Relationships at Work - Leadership Mindset Guide for Creating a Company Culture We Love

How To Address the Challenges for Gender Equity at Work via Bonnie Low-Kramen

June 20, 2023 Russel Lolacher Episode 73
How To Address the Challenges for Gender Equity at Work via Bonnie Low-Kramen
Relationships at Work - Leadership Mindset Guide for Creating a Company Culture We Love
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Relationships at Work - Leadership Mindset Guide for Creating a Company Culture We Love
How To Address the Challenges for Gender Equity at Work via Bonnie Low-Kramen
Jun 20, 2023 Episode 73
Russel Lolacher

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with author, global trainer and CEO Bonnie Low-Kramen on the challenges and work needed to be done for gender equity in the workplace.

Bonnie shares her thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • Gender equity still doesn't exist in the workplace.
  • How equity is a family and human issue, not a gender one.
  • How women should prepare for job negotiations.
  • The problems with onboarding.
  • How the "broken rung" can be addressed.
  • The added challenges of bullying and harassment for women.
  • Why women don't speak up in exit interviews.
  • What needs to happen for gender equity to move forward.

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and share with others.
For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with author, global trainer and CEO Bonnie Low-Kramen on the challenges and work needed to be done for gender equity in the workplace.

Bonnie shares her thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • Gender equity still doesn't exist in the workplace.
  • How equity is a family and human issue, not a gender one.
  • How women should prepare for job negotiations.
  • The problems with onboarding.
  • How the "broken rung" can be addressed.
  • The added challenges of bullying and harassment for women.
  • Why women don't speak up in exit interviews.
  • What needs to happen for gender equity to move forward.

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and share with others.
For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Russel Lolacher
And on the show today we have Bonnie Low-Kramen and here is why she is awesome. She's the founder, CEO and global leader/trainer at Ultimate Assistant Training and Consulting. She's a keynote speaker. She has a fantastic TEDx talk called the real reasons people quit. She's the author of the book. Got it right here myself. Staff Matters: People-Focused Solutions for the Ultimate New Workplace. Bonnie is also the CEO and founder of the SpeakUp Pledge, a global initiative and call to action for assistants and managers to improve workplace communication. Something near and dear to my heart. All the hellos Bonnie. Hello.

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Thank you, Russel, I'm very excited to be here with you.

Russel Lolacher
Well, we have to start off the show like we start off all shows Bonnie with the question, what's your best or worst employee experience?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Yeah, of course, I have both lots and lots of both. One of the best ones, though, comes from my work with Olympia Dukakis. I hope many of your listeners know her work, she won an Oscar for the movie Moonstruck with Cher and Nicolas Cage. And I came to her one day because I was a part of an organization in New York City called New York celebrity assistants. And it had become such an important resource in my work with her. And the board came to me and asked me to run for be the president to be the next president of the organization. And I was nervous to tell Olympia about this because I was concerned that she is my employer would think like, oh, this is going to take time away from me, right. And I am my son was seven years old at the time, I remember. And I was just nervous to tell her about it. And I sat, you know, I chose my moment. And I told her what the Ask was. And her whole face changed. She got a big smile on her face. And she said, Russel, I'll never forget it. She said, Do it. Do it, you have to do it. This is going to be so good for you, Bonnie, this is going to be so good. And I was so shocked. And she said this is the best thing. And I said well, Olympia is going to be good for you too. And she said, Oh no, that doesn't matter. I know, it's going to be good for me. But mainly, it's gonna be good for you. And I felt so supported by her and Russel, like, I hope in your career, you have felt that kind of support, like not only Oh, okay, the kind of the reluctant tolerating kind of support, we know that versus the the enthusiastic like, yes, like, this is so great, this will be so good for you. That was pretty awesome. And you know, when someone whether it's your employer, or somebody else does that for you, you never forget it. And you know, that's the kind of I would lay in front of I would have laid in front of a truck for her is the end result when somebody supports you like that. There's a lesson there. There's a serious lesson there for leaders, don't you think?

