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The Bowdoin Group and QPS Host “Grappling with Gender Gaps: The Hidden Impact of COVID-19”

Posted by Lauren Kendall on April 8, 2021
March 30, 2021 – The data is clear: Women have been disproportionately negatively impacted by the pandemic in ways that likely could have been anticipated. According to the U.S. labor data and the Brookings Institute, women have exited the labor force at 4x the rate of men since September 2020. The crises around childcare, school closures, and being homebound have forced many women to choose: the responsibilities of home or career.

In this recorded session, Lisa Perez (Founder and President of HBL Resources), Soyini Chang (CEO and Co-Founder of Quantum Power Skills), and Lindsey Potvin (Vice President at The Bowdoin Group) will discuss what leading organizations are doing today to make the workplace more equitable for working women and to support those looking to accelerate their careers.

Listen in to our panelists discuss the following:

  • How organizations have supported them to get where they are today
  • How they’ve addressed work/life balance in their own lives and within their organizations during the COVID-19 era
  • What systems and processes they’ve instituted to encourage fellow female leaders to rise to the top

You can watch the recording of this LinkedIn Live below to explore what leading organizations are doing to make the workplace more equitable for working women, especially during times of uncertainty.

You can find the transcript below:

SOYINI CHANG MA’AT: Hello and thank you everybody out there in the virtual world for joining us this afternoon for what I think will be an exciting and informative conversation about grappling with the gender gap. My name is Soyini Chang. I’m co-founder of Quantum Power Skills, a transformative DEI management consulting firm. And I’m joined here today with two great guests. We’ve got Lisa Perez, president and founder of HBL Resources, and the complete manager makeover. Whose mission is transforming the human and human resources through HR compliance and soft skills management training. My second guest today is Lindsey Potvin, VP of The Bowdoin Group, a premier executive search firm dedicated to building companies and careers in life sciences, healthcare, and technology. 

So, ladies let’s get right into this conversation. I think by now everybody’s aware that there is a disparity that exists between the two genders, especially when it’s come to COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic. America’s women have been hit harder than the men, suffering more job losses. This gap remains that women held 5.3 million fewer jobs than they did before the pandemic began in February, compared with a 4.6 million shortfall for men. I want to ask this first question with you to say like–what, if there was a way-there could have been a way—we wouldn’t have been able to see all this hidden impact. But if we could have put in some sort of preventative guardrails? What could they have been? What type of personal professional support do companies need to have in place for women to effectively grow, develop and contribute? 

LISA PEREZ: Yeah. That’s a great question Soyini. And thanks for having me on this segment. I think that some of the things that could have been in place we saw a long time ago in some states. In that, many states have already enacted laws that offer paid leave programs. Not only to men with paternity leave, but to women as well in terms of paid leave. And I think if we as a country—since we lag in that—I think we could have stepped up a long time ago, so that the impact might have been quite a bit less to help supplement and provide a little bit of the shock absorbers for what we saw in the extent that we saw it.

SOYINI: Thank you Lisa.

LINDSEY POTVIN: Yeah, that’s a great point. And I think—it’s not only the pay, which is obviously so important, it’s also just the flexibility and not making—or even men for that matter, choose between outside of work and inside of work. So, I’ve been lucky to work for a company that’s 60% female and has always—even prior to COVID—really emphasized that flexibility. So, I never had to choose between a nine to five standard job, or the work-work—the life at home. So, I think that flexibility—and certainly COVID has really highlighted that—that need to be flexible and give people the ability to manage both.

LISA: Yeah, for sure. to Lindsey’s point as well. You know—flexible work arrangements have been around in several industries. And I, you know—I mentioned this in a conversation recently, I think COVID-19 has helped—if you can say anything that it helped—was to push the remote work force, or the remote workplace to the forefront. I mean, I’ve been working remotely for, upwards of 15 years, where was the rest of it? And I think many organizations had to scramble, and I think a lot—that’s where we see a lot of the attrition occurring with women in the workplace not being able to pivot enough because their organizations didn’t have that infrastructure. But remote workplaces have been around for quite some time. I just think it was a huge paradigm shift that had to come very suddenly that could have been another, dynamic that could have been in place a long time ago to—once again create that shock absorber.

SOYINI: I love how you just mentioned that Lisa. That’s really a like—what can you do if you have a preventative care plan? What should it look like? Lindsey, you spoke about some of the things that The Bowdoin Group did. Can you touch on that a little bit more on how, what—what is in place at The Bowdoin Group that’s helping women to grow, develop and contribute more to the organization?

