Leadership Excellence Podcast

Gender Equality in the Workplace: The Progress, The Challenges, and The Opportunities with Sejal Thakkar

January 25, 2021 Danny Langloss Season 2 Episode 4
Leadership Excellence Podcast
Gender Equality in the Workplace: The Progress, The Challenges, and The Opportunities with Sejal Thakkar
Show Notes Transcript

While we have made significant strides with gender equality in the workplace, there is still much work to be done. In this episode, Danny talks with Sejal Thakkar about unconscious bias, the pursuit of gender equality, creating cultures of diversity and inclusion, and how COVID is threatening the last 20 years of progress.  

Did you know....Companies profits and share performance can be close to 50% higher when women are well represented at the top? Beyond that, senior-level women have a vast and meaningful positive impact on a company’s culture. 

Follow Danny Langloss on LinkedIn as he breaks down leadership tools, strategies, and concepts throughout the week.

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About Sejal Thakkar:

Sejal Thakkar is founder and Chief Civility Officer of TrainXtra, a proactive training practice where she brings the wealth of her employment law expertise in customized training to executives, managers and non-managers in an interactive, engaging environment.  

As Sejal grew up in a suburb of Chicago, Sejal fought hatred and discrimination on a regular basis. She refused to allow ignorance, insensitivity, and the bullying conduct of others impact her inner “ninja”. 

 Armed with knowledge she gained from these experiences, Sejal passionately transforms the workplace and education settings into places of civility by empowering others to be a part of the solution. Her goal is to empower each employee to create a positive workplace environment. 

Sejal has over fifteen years of employment law experience that includes advising clients, human resources personnel, and legal counsel regarding sound, standard employment practices.

To connect with Sejal on LinkedIn click here.

To go to the TrainXtra website click here.

Danny Langloss:

What's up guys? This is Danny Langloss and you're listening to the leadership excellence podcast. Please hit that subscribe button so you never miss another episode, consider giving us a rating review so we can keep growing and help more people. Thank you. There's so many things that impact our ability to achieve success, but none are more important than leadership. Individuals and organizations rise and fall with leadership. We are here to help you rise. Thank you for joining us. This is the leadership excellence podcast. Hello leaders and welcome to leaders of excellence. My name is Danny Langloss and today I'm joined by Sejal Thakkar. Today we're gonna talk about one of my passions, I've got a ton of different passions, but social justice and specifically within that gender equality and gender equality in the workplace is a passion of mine. And for some time, I've been looking for an expert in the field to talk about this topic and to bring it to life and to bring it to life from from a positive from from an from a solution side to acknowledge, you know, the strides we've made, but also to acknowledge how far we have yet to go and what the job is of leaders. Regardless if you're a male or female, you're black, white, Hispanic, what's the role of leaders in making sure we're creating great work cultures where there is true equality? So Sejal is the founder and chief stability Officer of TrainXtra. This is a proactive training practice where she brings her wealth of employment law, expertise, and customized training to executives, managers, and non managers, and interactive, engaging environment, such an important thing to be able to bring it to life in that kind of an environment. As she grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. She fought hatred and discrimination on a regular basis. She refused to allow ignorance, insensitivity, and the bullying conduct of others to really impact her inner Ninja, you'll hear as she talks today, she is she is one strong woman and a champion for so many different things. So she has over 15 years of employment law experience. And she advice advises clients, human resource personnel, legal counsel, I think a lot of our experience is off, you know, revolves around representing companies. Sejal, welcome to the leadership excellence podcast.

Sejal Thakkar:

Thank you, Danny. Thank you so much for having me. I'm super grateful to be here.

Danny Langloss:

I'm so excited to be talking with an expert like yourself about a topic, like I said, I'm so passionate about to be coming at it from a positive lens and a positive angle, but how can we make a difference and a greater impact as leaders? We know from all the research out there, that the most diverse teams perform the best and the most talented people out there, the people that everybody's competing to recruit, are really drawn to diverse teams. So could you start by sharing your passion for this area? And kind of what brought you this way on your journey?

Sejal Thakkar:

Absolutely. You know, I, as you mentioned, I represented leaders, I was a defense attorney. So the cases that I really worked on where harassment discrimination cases, a lot of retaliation to. And so as I was representing leaders, you know, I was working with and I and I worked with, you know, all industries. And I saw just a lot of what I say, you know, uncivil behavior in the workplace. And a lot of which could have been avoided, were hadn't been dealt with proactively early on, when it was happening for like, let's say, somebody made a rude or insensitive comment, had it been dealt with, then we would have never ended up in court. And so I saw a lot of that going on. And I have a strong passion for diversity and inclusion. You know, I've always been a social justice advocate. I've personally, like you said, experienced, you know, inappropriate behavior, bullying behavior discrimination firsthand. So that drives a lot of the work that I do right now. And I come at it from a civility standpoint, because, you know, I think diversity and inclusion is very important for all organizations. And I really don't think that you know, you can skirt around it anymore, I think these issues have to be dealt with. But the, the sort of the, my approach on it is dealing with the behaviors. And so again, helping organizations see that there, when you put different people together, we look at life differently, our perceptions are different from each other. And so we're gonna need some skills, we're gonna need some tools to help us navigate through the challenges that those differences are going to, you know, come up, it's just normal, they're going to come up, it's like a family, right? You get a family together for a holiday, you know, that there's going to be some level of conflict or misunderstanding or something. So people need some skills. And so that's, that's really what drives the work that I'm doing right now.

