked to me. It’s been a year. You didn’t even look me in the eye. Why now?” And he said, “Oh, I finally figured out you were just one of the guys.” And I said, “Oh, I see. It took me a year to assimilate to the point where you were comfortable even looking at me.” So I went home and I asked my partner who is also combat arms, I said, “Why does this happen?” And he said, “Because we’re taught that if we talk to women, they’re going to ruin our career. They’re trouble.” 


This is not that long ago. So I want to bring to light these problems. And here’s direct quotes from my own career. It’s getting worse. Here’s an example specifically honing into tech with tech media and telecom, TMT. Since COVID, we’re having some compound issues that are forcing women out of roles, out of tech and considering leaving the workforce altogether. And that is a big concern. 


Gwen, I just want to have a conversation with you about what COVID has done globally to women in the workforce.


[00:23:39] GY: Globally, what it’s done, if you think about sort of – And again, when I talk globally, for those that are in the audience, I spent most of my career working in international elements. So I’m always thinking about places like Southeast Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa and places where there’s a lot of the informal economy. 


Globally, with COVID, there’s, first of all, sort of a distraction or a halt to sort of informal economic activities. If you’re out selling in a street, or you’re doing something that’s very public space-oriented, as well, many of the industries that really got hit with the rise of COVID. Our hospitality, travel, haircut, nail salons, the kind of businesses, restaurants, that are sort of traditional heavy and either women-led women in the workforce. So that happened, right? So a lot of these industries. And not that it didn’t hit all, but a lot of these are places where women are heavily employed or have been heavily employed for a long time. So that really hit.


And so women got hit a lot harder. And then you double that with the caregiving burden, right? You double that. And a lot of women are in what we call that sandwich generation, taking care of kids as well as aging parents, right? So now you don’t have your support structures. You don’t even – Unless you were in somewhere like Los Angeles, which did a pretty decent job of turning community centers into sort of daycare centers, but you don’t have anywhere to put the kids, right? And then you talk about the people that are not in the C-suite and in places that can’t maybe order their food online even if they could possibly do that. So now you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to feed your family and how you’re going to feed yourself. And so you’ve got a lot going on in here. So women did get hit a lot harder. 


And a lot of women, no matter what position, also didn’t have some of those reserves, financially from an investment standpoint, or a retirement standpoint. Some did. And many people with a great resignation, a lot of it was people that were close to that retirement age or at a point when that was a possibility to think about, and took those steps. So there’s that piece that’s going on as well. But in general, women got harder hit by this. 


And then you come back to the pay equity. If you’re getting paid less, generally, and you’re not having some of the same investment and some of the same financial cushion that that other people may have, you’re going to get hit about harder 3, 4, 6, 8 months in because you don’t have to fall back on that. And how do you come back in? And how do you recover? And double that with caregiving, which still significantly fall on women across the globe. 


The upside of COVID is, in many cases, many members of the family started taking on caregiving burdens that hadn’t before. But it still primarily falls on women, those caregiving burdens. And so that really makes it hard to sort of go back in the workforce. And then you think about it as you would pre-COVID, who’s going to go back to work if you’re making decisions with your spouse or whoever? You’re probably – Most likely, the person who has the most earning potential is the person who’s going to go back to work. So you’ve got all these different factors at play, and how you’re going to kind of deal with this and deal with getting women back to work. And then you have transportation, which is a whole another issue. I could keep going.


[00:26:37] SW: All of those are valid points. And I think, now that we’ve discussed the data, we’ve identified the problem, I would love to hear more about your perspective as far as what we’re doing moving forward and how we can implement change. And I’d specifically love to hear about your experience with the Women Business Collaborative.


[00:26:53] JV: Thank you, Shelby. So, quickly, the Women Business Collaborative is we’re a collaborative and a movement. So we’ve got 67 of the leading organizations focused on women business, groups like itSMF and [inaudible 00:27:05] some of the tech groups, The Wit Network. But we’ve got groups like Catalyst Committee of 200, Latino Corporate Directors. But then we’ve got 450 men and women. We’re about little over 10% men that are really concerned about equity and business. 


And so one is we set some targets, Shelby, where we’re trying to get, for example, by 2025, 15% of all CEOs are women. We’re at about 8.2 now. And we want 10% of those to be the women of color. And in the tech space, we’re really focusing on decreasing the quit rate for women in technology by 50%. And ensuring that women get to 35% of leaders. 


