Agile-Lean Ireland (ALI) Podcast

Fireside chat with Vessy Tasheva - Agile Lean Ireland

July 07, 2022 Agile-Lean Ireland Episode 5
Agile-Lean Ireland (ALI) Podcast
Fireside chat with Vessy Tasheva - Agile Lean Ireland
Show Notes Transcript

Vessy Tasheva
Founder & CEO of (global DEIB and Mental Health consultancy)
Originally Bulgarian and based out of Ireland, I work with clients across Europe and North America such as Soundcloud, Reward Gateway, Typeform and more, and now expanding in Latin America. 
I authored two editions of my independent international Diversity in the Workplace Report (2019 edition featuring 10 companies from 10 countries: and 2020 edition featuring 10 companies from 10 industries:, along with a whitepaper on How To Drive Measurable Results in D&I with OKRs.
I was named by Hive Learning as one of 2019’s most influential D&I Leaders globally and as one of the UK’s most influential D&I leaders in 2020. In 2021 I was listed by Onalytica in Top 50 D&I Influencers globally. In 2021, was featured in Top 10 of Emerging Diversity & Inclusion Companies in Europe by Manage HR Magazine.
In April 2020 I launched a video course on Inclusive Leadership on SocialTalent, learning platform, where the course ranked as #2 in the Most Watched course for the month of May.
In the last 11 years, prior to being a founder, I have worked as Chief Strategy Officer of a talent tech startup, as well as in various roles across product, marketing, and culture in companies between 4 and 800 employees.
Our team is growing - check out the careers page on
After completing a certified course in Psychotherapy & Counselling with PCI College in Ireland and authoring a paper on Intersectionality, Privilege, and Otherness in Psychotherapy, I am now studying in Trinity College in Dublin to complete a masters of science in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in order to examine D&I in the field of psychotherapy and to develop an intersectional approach to D&I through mental health as a unifying factor for all employees in an increasingly polarized world.

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Hi vessi. Thank you very much for joining. Me here today.
Hi, Joanna.
Bessie, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what you're doing and where? Where's your focus and so on.
Yeah. Hi, I'm Bessie I run my own consultancy. Folks on diversity and inclusion and mental health. I often work on the intersection of those. Stu, I work with companies across Europe and North America. Some of those are SoundCloud type form reward gateway. I don't only work with tech companies, I I work across industries as well. So I find I can bring the most value to my clients when. They can bring knowledge from various industries and geographies.
Lovely. Thanks very much Basil and Vasi. I wanted to talk to you today. We met first time when you help us out with Adrian Island Conference to bring a a bit more diversity into the conference. And I was inspired by some of the conversations that we had. Because I kind of understood that diversity is important. But it was like common sense, you know, it's important because I believe everybody should have the same rights, but that was it. And then when I was talking to you, I discover there is so much more to it. And I was inspired and I thought maybe you could share those thoughts so people can understand. More about the topic. Let's see. Do you want to do we want to do we want to start maybe with the benefits? What benefits we can gain by looking at the diversity, inclusion in our environments? Because it's not only about workplaces, it's about and communities or you know, any environment that we are in.