LINDSEY: Yeah. Yeah. As I mentioned before, like, just that flexible schedule. prior to—even prior to COVID, when I had my first child, I was struggling. With going back to work and, doing an excellent job at home but also in the workplace. So, for a while I took— I didn’t work on Fridays. So, I did a four-day work week, got my work done, but then felt I still had that balance with family time. And then also just during the weeks. It’s— I come into the office early, so that I can be home for pickup. And having that flexibility, I feel very fortunate. I know a lot of friends that have had to choose between, you know—you have to be at this five o’clock leadership meeting to be in certain roles. And then it’s just eliminating women from being in those senior positions because they have to choose. But I think putting— not putting women or anyone in that position where you have to choose one versus the other. and I think— just thinking through these topics another thing which I feel, very grateful for that our company does well is just giving— women who can tend to be either softer spoken or not as outspoken an ability to speak up in meetings. And have that, ability to lead. 

So, I think sometimes—just in a meeting or in a setting, just inviting someone to the conversation more. asking just, “You have experience in this, what’s your thoughts on the topic?” And just giving people who may not be as outspoken that ability to speak up and engage. So, I think all of those just give women the opportunity to, to really shine and do what they can. But they need to be given some of that flexibility and seat at the table.

LISA: I love what you mentioned Lindsey in the compressed workweek, right? Instead of having this, five hour, 50-60 hour—five day, 50-60 hour work week, what does that compressed work week look like? Can we work four days, 10 hours, and still accomplish the same thing and have some additional flexibility? And to that same point, can we work flexibly? Can I do Monday instead of Tuesday one week if my needs change. So, I think that’s a great point. And kudos to The Bowdoin Group for instilling that in their culture.

SOYINI: Absolutely. I also know that The Bowdoin Group, from a DEI perspective, you will also have the ERCGs, which is your employee resource culture group in place. And I think that’s pretty phenomenal. Because to your point, Lindsey, you said women need to have that safe space, where they can come and have these really candid and transparent conversations and not feel like some way later on down the road that they’re going to have backlash because of it.

LINDSEY: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I’ve heard of a lot of companies that are doing and I think it not only creates a safe space, but it also creates a cross-functional space as well. So, having those cultural groups that are focused on different initiatives just gives different people the opportunity to have their voice be heard—be part of a group just contribute to the conversation. So, I think just forming those groups that are formed around more inclusion and—how do you bring more people in the organization in—absolutely gets everyone together and talking in a more comfortable forum.

SOYINI: Love that. Love it. This segues into my next question. Data shows from the World Economic Forum that the United States is really almost 200 years behind in closing the global gender gap and is ranked 53rd on the global gender gap index ranking out of 153 countries in the world. Ladies, I want to find out from you, how are companies contributing to the global gender gap? And what should they be doing to reconcile gender disparities?

LISA: So, I’m going to jump in here because I’m big on company culture. my firm really works hard with organizations to not just maintain the culture in the workplace, but bring it up to where it needs to be organizationally. And I think sometimes we’re—as organizations we’re afraid to recognize our own biases or unconscious biases. And so, having that conversation internally is super important. Particularly as you create succession planning programs and put training in place so that it’s accessible to everyone and inclusive, right? That word inclusive—you’re diverse, but are you inclusive? Can everyone access these processes and programs? And you think culture, understanding how our gender biases might show up in the interview process. And in, normal work circumstances like Lindsey, mentioned earlier. I can’t make the five o’clock meeting so why not allow me to dial in remotely using any of the technologies. 

And I think it’s interesting, because while Fiat fathers received the fatherhood bonus, when they’re running around the children in the background and zoom, you know—it’s I think, less tolerated. So, I think that that’s important that organizations recognize that, teach that— pull the covers over and say, “Hey, this might be in existence.” And that will definitely start to, I think decrease that gender gap because we’re affecting it from within. 

SOYINI: I love what you’re saying there, Lisa. That’s dropping a gem. It’s like part of like improving our education on this earlier so that we come prepared and have more knowledge about the tools that we can use. 

LISA: Yeah. 

SOYINI: Lindsey do you have any thoughts about this when it comes to reconciling these gender disparities?

LINDSEY: Yeah. And it’s probably one thing, Lisa, that you just mentioned, just the males if they have the kids running around in the background, I think one thing companies can do is just allow it—like embrace that for everybody. one thing we’ve done recently we’ve created a Slack channel which invites everybody to, share things outside of work. Whether it’s your kids doing something, it’s an exciting walk you went for on the weekend, movies you’ve watched—just how do you bring that that external piece in as well. So that just stood out to me, Lisa, when you’re mentioning that. Because I think it is different when you see a male on a video and his kids are in the background versus a female. So, I think if we can just tie that all in to—we all have things external and how do we bring that all to the workplace too.