And the how, Shelby. So part of this is data. Part of this is aggregating data. Finding out where women are. Finding out where men are. Finding out where all the growths are and sort of bringing that data together so that we have that data and evidence of what does it really look like. And as we say, you can’t get to where you want to go if you can’t measure it. 


But the other thing, too, is really looking like in the tech space and rising to the C-suite, we developed a wheel. And a quarter of that wheel of how you get there is a wellbeing piece, right? So what does that look like? You can’t simply get there by ignoring the fact that you have health issues, or mental health issues, or people at home, children, spouses, ill parents, whatever it is. You can’t ignore that and rise to that, right? I mean, Indra Nooyi of Pepsi is like, “If you’re going to be a CEO, you’ve got to know that that’s going to impact your time with your children at home. You can’t possibly be the CEO of a company and meet every basketball game,” right? That kind of concept of that. 


So part of it is really working with companies. So we’re focused on sort of company policies and company procedures, right? On how do you operationalize this? How do you look at this? And how do you create those opportunities? Allyship programs is another area where we’re working with – There’s some companies that have some great ones like Boston Consulting Group, and Capital One, and IBM. But how do you build out those fellowship programs so that you can network mentor, sponsor and interact with all women, all men, all people in your company and help each other kind of rise up into that? 


I’ll say there’s some opportunities that’s arisen because of this. So one is technology in and of itself, which was on the rise before. But what that looks either with startups or being able to go work at home, or be able to work in different ways and more flex schedules. I mean, I think that’s kind of one opportunity. I think all workers are trying to renegotiate when they go back into the workforce kind of what does this look like? What are the expectations now? You’ve got to take into consideration these following. 


But one area that’s really interestingly moving, and this impacts tech as well, is more women on corporate boards. So right now, on average, in the United States companies, about 40% of appointees every month are women. Now, they self-identify in terms of race and ethnicity. So about 33% on average, tend to self-identify. African-American women we’re leading the way, followed closely by a Asian women, and it’s sort of flipping. And Hispanic and Latino women on the rise. So we’re trying to also work with companies and other groups like Aquila or Diligent, which kind of work in this space, on disaggregating the data by intersectionalities. 


And the other thing I’d love, Joy, to think about this, too, and the people in the tech space, is now boards and companies have a real need for people with cybersecurity, data analytics, risk and governance expertise. And these are different types of expertise than we all needed 30 years ago. 


The other interesting thing that the board movement space, which we of course hope will trickle down. We can come to that and talk more about that. Is that a lot of the people that are coming in about 70% coming in every month to the board of public companies are first-time board appointments. So it means the signal is we’re building up a pipeline. What we want to make sure is their first-time board appointments and second and third. But we’re building up a pipeline. And that’s a pipeline that’s interesting.


[00:30:55] JV: I want to talk about the pipeline, because I recently was aware of a company, an engineering company, who said that they wanted to expand their executive team. And so they expanded it to include two more people. Those two people, the system was set up so that if you had 20 years’ experience, you were eligible, and you kind of moved up the ladder. So they added two white men to their board. And to add insult to injury, when they made the announcement in the email, they said, “In an effort to broaden our perspectives, we’re including to more people.” And so I went, “Wow! Really? Broadening your perspectives by adding a few more people who look exactly the same as everyone in the room that have also spent 20 years in this organization.” 


We know at NLI the biases that are in play when you have people that have been doing the same thing with the same people for a very long time. How do we stop focusing? Take the focus off of the pipeline and say, “Okay, we’ll get there because the pipeline is in place.” And how can people, especially in our audience, convey this to their C-suite that sometimes you don’t have to look at that pipeline? That you can bring in from – 


[00:32:06] GY: Different people? Is that what you’re saying? And sort of not looking at the pipeline, but not bringing in the pipeline that looks like you or your network of people? Is that how you’re framing that?


[00:32:15] JV: Yeah. If your system is such that you’re looking at the people that have come up in this space 20 years ago, the people who were coming into engineering firms were predominantly white men. So our pipeline, if you’re looking at experience with expertise, is going to stop there. You weren’t going to get to that board for another 20, 30 years?


