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New Attitudes About Gender, Work, and Family — Kathleen Gerson and Jerry Jacobs

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).


Jerry Jacobs is Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and Founding President of the Work and Family Researchers Network, an interdisciplinary and international scholarly association that focuses on work and family issues. His research with Kathleen Gerson was honored with the Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research in 2002, and led to the publication of The Time Divide: Work, Family and Gender Inequality, published by Harvard University Press in 2004.

Kathleen Gerson is Collegiate Professor of Sociology at NYU, where she studies gender, work, and family change. Her most recent book, The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family, is an award-winning study of how new generations have responded to the gender revolution of the last several decades. She is now conducting a study about the challenges facing today’s adults, who must build their work and family lives amid the increasingly insecure economic climate of the new economy.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation. Full podcast.


Kathleen Gerson: kathleen gersonOur findings seem to provide one more piece of the puzzle of how dramatic change has been. Jerry [Jacobs] and I continue to be baffled that so many people are skeptical that these changes have occurred. I think in some ways our private lives have moved forward in a way that public discussions about them simply haven’t caught up.

Stewart Friedman: Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?

KG: There’s a bad news orientation in the media and, to some extent, in our political discourse, in which people tend to be quite skeptical about social change. If I were to sum that up, I would say two opposite arguments are being made. First, nothing is really changed, we’re going back to the old ways, women are still facing these huge barriers and men continue to be resistant to these changes. The other side of the story, which ironically or paradoxically presents the opposite picture, is women have changed so quickly that men are being left behind and this is not good for society and men and women are unhappy about this reversal. What Jerry and I have found is that neither of those stories is true. In fact, what’s happening is men and women are converging in terms of not only how they want to live their lives and what they want to get done in their lives, but also in terms of their views about what other people’s choices should be, and how we as a society should allow people to make those choices. Even though the political discourse is very contentious, what Jerry and I have found is that ordinary Americans, across a very broad spectrum of demographic and social categories, support the idea that gender, in fact, should not be the primary driver of who does what, at work or in the home. These decisions should be driven by what people want, what people prefer, and what’s best for their families, and how they can do the best in a very increasingly uncertain and difficult situation.  What we really need is to relieve the difficulties that families are facing to allow them to develop the strategy they prefer.

SF: To produce greater human freedom, after all, right?

KG: I would underline the world human.  It would be nice if we could move beyond these categories of women and men, and talk about human beings, parents, workers.

SF: Creating options and choices for people, then produces the kinds of roles they want to create with the support that they need.  But there’s so much here to unpack.

Jerry Jacobs: Jerry JacobsBut before you unpack, let me explain a little more specifically what we did. There’s a body of research that talks about gender role ideology, and it shows that a lot of people are much more flexible in terms of their views on what women’s and men’s role should be. It also shows there’s a substantial minority stuck in the old ways, committed to traditional, standard gender ideology.

SF: That is, of course, the model of the single-earner dad with a mom at home taking care of kids;  caregiving and breadwinning split by men and women doing one or the other roles.

JJ: Our concern about this research is it doesn’t really say very much about situations and specifics. One of the motivating factors behind what we did is we asked ourselves, if we give the average person, respondents chosen at random, a national random sample, if we give them specific stories, specific situations regarding men’s and women’s choices, what will turn out to be more important: the situations or commitment to gender ideology? The question is are people stuck in a set of blinders that basically say women belong in the home no matter what, or does it depend? Does it depend on if she likes her job? The other thing we specifically looked at was whether her family depended on her income. We have remarkably powerful evidence to suggest that situations are more important than anything else, than whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re single or married, it’s not that the patterns are identical for fathers and mothers, but the situations were more important than gender.

SF: Why is that so important, as an observation about our society? I think most of our listeners are less interested in sociological literature, but of course those two are related, what’s the so what there in terms of what people in business as well as public policy makers ought to be thinking about as a result of what you observed?

KG: it’s important because what it tells us is is that ordinary Americans, women and men across ages, races, and situations, are far more sympathetic to the particular situations that individuals families are facing and are far more flexible in their views about what women and men should do than either our political discourse or our public policy or our workplace policies, even for private workplaces, recognize. If both our government policies and employers would pay more attention to this, then I think that would not just improve the way we talk about these issues but could make a real difference in the lives of men and women, mothers and fathers, and children.

JJ: If we could make childcare more affordable and higher quality, our data suggests that more people would support women working, or more people would support mothers of young children being in a labor force.