Russel Lolacher
Absolutely. I mean, isn't it sad, though, the amount of mental load that we put on ourselves with the expectation that we're not going to get that support. That we are putting ourselves in a position that it's going to be, I don't know, bad for us, or they're not going to be as supportive of those decisions. But to get that enthusiasm...I wish the default was always that was what it was going to be as opposed to the Oh, it's a special case.

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Yeah. And you know, to be fair, real life works. It's not all black and white, right? There were those days when I would be tired, because there was a late meeting the night before and, and she'd look at me and she'd say, Oh, you seem pretty tired today. You have a meeting last night was the group meeting? Like she would sometimes say those kinds of things. So, you know, it's these partnerships are tricky. And that's what the whole purpose of your podcast is right to explore the nuances, the real nitty gritty of what these partnerships are like.

Russel Lolacher
Absolutely. I'm excited about today's topic, I dug into it quite a bit in your book as well around gender equity. Now, one of the things I love doing on my podcast first is let's define what the hell we're even talking about. So like setting the baseline. So when we talk about gender equity, Bonnie, what are we actually talking about?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
You know, when we talk about the difference between the genders in the workplace, as a woman in the workplace, I see a double standard. I experienced the double standards on a daily basis, that let me just say this very clearly, women and men are not equal. And, and we're different. We're, we're hardwired differently. That in the world today, we not only don't have equality, we don't have equity. Women are not treated with the same respect. And level of compensation, for example, there is a wage gap that exists. And I know you're in Canada, I'm in the United States, in the United States, caucasian women are making 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. And if we keep going at this rate, it's going to take over 100 years to get to equity. And that's in part indication that men actually are better at negotiating salary than women are, women are not trained to do that necessarily. And men are socialized differently. It you know, the equity issues, in part are due to how we're socialized differently as young men and women. And then it gets even more complicated when you talk about the other genders. You know, the LGBTQIA, transgender people, it's even more tricky there. So I think it's, it's simpler to talk for this conversation about men and women who are born a cisgender. People that so it's not, but it's not only about money, it is about promote ability in tech. in tech, for example, it's pretty well known that tech companies love hiring women, but women end up quitting three times faster than men do, because they feel that they have to prove themselves again and again. And again, in order to advance the data is clear on something else. And it has to do right now and 2023, the hybrid remote work situation we've got going on, the data is clear that women are still doing six times six hours more of housework a week than men do. And so therefore, it is pretty logical why women are choosing or would like to stay at home, they're preferring to stay at home, because they can, you know, mix in that six hours of housework along with their regular work. The danger is and I'm as a woman, I'm concerned about what I'm seeing, because the pandemic has done, has done damage for the world's women. Many were chased out of the workforce during the pandemic, because they needed to homeschool children, you know, demands on for childcare, and parents or whoever, you know, whatever it was, we lost a lot of women in the workforce. And then in the aftermath of the pandemic, many are preferring to stay home for a variety of reasons. Some about it's about the work life balance and being able to be there for the children. But what's also in place, if they stay home, it's less likely they're going to be bullied, it's less likely they're going to be sexually harassed, you know, but the danger is the invisibility factor. There is a trend Russel right now called the proximity bias. And it is the trend. And you I'm sure you know this, that there's the people who are in the office are having an advantage over the ones who are staying at home. Because they have proximity, the people in the office have proximity to the leaders who are busy making decisions in real time. And if the if people are right there, then they are, you know, have proximity to the decisions being made and possibly being brought into the project. Whereas the people at home are not. And if those people at home, we now know are majority of women. And if and if they're choosing to not be on webcam and not be verbal, then you're essentially invisible. And that's the that's a red flag that I'm raising on podcasts like yours, and in groups of women and men, just so that we can be intentional about what's going on and what's in play here.