[00:32:36] GY: Well, it’s intentionality, right? As you said. So first is what’s the intention, right? And where’s the C-suite leadership? The second is the type of criteria that you’re using. It’s much like if you’re looking for somebody in a job, if you put in criteria that allow you to choose only people, if you say, 20 years’ experience in technology, you’re going to get a certain look of people, whether you put five years’ experience in technology, or you put 20 years’ experience in a variety of field. 


So some of the best practices are both intention, right? It’s a deliberate choice. It’s a deliberate choice to look outside your network or to look at people who don’t look and talk like you or people in your company that have a different experience, right? We’re looking at boards, and we say, “What’s the swath of experience you need?” You don’t want the whole board to have the same experience, because then you’re not getting that dialogue. So part of its intentionality. And part of it, to your point, is qualifications. 


And I’ll be honest, if people say – To your point, if people say, “I can’t find them.” That’s absolutely not true. You’re just not looking in the right places. Meaning you’re not asking outside your network. You’re not either adjusting your criteria. And you’re not willing to look at somebody who does it. And for the sake of stereotype, somebody who hasn’t spent – Went to MIT, spent 20 years here at IBM, and came here. If those are your criteria, and if those are your biases that come in, then you’re going to get the same looking at people until those schools or until those places are churning out different people. So it’s the criteria and it’s the intention and the ability. 


But I think the employees – To your point, about what people can do. I think people are asking for it. But I think people in the company need to be able to speak up. You need to be able to say much like with a conversation with women in the intel. And it’s like you do need to use your voice, man, woman, whoever you are, to say this practice is wrong or this – In a professional way and in a way that’s constructive. But to be able to say that is not what we expect of our company. And so part of the way people do that is by speaking with a company, by leaving a company, by not buying goods from a particular place, right? By public advocacy, by the media and so forth. And so there’re various ways to do it. But we always say the key thing is getting the clear-cut intentionality and changing those qualifications and forcing to look. 


Because the other thing that shows you is even if you have a deliberate slate of candidates, it’s everybody on the other side of the table looks out one way. So let’s say of all white men, for the sake of argument, but you have a great variety of candidates. Everyone’s going to praise and go, “Fantastic.” This panel on the other side, if it’s all white men, is most likely going to choose a man that looks just like that. Because of biases, it’s hard for them to choose the woman on the other side of the table who has all of these different factors and background because it just doesn’t trigger for them the notion that that’s who they should be. So you have to change the interviewing. And in board selections, you’ve got to be able to change the people around the table to be able to say, “What about that person? And that’s an important skill set, or a background, or perspective that we need to have at this table.”


[00:35:39] JV: Where are we seeing government policy? I know you’ve done a lot of work with governments, domestic and abroad. Where are we seeing policy change to help implement the system? Because we can’t always rely strictly upon people overcoming the challenge of speaking up. We teach a lot in this space with our voice product and our ally product. And because there’s a lot of brain science that’s preventing people from doing this really hard thing, and you actually have to train for it. So there’s policy meeting in the middle to try and help move that needle.


[00:36:15] GY: So I think most of the places in the government space, most of the countries that have done very well are Nordic countries. And they’ve done that strictly by sort of policies, quotas, being entirely specific about how you do this. What’s happening right now – And so legislation around equal pay, right? So there’s policies you can put in place. What’s happening in the US, which I think is interesting is the law in California about diversity on boards, NASDAQ and the SEC diversity and boards. At least one board needs to be a woman. The fact that this administration has a gender policy council embedded in the White House, working on things like bringing women back in, pay parity, caregiving, the gig economy. They’ve put out a lot, Women’s History Month, on what they’re doing. Their focus is on the agencies within the government. But the fact that there is a gender policy council in the White House is incredibly important. 


Some of the other thing that sort of happened in the field that I work in is the Women, Peace, and Security Act and the Feminist Foreign Policy, right? So now there are policies signed. It took the US government a fair amount of time to sign the Women, Peace, and Security Act, which calls for representation, certain women in certain agencies within the government, women  at the table to consider women’s voices at the peace table. So these are some of the steps that we’re taking. 


The things that start to have to happen is these systems, these sort of HR and talent systems, have to change and have to get there. And that’s why I think this movement on the board is a really good signal for private, as much as the public sector of what it takes. It takes a real call for it. It has to be X number of people. And then it takes sort of this accountability and CEO commitment to this.