Danny Langloss:

Such incredible work. I appreciate that earlier this week. And I've been touching on this quite a bit in different presentations talking about why we lead directly translates into how we lead. And so the reasons why we do things within our workplace and within our culture matters, right, we could we could do something and address the topic of gender equality of diversity of inclusion of harassment in the workplace, both sexual and non sexual, and do it from checking a box for the reason of protecting ourselves legally. Because there's, there's quite a bit of legal ramifications. But what I challenge leaders to do is, is to set that aside and not let that be the motivation, to the motivation. The "why" here is because everybody on our team is a human being everybody is a human being and the right thing to do is to treat everybody with civility, that the right thing to do is to include not just the majority groups, but the minority groups. And and so to be guided by by a principle of diversity, of acceptance of non judgment of inclusion, right, then we don't ever have to worry about the legalities of things down the road. Are you following me with that?

Sejal Thakkar:

Oh, my God, you know what, you said it better than I ever could, Danny, seriously, that's exactly it. And, and again, you know, like I said, we've all gone through different experiences. So you want that kind of diversity at your organization's right, because maybe at a time, not having diversity in your organization, you know, not having gender equality, not making sure everybody's voices are heard and all of the decision tables, it actually hurts you, not help you, it doesn't help you because your customers are diverse, especially if you want to scale and you want to survive, right? So there's the business case for diversity was made a long time ago, you know, McKinsey and Company came out with a couple reports years ago, that really spells that out about why diversity is a must. It's not a nice to have, right. But going back to just being able to get along, it's about, you know, creating an environment of psychological safety. So that, you know, if you say something to me, whether you mean to hurt my feelings or not, whether you intend to harm me or not, whether you know, that you're making you feel uncomfortable or not, there needs to be a way for me to be able to communicate that to you, in a way in a respectful way, in a professional way, so that it's not about judgment, it's not about shaming, Danny, it's not about making him feel guilty. It's to educate him, let him know, make him aware that this is crossing one of my boundaries, so that he knows now and so if he truly didn't know, he does now. And then hopefully, like most people, and research supports this, most people are going to stop, right because we're not walking around trying to make people uncomfortable at work or make them feel bad. I mean, there are some people, but we're not worrying about those rotten apples, we can't fix everybody I'm worried about the majority of people are well intentioned people, they're going to work to be successful. And if they can be successful, the organization can be successful. It's a win win situation.

Danny Langloss:

Yeah, it's a win win situation. Absolutely. And and when you do things intentionally, as you're talking about, and the ability to have high levels of psychological safety, proactive communication, and environment where people feel comfortable coming, and say that maybe they feel like they've been treated wrong or mistreated, or they have a concern, that's good for the organization. And so if you create that around, you know, gender equality and bias, that's going to translate into all areas and aspects of your organization, and make you much more likely to create an organization where people serve in under the idea of truth, justice, and purpose. I had a great conversation with Ron Carucci recently, and there are four components that that lead these types of organizations that cumulative make you 16 times less likely to be like the what your worst headline would be on the front page of a have a news article or on national television. And that justice and accountability, are we treating people fairly? Are we honoring what it is they bring? are we creating that environment? It's a big, big deal. So the first thing I think we need to tackle is unconscious bias. Because a lot of times we do things as individuals. And we don't realize that we're bringing any bias in, we're not intentionally bringing a bias in. But when it's pointed out, or when we think about it, or we understand unconscious bias, we can identify bias as we do bring them and then we can neutralize them. So what is unconscious bias? And how does it impact our actions on a day to day basis.

Sejal Thakkar:

So unconscious bias is normal. It's just the way that our mind is functioning. It's, you know, we all have different lived experiences. And so when you go through things, like if you think about your brain, like a computer system, right, like a database, you're putting information in there, your brain is taking all of that information, and it's like sorting it out into buckets into your mind, right. And so, when in the future when you see something, you know, your brain it engages in this complex pattern recognition. And it's going to make this association with that prior memory or emotion or feeling, or belief that you have that relates to what you're seeing now. So it's these automatic associations that you make, they happen in the blink of an eye, they happen so quickly, that you don't even realize you're not conscious. That's why they're unconscious beliefs that you hold. And these are based on everything. You know, what social media, the experiences, you've had the upbringing of the religion, I mean, basically, what makes you you, it's a part of who you are. And so, you know, Harvard came out with this study where they said, Look, your brain processes close to 11 million bits of information, pieces of information per second, through your five senses. I mean, so your how much of that Danny, do you think is actually consciously processed?