Russel Lolacher
In your book, you make a point to say that gender equity is not a woman's issue. It's a human issue and a family issue. Why did you feel you needed to clarify that?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
A lot of people are very quick to say, Oh, well, when you're talking about gender equity, it's all about women. And it's only a and it's only a women's issue. Well, it really isn't because what a woman earns impacts a whole family. And I meet far too many women who are underpaid because of this wage gap. And they're living paycheck to paycheck and they feel stuck. So they can't move to a better apartment. They can't put their kid in, you know a dance class or it has ramifications to whole families right? That what a woman earns impacts her spouse, whether, you know, it's a partner, spouse, or whatever, and the children. So it is a family issue. This, this has much more far reaching effects. It's not only about women.

Russel Lolacher
So I want to I want to kind of walk through what an employee journey might be. So let's start first from a women's challenges standpoint, which is, say you're looking for a job. What should you consider before you take a job? What is what are some of the things that you should as it consideration as you're looking to take that step?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
The socialization tells women that we need to be grateful for the job we have to be we're grateful. Thank you so much for hiring me. And my message to women is that we approach job opportunities as as a two way street. Women are interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you. And it should be about talents and skills and responsibilities. So it's about evaluating a job description, and equating it to $1 amount that's fair and reasonable for the role, as opposed to whether you're a man or a woman. And so it's about market value for a role. And many women because of that gratitude factor, that we feel grateful for the position that that sometimes we accept a lower salary, a man is much more likely as 57% more likely to negotiate a salary than a woman is a woman is much more likely to hear a job offer and say, Oh, thank you so much. I will start on Monday. And my message is that we need to negotiate HR people will tell me to my face, Bonnie, we will offer someone the lowest amount that they will say yes to. And that is the truth of it. HR is in the business of getting people for the lowest amount of money they can get someone to say yes to but women often have buyer's remorse they have you know, they, they sometimes accept a job without a written job description, the job description must be in writing, the the offer must be in writing. And the data shows Russel that women are better at negotiating a starting salary than men are. But then that's where it ends, that many women are not as skilled at negotiating the annual review and, and compensation conversations in the years to come. That that in general, women hope that we work real hard, and our and our, our hard work will be acknowledged and rewarded. And I'm here to tell you, that doesn't happen. That we both women and men need to advocate for ourselves, that we need to have the conversation. But it's finding those words that women find so difficult to have. And that's why you're asking me what do I advise? I advise that every woman, every person working person needs to have a written detailed job description, that's up to the minute, what are you really doing right now? And how much time is it taking you to do it? And what are the the quantifiable achievements that you've had? It needs to be in writing, because at any given time, if your executive or anybody says, So what do you do exactly? What do you do? Oh, here, here's my document three pages long. But this is exactly what I do for these different executives at my company, the workplace, this current workplace is going so fast, we cannot expect other people to have a really clear picture of what we're doing. So we Yeah, every worker needs to be responsible for painting that picture. I do advocate annual performance conversations. Even if it doesn't translate to more money. It's important to have ongoing conversations about what your ambitions are and what goals are. And for many women, the word ambition is kind of a dirty word. And we're not really supported to have great ambition. Where men, that's what I've talked about with the double standard... Men are supported very strongly to have big ambition. And women are not. That is not the way women approach ambition.