[00:38:00] JV: So we have a lot of HR practitioners that are watching. What resources are available to them that they can start influencing through policy, through HR practice, to help their C-suite have this understanding to start to implement some of these things?


[00:38:23] GY: Yeah, there’s quite a few. I mean, so not to sound like a sales commercial. So the Women Business Collaborative actually has a resource repository, where we say if you’re looking at cohort training that you want to do, DEI training. If you’re looking to get more diverse recruitment policies, if you’re looking to how to quit my C-suite to make these decisions, we have four or five organizations under each of those categories that have those trainings, that have those consulting services, that have those curriculums, or that have that research. So if you come to the Women Business Collaborative – But there are many organizations that that will help you do this by working one on one with your department or one on one with your organization. 


I think in the government, there’s a group called the Partnership for Public Service in the US government that works with that. And then in many governments, it varies by governments across the globe as it’s going to be. But for HR professionals, I would encourage people to come to the Women Business Collaborative website, look at places like a group called fair amount, right? Look at which houses diversity, best practices, and others, and go find those best practices and reach out for those best practices and see what you can pick and learn. There’re companies like EMD Sorento, Merck Germany, who has a really great thing where they put their gender equity, their DEI person reporting directly to the CEO, and with a budget, right? Which is a very different thing because you have to have budget kind of when you’re within a company, right? 


But also, we’ve got all the biggest staffing organizations and associations for them and staffing industry groups, because they’re struggling with finding the talent. But we’re all struggling with how to get those diverse candidates where they need to be within the companies and connect those opportunities. And there are new groups coming up. One called CEOX in the Bay Area, which is trying to match diverse talent with needs. And so kind of these models are popping up. But we have many groups within our organization that that can aid and work with HR professionals, or DEI officers, or chief talent officers, and culture and purpose officers, or the new things, in order to figure out those systems best practices of how we do this.


[00:40:26] JV: Yeah, certainly, we are among that group to provide those services. Really, I wanted to focus on the governmental and the policy directives that are coming down. It can be really hard to find out what’s new if you’re not just paying attention to what’s coming out of the White House. So I think what do you think is next coming out of policy?


[00:40:49] GY: I think the biggest thing coming out of policy right now is a real serious commitment to minority and women and on to suppliers and supply chain. So anything coming out of the small business administration, or anything coming out with government contractors of who they’re working with and who they’re selecting to work with. I think that’s the next. They’ve always had that. But I think the sheer commitment to that, I think, is the big piece of policy. If we do you approve a Supreme Court justice, who is a woman of color, that is not politics. But I think that role and that representation is incredibly important from the role modeling, and for being able to understand that everybody at any table so that I want to be really clear. And I’m a lawyer, right? The Supreme Court is not there to make policy. Absolutely not. But to see women – Imagine if we had a woman in the United States heading the DoD. That’s an incredibly important and powerful message. Representation is not and of itself. 


But I think this real minority and women – And I think the second thing that could come out, there’s some real serious policy around caregiving. A real serious look at how do we deal – And I want to emphasize it’s not just children. It’s aging parents. It’s people that have health and mental disabilities within your family. So this caregiving policy, that’s where I think we’re going to see some real interesting policy coming out of the government, which will be really interesting to see how the business community and how we can all respond and work together to create a world where people can go to work, who want to work.


[00:42:17] SW: Yeah, I think I kind of want to shift it a little bit. Obviously, we’ve talked about a lot of the policy and things. But I do feel it’s such a personal topic. What inspires you to do this work? And what was the impetus of starting it? I think it’s just so important to always hear that. Because a lot of times when it comes to these conversations, it’s really important to be able to have that personal connection, too, when you’re having them with other people in the power of storytelling. So what inspired you to even start on this journey of doing international development and all of the things that you’ve done?


[00:42:52] GY: All right. I hope we were going to start with Joy. I am really interested – So I’m a people person. So my concern – And I’m an empath. So my concern is that everybody really does have equal opportunity and access. And it’s not just that there’s a grocery store that’s put on the corner, because that might not matter if you don’t have money, or you can’t get to the grocery store, right? But I just am really have always been concerned that everybody gets kind of treated equally, and can access equally if they choose it, right? Not everybody wants to be the CEO. Not everybody wants to go to that grocery store. But the point is, it’s there. Its doors are open. If you’re disabled, you could get in. If I’m a woman, I’m a man, whoever I am, I can go in. And I’m not going to be shamed. Or the door is not going to be slammed in my face. That’s just always sort of – I’m always the person that wanted to bring people in from the outside.