Danny Langloss:

For me a fraction?

Sejal Thakkar:

Give me a guess,

Danny Langloss:

Oh of 11 million bits of information per second,

Sejal Thakkar:

per second.

Danny Langloss:

All right, probably like one or two things.

Sejal Thakkar:

50

Danny Langloss:

50 things, okay.

Sejal Thakkar:

Out of 11 million. So here we are thinking we're walking around making deliberate, intentional, conscious choices when the truth is, you're walking around on autopilot all day. And that's fine, right? Like when you're brushing your teeth, right, and you're tying your shoelaces, you're combing your hair, like we don't we can't think about all those decisions, it would mean we'd be overwhelming, right? So it's good that our brain has that capacity to engage in that pattern recognition, and we need it. But, you know, it's it's that sense that you get when you walk into a place that you've never been before. And all of a sudden, you get this feeling that you're in danger, you don't know where it's coming from, but you feel like something's about to happen, you know, that feeling. I mean, I've had that feeling many times in my life right? And so that's an example of these unconscious biases that we have. The problem though is is when we look at if we just focus in on at the workplace or anywhere, is that we it creates these internalized expectations for every situation, every person. And so when people don't match up to what you think, is what you believe is true, then you're going to have a hard time as a leader seeing other people's talents, motivations, potentials, which means that you're going to have difficulty interacting with them, or us getting everybody to their full potential. And so it gives some people advantages, it gives other people disadvantages, right. And so we want to be able to recognize what these are. So then we can make sure that on a daily basis, on a daily basis, when you're when you're making decisions that matter, you know, the important decisions, like they're going to impact on other people's lives, when they're important decisions, that you're aware of what your unconscious beliefs are, or biases are, so that you can make sure you do what you can to minimize them. So it's not about like fixing your anything, it's just realizing what you're working with so that you can put strategies in place to address them.

Danny Langloss:

So how do you start to uncover what your unconscious biases are?

Sejal Thakkar:

Yeah, so there's, you know, there are simple tools that can help you do that. So for example, the Implicit Association test, it's an online tool, it's free. And it was put together by Harvard University, you know, University of Washington, University of Virginia, they all put together they came up this test and basically is divided, I think, last time I checked, it was over 20 different categories, right. So race, religion, gender, national origin, a whole bunch of 22 different categories. And you sit down, it's I think it's been taken over, take about 10 million people already. And you know, of course, and you sit down and it just all it does is it helps you identify areas of potential bias, potential unconscious beliefs you might have, so that you can then do something about it. And that doesn't mean you're a bad person. You know, it doesn't. And actually, a lot of the times what your unconscious biases are, here's a, here's the kicker, they're actually the opposite of what your conscious beliefs are.

Danny Langloss:

Hmmm

Sejal Thakkar:

Majority of the times, it's because your memory or your experience is linked back to something way back when, and you've evolved consciously. But unconsciously, that memory is still there. And it's being it's coming out. So as you do this work, the good news is, is you start to recognize, you know, what your biases are, you know, pretty quickly so that you can mitigate the risk. Another thing you can do so the Implicit Association test is a great way to get you started. And here's a really easy one that everybody can do. Like, right, right after we get off this podcast right after they stop listening to this amazing podcast for you to have, right. I mean, you can just ask somebody that you trust and love. Because here's the thing about unconscious bias. They're unconscious to us. They come out in our actions and our behaviors and our words the tone of our voice, the look on our face, the choices behaviors, they come out to the people around us know. So I just caution you just be careful for the answer you're gonna get right. You'll find out (laughing)

Danny Langloss:

You need to get your armor down for that one. Because if they they sense what they're telling you isn't going over very well, they're gonna be quiet, they're gonna shut up. The so I think about so unconscious bias. And then I think the other thing that ties into this, and I don't think we've talked about this yet is confirmation bias. So we have the, which I think also can be unconscious and part of unconscious bias. But a lot of times, if we see a person or a group of people in a certain way, the things they do that discount that that's that way we don't even process but the things that they do that justify or go with what our beliefs are, or what our brain sees and puts into it. So So confirmation bias, is that part of unconscious bias?

Sejal Thakkar:

Yeah, so it's a type. So there's, you know, there's social biases, there are cognitive biases, there are institutional biases, right? So what you just described, confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias that we all have, there is an over science has identified, you know, a lot has happened to over the last decade, you know, last two, you know, 2030 years, a lot of research has been done in this area. But they've, they've identified over 180 different types of cognitive bias, what you just identified was one, and I'm sure we all do, I mean, for sure, we all do that, right? Like another really another one that we all do is affinity bias, right? So somebody looks like us, talks likes us, x likes us reminds us of us, we're gonna have a natural affinity to them, right. And that's normal. We all do that. You know, that's why like a baby, you know, when they see a stranger, they freak out, right? Because they're like, I don't know this person. It's an example of affinity bias, it's normal. But you can see how that also could be harmful in the workplace, too. You hire somebody, because they look like you, you fire somebody because they don't look like you. You don't give somebody a promotion, you know, like, you're not going to give somebody an opportunity to be heard, because of your they're not a party or affinity. So it's about education on all of these, like I said, 180. So if somebody were to stand up and say, I don't have bias, and I'm like, You're a liar, and you don't know what you're talking about, let's set up a time to chat. I'm happy to educate you on all of this stuff, right?