LISA: And I’m actually looking forward to that shift, right? That paradigm shift where, the cat is running right, down the screen. Or the dog is barking. Or the, the landscaper’s cutting the grass. just having some empathy about the lives that people are living and that we are all human. And we have these dynamics happening I think is the hopeful rainbow, right? The golden pot at the end of a possible rainbow of COVID is shifting that—so that we are empathetic for working parents, we check in with them off often realizing that, there might be a child in every grade of school. I talked to someone who had someone in elementary and middle and in high school the other day, and what dynamics must be going on in that home. So being a little bit more empathetic, offering some support, push back a deadline if it’s not going to kill anyone. Show some grace when children or dogs and cats interrupt video meetings. Things are still getting done so.

SOYINI: Lisa I love how—and you have this movement of the complete manager makeover. Please speak to that. What can managers do? Because we’re working in this virtual collaboration world. And in some regards, some people are definitely feeling more lonely. They are, emotionally and mentally, feeling the pressures of that. And not some people aren’t always willing to adjust to this new arrangement. When you have a team that is dispersed, how can managers start to have these conversations? What should they do to help their teams when they’re feeling so isolated? 

LISA: Yeah. I think much to Lindsey’s point, these ERCGs are so valuable—employee resource groups—how often, you know we’re getting together for the staff meeting to discuss deadlines and policies and practices and what else is going on. How often are we doing that just to connect and learn from one another and say, “Hey, what’s the favorite thing in your space right now?” And connect in that way. maybe it’s a happy hour, maybe it’s during the day. But that connectivity is super important. I actually work with a gal who does a “huddle.” And this huddle is nothing but being able to connect with one another on a human level, learn a little bit more about who I am as a person—not just the employee that needs to get you this or needs to get you that—but really connecting on that human level. And thank you for mentioning it. transforming the human in human resources is certainly my mission. And I think it’s important that organizations realize that they’re humans first, employees next. Right. And so, making sure that we’re having and making time for those conversations is just as important.

LINDSEY: Yeah, definitely. And I think, you do lose some of that with COVID. Of, being home— so much is scheduled zoom calls, you miss some of that personal interaction. One benefit that I have found, though, about just the new environment with COVID is I had never been able to attend after work networking social events, just because I had to rush home to get to daycare pickup or this or that. And now like that’s one benefit, I can join those now. Because now it’s “I’m home, we’re settled,” and then you join a virtual event. So, I do feel like there is the ability if you take advantage of it to be more connected to the community even though virtually. But, versus not being able to attend them at all. So, I think that, you miss the small conversations in the office, but there are opportunities to join the bigger networking events and groups remotely.

LISA: Yeah, for sure. 

SOYINI: I love how you all are speaking on the things that companies can do within, right? And so, these are really strategies that organizations need to employ. If we’re doing this within the organization and we want to close this global gender gap divide that’s happening all around the world. What can we do outside of business that will help us to, again, work towards eliminating these disparities? What are your thoughts on that?


LINDSEY: Go ahead, Lisa. 

LISA: No, go ahead. Go ahead. 

LINDSEY: Yeah. One thing we’ve been talking about is—so often, like the glass ceiling is almost perpetuated by other women. So how do we all lean in and help each other to further our careers just to recognize each other? You know? Like, when you recognize someone doing something great, how do you just mention them? and just a simple compliment can just boost confidence, encourage people. So, I think that’s just a simple thing in our daily lives that we can just be doing to promote each other and help promote other women.

LISA: Yeah. So, to that point, I have never been—well, as a high D personality, a little bit of a driver—I think women should feel confident in stepping up in their own worth. I think that if you’re an entrepreneur out there, give yourself a $50 raise today. Because you’re worth it. And you’re probably under, charging at this point. If you’re an employee, do some of that research. What is the local wage for your function, for your vocation? You know, there’s statistics in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS. Go on there, find out what the salaries are in the mean, the median, and the max and see where you fall. And, if you’re doing some awesome things for your organization, maybe it’s about educating yourself about what the local market is paying, and, finding that value and sharing that with your employer to say, “Hey, I’d like you to consider, an increase.” And then validate it, right? Make sure that they understand why. I think we hesitate as women to do that. But I think that’s a huge way that we can decrease that gender disparity, particularly when it comes to our wages.

SOYINI: Love that.