Russel Lolacher
What does success look like when you start that job? Because it's challenging, but onboarding is this... onboarding is such an interesting thing. Because organizations kind of use it as this well, whether it's good or bad onboarding as this promise of things to come. This is what they're setting up whether they deliver on those promises or not. So my question to you is, what are organizations getting wrong when it comes to onboarding for women?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Well, they're getting it wrong with both men and women, because in rooms of assistants, I'll ask how many of you have a great onboarding system process and very few raise their hand. I call that a gap. I think HR in this post pandemic, workplace, and even they say it, they're in chaos. They're overwhelmed. You know, I hear shocking stories, disappointing stories about an employee, a new employee who shows up on day one, and no one's expecting them. In fact, the people who are there are kind of annoyed that they have to deal with them. And like, so. But we all remember our first day, we were about anything, right? We remember our firsts. We remember our first job, we remember our first day or first month or first year. There are companies that do it really well. One of them is Novartis out of Boston, they have a buddy system, where every new hire is given a buddy. And you know, I love when we were in grade school. But it's a system that works. It's someone to kind of be their phone a friend. And not every employee is a buddy, there's a group of people who are official buddies, and they will answer those minutia questions. You know, how do I scan something in this machine that no one explained to me, even if someone's been working in the workplace a really long time, any new job is going to have a learning curve. Onboarding is meant to shorten the learning curve, and to help communicate the culture. Russel, I can tell you that so many staff say to me that the job description that they signed their name to? And they said yes to bears very little resemblance to what they end up actually doing. And that feels like, well, who's asleep at the wheel here? How did I not get clear expectations? So there's a disconnect between what staff believes their experience is going to be at a company, and this applies to women and men? versus what is the reality? And so I know, we can do better in that way. Success is a company where new staff get integrated very quickly, they get introduced, like it's not, there's not really a mystery here. How do you make someone feel comfortable and welcome, is you introduce them to people. And you you make it easy to you give them a list of contact information about how to find certain things. And, and yes, some companies have videos that you watch, and there's a, there's a very organized onboarding process. But unfortunately, those are more the exception and not the rule. The I know, we, we must do better in this way in order to stabilize our companies. I know you and I share the idea that this workplace is really volatile, there's a lot of change going on. And the humans of our workplace are really getting tired of the you know, like, as we're going back up, we're not up, you know, it feels like, it's like whiplash every day. It's like, what new rule what new thing? What new variant? What new system are we putting in place today?

Russel Lolacher
And it seems so much more about reacting, pivoting... resiliency, which is a word I freaking hate the it's like, what are you being resilient against? But the thing is, is the lack of compassion that's not integrated into those conversations, it feels much more about how are we as an organization going to be more productive in change. Rather than understanding that these are not? These are not a means to an end? These are human beings?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Yeah. These are not widgets.

Russel Lolacher
No, but that's a piece that I feel isn't as prominent as I would like it to see. And that's, and then that comes for any gender. But the one thing I want to ask though, is you and you touched on this. And I want to know if it's the organization or the individual that is more needing to step up. So the broken rung... the broken rung for those who are not familiar about it, is the idea, as Bonnie was mentioning earlier about women are being hired. They're just not being promoted. So there is this rung in the ladder that is different for men versus women where I think the stat from Kinsey is, for every 100 men that are promoted 87 women are promoted, 82 women of color. So when people ask, why are there not more women executives? It's because if you go down the ladder, there was this piece where they didn't get promoted as readily, or as obviously as men did. Who's dropping the ball here is that women, like you said not selling themselves, or organizations not figuring out this is their problem?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Well, I liken that question to a couple of things. Sure. So when women receive the right to vote in the United States, for example, it wasn't only because women were saying we want to vote. Men had to be involved in that decision. Right? We we need allies, we need advocates, it can't be that when slavery was ended. It wasn't only because the slaves were saying we want to be free. A lot of other people, white people, non black people, non slave, non slaves, needed to say we want this. So if more women are going to be promoted along those same lines, Russel, non-women are going to, meaning men, are going to have to be advocates and allies not only tolerate women getting promoted, but to be staunch advocates for it. And not only because it's a nice thing to do, it's the smart thing to do. The data is clear that a more diverse leadership in government in companies is a more creative, more innovative, resourceful one. And women to bring a female sensibility into leadership is smart business. And so the men, we need men to be there's a term I love out of Harvard, they call them "Manbassaders". To be a man who strongly promotes women to advance. But there's another issue in play here. I mean, we didn't get to this place in a second. So it's going to take a while to move us off of it. But you know, it's back to women, how women are socialized. And women are socialized when we're young. And I say this to women, that we're socialized to look at each other as advertised adversaries, and as competitors, not as collaborators and cooperators, we look at each other as the enemy, we look at each other, you know, like, we seek the approval of men. Like that's how a lot of women are socialized. So we get into adulthood. And this socialization is so ingrained, that sometimes we're not very women are not very nice to other women. That's why I expose this issue. So how that plays out in what you're talking about with promotion. When a woman is, is ambitious enough to finally achieve a leadership position, inevitably, they're going to be making some mistakes, or some missteps or they're going to be problems. When men make mistakes and make missteps. We give them grace, we say, "Oh, that's okay. Joe. That's alright. We'll you know, we'll get it right the next time." You know, you hear that in baseball or football or the sports, you know, like, "oh, you strike out, it's all right, you know, we got your back, we'll get you next inning," whatever. Women, when women are promoted, if we allow the socialization to kick in, then we end up tear at any misstep, we end up judging, and diminishing, and maybe pulling down. And my message to women is not only do we need to be advocates and allies to get women to leadership positions, but once they're there, we need to give them the same grace that we're giving men. And when they screw up, we need to not like say, Oh, you have to resign, you have to quit, you know, like, let's fire them, like no, we need to tolerate and to support them to work through the mistakes in the same way we do for men. What do you think of that?

