Helen Howard International Women's Day
We are proud to be supporting International Women's Day 2020. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.
We interviewed our very own Natalie Rosenberg, Director - Head of Private Practice, North America.
The theme for IWD2020 is #EachforEqual. Have you experienced gender stereotypes/gender bias in a professional context? If so, how have you been able to challenge this?
The biggest challenge that I have encountered is being labeled as someone who is aggressive and pushy while my male counterparts were considered assertive and driven for similar opinions and behavior. Being in a sales focused role, there are certain traits that make one effective requiring a bit of determination and passion. While at the beginning of my career, hearing adjectives with a negative connotation describing my drive and determination to succeed made me pause and really question what I was doing and made me spend time second guessing myself, I have now learned to really trust my instincts more and also try to align myself with clients who understand my way of communicating and appreciate the direct manner and need for efficiency. Now when someone calls me pushy, I just move past it much faster and take it to mean that I am being assertive and driven.
What does equality in the workplace look like for you?
Equality in the workplace is more employee-centric for me, where leadership is mindful of the differences that various employees have in terms of communicating and bringing their authentic selves to the table. In reality, that translates to having systems that are favorable to various types of working arrangements that allow for employees of different types to thrive. Having worked with male dominated leadership in the past, some of the systems that were set up were not beneficial for the way that I work. Although having a boss that genuinely wanted me to succeed and spent time and energy mentoring me, I now realize that he didn't know how to mentor me because he didn't understand the way that I learned. So he was teaching me in a way that HE learned, which resulted in frustration for both parties because our learning styles were literally the opposite. Equality in the workplace for me would entail a similar model to Bridgewater - where employees have their psychologi cal profiles openly listed and then each party whether in leadership or anywhere in the company finds the quickest and most effective way to communicate and solve problems faster for an employee's individual learning style and personality type.
If you mentor professionals at the early stages of their careers, do they/have they encountered different equality issues than you experienced at the same stage in your career? What changes have you seen?
I have been recruiting for over 13 years and I have found that professionals in the early stages of their careers are apologizing less for their desire to have a work/life balance. More of both women and men that I work with are comfortable asking me about personal commitments outside the office and seeking advice on what environment would be more accommodating for their individual situation while in the past it was more of a hush hush topic and there was more stigma attached to bringing up childcare conflicts and the like. Today, I am finding younger professionals being more comfortable bringing up the topic and have an expectation that the company is going to be more accommodating.
How do you think parental leave should be approached in 2020?
I feel like companies are making more and more strides to equalize parental leave and I hope it will continue in an upward trajectory.
Do you feel social media has influenced a positive shift change for female leadership?
Yes, I feel that social media has had a positive influence for female leadership for the main reason that there is more stories and role models that are easier to access and in turn emulate. I personally have built a "wolfpack" of professional women who continually share various articles and stories with each other that help to stay inspired and/or keep going when things get difficult. We also promote each other's accomplishments and events on social media. It has allowed me to build a network of professional women where regardless of what issue I am tackling I have a real support system and I don't feel alone in terms of my professional challenges. I have found that by building a strong professional circle, there is a lot of cross-promotion and inspiration. I would have given up climbing the corporate ladder a while back but seeing my friends succeed and have them show me what's possible has inspired me to keep striving and working harder to get to the next level. Soc ial media and my female leadership circle has also taught me that it is okay to love money and want to make money - that it is possible to want financial success and still retain a lot of the qualities that are more stereotypically associated with being a good mother, wife, friend, etc.
If yes, has there been any particular stories that have resonated with you?
One of my friends from my professional "wolfpack" just sent a law review article, "Reflections of a lady lawyer" written by Lisa Blatt. I found it to be so inspiring because the author seems so genuine and successful but in a way that I have not stereotypically thought of for a law firm partner. She was comfortable discussing her stellar professional accomplishments in the same sentence as the importance of family time and still being a full rounded woman who enjoys shopping. It is nice to see honest examples of unapologetically successful and passionate women who are assertive and feminine at the same time. Someone who reached the top and is invested in mentoring younger professionals in a real way is inspiring. The more of these stories I hear and see in real life, the more I feel like this is also possible for me. For many years, the biggest challenge for me was not seeing myself reflected in the leadership above me and it was hard to envision myself being successfu l in a way that they were successful. I am now at the point of my career where I am so excited to find success with my own voice and not try to fit into a definition of what I envisioned as a stereotypical leader.
What have you or your business implemented to achieve positive changes for an equal workforce?
I feel like out of all the places that I have worked, this company is truly dedicated to making an effort and really trying to make their employees feel like they belong. Given that we are a global organization and have a lot of different cultures and types of people that are successful, the company has done a great job of maintaining its roots and knowing who they are while also accommodating a broad range of personalities. We have a whole team dedicated to Diversity & Inclusion that actually implements changes that make an impact. As someone who is new to the company, I was positively surprised to experience that our corporate values of "Authentic, Collaborative, Agile and Expert" are actually reflective in the daily make-up of the organization and they are not mere lip service to a theoretical concept.
Is there a business that you admire for their positive approach to an equal workforce? If so, who and why?
I have recently had the privilege to have a frank discussion about women in the workplace with Harsh Kumar who is the COO for Citi's Private Bank.
I really admired Harsh's approach and commitment to fostering dialogue and recognizing that each person may be different and being committed to finding individual approaches to help his team thrive. Harsh discussed that knowing some of his employees are less likely to speak in a meeting, he does a simple thing of prompting an open-ended question and asking this specific person regarding their opinion. What seems like a subtle gesture has led to terrific results as he discussed having a number of women in leadership role on his team. Just someone being mindful of the differences and taking baby steps makes all the difference in my book.
Please note that all commentary and opinions provided are those of the individual, and not the organisation/company they are employed by.