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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I’m Susan White, a national HR consultant, and I’m here with JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of the “JoyPowered®” workspace, the inspiration for this podcast series.
Today we’re going to talk about issues, challenges, and opportunities women face in the workplace. Some of them are the same as men’s, but others are unique and worth talking through. JoDee, as a woman who has built a successful public accounting and human resources career, have you felt women have some different challenges than men as they progress in the business world?
Well, absolutely, I think it happens, and I don’t…I don’t want to in any stretch imply that they’re not out there or that they aren’t happening, but I have to admit, Susan, that in my career, I can’t…I can’t say that I really had any significant challenges with this. And I started…I graduated from college and started in public accounting in 1985, and interestingly, that was about the year – maybe 1984, 1985 – when women really started joining the ranks of public accountants. Not that, of course, there weren’t any women in it.
But I bet you were a minority.
Yeah, absolutely. Almost every single one of my leaders, managers, partners in the firm were men. But interestingly, we had a firm, probably at that time, maybe, of about 600 people, and there was only one female partner in the office.
And I worked with her.
Oh, my gosh.
She was…not just in the office, but in the entire firm. And she was such a role model and mentor to me from day one that it just really made such a positive impact for me. But what do you think, Susan?
Well, you know, as I reflect back on my career, I spent most of it in a Fortune 50 publicly traded company. I, you know, I think I was always conscious of my gender. Now, I did start in the work world a little earlier than you did, so maybe I was a little more…more of a minority in the in the business world. But I always tried to be very conscious and careful about how I projected myself as a professional first. I tried to minimize the…I guess, the female component of it, because I wasn’t so sure that it was acceptable or really as respected as…as I would hope it would be. Sadly, I think I probably was not really bringing my authentic self, because I was concerned about maybe showing too much emotion or too much compassion. So when things got tough, you know, I tried to really get tougher. Now, I can’t say I always was able to pull it off, but I was really reluctant to show true emotion in the workplace.
And what about just going back one step, Susan. In college, were there a lot of women in your business classes in college?
No, not really. In fact, I can recall, I would say we probably were about 20, 25% of the business school at the time. I was actually, my senior year, I was president of Women in Business, and we were, I mean, pretty small group. Active but small. Yeah.
See, I think for me, again, that was the time when about 50% of accounting, or maybe even the business…probably not the business school as a whole, but the accounting classes were 50% women. So I don’t…I think I was so naive, I didn’t even think about thinking that I needed to worry about my gender in the workplace.
I’m convinced it’s because of your positivity was one of your strengths. I’ll tell you, I had a CEO of a large business that I supported in this very large company, and one time he sat me down and said, “Susan, I want to let you know that you’re the nicest person I have ever worked with,” and I mean, I’m starting to feel kind of good, until he followed up with, “And that is not a compliment.”
Yeah, nice doesn’t work when we’re swimming with the sharks and running with the bulls.
Now, do you think that was because you were a female, or maybe were trying so hard to fit in, or what do you think it was? I…obviously, he could have said the same thing about a man.
Yeah, you know, I honestly, I took it because of my authentic self is very compassionate and very empathetic and I…in the environment I was in, people really were very performance driven, action oriented, and there really wasn’t a lot of wanting to understand the why behind things. It was…it was the what. And so I think that I would be the one to always say we need to stop, let’s really understand what the person’s thinking. I would bring, I think, some of those more historically female types of characteristics into the workplace, and I think it came across as…as nice, and nice isn’t necessarily respected.
Interesting, and what a shame. What a shame for the organization that you didn’t have that sense of your authentic self. They missed out.
Yeah, there you go. Well, you know, it’s funny, I just cannot imagine any of the very talented men that I worked with spent a moment worrying about how they were perceived because of their gender. Yeah. So hey, I did some research on this as we were getting ready for today’s podcast, and I found a survey that Mercer did recently, and it was actually…they talked about it in a webcast, that they had done an 80 question survey of over 3,000 U.S. workers, and what they found on this topic was that one out of three women, 33%, don’t feel like they can express their views or ideas in the workplace without fear of repercussions, compared to just 29% of men. Yeah, an interesting statistic was that more than one in four female employees, or 26%, said they don’t believe they can report an ethical concern without retaliation. I know we’ve talked about the fear of retaliation before, but I do think that it’s notable given that women may be afraid to come forward when they see something ethically wrong.