Well, the the first thing is really to see how. You know, before even looking at the general benefits. Is how does diversity inclusion relates to our? Question. So that would be the first point. The second one is to look at how does diversity and inclusion related to the values that we have as an organisation or as an initiative, you know conference or a company, whatever it is, then we need to see how it relates to our team. You know our employees respecting it. Or our customers or end users so. When we look at all of those, yes, one of them is, you know, creating equal opportunities for people. So it's something that's, you know, the right thing to do, but there are many things beyond that. So let's say people who are on the team, you know, how do we attract them? Do we have a diverse team? Because then that not really shapes the products that we create and the customers that we can have, but also not just having a. Diverse team do we? You know, are we good at? You know, retaining this team, so let's say you're an engineering team where they're, I don't know, five men and one woman. It's very hard to be that one person. So if you're that one person, like does, does that woman leave? Is she, is she happy in this? Team is it? Is there like macho culture? Does it feel like a boys club? And these are. It's a bit of a cliche saying those things at the same time. When I do interviews with employees from companies where they experience things like that, these are the the very words. These are the very experiences that they have. So it's real. For people feeling. Excluded on a daily basis in non aggressive ways. So you know the other part is might not feel like they're. Doing something wrong? So it has to do with, you know, retention. Of the team sometimes. You can see that even on the founders. Team level in in smaller organisations. Then you know, having diverse perspectives means that we can create more innovative products. We can collaborate better. It can be also more challenging, but the, you know the reward is there, then we we understand more diverse markets. So we can reach more people or we can even strategically add people to our team or teams to understand new cultures. From your perspective. To strategically go for those markets. So I really like this example with Swede Bank. So they're a bank out of Sweden, they operate in the politics and their motto is the the, they're the Bank of the money. So it's the Bank of the many. They ensure that their employees mirror. They're customer base, but when I say they're customer base, it's not just the existing customer base because it was that you know it would be like mostly Swedish people when then Swedish people on the place side, but they were actually looking at the demographics of Sweden and then they said, well, they're 10% of the citizens now that they're non Swedish, we should have at least 10% reflecting that because when people come in. You know, they walk into the branch or they go on the website, and if they only see people who are not like them, then this is not the bank for people like them, right? So let's say, you know, a. Ally is a. Is A is a. Is a conference. So when people come to your website or when they come to your event. And you know, they only see people who. Don't look like them. That will be very excluding. They were like ohh you know, let's say ohh this is. Just oh, this is. Just for men or? I wouldn't really be welcome. Here it doesn't mean that every single. Woman will think that way. Or if I see that. Everyone looks very like heteronormative, like my God. There is like there. Are no gay people like? You know or and and it's not. Sometimes it's not even that it will discourage me from coming to the event or attending. I might come, but I might not feel like I can be fully immersed into the experience. So now it actually affects the value that you can create and what I take away from the event for myself, right? Do I have? Like will I give you like a score of 6 out of 10 or will I give you a nine out of 10 and it might be something that. I haven't even. Defined in a super conscious way. Because you know, it's it's all on zoom, you know, everyone has an equal experience. But do I feel represented on stage be that the virtual physical stage? So those would. Be some of. The things so at the end it it actually reflects on profit, if it doesn't reflect on revenue. Sometimes it reflects on. You know, it comes from retention. So attrition cost that we have saved on from employees or from actually keeping our customers in anyway it's it's there. There's a there is a leaking pipeline. If we, you know, a leaking bucket. If you want. If we are focused on attracting people. And you know as. You said we know diversity is important, but we don't quite get the rest of the picture. So then we keep bringing leads or, you know, talent. But then they they just. Here, because we're not doing a good job at keeping. Them so we need.
To do both. Yeah. Thanks very much, Betsy. And I just would like to clarify something because it hit me, I think during the first conversation with you because now here we are giving examples again about tech industry conference like mail dominated industry. But for me what? Talk during our first conversation, it was every. Every situation it's it's an opportunity to look. Does everybody here looks like me if the if that's the case, then there is no diversity. And for example and I'm using that now in every situation. So for example, I'm on the parent Association Committee for my son's school and we are all females in similar. Wait. All right. I'm like, OK, everybody looks like me. Where's the diversity? You go to higher, maybe department. And then there's one man. E-mail OK, there is no diversity there either. The diversity. Basically what what I'm trying to say diversity is like if people look like alike, there is no diversity. So it's not only looking about female male colour or gender, but it's like age, disability. It stretches so much.
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
To to have that that full range and that was something what you opened my eyes to it. It's not about male, you know, it's not like 3 categories. You know, male, female, colour, ethnicity and maybe. You know, like it's it's it's it's much more broader than. That, and I just wanted to clarify it.
