Gender Diversity Makes Leaders #BetterTogether: Here’s How

posted on January 17th 2018 in Culture & From the CEO & News

I waited eagerly for Jonathan Sposato’s book Better Together to arrive. This is not a review but a collection of nuggets that resonated with me. Better Together is my first shot at reading and writing about one book a month in 2018 that will make me a better leader and contributor in my job, my community, and hopefully to professional women everywhere.

I personally had both of my kids while working full time in a large Northwest tech company. I remember being told by a female colleague that I was “working a half day” my first day back from leave after putting in eight hours. I remember my peer who was a top performer, calling in sick herself so she would not have to acknowledge that she had a sick child at home. Much has changed since then, but much remains the same which is why this book is so important to me.

“When women are present, great things happen.”

Straight Talk: Professional Women Share Their Candid Thoughts and Experiences

As yourself why you use the phrase “working mother” but never use that phrase to describe “working father.” – Maria Hess, PicMonkey

…I could NEVER use motherhood as an excuse for missing anything at work. It just was not acceptable – not even when my child was sick… – Susannah Malarkey, Foster School of Business

In my experience, moms who are given flexible work situations will work harder than anyone else to prove themselves out of sheer appreciation. – Christina Watt, MWW Group and Exact Impact Coaching

The one thing I heard often was that I was not nurturing enough…No one expects that of men. – Shelley Ross, Executive Producer for ABC and CBS

Men Must Change

Tech employees are often not formally mandated to attend training or workshops about diversity, inclusion, sensitivity or safe spaces.

Not Enough Women? Look Harder

  • The lack of women and minorities in tech has more to do with unconscious bias than any other factor i.e. it’s not a “pipeline problem.”
  • Companies must lower the barriers to re-entry for women who take time to care for their children.
  • If you can get one woman participating in the interview process, you will hire more women.
  • Focus referral programs on diverse hiring and pay more for diverse and underrepresented candidates.
  • Be intentional about mentorship and development for high potential female employees.

Listen Louder (my favorite concept in the book)

  • Let’s stop trying to change the way women speak and instead change the way men listen.
  • Tentative words and speech patterns exist to keep the tribe together – don’t confuse them with a lack of intelligence, ambition, or drive.
  • Male and female leadership qualities can be different and we don’t need to favor one over the other.
  • Men get jobs based on potential and women get jobs based on track record. This is broken.
  • Mansplaining (and hepeating) are real – in fact in 2016 Sweden opened a Mansplaining Hotline!

Creating a Family Forward Culture

  • A light bulb went off – yes of course family is more important than dinner with coworkers.
  • Working parents anecdotally say they are more efficient and task focused after becoming parents.
  • Beware of the expensive trade off between productivity and morale if you create an environment where work occurs around the clock.

Just Say No: High Performance Should Not Trump Bad Behavior

In my opinion this statement needs to backing – harassment is unacceptable and completely unrelated to a person’s performance on the job. Period.

Stand Together or Fall Apart:

Sad but true, women are not always the best at supporting other women. There are undoubtedly a variety of factors that influence this and in competitive organizations where women are the minority they may find strength in distancing themselves from their female peers. We can do better.

I give credit to Jonathan as a man for choosing to think and write about how we can all do more to include women. I appreciate his courage and candor in speaking up on our behalf.

Mikaela Kiner

Mikaela is a native Seattleite who’s spent the last fifteen years in HR leadership roles at iconic Northwest companies including Microsoft, Amazon, PopCap Games and Redfin. She has an MS in HR Management with a certificate in Organizational Development and is an ICF credentialed coach. Mikaela delivers results by building trust and engaging her clients in creative problem solving. Clients appreciate her strategic thinking and hands on execution.