Danny Langloss:

So, so I think that's the big thing. And it's really, as we talked about this, this conversation, and coming at, you know, how do we how do we achieve gender equality, and I think this ties into other social justice issues and racial equality, and many other things. But it's, it's beginning by knowing that it's unconscious, there's an unconscious bias. And there's many things within that, you know, you talk about social, cognitive, institutional. And so it's, it's not that. So I feel like when this discussion happens, and especially for people in the majority group, they feel like they're, you know, being attacked, or they've done something wrong. And maybe they haven't, maybe they're as passionate about you as AI. You and I are about social justice. But it's so it's giving it a deeper understanding from a positive side. So that's one thing that people can do. And we could talk for hours about unconscious bias, and all these different areas, which which we don't have time for, but we thought it was important to bring up is a very important part, to open up to identify, to understand to embrace as we look to truly create this, this equality. So let's transition. There's there's so much if we can do you agree with this statement? There's a lot of progress that's been made, specifically over the last decade in gender equality in the workplace.

Sejal Thakkar:

Absolutely.

Danny Langloss:

Where do you, where do you see the greatest progress has been made? Or can you just reflect on what you've seen? And can we talk about and, you know, maybe celebrate that progress before we transition and talk about, you know, what, what do we what do we got left to do here?

Sejal Thakkar:

Yeah, no, we we absolutely made a huge milestones, you know, look, August 18, marked 100 year anniversary of when women got the right to vote right, 100 years ago. So we've achieved huge gender equality milestones. So, you know, one of the major things that comes to mind is, you know, we don't have a shortage of qualified women. I mean, education is opened up significantly. So there used to be a huge pipeline problem about we don't have qualified women. Now, a majority of the women that come out of universities are, you know, they are coming out at an equal level to men. So at all levels and all professional degrees. So that's a huge change. So we have no scarcity issue there like we used to have. So that's a big one. And then the other thing that is too is the internet. Right. So we you know, we've I think they said something like up to 4 billion new users have started using the internet over the last decade, right. So having access to be able to communicate with other people has been a huge milestone, because You know, the "#metoo" movement, the "times up" movement, you know, these people went public with these out which with their claims, a lot of which were true, right. And it provided an opportunity for people who were survivors of sexual harassment, assault or bias, and it gave them a place and a platform where they can voice, you know, voice their issues. So that I mean, the the #metoo movement is another huge accomplishment. I mean, in California, after the #metoo movement happened, you know, that's, that's where I'm licensed. But we saw a boatload of laws come out of the #metoo movement, you know, it will be it became, it started to become clear, you know, one of the one of the ones that come to the top to the mind is the use of non disclosure agreements, right? So you hear something like Harvey Weinstein, and you're like, How the heck did he get away with this for that long, right, because they were basically getting everybody to sign these non disclosure agreements. And it would silence the people that had gone through it as long as they signed that document. And they couldn't even talk about the facts of those situations. Whereas he got to continue doing what he was doing. And he didn't have to go through any public scrutiny for all those years, until the very end. Right. So this was a really huge move in California, in a positive way, because now you can't do that anymore. Another thing is, another law that was passed in California was to that, and some of the other states have followed suit, you know, we tend to kind of be the leaders in this area, especially with workplace issues. But they they extended the statute of limitations period. So it used to be you had a year to file with our state agency if you felt that somebody was harassing you, or discriminating against you. And they extended to three years. So this means that it can be up to four years to we end up in court. I mean, this is a huge motivator for employers to make sure they're doing it. Right. Right, because people leave, people's memories change. And so it's harder to litigate these cases, and who wants to wait around for that long to be able to defend a claim, right. So we also got our training laws changed. They said, they went from saying, we only got to train your supervisors on sexual harassment to you got to train everybody. Right, every single employee gets to be trained now. So that was a huge plus that came out of it. And we've even had laws that have said, on your boards, if you're a publicly traded company, then you have to have a certain amount, you know, I think it was last year or this year, it's like you had to have one female director, by the end of next year, you have to have two female directors, depending on the size of your board. So all of these things have been examples of the progress that we've made over the last decade.

Danny Langloss:

So when we talk about the progress that's been made over the past decade, the the the laws and some of the movements that you've spoken about there, man, they're so important, right, because they set the framework that that this needs to happen, this has to happen. One of the things is, is I've been looking through and doing some research is that there there is good news as it relates to women, and in supervisory and leadership roles. We're seeing, you know, improvement, not enough, but you know, significant improvement of women holding C suite roles, we're still seeing a very small percentage of women actually holding the CEO role. So what have you seen out there in the workforce? Are you are you is what you're seeing, reflecting what some of those numbers are that we're starting to see more and more women in senior leadership roles within within different organizations?