Yeah, yeah.
Because very often.
Yeah, they're both. 1516 categories and when I work with clients. We look at. All of those, it doesn't mean we pay the, you know, the same attention to all of them. So, for example, in the US, you know, if you're a veteran is something that would be an important area in Europe. It's not that much of A. Topic or like we don't have that many veterans, so it's not something that we would be working on, but it's still just in case we're still looking to it.
Yeah, but it's like basically what I'm trying to say that you can look at diversity in every situation in your life. Who are your neighbours? Who are, you know, kids in the school with your kid, you with your child? Like diversity is absolutely everywhere and it's it's since talking with you. I start actually spotting that.
And there's a great exercise here, very quick. Maybe you can do it with your team. It's called the circle of trust. So you put down the names of your closest people in your life except for your partner or spouse. Is a girl. And then you go through a few categories of diversity like diversity dimensions, and you put a tick, let, let's say, you know, let's say both of us are white. So I'll put a tick, you know, etcetera. Like for gender tonality. So you, you know, you can decide on the list and then you look at how many ticks you got, the more ticks. You got next to the names. Means the less they verse your group of people is so then how? You know it. It it it talks about affinity bias. We all prefer people like ourselves cause we feel more comfortable. It's it's instinctive, it's subconscious, but it also helps to see. Ohh OK, so actually I haven't made an effort but also my life hasn't exposed me to people that are different from me. That does impact how I do hiring. Or you know what, I don't know. Speakers, I want to bring to, you know, to my conference or whatever it is. So. It's a good place to reflect on that.
Yeah, perfect. Thank you very much. And in order to think what I would like to mention, because I think that's that's, I'm not sure if this is a well known fact is that. In current times, we can compete by innovation and the I would say the innovation thrives on diversity. Would you agree with that?
Yeah. And and sometimes I find. Myself, being like a one person company like I don't, I don't go get those other, you know, ideas different from mine within my team because I'm a team of 1. Like I work with partners when. I deliver work. For for clients, but sometimes I miss that so. Then if I had hired. People who are like me, they they would have similar or the same ideas as me, so I still wouldn't have those, you know, new ideas. So I'm trying to, you know, look at ways to to get access to those ideas. But absolutely we we need diverse themes.
Yeah. And that's very, very, very important because those are like tangible benefits for somebody who who is looking and. You know, sometimes, yes, we know what's right, but we have no time for that. So this this topic always is kind of skipped, you know, because you know, we are under pressure, we have no time. So I I would like to like could we just put you know I know it's like simplifying the issue into the points but like give few benefits if there's a hiring manager and now it's in the position of hiring. You know what benefits they tangible benefits they might gain by looking at diversity and actually investing time in that.
Well, think about it as any other projects you can, you can calculate the you know the return on on this investment, but you can also look at what are the costs so. You know, as you said, it affects the innovation. If you hire the same. People, you will have a stable approach. You won't be as adaptable cause all of those people you have like when you're facing a crisis, you wouldn't have a lot of options how to. Go about the. Crisis when you have more opinions you have or you know more different opinions you will be in a better place. But you know if if we're looking at numbers, we can talk about cost of attrition. We can look at opportunity to capture a new market, understanding better new customer segment. It's it's, it's about going and actually doing the maths, doing our homework.
Perfect. Thank you very much and something what you a bit tapped on in your previous few minutes ago you were talking about? I think enhancing somebody experience, so helping people to feel belonging somewhere and something. What what what's really stroke me in your in your report so a 2020 diversity in the workplace report. I really like how you. Diversity and inclusion with the mental health because obviously it has a huge impact of people. Mental well-being as well. Would you like to explore that area for shortly?