Yeah. You know, Susan, thinking back to our episode on negotiating salary, I think this sort of all ties in with this, too. We reported then that women are much less confident about being able to negotiate a salary, and now to add on, they don’t feel they can express their views, they don’t feel that they can report an ethical concern. I mean, in my mind, it just all ties back to lesser confidence in themselves.
I think you’re right. I do. I do. And I love…one of the JoDee’s other strengths is her self-confidence, so probably this feels like a pretty foreign topic to you. I do feel, though, that it’s pretty rampant in the workplace. Hey, speaking of that, we did invite a guest here today, Saundra Schrock, who is a woman who had an amazing career in banking, which historically has been an industry heavily dominated by men in the executive ranks. She was the president of Bank One retail lending, and later Executive Vice President of JPMorgan Chase’s network of over 3,000 branches throughout the U.S. and was responsible for over 30,000 employees. Today, Saundra is founder of Levelhead, which is a company that has created a mobile learning app focused on improving business performance and functional mindfulness. She also serves on the board of Elevate. Saundra, welcome to the JoyPowered® podcast.
Good morning, ladies. I guess it is still morning where you are, isn’t it?
That’s right. And tell us where you are today.
I’m in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona.
Oh, it sounds wonderful. It’s starting to get miserable here in Indiana, so good for you. So you know, Saundra, I’d love to start out with just asking your opinion. What do you think is different for a woman versus a man as they start to build their careers?
Well, that’s…that’s a great question. This one, it cost me a moment to kind of think back on that, and I would say number one, the obvious one, is that women experienced far more stress than men in the workplace. And it’s largely due, I think, for all the other family commitments that women have. And generally, they’re the ones that are called on, for us to do that, and I think I’ve seen that over and over again. But I think probably the things that people don’t necessarily like to talk about are those things that women are subject to a different set of rules in the workplace than men.
Yeah, tell us about that.
Yeah. Well, I think that, first of all, women are expected to work harder than others. And…and I think that we learn this, that in order for us to achieve and be able to be noticed and be able to move up the organization, our performance has to be the top of the scale as opposed to the middle or the bottom. And those are just something that you learn as you begin to spend time in any organization.
Saundra, do you think that concept has evolved over your career, or do you feel that that’s the same today as it was when you started?
That’s a great question. And because part of my other hats that I wear is I’m pursuing my PhD in psychology, and my research is in gender-based stereotypes for my dissertation, and one of the things that I found out was that what’s really interesting is the research has proven over and over again that in fact, as a woman moves up, their performance increases. Now, also what happens is the implicit bias increases. And let me give you a quick example of that. There was what’s called a meta-analytic study that was completed, it was over 30,000 performance reviews that were…that were viewed gender blind based on performance, and when you looked at performance ratings for men and women were generally about the same, and as we know, there’s a lot of regulatory scrutiny over that, and so organizations have gotten a lot better at treating people fairly in terms of performance ratings. But where the difference showed, which is really beginning to tell the story of why women are not reaching some of the top levels of organizations or boards or other things, is that on a paired comparison, men and women, when you look at the two of them, they may be performing at the same performance rating, but the where the differentiation comes is where they are judged based on their ability to move up in the organization. Women are judged less viable for top positions than men on the basis of performance. And I think that that, some of that research is coming out, and again, I think as organizations have got better at managing discrimination, bias, and other things in the workplace, is that what’s happening is an unconscious or implicit bias that’s occurring in things like that, where people aren’t even aware that they’re applying a different set of rules for men and women as they move up an organization.
I believe that’s true.
Yeah. Saundra, I…one of the things that’s always impressed me about you is, I know that when you started in banking, I think you started as a teller, and you actually worked your way up to an executive vice president in one of the largest banks in the U.S. What obstacles can you share with us that you faced, and maybe some of the ways that you overcame those obstacles?
You know, the…the number one thing – I was thinking back on this – is that being treated as a woman, not treated as an individual. And here’s what I mean by that. And I think, as I look back, I don’t have…to be completely honest, there are many times being a woman went to my advantage. For example, a lot of times people would be surprised that a woman had this kind of ambition or ability, and it would draw people’s attention. And actually, there have been times when I got noticed because of it, because it was surprising to them, because the expectations were low. I mean, being very honest. And as you continue to rise in an organization, you really began to see that, that you had to learn how to adapt to a male dominated structure, which means there was a set of behaviors that I was expected to perform, and…and I had to figure out how to navigate it. And number one thing was that…that I took the time to figure out what the dynamics were among the group, and I did my best to be a good team player, and was satisfied to kind of work behind the scenes to make sure that we could get done what we had to do without taking a particularly highly politicized stance in a situation where it was all men, knowing that the behav…that…that it would not accomplish what I needed to accomplish.