Russel Lolacher
You're talking about culture. You're talking about a culture of an organization and how healthy it is. And culture is the actions and it and inactions that is condone or not condone. So I completely agree with you. And you mentioned this earlier that I really want to tap into which is the idea around women being happier to stay at home because of maybe an environment of bullying or sexual harassment. How do women and you sort of mentioned this in the book is how women treat bullying and sexual harassment differently in the workplace, and that there's sort of this steeper price for how they deal with that. Can you dig into that a bit?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Well, yeah. So women have also been socialized to believe that we need to tolerate some levels of misbehavior by men, and we experience it and I've experienced it myself, you know, walking down the street and calf calls from men or some somebody inappropriately touching you And unless somebody comes along to say, "That's not okay, like that shouldn't be alright." Yeah, the one of the big famous cases recent in recent memory is Harvey Weinstein, who the Hollywood producer who's in jail right now for sexually assaulting over 100 women. And when he was in court, he said, Oh, well, that was the 70s. That's the way it always was that, you know, that's the way it was, I was the casting couch. And I was just doing what everybody else was doing. And so that's culture. And that was his defense. But, and many women get sucked into the idea that that's the way it is. And in my sessions, when I talk about workplace bullying, being behaviors, like, you know, being humiliated in a meeting, having profanity thrown at them, being ostracized, being demeaned. being sexually sexual harassment is a form of bullying, you know, and I use very vivid examples in my book of how it really is, you know, the executive who came up behind his assistant in a meeting with a lot of people took her by the head, and shook it from side to side and said, Hey, did you leave your brain at home today. And that may have taken 10 seconds to experience. But the memory of it, the trauma of it lasts for years. And that's the piece that makes me know that I have to talk about this as often as possible. Women, we remember. I mean men remember also, but there but because women are the primary targets of bullying and sexual harassment. It is very clear to me that women remember this in a visceral way, and it impacts their future. However, if they're living paycheck to paycheck, if they're if putting food on their table for their children depends on their paycheck. They're very reluctant Russel, to make waves to rock the boat to challenge the bully to challenge the sexual harasser. That's why it will be better if we close the wage gap. If women feel that they have more breathing room, if they have a cushion of money to rely on, then they have the ability to go to their executive and say, "I don't know what gave you the idea that touching me in that way was appropriate, but it is not. And it is not welcome. And you will not do that to me again. Because if you do, I'm going to I'm going to report you or I'm going to go to HR," whatever. But Russel, women need to be a taught that it's wrong, be given the some instruction about what to do about it when it happens. And then see, feel confident enough to actually do it. Because otherwise they're suffering in silence. It's a toxic global epidemic that I see. And far too many women tell me their stories. And I they share that they're suffering in silence because they feel like they're trapped, that they have to do it that they don't have an option, especially if someone else on the staff has reported it in the past. And leaders are looking the other way. Like that's that's a problem. That's a big problem.

Russel Lolacher
There's that inaction of culture that is your culture. An example there again, I had another episode where I talked to Patti Temple Rocks, and her focus is around ageism. And she finally wrote in her latest book, there's a chapter specifically around women's experience around ageism, because that is much more prevalent, and a challenge than men. It is a problem for both genders. But women definitely feel a lot more. What would you how would you talk about ageism in the workplace, and the issue that it is.