Yeah. Yeah. And just for context, the report was published in February 2020, so it was before the pandemic. And yeah, it was really interesting to observe from the 2019 report where mental health was ranking in the last position, 12th at the time. Then in early 2020, so before the pandemic like started in in Europe and North America, it was in the 7th place. And since March last year, so March 2020, it has been in the 1st place and I see that among my clients, I see that among their employees and it's incredible to see. Something like people who have never felt, you know, have never experienced anxiety or depression or any level of. You know, burnout are now. Facing those and I think it helps for building empathy and recognising some people have been struggling with this their whole life, but also mental health is something that we all have. Regardless of where it is like, do I have a good mental health or do I feel anxious right now whatever? Or do I have a mental illness and it's very similar and it's the same as our physical health? So it's a unifying factor. But also, if we approach diversity inclusion from a mental health perspective, then it can allow us to have, you know, this, like intersectional approach where. Yeah, like different, you know, let's say parents or caregivers or single parents would have more specific needs that will be around mental health. So maybe, you know, you need some some kind of support with giving a child minder, for example, plus mental health, you know, let's say. Getting your therapy, you know, covered or whatever it is. Well, someone who's, like, younger, you know, for them mental health would be part of doing sports. Cause maybe that's more immediate. It does the job for them. They might be interested in counselling, maybe not. But that will. Keep them in a good place, right? I'm. I'm going for a bit like stereotypical. Examples here, but you know if we compare it to physical like health insurance, you know. Someone who's younger, they want to go to the gym, they want to have disposable income. They don't care so much about, like pension, healthcare, insurance. But when they're in their 30s, Forties, 50s, those things change a lot. So. Here we can also think about how can we have like a la carte benefits. So there is a dedicated budget per employee and how do we distribute that and maybe they create their own menu in a sense. You know they can pick and choose which ones should be part of of their budget instead of getting benefits for things they won't use. Like if I don't have a car, why? Why do I need benefits related to a car when I can? You know, let's say move it towards my health insurance or expense, my therapy sessions or whatever it is.
Yeah, thanks very much. So it's basically. Enhancing our uniqueness and just acting on different needs and and diversity has here is the key as well, which is like I find it fascinating that since I was talking to you probably a year ago or even a little bit more than that, I've noticed like the diversities everywhere. And before I would just box it to one section workplace, you know, and it's. And now I I just see it absolutely everywhere. Firstly, another question I would have because that was an eye opener for me as well. During our first conversation. Can you tell me a little bit more about inclusive language because I start catching myself and now I'm I'm speaking and I'm correcting myself and something that before I that would be an A complete abstract to me and I was misusing. The language a lot before would you be able to tell us a little bit about inclusive language and give maybe some examples so people can understand that better.
Let me let. Me. Ask you what? What did you say?
So very often I was addressing I I work in IT. So when I was addressing the team very often I would say guys. Now I always say guys and ladies, even though I sometimes I have to correct myself. So it's like guys and then sorry and ladies, but for example I'm much more aware of. I don't use the words like policemen. Now I use police officer and you know, so I I would be much more sensitive towards gender bias terminology. Just to to I also I also understood more and and especially now in the context of what's happening in the states, we would have some in Polish language we would have some common phrases which are which are not politically correct and I don't use them anymore. And the same like the same like in in in English language there are some phrases that I don't think I think should be replied.
You know what? It's interesting what you're saying there about guys and ladies like. I would I wouldn't identify as a lady, so if I am on your team and you say guys and ladies are like, why are You assuming I'm?
A lady. OK, so you know, that's what I said. So you tell me. How it you.
Know works, so no, no, I'm. You know. I'm. I'm. Challenging you cuz sometimes I go to meetings and you know there will be a guy. Trying to be very respectful and maybe there will be also a woman on on the call and who say hi ladies, you know, thank you for joining. You'll be very you know. More than respectful, he would like be celebrating us in a. Way and I'm like I. I never identified as a lady, so it's funny, it actually like he's trying, but it's actually doing the opposite.