LINDSEY: Yeah, Lisa. Great, great point. And I think, the new laws too—just as from like, a recruiting perspective—if you can’t ask people, what people’s current compensation is. So that gives a new opportunity to really do that research. Understand the worth and value of each position. And therefore, women just being confident to frame their expectations around what the role and level of experience really demands versus what they’ve been historically paid. So, I think this is a turning point and that opportunity to really level that compensation.

LISA: Right. And some states still do allow you to ask that question. 


LISA: Well, as an organization, take it off your application. It doesn’t have to be something that the law requires for us to comply with it. You know, whatever your going rate is—you know, if you’ve got a wage scale in your organizations, then everyone should come in at that same rate of pay. Whether they’re male, female whatever ethnic background they are and what have you. And always leave room for that, honoring the tenure, but do so that there’s some consistency within the organization. You know, as an HR practitioner, I’ve been fortunate to be on the inside of organizations helping to ensure that that disparity doesn’t exist. So, I encourage organizations—you know, you said Soyini what are the things organizations can do. Create a wage scale and stick to it. Create an opportunity for there to be some flexibility, but there shouldn’t be a huge disparity within your wages in your organization.

SOYINI: I love that. This makes me think about the saying that empowered women empower women. Right? If we can do that as a collective that would definitely create some paradigm shifts, as you mentioned Lisa, towards the progress that we desire. I want to ask you all as well—in what ways can we leverage the support of our male allies in the organization towards this progress?

LINDSEY: Yeah. I’ve been fortunate, again, to work with excellent males. And I think one thing—you know, as a female, at least early in my career I definitely felt the need to be a little more professional, be a little bit more buttoned up. But I think what I’ve really learned from some key male colleagues is just that bringing your authentic self to work. And whether you’re interacting with clients—there’s not this need to have this formal barrier, and really just having more informal conversation and being more yourself. And I’ve noticed a shift in myself over the years to be more my natural self versus trying to be this professional. Probably because you feel like you’re the female in the room, you want to be the most professional. But just that more informal, authentic self.

LISA: I think so too, Lindsey. Much like you, I have been fortunate to work with many great men who do appreciate the value I bring to the table. And I think that there still exists some men out there who might not have that same philosophy. I think it’s important that these individuals look in the mirror and say, “You know, how can I partner with these women in my workplace to just create the strongest organization that we can together?” Right, I think oftentimes when you look in the mirror finding your own value, having your own confidence in your role shouldn’t dissuade you from helping someone achieve their greatness as well. So, I’ve been fortunate to walk alongside them. And I did have a hospitality career early in the ‘90s. It was predominantly male driven. And so, I think—just again understanding our own gender biases and how they show up is important, right? You know Aristotle says, “Knowing thyself is the beginning of all wisdom.” And knowing ourselves and how we might be able to be the best version of ourselves, whether male or female in the workplace.

SOYINI: I agree with you both. And I want to add to that—if we can improve some of our training around the emotional intelligence skills that’s necessary in leadership. That also helps when both the males and the women are getting that. In addition to that, if—when we are creating these truly inclusive spaces, we can really start to use one of our greatest tools which is our voice. In communicating with our male allies—what’s going on. Communicating with them effectively on how we can collectively work together. Becoming better listeners even—right, I mean, look this doesn’t just stop at the workplace. It happens even with our partners; it happens with our children. Just understanding how to be more empathetic listeners to each other so that we can get to the root of some of the situations that are happening. And really start to have some diverse cognitive thoughts around creating solutions that allow the male counterparts to be allies in this entire—just movement of progress along the way. I love the way that you all are touching on this in the conversation. 

I wanted to find out from you, on a personal level, how have you personally—or what strategies have you used personally women—to help you achieve work life integration. And I want to give credit out to Carole Huntsman and Sanofi for this phrase “work-life integration,” which is just catching virally. It is just a great way of understanding the balance between our work life and our home life. What strategies have you all used, personally, that’s helped you?

LISA: Gosh I think that knowing your own priorities are important. Now I often talk about—do a session on setting your priorities, right? We all have these eight life priorities, vocation and our spiritual self—our personal lives and what have you. And so, I always make sure I’m focusing on the big rocks first, right? You’ve probably heard you know, the story about the teacher who has got this big vat of—you know, empty jar, and he puts the big rocks in the asks his students is it full? And they say, “Yeah.” And he goes, “Nope.” And he continues to put more and more in there—you know, making sure your big rocks are in first. In your life priorities, right? Family vocation. But we could go on and on and on. And there’s probably 10 or 12 things that we want to achieve in all of those things. You know, pick those top three, focus on that and balance those accordingly. 