Bonnie Low-Kramen
How I handle it, and what I believe is that we as women need to look honestly at the situation, which is that there is a double standard in play. I know we know as women that we are judged differently than men are. I can't walk on stage to be a speaker in the same way that I see some men walking on stage as a speaker. And you know if I walked on stage like Mark Zuckerberg does, you know in a hoodie and sneakers do some women do that I may be so but my audience would not have except me wouldn't believe me wouldn't find me credible. If I did that, and I believe that to my soul, and I'm, I'm in my 60s. My move, I think that our move for women is to amplify our talents and our skills. And frankly, to look as good as we possibly can. Because we know we're being judged on that level, it shouldn't be that way. But it is, and I'm, I'm pretty convinced in my lifetime, I'm not going to see it be any different. The men of this world have the power and the gold. And if I'm going to succeed, if women are to succeed in that climate, we need to look honestly, at what's in play, I do think there's an advantage of just whatever you have to look as great as you possibly can. Because we're being judged on that way. And to make sure that the people we're dealing with, understand the skills and the talents that we bring to the table that should matter most as opposed to our, our, our age. Now, you know, on a resume, for example, many recruiters are saying they've moved away from degree required to degree preferred. Now, you know, many women in their 50s, or the 60s, they got that degree, if they have one decade to go, it matters, it should matter. And it does matter way more, if you've taken a workshop in the last year, about upping your skills, it should be about the skills and the talents you bring to the table right now. And to hopefully have advocacy. Because Russel, there are a few other things in play here. There's a confidence that comes with experience. And in a meeting, the data is clear. And I've experienced myself women are interrupted six times more than men are. And so when women are interrupted, have you seen this by any chance.

Russel Lolacher
I've read a few books about how this is so prevalent. And it's, there's a book recently just called STFU, which is about how men overtalk women all the time, and it's just such their nature. The funny thing is with the interviews around the book, all the women in the interview are like, "yeah, we've known this for a very long time. It's men that just never figured this out."

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Well, yeah. And so when it happens, we're socialized as women like, Oh, we're gonna just let it go, we're gonna let it slide. And my message to women is, if you're another woman, or man, if you're sitting there rustling, you see a woman being interrupted. It doesn't have to be mean, you could say, Oh, George, you know what, I'd love to hear the rest of what Bonnie was just saying, Bonnie, could you just finish that thought and George, I can't wait to hear what you have to say. But I was really interested in what Bonnie was finishing saying, you we need to have each other's backs. And it comes to that many women, I'll bet this was also in the book, the book you just read, where women have the experience where they'll say an idea in a meeting, and there's kind of crickets, nobody says anything. And then John says the same exact version of that idea. And everyone's like, ah, what an amazing, groundbreaking idea that is. And, and so your move then is like, Oh, John, that's so great that you that you love what Jill was talking about? That was a great idea, Jill, and you know, maybe the two of you can work on that together. But good. Good going, Jill. And, and you know, glad you picked up on that. John. Do you see where I'm going here? That the rest of us, the rest of us need to be advocates and allies, when we see these behaviors happening in front of our eyes.