OK, so So what should be So what should? I use like. High team high like going with morning because actually I'm very lucky because at the moment. And I'm working. People have those prefixes. So you know it's a he. Him, she her understand. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah. So you know, like how people identify. But I exactly understand where you're coming from. So when you are in the group situation that you don't know people's identity, sexual identity, then sort of not say gender identity. So then how do you address them? Hi, Tim. Hi, everybody. How how? How would you make it in?
Yeah. Hey, everyone. Hi. Hey, team. Hi all. You know anything that's that is kind of gender neutral because you might think that, yeah, like, someone identifies a certain gender because maybe they look like that gender, but they don't necessarily identify as that. Under other non binary or I'm pretty sure they're women who don't. I, you know, I, you know, wake up in the morning thinking I'm a I'm a lady, you know? They just. You know, maybe they identify as a woman, but ladies a bit different it for me personally, Lady suggests a level of femininity that I never related to. So I identify as non binary. I am comfortable when people. Use they or she. So if someone refers to me. As a woman like I'm. Fine with that, but. If it's a lady, I'm a bit like. Well, now, now that's that's an assumption. I don't think I look like a lady. You know what I mean? Like, I'm kind of like, imagine I was like, you know, someone in the long dress, like Jane hair and like, no, I didn't pick up flowers on my way to work this morning.
Like, you know, like Kieran likely.
Hey so so.
Yeah. So.
So be more neutral.
You can experiment. OK. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. And you can you can ask people. It's great that you have the pronouns in in place. So. You can be more. Aware because it becomes even trickier when you know we talk about someone and do we say he or she or they so absolutely look at the pronouns. Also when you talk to. About people you're not sure about their pronouns. It it is better to use they people will know you're talking about. You know who you're talking about. But for example, if I'm talking about you and I'm not sure about your pronouns, I can say, well, I spoke to Joanna, you know, they had a a few questions this morning. We're recorded the interview, etc. You know people will not jump to any specific conclusion. I'm just not aware of your files.
Lovely. And can you can you quickly also? Explain why it is important to use inclusive language.
See, many people say ohh this is not politically correct and you for example you said it early and I'm. Thinking no, it's. It's not about political correctness, it's about. Showing respect, paying respect to people. So if you know if I call you, I don't know, Jennifer, it will be disrespectful cause that's not your. Name I can make. I can genuinely make the mistake. You know where it could be? I don't know. Auto correct it to Jennifer. But you're not Jennifer. So if I call you Jennifer, it's not true. So I should recognise my mistake, correct myself, and make sure that I don't do it again. And and and that's it. So you're not. Picky or too sensitive for something for telling me? That's not your name. It's just the fact. So it's similar when we, you know, when we use pronouns or when we use any kind of. Language that reflects how people identify. So for example, we could see someone who has dark skin. It doesn't mean that they identify as black, for example. Or we can see someone who is mixed race, but maybe they prefer a different term that that could be. We can. We can be. Seeing them as the mixed race for. Example, but maybe they? Identify as flat. Or maybe they identify as colour because they have been brought up in South Africa and. It has a different meaning, like what colours would be inappropriate in other parts of the world in. South Africa it it it is. It is a thing like it it it makes sense, it's not disrespectful. So it's important to see how people identify. We can ask them, you know, you know, you wouldn't go to someone and be like, so you identify as a man, as a or as a woman. You can ask, what are your pronouns? Yeah, that, that's political. That's that's a polite way. Respectful way to to ask them about gender identity. But you know, I wouldn't be like hey. Joanna like, do you think you're a man or a woman? Like, that's that doesn't just make sense. That's like, so are you, Jennifer and Joanna like, you know, you're Joanna. And it's for me to find out you're Joanna. Or to recognise even if I don't have to like find out. So how do I dress you without? Forcing you to maybe like disclose things that are not related to that. So let's say for trans people it's it's their business how far they're into their transition or how far they want to go, how. What they feel comfortable with, what you're interested in is if you're addressing them in the way. That is the preferred way. That is the way that's respectful to how they identify, just like anyone else. If you're John, you want to be called John because you're John. It's it's that simple. So it comes from simplicity and respect. Anyone who complains that this is hard is just being disrespectful and. Lazy in in how they treat other people.