And then I think—I love layering instead of multitasking whenever possible. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this concept. But I’ll watch a podcast while I’m doing my run. Or I’ll listen to a podcast while I’m washing the dishes or folding the laundry or—or actually having my husband help me fold the laundry, right? Because we’re equity here, right? Those things are helpful in balancing it all. Knowing when you can lay or something. And if it takes the same amount of brain power—you know, like answering emails and talking on the phone, you can’t layer those two things. That’s the ineffective multitasking that we talk about. But definitely layering helps to make sure that I can get it all done and achieve that work life integration.

LINDSEY: Yeah, I think Lisa that’s exactly right. It’s for each person. It’s prioritizing. I think we can’t be everywhere. We can’t do everything. So, we’ve got to really understand like—you know, and it shifts over time too—but what this week, what today is most important to me? And where do I need to spend my time? You know, I think there will always be sacrifices, and as long as you are prioritizing that, that will guide you. You know, for example, throughout COVID every morning we have an 8 a.m. leadership call. You know, so that’s been challenging some days with two little kids at home, but that’s a priority to me. So, I want to be part of those discussions. I want to contribute and have that conversation. But then there’s other times in the day where I just have to block off time to do something maybe outside of work. So, I think a big piece of it is just you also have to be comfortable setting those boundaries. So, I think so often, we’re afraid of—if I asked for this hour at lunch to go do something external, you know is that going to reflect negatively? Or, like I mentioned before, I was very nervous initially to bring up—you know, can I cut my schedule from five days to four days. 

But I think it’s, those conversations are often we dread them, we get worried about what the answer may be. But I think we have to be confident to have those conversations and set those boundaries, set those priorities. Because I said they shift. So, I think we need to be comfortable having them. And the companies then need to be flexible as well to understand there may be times where we can’t—as a company, can’t always say yes to every request, but at least that sets the conversation. And then you can iterate from there.

LISA: And that Lindsey is exactly what I mean in terms of that culture within, right? The culture that says, “I’m not even going to look twice that you left to go take your kid to tennis practice or soccer practice.” Right? It’s that “Oh, where’s she going? It’s not even five o’clock yet.” Right? That’s a culture issue. And so you hit the nail right on the head when it comes to those kinds of things. What is our culture—what is our subculture speaking underneath the main culture? So, we may say work life balance is our focus but is the culture really conducive to that? So, great point Lindsey.

SOYINI: I love what you all are saying here. I like to call it for me, personally—I groomed it as a “soul check.” I needed to have these soul check conversations with myself first. And I needed to get clear on what was important for me. And that tied right back into my values and my beliefs personally. And me really ensuring that I honored those values and beliefs. That I was obedient to them. And to your point, Lindsey, when you talked about real—just sort of reprioritizing things, I think as well, sort of accepting that my pace may not look like someone else’s. As far as my pace for progress—or excellence, when it came to my success pathway. I needed to be okay with that. I needed to exercise patience. And really have a lot of faith. And that goes back to what you all talked about before just that authenticity, right? You know, being true to yourself all along the way. Understanding when to set those healthy boundaries, when to say no. And that it’s okay to say no, right? You know, not putting on this Superwoman cape all the time that I’ve got to be all and do all for everyone all the time. So, I love that you are saying this. And this is really important for the generations that are coming behind us. We have these four generations working in the workforce. But these are some great gems that you all are sharing today. 

I wanted to find out—as we sort of paving this way forward—what are some innovative ways to advance equality in the workforce? What are your thoughts about that? Because we really are in a space where we are—we have the possibility of designing what that can look like. Providing solutions of what the path forward can look like. What are some innovative ways you think to advance the workforce in inequality.

LISA: I—for me it’s get involved, right? Number one is get involved. And hopefully a little ticker there, we can put this website pay—P-A-Y dash equity dot O-R-G. That’s some information on—it’s the National Committee on Pay Equity. So, get involved, see what’s going on, see how you might be able to be part of the conversation and part of the solution. But, if you’re within your organizations, I think understanding your own organizations’ metrics and demographics. I don’t know if that’s innovative or foundational. But, if you understand your own metrics, your demographics from line level to leadership—see where the disparities within your organizations exist. And set a plan to achieve the goals to improve that. If there are 20% female in your leadership ranks or your management ranks, acknowledge that, identify it and then figure out how—through succession planning which I’m super passionate about—you can make a shift in that and then ensure accountability to the goals that you’ve set. I think that’s a critical, critical thing. 