Sejal Thakkar:

You know, I can't speak for right now. I mean, so, you know, I think it was in 2015. And I could be wrong on the date. So don't quote me on that. But they said that when they looked at C, you know, fortune 500, they said there was about 5% of women in the C suite. That was I think, 2015 or 2016. But I can't talk about right now, because right now we're dealing with a COVID and COVID. I mean, lots of people, you know, it's hit women that one of the hardest.

Danny Langloss:

It has...

Sejal Thakkar:

And so we've got, like, you know, I think they were saying like 4 million or 4 billion women were threatening to leave the workforce. And so this is going to really be harmful. And actually, I just posted about something. The new McKinsey report that actually you shared with me the McKinsey report that came out in 2020, about women in the workforce, and they talk about all the different reasons why women are leaving right now, which is going to have a significant impact and the female senior leaders, right, so it's something that I think companies really need to take seriously. And think about, how are they going to create an environment where women don't leave because it can be detrimental?

Danny Langloss:

Yeah, with all the progress made some of the research I've looked at and one of those articles that I shared, said they'd seen so the 2020 report and seen a 24% increase in women holding C suite positions, which is we're heading in the right direction, what you're talking about is one of those threats to it. And as we progress through, you know, women face, you know, much greater challenges from from COVID. And, and actually black women face even greater challenges. And so I've got a guest coming up who I'm going to talk about this issue with, specifically related to, to African American women. But so yeah, so it's, it's one of the things and I think one of the things I want to drive home for the listeners, because again, the more we have people's guards down, and their minds open, and the importance in the "why" the more likely they are to embrace these things are recognizing the unconscious bias and the confirmation bias, you know, the recognition, hey, a lot of work has been done. There's been some incredible frameworks put in place from a legality side, right. But I do challenge people not to step into this realm and create diverse and inclusive and cultures and environments, and to implement these kinds of trainings strictly to not be sued, right. I mean, we don't, nobody wants to be sued. But if we do it from our perspective, that that we want to create this respectful, inclusive environment, where we truly value human beings. And we want to give each and every one of the human beings on our team, the ability to serve, the ability to be coached, mentored, to have training opportunities to have job assignments, and to help them reach their full potential. And to be intentional about letting letting people know who might be in margin, marginalized populations, that no, you do have a chance to reach your full potential as anybody else does in this organization. And when the culture aligns to that, you no longer really have to worry about the legalities of it, because you'll handle the issues that arise because the culture, the culture doesn't stand for it.

Sejal Thakkar:

Right, exactly, and, and the more that leaders can do, and I think you mentioned this earlier, but just to add on to what you're just saying, the more that you can do to create an environment that's welcoming, right, so that people actually come to you with these issues and concerns. If they're having a hard time with homeschooling, and they need flexibility, if they're, you know, somebody in their family has COVID, and they're stressed out about coming, I mean, you just have to be more flexible in your approach, because you'd rather have people come talk to you then just leave. And that's the threat that we're dealing with. And the other thing is that, you know, the reality is, is that lots of people don't go to their employers, because they don't feel safe to be able to do that. So the more that you can do, it's not only going to mention the bad behaviors that are going on, but it's going to allow you an opportunity to be proactive, so that you can save your talent before it walks out the door.

Danny Langloss:

Yeah, no, absolutely. So if you want to talk about, you know, what are some what are some reasons, like, like we talked about, like, the research, there's a ton of research out there that shows that more diverse teams perform better. And so you know, one of the things in the research talked about company profits and share performance can be close to 50%, higher when well, women are equally represented at the top levels of leadership. So the research says that if least half of the leadership team or half of the team that you're putting in place, because it also has to do with performance of teams, not even leadership, if half of your team is represented by women, that these teams are outperforming other teams by more than 50%. The research doesn't show that when you get beyond the 50% representation that that performance increases or decreases. But that's a pretty powerful thing, right? Like, this is solid scientific research that's been done. And I think it's powerful for us to realize is we're trying to create, you know, the best organizations we can.

Sejal Thakkar:

Absolutely, I mean, and even the science also shows that, look, there are biological differences in the way that men and women think like there's no question. So if you want to make balanced decisions, right, you want to make informed decisions, and you want to have both perspectives, it makes sense that you want to have representation that are going to you know, women and men so that you can make sure you carefully analyze these situations, and that you've considered all the different actions. Research also shows that men tend to be more driven to action, while women tend to be a little bit more conservative in the action that they take. So that can be beneficial. Again, it's all about making sure that when we're making these decisions, we're basing it on the objective facts and on the different perspectives that are available, because then you're going to make a better decision. Right?