Umm. And again, this is about making sure that everybody feels the sense of well-being and belonging, and I really like because I think that's the phrase I pick up from your report. They feel they can be themselves. And that's that's that's very important and they say I'm very cautious of the time. Do you have time for one more question?
Yeah, sure.
Uh, so, because this is something what really. And thanks very much for correcting me. I've again walking away from the session with some homework and thinking to do and actions, and we meet next time I will, I will, you know, report on my progress.
Yeah, I think it's important that, you know, you know that I'm not in a role where I'm, like correcting you. You, you're interested in learning and you're. And you're saying, hey, this is how far I am in my learning. This is what I'm saying and you're and you're looking for feedback. So that's. Why? You know it, it's not coming across as like I'm correcting your policing because you want to know, you know it. It's hard to tell to people who who are not interested in knowing cause then they might get defensive, but also we all make mistakes. So it's about what we do with mistakes. It's we're humans. We make mistakes, right? So we should not avoid talking about any of those topics just for the sake of not making mistakes. We we. By making mistakes. So let's make mistakes. But when we make a mistake, what do we do with it? How do we react? Do we own it or do we say, oh, come on, you know this is too much and we give up. Or do we say OK. Yeah, OK. I can get a bit better with this and this. And we just learn.
Yeah, and she said I'm coming from the right place. My heart is in the right place, but I'm sure I'll find it. Many people by now. Just, you know, saying wrong things. But like, I am trying and, you know, and, you know, I can only do my best. One thing what I would like to talk to you, one more thing is that because this is something that really opened my eyes. And I see. And I really understood what you know, it's not only about diversity, it's also about inclusion and how that works. And since I was. Talking to you. You know, before I'm involved in organising a conference and then. We were like, OK, we cannot do anything because we are not getting you. Know we we. We we are open for calls for speakers, we're looking for speakers just you know we can select for who we have there like we cannot make miracles diversity. It's not there in our responses like we cannot do anything about that one. And then I understood like. You completely changed my mind about that one. It's inclusion. It's not. You know, it's it's proactive. So sometimes you need to step forward and help people to get to some stage. You know, you might look for people or you might help people to get to the quality level that you need, but. It's being proactive, it's not reactive, it's not being on the, you know, the fence. I couldn't promote anybody because, you know, I don't have anybody here. You know who who? Is different. You know the diversity. I don't have diversity in the team. It's about actually proactively looking and addressing that. And that was so that completely changed my mind because now I know my role is not to sit and wait, but actually to be active. And look, look, look for if I want to. If I believe this is important, I have to. I have responsibility to actively do something about that one.