Russel Lolacher
You mentioned about the self promotion and that women aren't socialized into self promoting, but the thing is, is if they if they don't self promote, that's viewed negatively. And if they do self promote, it is viewed negatively. So how is that approached in an organization?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Oh, boy, so I call it and I teach women how to be each other's wing women, that it's much more powerful if we're in a meeting, and Kim says, "you know, before we begin the meeting, I want to talk about, you know, Bonnie, you did a great job on that project last week and I and I really couldn't have done that without you." It is much better for others to speak nicely about us than than we do it ourselves. And that applies to men as well. You know, there's a certain level of, you know, humble brags and self promotion, but men are given a whole more leeway than women are. Many women, when they attempt to be assertive, you know, they believe me. And they try to assert, oftentimes they're accused of being aggressive. Many women get accused of being aggressive when they're simply trying to be assertive. Men are called strong and, and forceful and a leader. And women are just often referred to as the Bitch.. the B word. And it's, it's a dance that women have to play. And that's why in an organization, it's very positive, if women can advocate for other women, and the men also, that there that a culture of mentorship is useful. And then in the light of the me too, time's up movements. Many men have said to me, you know, "Bonnie, I can't mentor another woman, I'll be accused of whatever, and it's too much trouble. It's too much trouble for a man to mentor women, so I'm not going to do it." And to actually Russel to some degree, I kind of get it, I get it, it is trickier. But it is possible to do it. And you know, I actually had a man go even further and say, "You know what, Bonnie, it's too much trouble to hire women. I'm just gonna hire men from now on." And I say, "well, that's, like one of the more ridiculous things I've ever heard." I said, How about and he said something like, "I can't even hug a woman anymore." And I said, "You know what? The fix here is, just keep your hands to yourself. And if you're, if you're wanting to hug some a woman, and congratulations, ask, "Can I hug you?" I'm at conferences all the time. And I, I will ask somebody, you know, "I'd love to hug you right now. Can I hug you?" And both men and women. And like the asking permission and make it safe for them to say, "Actually, no." you know, I've put up my hand to shake hands with somebody and like, "Uh, no." In the aftermath of the pandemic, people have a thing about touching. And, you know, so the, the layers of the thinking we have to do about all of this stuff is complicated between the genders. But it's so worth it, it's really worth it when it works. When there is respect, true, mutual respect. That matters so much, you know, to have a CEO like Marc Benioff of Salesforce, to be overt, and say, we are committed to closing the wage gap at Salesforce, we want women to be making an equitable salary to men in in those in the same role. And that goes a long way. And they've worked really hard to do that. The leaders who are doing that are attracting high quality women who believes that they've got a leader who sees the value. So it's complicated, isn't it?

Russel Lolacher
It is because I hear what you're saying about the asking permission to hug and stuff. But that also provides into the layers of power dynamics, that some people some women probably don't even feel that they can say no, because that's my boss. You know, so it's not just, it's not just permission. It's it's a psychological safety. And the idea that there is a power dynamic in play and sometimes people just thinking, I want to congratulate you and hug you not realizing they may not feel safe to say no, because you have power over them. You may not realize that but yeah, to.

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Nevermind, pull up Matt Lauer and lock the door with a button under your desk and you know, then, you know, then we go on. The extreme of that is, you know, I've heard there's so many famous stories around sexual abuse and humiliation and harassment, but there are so many rustle, there are so many more of people, just normal people like you and me. Who, who the world doesn't know our names, and it's happening with them too. And boy, how helpless do they feel?

Russel Lolacher
What do you think the solution is here from a culture standpoint? Is it like Salesforce where they're almost making it policy? Or do we just fold our arms and wait for leaders to be better at being leaders?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
I think it's multi faceted. Here's what I think I wrote. Staff matters, in part, to have this book be a tool, a tool for staff to affect change, to answer your question, to effect change from the middle to have the staff essentially insist on change, to have women know that bullying, sexual harassment is not okay under any circumstances and to act sooner. You know, when I hear that a bullies been fired after three years of wrecking havoc on a staff, Russel that kills me. Because that's three years of trauma that's been permitted. Next time, I want that guy, probably a man because most bullies are men are going to go on to another company if they're fired, and they're going to do the same exact thing unless they're stopped and coached. I'm not saying firing is the answer. We need to expose these behaviors is what my point is, we need to affect change from the middle staff needs to feel empowered to say, no, no one talks to me like that. No one touches me like that. It's just not okay. But then in business schools, the one silver lining about the pandemic is that the curriculum at business schools is changing, that most business schools didn't have a class called how to manage your staff how to manage people. And now because the pandemic changed the workplace so much what I'm hearing is a curriculum at business schools is changing to include material like this, and and case studies and how could it not considering how prevalent they are in the news and and in the workplace. So leaders need new leaders need to be learning this material in business school, how to be a better leader, and then when they come into a company, you know, you're talking about onboarding, how about getting some training on cultures of respect, how to manage the... you know our culture is that we have a zero tolerance policy for bullying and sexual harassment. And when you see it, this is what you do about it? If and when you see it, I think we need to get ahead of these issues way sooner than we have been. So you know, what do we do we need leaders to be better, we need them to have awareness and how do they have awareness is we have to tell them, and you know, so in meetings, sometimes it's like little, little efforts, like you Russel speaking up and saying, Hey, what a great idea, Jill, just have, you know, like to, to build that kind of empowerment, and then, you know, to have staff in and you know, the great resignation was a really good indicator of many staff feeling unhappy with the way things are at companies. And what I'm aware of is that, you know, staff is not telling the truth all the time at exit interviews. At an exit interview, most staff will say, Oh, yes, I'm leaving to make more money, or I'm leaving to get a job where the schedule is better for me. They're not saying, you know, Joe, in marketing is a raging bully, or the CEO of our company, has been sexually harassing every woman who comes through his office, I think a lot of people feel like, why should I bother doing that?