Danny Langloss:

100% 100% and this is the other thing, too, you know, diversity as we think about it doesn't just mean male or female doesn't mean you know, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, it's diversity and experience. Right? It's having younger people and older people, different backgrounds, different ways of looking at things and thinking of things because if we walk into a room and everybody, you know, thinks the same That team is never going to compete with a diverse team. I think just saying that out loud drives home. You know why that's so important. And now today with the research that people are keeping up at all, it's something that we know that we know to be true. So there's still gaps, though, right? There's still gaps. And one of the gaps I mentioned, is at the CEO level, still major gaps there. As we work towards gender equality in the workplace, the other area, that women appear to be even more underrepresented, there's there's less movement, is at the first line supervisor, like the first promotion, that that seems to be an area where we're not seeing as big of an increase in bridging that gap. Any comments you want to make on that before we transition into kind of COVID? And what are some of the extra strains? And what do we need to do to make sure we keep these incredible women in the workforce?

Sejal Thakkar:

Yeah, I mean, the only thing I'll add to that, as you're right, that is a significant barrier is that promotion piece? And again, you know, crystal clear, there's plenty of research to support this that, as you know, black women and women of color, or even the numbers get even, you know, significantly less in those areas. Right. So just something to keep in mind.

Danny Langloss:

Yeah, absolutely. And I was surprised to see, still, how incredible it made me not totally surprised. But the numbers between women in general and black women, they're, they're staggering. And like, so we're gonna take that on another episode, I've got a great guest lined up to talk about that. But I was just really, really surprised. Let's talk about COVID and the threat of COVID. So we've made all this progress. It's taken a long time to make this progress. We've made a ton of progress in the last 10 years. But we're in jeopardy of having major setbacks that are that are very concerning, especially when you look at how much better diverse teams, teams with, you know, made up a 50% women perform and outperform teams that don't. So what are some of the things we need to be conscious of and we need to do to keep women in the workforce? And I guess, maybe lay out why just I think it's kind of obvious. But why is it that this is creating the issue that women are having to leave the workforce or step away from leadership positions?

Sejal Thakkar:

Yeah, I mean, you know, one of the reasons is, is that women are they make up a majority of sort of the essential frontline jobs, right. So when you're talking about health care, social work, community based service sectors, government, women are the majority of the people that are working in there. So you know, for government, 73% of the jobs are held by women, health care workers, 76%, and social workers. 78%. Right. So these are the people that are considered essential workers. And so they're, they're getting hit really hard with that. But also, when you think about it, also in service occupations, right? Women are more likely to work and things like domestic restaurants, retails, tourism, hospitality, all of these require face to face interaction, interactions, right? And so that's where all the layoffs have been hitting. And for a lot of these people, or a lot of these women, teleworking is just not an option in those in those fields. So this is going to hit them really hard. The you know, the other part of it, too, is, you know, I mean, we've made some strides in working on discrimination. But you know, there's still a lot of sexual discrimination that's going on. So if you're deciding, I'm going to lay off 300 people, who knows if they're going to choose the people that are females versus males. So that's another place where there's going to be impact to women, you know, that's going to happen. And then I think a lot of things too, is right. I mean, who's going to take care of the housekeeping, the homeschooling the sort of tasks that typically, you know, typically are, you know, you know, doing from home, I mean, I know, so many senior level women that have actually left their positions, because it was just too much for them to be able to do it all, you know, it was it was just, like, constantly feeling like, you know, just like instead of that report always on, you know, so I've had people I know, people that have gone through that. So we really, I mean, this is why I shared that report literally this morning, there's things that can be done by employers proactively to address these issues before we end up in that situation where we're gonna take a lot of steps back in this area.

Danny Langloss:

Yeah, no, no, absolutely. In in COVID. Especially because I think you're seeing changes and changes especially in in younger families. But we're still at a point where, and a lot of families, the wife is the primary caregiver. And, and a lot of times you see if, if one person has to stay home or leave a job. A lot of times you see that being being the woman so how that one of the questions becomes, how can we accommodate, like how can we go and accommodate and not just for women for men as well, right. But But how can we accommodate that to make sure we're keeping these people these valuable members of our team and leadership positions on that And I know there were six key things that that were laid out for companies to focus on. And you've talked about it a little bit, because you get your homeschooling you got daycare issues and problems, you know what, like, make the work sustainable, like, during COVID, we have to realign our expectations, we have to have realistic expectations, we have to reassess deadlines. We've got to understand that, that there's different illness and things from COVID different taking care of family members, those kinds of things, especially in homes where you know, maybe there's a divorce that's happened. So you've got a separated home. So so we had to try to make the work more sustainable. There was talking about resetting the norms around flexibility, at the end of the day, and there's a lot of research now about remote work, where people are getting so much more done in a less amount of time. And how can we, how can we be flexible? You know, we take steps to minimize that gender bias, you know, reduce some of those assumptions, I think that there's that extra pressure out there. And I've had a lot of different female leaders talk about like, they feel like they've got to work twice as hard or three times as hard. And if they're not the first ones, they're the last to leave, it's looked at differently. So of some of those things I'm talking about, why don't you bounce in there and talk about some other things? Or maybe go into a little more and what I've what I've shared so far?