Yeah. Yeah, well, it's not true that we create networks that reflect on who we are as people and what our backgrounds are, right. So depending on which university I graduated, a lot of my friends. Would be from the same university or? You know the companies where I work most. Of those people would be. And the companies where I work, and naturally they're very similar to me. So when everyone bring. And their own surrounding. And you know, we refer friends for jobs in places where we work. We keep surrounding ourselves, so it adds layers and layers and layers, so, you know. The the people. Who will be pitching to you to be speakers on on your conference? They will be. An extent there will be. Other in your immediate network. Or in the network of your network. So. A proxy of who you are, where you have studied work. You know what you have had access to, etc. So it's very hard to break that unless we make a conscious, very intentional, proactive effort and that's why we need to go beyond our ways of doing things. So yeah, it's very easy for, you know, if you and I work, we'll, we'll. Together on something we'll we'll get. Let's say, like women are non binary people interested. But if it's a if, it's a team of men only, they will not really attract a lot of men because also men will feel more see the the opportunity is more appealing. One of the companies that I featured in my 2019 report, they were very open how they struggled with. To their founding team was very diverse. Then they their for like maybe up until there were 20 people. They had a very diverse team. It was one of the. Values of the founders. But when they were hiring for head. Rows like you. Know head of Engineering, head of Product, head of Marketing et cetera. And like oh. We need to. We need to pick really experienced people. They picked great professionals. What they overlooked was that all of the five heads were all, you know, straight white men, you know, well educated. So they were the same profile. And what happened was that the people that they brought on board was very much a reflection of that. Everyone was a great professional, right? So from a company that had diversity at the. Core of their value. Because they didn't. Insure for any they were still on. That on that head level. Now approaching 100 people, they just ended up with a very homogeneous workplace and now it was in 20/19. It was becoming very hard for them to. You know, do something that was not reflective. So the current situation was not reflective of the core, but they had to go. Well beyond to actually compensate for that and try. To to fix. That with the with the people that were employing, but then the problem is you have. You you like that? Like mid management or leadership that is actually diverse. So when people join they they might think ohh you know this is not a company where everyone can progress. It's only for some. People, I don't see any heads in any of the departments that are, you know, women or people of colour, etcetera. So there isn't that much opportunity for me to grow. So I'll stay here for. A year, then. I'm going to leave. I'll maybe I'll go somewhere. Where there is. More of an. Opportunity. So it's something that we need to. Work on every day. It's very. Much like sales or marketing. You don't do sales or marketing once a year or for one quarter one project and then you forget about it for the rest of the year or maybe even skip a year. You you do it every day, everything, every small decision actually contributes to that and that's why it's complex. It's similar to. Like being a Chief Diversity officer is very similar to being a Chief Innovations officer. You're transforming your organisation. Is it a digital transformation or a cultural transformation? Now there is the problem that those two would have very different budgets. They would have a very different recognition and a very different sense of urgency in the eyes of the leaders. But the complexity, the scope. And the potential benefits are comparable.
OK. Thanks very much Vasi for clarifying that. And this is something that really relates to me because I've noticed working in technology, for example, I've noticed that you have loads of women in the middle management, but that doesn't translate when you go level up. And I was always thinking like what's happened, like how those numbers do not add up that you have such a broad. Range of female employees at this level. But they they they there is something, you know, this bridge is missing and it's sometimes it's just as simple as, you know. We know that you know somebody will be retiring or something will need a head of the partner something. And now we can actually proactively think about preparing our internal talent so they can step. Up in the future to fill that role. So and that was something what I took away from talking to you and was huge. I opener for me.
Well, the glass ceiling is a thing. So you know when, when, when women are the primary caregivers, you end up with a workload that is invisible to your colleagues, often even to your family, because it's seen as something that should be doing by default. But then also in the workplace. You know, let's say if you're in your mid 30s. Employers can be looking at she was like, oh, you know, maybe we should not be promoting you cause you might be expecting a kid. We might be expecting a second or third, whatever you might be planning for. And let's say so regardless of whether a woman actually decides to, you know, have kids. It can already be impacting her career and when she she does go on maternity leave coming back from it. How how much support does she get and how much transparency there is and trust in the communication with her direct manager? So does my career journey go back to exactly where I left? As if you know, let's say I've been away for six months or a year, does it start from there or is there some kind of? Direct or indirect? Punishment for having been away. And it's not that managers do that intentionally, they they just see it as well. You need time to catch up so everything gets delayed. What else you might be seeing is, like not dedicated enough for things like that that sometimes can be coming from. Why this in another case it's like no, we need to, you know, maybe maybe I need a bit more time coming back to the job to, you know, catch up. But you know, give me a couple of months. Give me 6. Months. Let's talk about. Let's create a plan for what I need to do. How much this change depending on if I was away for two weeks or two years and and and how. How quickly I can go back to specifically where I left and then ensure that I still have the same opportunities for career progression that we discussed before I left. I think it's very important that. When women have those conversations, everything is in writing so that we can refer back to those meetings before. We said we were. Pregnant and we can we can reflect on them once we're back and say, yeah, I want. I want to talk about the same career progression. I'm just as interested in all of this.