I think—I already mentioned the wage scale, right? Wage equity, wage report and wage parity. The EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, several years ago was going to start to include salary information on this federal report. And employers over 100 employees needed to file this report with the federal government. Well, they put the kibosh on that, right? I think we should be getting our pitchforks and raising the charge to get that information back on there. And pull the covers out from over this information so then we can change it. I’m a big believer in, “You can’t fix anything if you don’t know it’s broken.” And I think these processes will help us realize how broken these things are so that we can begin to fix them. I’ve got some—lots and lots of others but Lindsey I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.

LINDSEY: Yeah, no, I think you had a great point of—you need to evaluate the organization as to where we are today. And where do we want to grow? You know, and whether that’s setting metrics to increase the female ratio at the company. That not only do you have to have those metrics, but also what structures are you really going to put in place to promote that and allow that. So, I think—you know as I mentioned before giving women the seat at the table. Asking for their input more. Creating those employee resource groups to really have multiple voices heard. You know, and I think too—like making sure that your leadership team is representative. I think I’ve always felt very lucky that I’ve always had senior women in leadership roles to look up to. And hopefully that just continues to grow so the next generations have even more women to look up to. But, I think, you know making sure like—creating like a formal mentor program. That’s something our company has really focused on over the past year. So, we’ll line younger females up with more senior women. And how, you know—how have they managed the ropes at the company. And what have they done. So, I think providing that mentor program—and I think not only just in a formal setting but also in an informal setting. Just, you know—obviously it’s harder now—but just even, you know—whether it’s lunch and learns or just different touch points giving people exposure to those more senior people and how they’ve managed it.

LISA: Yeah. And finally, just recruitment is an opportunity as well, right? Are we seeking women in the workplace through organizations that are focused on women. Women’s associations specifically. And diversity and inclusion across the board. Are we sending our open availability to AARP and Urban League and—you know, agencies who can help promote diversity in the workplace. Not just with women but with various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds as well. So, seek out those associations and let them know you’re hiring in these positions because then you’re showing that you’re not only diverse once you hire them—you’re inclusive by reaching out into those organizations to find those candidates as well.

LINDSEY: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. And that’s not always the easiest path. I think a lot of times companies fall into the trap of what’s worked before, what’s easy. And really pushing yourself outside those comfort zones to think about—you know, other areas for candidate pools. And how do we think more holistically—you know, if we want to have true diversity and inclusion, how do we start from the very beginning and open up the funnel of where we’re looking for people?

LISA: Exactly. 

SOYINI: I love how you all are touching on challenging the status quo. You know, we’ve got to continue to do that. And be brave enough to stand firmly and convicted in challenging the status quo. Ways for us to continue to advance equality is also through creativity, right? And I’ll speak to that from my personal experience. I remember when my children were younger, I still wanted to continue to work on growing my career, however I also still wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. And be able to—be really hands on with my girls. And so, in 2010 when I started homeschooling my oldest daughter, I then created a homeschool cooperative with other like-minded families who we had similar philosophies when it came to education. And so, we would do this co-op a couple of times a week and then our children would have this safe space to grow and learn together. But also, because of it it really became the business case for the company that I started, co-founded—Bright Learning Academy where we have the opportunity to create customized tutorial services for children. Because I saw that if I was customizing learning for my daughter—and it was helping her to learn faster, it was improving her transfer of knowledge quicker—then I was like, “Oh we should be able to do this for other children as well.” So, out of this experience—the creativity, the resourcefulness you know the ability to just tap into that is really, really important. If I wasn’t in that situation—trying to figure out a solution for this I wouldn’t have been able to get to that point. I just think as women—we’re extremely creative, right? I mean what do you see— 

LISA: I’d like to think so. 

SOYINI: Right? I mean, why do you think women make great leaders? What do you—I want to hear both of your thoughts on that. 

LISA: Go ahead Lindsey. Because you know me, I could talk all day.

LINDSEY: No, I think a portion of it is—A: Soyini what you just mentioned. talking to your network, understanding what people are going through. But I think it’s also that balance of, you know—having the leadership skills but also women also have that empathetic side too. So, I think it’s the combination of those two and not trying to suppress one or the other. I think that’s an area—you know it’s funny just in conversations with a few men that I work with recently—there’s a few things that they’ve said, “I just never would have even thought of that.” And it’s more than probably a little bit of maternal instincts, just the nurturing side of me I think brings a unique perspective to things. So, I think making sure—that’s going back to bringing your whole self and inclusive of just how you approach things.

LISA: Yeah, and I concur. Empathy was where I was going because at the end of the day—again on that mission, that human element. And I think women have been wired to have that more empathetic nurturing tenant within. Innate natural tendency. Not that men don’t, I think it’s also a personality trait that we do or don’t have as well to be empathetic and be that people person. I think you hit it on the head that empathy piece helps to balance all the other leadership qualities and touch and connect to that human connection as well.