Interesting. Saundra, in my career experience, I saw a lot of women opt out as they got to the higher ranks at the organizations versus what we know Sheryl Sandberg recommends, that we lean in, I saw them opting out. Do you think that maybe that happens because, as you just mentioned a few minutes ago, maybe women have to work harder to get there? Or have have you observed that at all, about women opting out?
I think that that is true, and I think that it is related to stress, and frankly, related to…to the fact that when they look around, they go…Is it really worth it to do this? But I’m not so sure that if you would look at the research today that you might not find that true of men and women.
So Saundra, you mentioned that it’s not only in the world of work, but it’s also corporate boards, and we’ve read a lot about why there are so few women on corporate boards and we…from what we hear, businesses are out there trying to really search for women, but they’re not coming up. Do you have a point of view on this, either from your research or from your own experiences? Because I know you serve on boards as well.
I think there is a…there’s a lot of interest and a lot of research going on as related to that. So this is part research based, my response, as well as my own experience, but I was saying number one is that they…most boards recruit from…fish from the same pond as they always have. They fish from the pond of CEOs, current and former, that had previous board experience, and that little pool is…doesn’t have a lot of female fish in it. And so when they look to that population, they come up and say that, you know, the whole standard, “there’s not enough qualified women to serve on boards,” when in fact if they would cast their net a little larger, for example, I think there is some indication that they’re fishing a little further out, where there are a lot of women currently performing in functional roles in organizations. And as they do this, they begin to see that there are a lot of women that have the capability to be on the board, but they don’t look like and have the same kind of experience that previous board members have had. And so generally, most people look for Board of Directors potential candidates from…they ask people on the board who they know, and guess what, who they know are people like themselves.
Right. So Saundra, talk to us about mindfulness and how that became an important ingredient in your approach to business, and how you are sharing it with others.
Thanks for asking about my passion project. Um, well, first of all, I had meditated and practiced yoga for many, many years, and frankly, it was the only way I was actually I was able to travel, multiple decades, nearly five days a week, crisscrossing the country. And I would say that helped me minimize the stress and kept me from, frankly, falling apart. And I left JPMorgan. I…I kind of reflected on what you want to do next. I really began to deepen my practice of mindfulness, going to almost any kind of silent retreat, I started really trying to dig in, and frankly, I began to see some huge changes in myself and…. Like watching a black and white movie and then suddenly discovering that the world is in living color. You know, things just come alive, and you begin to feel better, you see people different, and it was like…it was almost like a miracle, if you will. And so I began a six year journey of reading every piece of research I could find on it, all the way from neuroscience, positive psychology, and I began to understand that it wasn’t magic, it wasn’t a miracle, there was actually a learning skill. And so over the course of that time, I began to help other people began to practice and…and I discovered something that really was concerning to me, was that…and I taught three years at a University at the graduate level, mindful leadership, and I used…we’d practice at the beginning and the end, and I began to notice the short attention span, the honesty that the students would say, “Saundra, it’s not likely that I’m going to be able to practice at this level every day. What else can I do?” And so through the course of a lot of practice and a lot of research, I developed a program called functional mindfulness, which is a way to take ordinary, everyday activities and turn those into mindfulness practice. And…and frankly, it’s the way you do these normal, everyday tasks that turn them into the ability to train your mind to be in the present moment. So that’s my mission now. And we actually turned it into a business by developing an app that delivers this kind of a program into the workplace with all the things that I know a business needs – a dashboard, analytics, the ability to engage the employees while they’re in the program, creating kind of a few, well, the gamification kinds of things that you can do. And it’s been extremely well received, so we’ve taken that whole business idea and launched another business, which is creating this platform for any content, which as we all know, the world is going mobile. People want to do everything on the phone. Well, thank you for asking about my passion project.
Oh, gosh, yes. And if people want to learn more, give us your website.