Yeah. As you said, it's so complex, but what you're saying it's resonates with me a lot because I was in that place. I was in the place that when I had my child, I didn't post anything on social media. I was hiding. Basically the fact I'm a mom. I asked my family never to mention that I'm a mom on on social media. It was like that was awful. And then when my career was a bit more established, now my approach is completely different, but it's because I feel confident. I am very upfront my child is 1st and either you like me or not. That's how that's the order of things. Yeah. But I was able to do that only when my career got established. So in the beginning, it was like I remember being, you know, in this awful position, you know, hiding that you are mom lying about it. That your mom, which is awful. Which is awful, you know? And that was even. It's very interesting because recently I was involved in the interview with somebody with a company abroad, because now everything can happen remotely and how the laws are different. And this lady was asking me those questions. I answered the first I answered the 2nd and the third one I. Like, do you know that all those questions you're asking me now? Like you cannot legally ask me those questions. And and that like. And I remember I'm old enough to remember also that when I was young in Poland, like, people would openly ask you in the interview. So you they want disclaimer that you won't have kids. So change, change. You know things change hugely since then, but still there's lots of discriminations for mothers for single parents. And yeah, so that the last talk really resonated with me.
That's why it's very powerful that you know, when you have the speakers on stage or you have people in leadership roles in the company, they're open about being being parents, especially now with their single daughter they're taking. Turning to leave etcetera. So in a a few people in in type form at the moment in leadership roles home and are taking paternity leave and that sends. Such a strong message. Because people know that, you know, let's say the City Hall is on a paternity leave, or that someone very senior on the people team is on a on a paternity leave. It sends a message. You can do that. You should do that. And and it has a it has a domino effect. If you see that other men are doing it, maybe you as a man. Recognise ohh, I should be doing it when my partner, regardless of whether it's like you know, same sex couple or not and and you should take your time as well. Yeah, but then for the women in their organisations, it communicates. I should be expecting that with my from my partner as well we should be having this conversation. So it's very empowering for for everyone.
Yeah, and it's, I truly believe in what you are saying. It's raw, you know, modelling the behaviours because it's extremely difficult. I know of you men who took life to look after the kids and then they were struggling the same way that women are struggling because they were seen as uneducated, which is absolutely bizarre. You know, they were dedicated to the most important role on the planet. And now they they, you know, they their kids are a bit bigger, they are happy to go back to the workforce and they they they were definitely discriminated against. So it's a it's a it's a you know. Very, I think this topic probably resonates to the most. Maybe not most, but majority and people really can resonate to it.
Yeah. Yeah. And I think it's, it's it's awful that you were put in a position where you thought you have to buy many people who are gay and maybe they were out in college. Then when they go to their first job, go back to the closet because they don't want to be discriminated against. And of course it's different industry by industry, geography by geography. UM. But it it's a very similar experience you you feel proud of yourself. You're doing something very important in your life. It's constructive. Step forward. It's it's so meaningful, you know being. A parent or coming out and then. You know, almost like discrediting yourself. It's like you're not. Like it it it? It's. I don't know if you were probably facing really complex feelings. I I would, I would imagine.
Yeah. So it's, you know it's it's a big topic. But probably you know those feelings are good because it opened my I can empathise because those are, you know, those are feelings in one area of discrimination, but they are obviously it translates to other areas as well. So it helped me to be a better person. And better leader definitely so and definitely. Motivates me to be to take active part in changing how we create our environment.
So that that was a good, you know, that was the good outcome of it. Thank you very much for for your time. Mercy I very much appreciate it. It was, as usual, very informative for me.
Thanks for having me, Joanna. Real pleasure.