SOYINI: And I’d like to add to that—I heard Val Demings speak earlier and she mentioned something—she said women are like quarterbacks. I mean, we truly are seeing everything with the foresight very early. We’re capturing our—let’s just say intuitive intel and utilizing that in a way to create and to be innovative. But we’re seeing everything way before it even happens and so we’re able to help orchestrate a little bit better when it comes to putting people in positions of power. And everybody collectively playing their role in order to develop or creating something that—look, could be the next amazing thing. We don’t know—it’s the next business. It’s this spirit of entrepreneurship I think that’s really also helping when it comes to creativity. 

And another thing that I’ll add to it—that advancing this equality is other women stepping into their seat of power and exercising in a way to elevate communities, people of color that have been systematically marginalized. I look at Serena Williams and the work that she’s doing when it comes to funding female organizations. She, you know—the data supports that even though women-run venture backed businesses perform better, they receive just 7% of venture capital money for their startups. So, for women of color, that figure drops even to less than 1%, right? 

LISA: Yeah.

SOYINI: And so, women who are also mothers, who understand this work-life, —I’m going to say trying to strive for work-life harmony—they’re willing to do something out there now to create programs. To create opportunities for other women in order to pursue their entrepreneurial pursuits. In order for them to have an opportunity towards being accountable for their own success. 

LISA: Yeah.

SOYINI: Which I think is also—it’s also another innovative way that we’re able to advance equality in the workforce. 

LISA: Yes. Yes. Yes.

SOYINI: So, in closing ladies I just wanted to touch bases with the both of you and find out—what words of wisdom would you share for the next generation of female leaders?

LISA: You know, I think for me and I think—Soyini and I we’ve talked about this many times, yeah—I’m a big believer in having a mentor and being a mentor to someone else. So that not only are we having women who we admire or who we aspire to achieve levels as they have in our personal or professional lives—you know, reach out and have that person, mentor you ask them. Because that lifts them up to but also give back to someone who might be in a junior leadership position and help them up. And then I think the second thing is you know—think about the last time you supported another woman. And if you can’t think of a time that you supported another woman in your personal or professional circle of influence look in the mirror, dig deep and ask yourself why not? Because the answer lies within your own sense of power or lack of power. Your own self-confidence, self-worth, self-esteem. Acknowledge it. Embrace it. But then do something to change it. So that we can really start to create organizations and leadership and all ranks where women really are helping to lift one another up in the world of work and in your personal lives as well. 

LINDSEY: That’s great. Yeah, I would agree. I think it’s— be confident—I think it’s be confident in yourself. And encourage yourself to have some of those difficult conversations to really promote yourself. You know, I think as we mentioned when you recognize another female doing something great, you know—whether they’re someone who’s new to the workforce or someone very senior—you know speak up. You know, I think it’s just encouraging each other and really helping to develop each other.

SOYINI: I love that ladies you talked about the self-awareness. Which is (sighing)—like you said knowledge of self. Know thyself first is the first rule, right—

LISA: Yeah.

SOYINI: And then you can start to really impact others and gain influence by just being the best version of you. I hear within the both of you as you’re speaking really this call to action. And I want to just challenge our audience out there that’s listening. Some of the things that I’ve written down, the gems that I’ve just noted that you’re speaking about is join and support some—let’s just say these three to five tips here. Join and support a women’s professional network. That is something that you would advise the next generation of female leaders to do. Another tip is to establish formal mentorship programs. Right? And this is not just for the women, but this is for organizations to ensure that they have just sort of the basic foundational infrastructure in place. A third tip that you mentioned is join an ERG for women, right? This safe space within the employee resource groups allows us to really vocalize some of our challenges, our concerns. And also a space for us to be creative and innovative too. The fourth tip I’ve got I noted down was set gender equality goals. Right? Within the organization and make it transparent. Right? There’s power in transparency, we should do it. Lastly, I heard take a moment to recognize and reward a woman. And maybe it’s starting with yourself first—is the first woman that you decide to recognize and reward. And then you start to mentor and teach and do it with other women as well. 

So, we want to challenge everybody out there that’s listening too to take some of those tips and ensure that you can utilize these tips and put them in your organization. If you haven’t started an ERG start one. Be the one to take the first step. And lastly, I just want to think about one last question that came to mind. This wasn’t something that we’ve brought up before but if you’re-if you’re—let’s just say mature woman self could speak to your young woman self what would be one virtue that you would have told your young woman self that she needs to know.