Saundra, can you…I’m really intrigued about this concept for a couple of reasons. I’ve…number one, I’ve had several friends of mine encourage me to go to a silent retreat, which maybe is a message in and of itself, that some friends have encouraged me, but it just seems impossible to me to do it. How do you get beyond that? Do…do I just need to sign up and go?
Well, you know, do that. And you would enjoy it and you would you would feel absolutely incredible, and after about a day or so, you would…you would go, “Gee, I don’t want to talk to anybody ever again.” But it is true and it’s kind of a weird thing, that you began to get comfortable with your uncomfortability with silence. Yeah, but here’s what I know about that – and I wouldn’t discourage you from doing that – is that what we know about mindfulness, like any skill, you go to a weekend long or week long intensive golf session where you learn all the greatest things, at the end of that you’re feeling great, I can really play this game, and if you don’t do it every day, or practice some sort of regular way, you’re going to lose all that ability, right? They’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on sending executives to do that, and then they come back and go, “Oh.” Well, and you ladies know, because it’s like any sort of training or education program is the same kind of thing. People do it and feel great, and then if it isn’t sustained, you know, nothing changes.
Right. That’s true. And secondly, Saundra, can you give us an example of what you mean by taking a typical everyday task and turning it into a mindfulness activity? What might that be?
Whenever…whenever I get in the car, this is a really simple thing to do, is that I don’t turn the radio on, which everybody goes, “Oh, no!”. I put my phone away, I do all of those things, I get in the car, and I began to take in the environment around me. And not only is this practice, it’s also a good safety thing to do. People driving completely focused on the moment. I take in the colors, I notice the sounds, the smells, you know, I can’t tell you how many times, even though I do this every day and go the same way, I see something different every single day. And one very simple thing I do is whenever I get to a stop sign, a red light, or any of those things, I’m actually excited about it, because I actually begin and I ask myself, where’s my attention, and I refocus and use that as an opportunity to come back to the present, bring all my senses to that moment. I’m still driving, I’m increasing the safety of my…my journey, and by the time I get where I’ve gone, I’ve got in my…about 15 to 20 minutes of my mindfulness practice.
That’s beautiful, Saundra. I love that.
That’s great. All right. Well, thank you. So what advice do you have for businesses who want to close the gender gap at all levels in the organization?
Asking the question is a great place to start, right? And a lot of people…a lot of people will just assume just doing well, then we must be managing, you know, all the biases. And this is…this is for any kind of bias, whether it’s a bias related to the kinds of decisions they’re making, a bias related to how they run their business and gender, is that…to be aware that every single human being has a filter through which they see the world. Everybody does. And it’s the ability to understand that there is the filter and being able to learn how to think differently. And again, and back to being able to practice being in the moment, always asking, “What filter am I looking at the situation through, and is there another way for me to look at it?” And secondarily is to engage all of your employees in an open conversation on a number of factors. Those conversations are taking place, and if you’re running the place, it’s your job to know what those conversations are and be able to embrace ambiguity and the uncomfortability of hearing those things. That’s the only way that you can actually make sure that your your company is going to continue to be high performance and close the gender gap or any other thing they’re trying to do.
That makes sense. I think that’s great advice for businesses. How about advice for women who are just starting their careers or even mid-level career, anything that you think that they ought to be paying attention to in order to help their success?
You know, a lot of people will say things like, “get clear on what you want.” “be focused.” And all those things are great, but you know what, one of the things that I found is being able to embrace the opportunity that you have. And it’s absolutely amazing to me that when you’re focusing, again, back to that present moment, and actually making sure that what you’re doing today is satisfying, and not necessarily look to other people to make that happen. You can make that happen by the way you look at your job, the way you find meaning. Viktor Frankl, in many of his – he’s one of my, read his books over and over again – he talks about finding meaning in the moment. And I think for women – men and women – as you go to work every day, you can make every moment meaningful to yourself and to others and if you do that, it becomes what I call a virtual spiral up for everyone around you. And stop thinking about what’s next, and really focusing on now.
Saundra, I love that advice. I wrote a book in 2016 called “JoyPowered®,” where I talk about that same concept, where I think we’re…we’re waiting for someone else, or we’re looking for someone else, to bring us joy or to help us with a career. I mean, it’s okay…it’s a good idea to have mentoring and help. But I think we have to take charge of it ourselves and we have to seize the moment, if you will, and drive that forward. So I…that’s beautiful advice, to me.