Russel Lolacher
And why do they feel that way? Because and thank you for sort of getting me to the end of the employee journey, which is leaving. I read a stat that for every woman that is promoted to the director level, two women directors leave are leaving the company. That was a McKinsey report. So you're leaving an organization that you know, is toxic, or you know, is not equitable, how are you helping the organization get better by not saying anything like that? I mean, don't get me wrong, they may never change that's out of your control. Why aren't women saying things as they leave?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Because they're fearful as they always have been of repercussion and backlash. They fear that if they're honest, that their honesty will, will travel with them, that their reputation will become that they're a troublemaker that they make waves. They want to they're about self preservation. They want to in general, protect their livelihood, and who couldn't blame them, right. They want to protect their families, but they in their heads, they think, Well, I'm leaving this this jerky company because they didn't care about me. I told them about sexual harassment and they looked the other way or they you know, let the they let they let the bully stay anyway, or the harasser. So the thought is, if they don't care about me, why should I care about them? And what I say to groups of women especially is especially if their parents if they are moms, and or they have young people in their life they care about my message to them is, I believe we should say something anyway. It may be too late for us, but it's not too late for our children and for your grandkids, who are going to be the staff of the future, how are we going to make this thing better if we don't reveal the problems now. But one of the reasons, you know, in the book, which is 400 pages, I have stories from leaders and assistants, and recruiters and HR professionals, and I put them all under one book in the inside of one book. Because if we agree that there are aspects of the workplace that are broken, no one of those groups alone is going to be able to fix what's broken. So we, I have to say, Russel, my view of the future workplace is one where these groups are going to need to recognize that we have to work together, that we have to cooperate with each other. That you know, we refer to staff all the time as the backbone of the company and the right arms to managers and the eyes and the ears and the face of the culture. Well, then we better treat people that better is my point of view.

Russel Lolacher
That is a beautiful lead into the last question I have Bonnie which is what's one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Have a conversation. My message, you know, we're, we hear so much about diversity, equity and inclusion and and the need for our diverse teams. I believe one of the things that we can do immediately is to think who is in our orbit, who's interesting, even if you've been working with somebody for a really long time, choose one person a week, maybe have a virtual coffee, have lunch with somebody who doesn't look like you, and somebody who doesn't sound like you. And understand it's going to take a bet everybody a Canadian dollar, that you will find a serious area of commonality within the first five minutes. I've done it and it's 100% true. And you know, you and I bonded over coffee, Russel, we love we both love coffee. You know, food is usually a great common denominator between people who are different, but I think that's something we can all do very easily is say, you know, we've been working with each other for 10 years now. And I realized I don't really know you all that well. Why don't you know, do you want to have a coffee? See what happens.

Russel Lolacher
Oh, I love that. That is Bonnie Low-Kramen. She is the founder CEO of ultimate assistant training and consulting and she's written a fabulous book. If you haven't checked it out, please do Staff Matters: People Focused Solutions for the Ultimate New Workplace. Thanks so much for being here, Bonnie.

Bonnie Low-Kramen
Thanks Russel. So much.