Sejal Thakkar:

Yeah, I mean, you know, one of the things that I constantly and, you know, when I'm consulting with my clients is, look, I mean, if you can avoid layoffs and furloughs, you know, I mean, try to do everything else, and exhaust all other options, besides doing that, right, because there is a lot of fear, especially by women of color and black females that they're going to get laid off. And there's, you know, so if you can put that make that the last thing, I say, you know, if you're allowed to put some policies in place, you know, that can help ease the employees, financial stress, right. So maybe you strengthen the leave policies that you have, right, maybe you offer paid leave, maybe you offer time off. And so what you can in any way to ease the employees financial stress. And I think another thing is to is, you know, look at your performance criteria, whether you know, your performance review criteria, I mean, this, this is creating a lot of challenges for a lot of people. And I think, again, going back to be flexible and reasonable in your approach, also, you know, look at accommodations, you know, I mean, look at accommodations differently, get out of that mindset of this is how we used to do it, we're not there anymore, we're in a whole different situation, you have to re evaluate. So, if your mind starts thinking, well, this is how I've done it in the past, get rid of that and start all over again, you got to look at it case by case, figure out the person's situation, and really exercise empathy and compassion when you're dealing with people, because we might be going through a pandemic together. But what each and every single one of us is going through in our homes is completely different. And so your approach has to be case by case. And it has to be reasonable, you know, and so I would say those things. And then the other thing I would say is, look, there are definitely, you know, besides just balancing sort of the work and family responsibilities, I think that you can't forget about the fact that just because people are not in the office, right, we're on the computer, that culture is doesn't become a back doesn't take the back seat, keep your culture as a priority. Right. So cyberbullying has increased tenfold, since we've had everybody working from home. So you know, I've had this conversation with leaders where they've said, Oh, well, we're not physically in front of each other. So there's no issues and I'm like, wrong. You can't assume that you have to, you have to make sure and so go back and check your policies on that to see has it been revised since COVID? Because, you know, a lot of the policies I've been looking at, you know, they've got like, maybe two sentences in there talking about harassment that might happen online, but that's not enough anymore. We got to explain, you know, what we mean by cyber bullying and the policy give very specific examples, because, again, women and other marginalized groups are the ones that are having to deal with this. So you need to make a policy around it, communicate it, educate everybody on it, so people know what to look out for.

Danny Langloss:

Yeah, absolutely. And the policies and stuff there, you got to get those right. But, but the way we implement them is so so important, right, that the proactive communication, the coaching, the mentoring, the the intentional messaging that happens. The clear expectations that reinforce cultures of inclusion, but those are so important, because I've seen a lot of companies Sejal get their policies, right, their policies are stacked. But you know, they put them out and like and then show that you read this, you know what I mean? And I do think and you know, and I might be in the minority on this. We got to have incredible policy that that's important. It's it's big to protect from liability. It's important to set clear expectations, but how we communicate that, you know, we have to find positive ways to talk about these issues. So we put people's guard down, and Brene Brown would talk about bringing their armor down, to have it fully embraced and supported, right. And so that's really important to buy- in to it is, is very important. If we have people resistant to it, we got to deal with that. But the way we roll these things out, is also important. And it can't be something that we sign off on once a year and a policy update. It has to be something that's in our culture, and that we see and feel each and every day. Proactive communication, I believe, is a leaders greatest tool. One of the greatest tools at least. And, and especially now as people are disconnected. We've got to communicate, communicate, communicate. So as we look at COVID, and we look at not just not just women, but men, as well, everybody, it's tough, right? Like everybody's going through it, we were just talking before we're coming on this podcast, I'm gonna take a little trip finally get away. Um, it's tough on, it' tough on all of us, you know, you need to get that you need to recharge, and you just don't ever get to get away when you and your family are locked up in the house like we like we have been. So this this proactive communication is key thinking about how do we support people's mental health? Right, and this is something across the board for both, but good EPA, good EAP programs, especially employee assistance programs are so essential. And just really making people feel supported. If as leaders, if you know, I know. And we've been incredibly flexible, but if we had any of our employees, but but especially female or female employees in leadership positions common talk about the idea that they're thinking about stepping away or reducing their role, we need to hit the pause button and say, hey, look, we're here to support you, we've got your back, you're in this position for a reason, you're valuable, what is it that we need to do to make this work? And I think that that becomes super, super important. I think it's important for all of our people. But I think it's especially important in this as we face that great threat.

Sejal Thakkar:

Yeah, and I'll just the only thing I'm going to add to what you just said is that, you know, with same thing, like you said, with the policy with ERG's, right, employees need to understand that they have an ERG, first of all, what and make those at you know, make sure there's awareness about the ERG and what it offers, because a lot of times employees don't even know, you know, that it's available, or what it what it is. So you want to open up the lines of communication, and I and I also think another really good. And as you were talking, this just kind of like popped into my head is really and I'm gonna start saying this more, but I think it's important to encourage senior leadership to really start mentoring and even sponsoring people within the organization. You know, I think there's like this huge rush right now, where people are just kind of looking out, okay, who do we bring in to help us who do we bring in to do this and it's like, look inside, and build your talent that you already have, you know, that's, that's not something that we can do. And it helps the people that are already in the organization. And it's something as simple as, ask them, ask them, what is it that they, you know, figure out what your employees want to do? What motivates them? And it's okay, you know, I think we get too stuck in we we put people in a position, and then they're like, married to it, they don't have to be married to it, you know, you can move people around and, and people might say, you know what, I want to do more of this now. But work with what you have, because we've pigeon holed people, you know, and people have other skills and other talents, tap into that, if you can, if you have the flexibility to be able to do that.