I think, in international work, so it was a real sense where I could go and really work on the policies overseas. And in a way, with governments, a lot of what you do in international development or humanitarian aid, and you do with the military as well, is s you work with the governments on what they’re doing in public health or what they’re doing and food security. And it’s really nice to have a seat at the table and really kind of talk through, ‘How does this impact this village, and this community, and these people?” And figure out what really makes sense. So I am driven every day. But I’m driven by people. And I’m driven by how do we all work together? And that’s where I think a big challenge in any industry is how do we not stay siloed? Or in any government, or in any business, how do we not stay siloed? How do we all, Shelby, Joy, Gwen and all of us on this call work together and talk about what we’re doing? But collaborate so that we can all have the same message, the same goals and get there together?


[00:44:31] SW: Powerful. Joy, what about you?


[00:44:33] JV: I’ve only recently found my voice, and that it’s okay to share it and share these stories. And I think that the more I’m around people that share their own stories and their own background, it just continues to energize me and say, “Okay, this is a struggle. It has been a struggle. It continues to be one. And it doesn’t have to be.” So I’m energized by the voices around me. So thank you to everybody in the audience also for contributing and letting me know that you’ve also had some of these experiences, and we’re still on the path.


[00:45:08] SW: We’re still on the path. Well, as we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share, Gwen, with us how our viewers can stay in contact with you and follow along with the work that you’re doing?


[00:45:17] GY: Absolutely. I mean, I actually could put it in the chat. I’ve got my email, which I’m always happy. I’ve got 20,000 emails in my inbox. I will be honest. But I always respond. But yeah, come to our website. And please, as Joy said, I love those stories. But I also love to hear what could be better or how we’re talking about this better. Whether it’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, whether it’s gender equity and women’s leadership, we’re always getting better. We’re always learning. And we want to make sure that we’re all together and we’re thinking of all the intersectionalities, to your point, Shelby, about all of this. Please do keep in touch. Please, come. Please join us. Come join the Women Business Collaborative. It’s a lot of fun. And I know that we’re all going to be working more closely together as well. That’s our plan, right? So both in terms of just resources. 


But I do want to say one thing, Shelby, too. And one thing, Joy. I don’t know what you’re thinking before we knock it off, too. I also think it’s really important if we’re all really willing to be authentic with each other and talk about what’s not working. Because whether we’ve made something a mistake, or we’ve tried something and it didn’t work, to me, that’s just as important as to the what’s working and what’s the most innovative. It’s like what didn’t work and why? Because I think all of us learn from that. And I can learn from hearing someone else’s story about what didn’t work, because that can inform me, or at least I can internalize some of that and realize, one, it’s okay. Not everything works all the time. But to what that learning wasn’t. Okay, if that learning was this, I would love to do something else. And then, yeah, we are holding a May 11th event. So all of our events on our website are open. Join us and come see who’s involved and see what we’re talking about.


[00:46:50] SW: Nice. Well, thank you so, so much for today’s conversation. It was wonderful to have you, Gwen and Joy. Really appreciated this dialogue. I normally close things out. So I’m going to finish with a few announcements. But you all are free to go. Thank you so much again, for your contributions and everything that you shared. So have a wonderful day. 


As far as announcements for our team. If you are interested in learning more about the solutions that align to what we were speaking about today, we have Decide, Include, Ally. There’s actually going to be a Decide demo next week. But we’ll also be sharing a survey. So if you are interested in learning more about our solutions, we’ll be dropping links in the chat. 


We’re also hiring. So if you are looking to join the NLI team and interested in what we do, check out neuroleadership.com/careers. We are going to be having a wonderful discussion next week. We’ll keep you tuned. But for now, go to our events page and register. So with that, we’re going to give you a little bit of time back today. And thank you so much for joining us as always. And we hope you have a wonderful week. 




[00:47:59] SW: Your Brain at Work is produced by the NeuroLeadership Institute. You can help us make organizations more human by rating, reviewing and subscribing wherever you listen to your podcast. Our producers are Matt Holidack, Mary Kelly, and me, Shelby Wilburn. Original music is by Grant Zubritsky. And logo design is by Catch Wear. Thanks for joining us. And we’ll see you next week.



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