LISA: Feel the fear and do it anyway (laughing). That would be it. I learned that recently. You know, I’ve been tracking on this entrepreneur journey upwards of 10 years now, there’s been some scary times and in my earlier career as well. You know, it was scary to apply for that position or ask for that raise. And I’m fortunate I—you know, I’ve got a lot of gumption coming from Brooklyn, New York. So, I did have the confidence and the information just like I shared to go in there and ask for that raise, or a promotion or what have you. So yeah, feel the fear and do it anyway.

LINDSEY: Yeah, I think similarly (unintelligible) is that confidence. You know, everybody I feel like is probably young in their career trying to prove something. But, you know the females are no different than the males—just be confident in who you are, be authentic and you know, just be confident.

SOYINI: I love that ladies. And I’ll sort of—before we open the conversation for questions from the audience, I’ll close out with Amanda Gorman, right. Young poet. She is the future. And just thinking about what she said at the inauguration—when it was, “Be brave enough to be the light.” Right? The light is here, there is a path for us forward. And it is onward and upward. But be brave enough first to be the light within yourself. And just let that shine. So, I want to thank you both for your presence today. I want to thank everybody out there that’s joined us for the conversation. I hope that you enjoyed it. I know I did. I took a lot of notes today. There were quite a few gems that were shared today. And I just think that if we activate these—if we are brave enough to activate these tools that we have, I mean, there’s no limits. 

So, in closing, let’s open up a question from the audience. It says—one of the questions is, “I’m not sure if you have touched on this. But one thing I’ve noticed is that male CEOs feel like they’ve ticked off the ‘gender equality box’ if they have a lot of women in the organization. However, women in the organization versus women in leadership roles are two different things. How do you address this?”

LISA: Yeah. This is directly related to that EEO report I was talking about. This Equal Employment Opportunity report, it doesn’t have to be just for employers over 100. Right. Like I said, know your demographics. And segment each of your positions in the same way that EEO-1 report—you can google it, EEO dash one report. And what it does is it segments C-suite leadership, middle managers, line managers, service workers, laborers—right all down the category. And fill in the boxes, see where your men are, see where your women are, see where your ethnic backgrounds are—because it’s segmented through that as well. And let that be the starting point for the view, right? The pulling the covers from under that shows your leadership. Yes, we do have a lot of women, but look at where they are. They’re all in these line positions. They’re all in the service worker category. They’re all in the administrative category. It’s great that we have women now. What are we going to do with these women to get them into the middle manager, the line manager and the leadership positions through succession planning.

LINDSEY: Yeah, and I would say the starting point too is recognizing it’s not going to be just to check the box. It’s—I think there has to be true buy-in into diverse thought. And the idea being that the more women and you know, whether it’s ethnic diversity that you have in the leadership ranks—just the more diversity of thought you have, and the more well-rounded the business can be. So, I think certainly a starting point is bringing more women into the organization. But, then what internal programs are you going to provide that will allow them to move up the ranks and have more decision-making power at the company, and really influence diverse thought?

LISA: Exactly.

SOYINI: I love that ladies. You’re really touching on the promise of diversity and what it can bring to the organization. Having diversity at every business unit, right, within the organization. To your point Lindsey, leadership buy-in and support—that just lets everybody know—that just lets everybody know leadership has my back. Right? When you know you have that backing and support, it gives you have the courage to continue to pursue even more. And to do more. And I think that’s also the piece that we want to discuss when it comes to discretionary effort. That sense of belonging and having that type of in a true inclusive environment. It does inspire women and other employees, for that matter, to do more. To put in a little bit more extra effort within the organization. And that—I think that quotient, if you add that quotient up throughout the entire organization, that’s going to increase performance all around. Right? And it becomes really infectious. And the last point that you made is giving—it’s not just having the seat at the table, but it’s granting the option to lead—you know, to lead the table. 

LISA: Yeah.

SOYINI: Allowing women the choice and the option to lead more so that you can see their leadership skills blossom. And they get an opportunity and a safe space to just continue to harness and develop themselves. So, everything that you all have here today has just been some amazing, amazing, amazing sort of pearls of wisdom. And I just want to thank you all for your time. I want to thank you for your presence. I again want to thank everybody out there in the virtual world for their time today spending their lunch with us. Maybe they took their break—their “mom break” today. Maybe the children are down for a nap at this point and you decided to spend your time with us. So, we’re really, really grateful for that and we look forward to our next conversation as we continue on this journey of diversity, equity and inclusion. As well as showing that we can dismantle this gender gap and divide. Thank you all for your time today.