Sounds like we’re on the same page. And I know you’ve discovered this – when you do that, what you find out is people want to be around you. And when…when others want to be around you, you’re going to find mentors, and not a formal mentor, but everyone’s going to be able to give you a gift, if you will, that will make your life better and help you help make other people’s lives better.
It’s just…it’s just the way of…way it works.
I love it. That’s great. Nice. Saundra, thank you so much for today. Is there any other advice or anything you want the listeners to know before we bid you farewell?
No, I think…I think we did a lot of that this morning, and I really enjoyed it. Ladies, it was great to have this kind of conversation this morning.
And to our listeners, again, reminder to check out Saundra’s business at getlevelheaded.com.
Great, thank you.
Oh, Levelhead, right.
getlevelhead.com. Thank you. Oh, that’s great.
Thank you, Saundra. Thank you. All right, bye bye.
In addition to being able to call us on the JoyPowered® podcast hotline at 317-688-1613 and leaving a voicemail, listeners can also send us questions and topics via JoyPowered® on Facebook or Twitter. Here’s a recent question we received from Steve in southern Indiana. Steve says, “I am a new employee at a small printing company and we are getting ready to enter our busy season. I’ve been told by the owner that we all need to work 50 hour week shifts non-stop for the next two months with no exception. He said he can’t afford to pay us overtime pay, but he will pay us straight time for all 50 hours a week, then next summer, which is our slower time, he says we will only work 30 hours a week in June and July, but he will pay us for 40 hours a week to make the next couple of months up to us. I don’t want to cause waves, but I don’t think he can do that. Can he?” Well, Steve, the answer really depends on whether you and the other employees are considered exempt or non-exempt employees. If you’re considered non-exempt, you need to be paid on an hourly basis and paid overtime for any hours over 40. No exceptions around it. So if you meet that classification, which, we can send that to you and talk about that offline, then it is incorrect. If you are considered an exempt employee, this could be possible. I’m not sure it’s the recommended approach that I would have, making it with no exceptions. But certainly there are a lot of seasonal organizations. I personally grew up in one, in the world of public accounting, where we were expected to work additional hours in the winter and early spring and have a lighter load or more flexibility in the summertime. So that definitely might be the case. But if you want to follow up or do a little homework to find out, ask your payroll clerk, ask your HR person, who is considered and qualified as being an exempt employee versus non-exempt and that’s the answer.
In our next segment, in “in the news,” Roy Maurer posted an article on shrm.org on October 12, about how the hiring process got longer in 2017. He cited a glassdoor.com study, the average interviewing time, from start to finish of the hiring process, for the first half of 2017 was 23.8 days, almost a full day more compared to 2014’s average of 22.9. So what does that mean for the candidate hiring experience? Well, for the candidate, it is certainly very frustrating, typically, for a candidate, and they’re in the loop and they’re trying to make decisions about what they want to do, about whether they need to move forward, about whether they need to accept another position. It can be very frustrating. And although I think sometimes organizations maybe need to hire…to slow down their hiring process because they might be moving too quickly or just wasting time, if the additional time is spent with assessments or additional interviews and further care in the interview process, that could be a positive move. But if they’re spending more time because they’re delaying decisions or not able to get the right people scheduled for the interview – which has been my case that I’ve observed many times, that organizations don’t feel in a hurry or they don’t grasp the need to keep the process going – I think the chances of losing your best candidates are very, very high. So I would encourage organizations to really think about their hiring process. How efficient is it? How prepared are you to move forward? Because it’s very likely you’ll lose those frustrated candidates in the process. I know for me, at times, I’ve thought if it takes this long for them to interview someone, how long is it going to take them to make decisions once I get hired? Our advice to companies is to prioritize filling your open roles. Employers that do that with priority and efficiency hire the best, and those who don’t hire the rest. From a candidate’s perspective, I would push the point a little bit and stay on top of them. Tell them if you need to make decisions or if you’re moving forward with other options so that they might speed the process up a bit.
Please tune in next time. Thank you for listening today. If you have missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all of our episodes for free at iTunes, Google Play, or Podbean by searching on the word “JoyPowered.” Again, if you have questions on any HR topic or want to give feedback on any podcast, we’d love for you to call us at 317-688-1613 or contact us via our JoyPowered® Facebook account, or on Twitter @JoyPowered. We welcome listener questions and comments and hope that today you’re looking for the joy in your day.