Danny Langloss:

Yeah, no, no, absolutely. Absolutely. So we're talking about Sejal Thakkar and having a great conversation about about gender equality specifically in the workplace. You know, the the first and foremost thing we got to do is really understand unconscious bias, understand what our unconscious biases are, understand confirmation bias and some of the other things or social biases we have, we've got to be intentional about creating a culture, we've got to have those policies in place, we do have to understand what the law is around it. But doing it for the right reason, instead of the reason to protect ourselves is such an important thing. That all human beings deserve to be treated fairly, right. They deserve to be treated with dignity, they deserve to have the same opportunity. And in creating environments like this, and continuing to move forward and incredible progress has been made. And and continuing on is such an important important thing. You know, one last thing I want to touch on, before we close up and maybe get a call to action is as we're in the middle of COVID. And and this relates to all of our people, strengthening that employee communication. When employees get surprised by decision making at work, they're three times more likely to be unhappy with their job. If they if they don't feel like it's fair and just there, they're three and a half more times likely to engage in unethical behavior and not act with the hand the purpose of truth, justice and purpose. And we need to be sharing more regular updates, starting with "Why" be inclusive and decision making understand what's happening boots on the ground. Understand the challenges that are faced by our team members. And specifically in this area, because the research is showing it, like we're in jeopardy of losing a lot of ground in this area of gender equality in the workplace, and really equal, you know, toward towards an equal representation. Because of COVID. Because, you know, women in the workforce are disproportionately impacted by COVID. And all the things that happen with that, is we, as we wrap up here,Sejal, do you have a call to action or something that that you want to wrap up with?

Sejal Thakkar:

Yeah, you know, I mean, I would just tell leaders look, you know, this is a challenging time, right. And I say, you know, there is lots of negativity out there does, you know, you might, you might have the best intentions, and then people are saying, You're not doing enough, you know, don't worry about the critics, you know, don't worry about those cynics. I mean, just keep moving in that direction. Take steps and start with yourself, we need the leaders to start with themselves by looking inwards, and figuring out, you know, who they are, what their blind spots are. But then also empower your team to do the same. Make sure they feel supported, make sure that it's a priority, you know, it's like you can't fix a problem until you identify it. So take the time to ask them. And as you know, empower them to do the work so that they do the inner work. And then we can really make the culture stronger, diverse, inclusive, and hopefully, where people feel like they can bring their authentic selves to work.

Danny Langloss:

Yeah, amazing, great way to bring this to a close. We look at modern leadership and the concept and idea of leading the whole person. People want to feel safe, they want to be able to come to work, they don't want to come to work and be somebody at work. that's different than than who they are away from work. They want to be able to bring their whole selves to work. So many important important things. Sejal, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate you coming on and talking about this important topic and enlightening us and, and opening our eyes and our minds to continue on some incredible strides that have been made, you know, especially over this last decade.

Sejal Thakkar:

Oh, thank you for having me and keep up the amazing work. You know, I've listened to many of your podcasts now. And I just I love the conversations you're doing, you're addressing issues head on. And this is what we need to do. We need to raise awareness of these issues in an authentic way to encourage leaders to keep doing you know, to adapt, I think that's what we're doing is we're trying to say we need to adapt to where we are right now. So keep up the good work.

Danny Langloss:

Now. Thank you. I really appreciate it. If you enjoyed the episode today, you know, consider hitting the subscribe button, leave a rating or a review. It helps us reach more people organically. If you want to know more about Sejal in the work she's doing. That's going to be linked within the podcast notes. And you know, there's so much work she's doing this idea and concept of civility in the workplace, we'll probably come back around and talk to her about that specifically, like I said, today's episode is something that is just so so important. It's important to Sejal, it's one of my passions, when I look at my passions and around social justice, protecting children, helping people with with mental illness or substance use disorder, you know, leadership because I think leadership is what's going to solve all of these things. I just, it's just such an honor to have Sejal here with us, you know, talking and taking a deep dive into this gender equality in the workplace. The good news is we've made a lot of progress. The bad news is COVID has really created a big threat to that progress. And the other opportunity is we still got a ways to go. We shouldn't rest on anything that's happened. And we're seeing incredible, incredible results from this progress. The idea, the idea that women who are represented by 50% of the team or in leadership roles, outperform other teams by 50%. We're talking about profits, we're talking about productivity, we're talking about innovation, we're talking about creativity, so many reasons. So again to listeners, thank you for joining us today and remember, always be committed to excellence.