SF: How does that equation work? Why is the advent of a greater daycare support going to lead to greater support of women in the workplace?

JJ: One of our key findings was that when mothers are satisfied with the childcare that they’re getting, people are more supportive of her working. They’re much more skeptical of mothers’ employment if there’s a feeling that the childcare that they have access to is inadequate or unsatisfactory.

KG: Another finding is that if women can earn enough to support their families, there’s enough support for fathers staying home with their children, especially if those fathers are dissatisfied and unhappy with their jobs and their families don’t feel they have adequate childcare. In a sense, the implications for public policy are both about the childrearing and family side but we need more support, both for employment of mothers and fathers, and also for gender equity at work.  If mothers and fathers have access to well-paying and secure jobs, it gives them more options about who can do what in the home.

SF: It’s clear that the more men lean in at home, the more women can lean in at work and enjoy the fruits of their productive output in the labor market contributing to society through their work.  But it does mean that men need to be not only supportive but really given legitimacy in the role of caregiver. It sounds like your evidence suggests that the legitimacy is out there.

KG: I think that was one of the more uplifting and surprising findings. It’s not really surprising to find out that people support single mothers working, for example, and it’s even less surprising that they would support married mothers with good jobs and good childcare working.  But I think it is definitely worth noting that they also support fathers who don’t have good childcare and aren’t happy with their jobs and aren’t providing necessary income, that they support those fathers being more involved at home and being the primary caretaker.

SF: I, too, find it uplifting Kathleen that men be seen as legitimate in the role of caregiver, that is something that we found in our study comparing the Gen Xers with the millennials here at Wharton and that men’s and women’s roles are converging and how they think about what’s valid and true. I also got an email yesterday from someone who attended one of my workshops on leadership from the point of the whole person, where people look at what’s important to them, who is important to them, and they make creative changes based on those diagnostic analyses and here’s what she wrote to me:

While doing the exercises in the book and discussing with my coaches we discovered a great way to improve my whole self and my life has dramatically changed. Prior to this change, I was working 26 hours and my husband was working 40 hours in a job he disliked that was too far from home. We discovered a solution that led me to coming back to work full-time with a flexible schedule and location and my husband now doesn’t have a paying job; he takes care of the house. If nothing else, I’d like to thank you for putting this information out there and let you know that you helped me change my life for the better.

Of course, I hear this type of thing all the time from students, but they don’t necessarily thank me, but I hear these issues a lot. You’re finding research evidence that this is common, that people are making choices on the basis of economics, the need for childcare, and not whether it’s the man or woman doing the caregiving at home.

KG: I think one thing that is important for us to point out is that this study was really asking people what their opinions and beliefs and attitudes were, but we shouldn’t gloss over the fact that implementing those beliefs may be a lot harder than having them. That’s where I think we’re lagging behind and not giving people real options to implement those beliefs, rather than having them but not feeling they’re socially legitimate or even logistically possible.

SF: It’s something that’s at issue in the presidential campaign. Some of the people who are wanting to be our president are talking quite strenuously about this issue and I think it’s going to be one of the platform issues that’s going to draw a lot of attention, because it will be a stark contrast between the Democrats and Republicans, right?

KG: It’s certainly something that Obama has put on the agenda in the last several years of his presidency as well.

SF: What you two have done here is to advance the knowledge about what is fundamental to any kind of real change and that is the legitimacy of this shift and simply acknowledging that people’s attitudes really have changed, and that’s very powerful. What’s been the reaction to this work?

JJ: There’s been a lot of interest, and we got some very interesting feedback in our New York Times piece. Among our colleagues, there’s a lot of engagement in these issues and trying to see how we can probe further into the aspects of work that are most essential and the aspects of family life that are most important. In a sense, this is a first step in that area, but the feedback we’ve been getting is very positive.

SF: What are people saying?

KG: One of the more important reactions has been not simply about the findings themselves but also about the way we went about asking the question, because part of the problem, as Jerry pointed out earlier, is I think we’ve been asking the wrong questions up to this point. We’ve been asking questions like is it alright for a mother to work and will their children suffer and those questions already start to presuppose an answer, you almost have to disagree with the assumption of the question, which is hard for people to do to give a more accurate answer, but they also focus only on women and mothers. If we have any larger effect on even the way that these questions are phrased, I think that will be important, not only because we’ve included fathers as well as mothers.   And we’ve also taken account of the fact that not everyone is married and there are all sorts of family forms and patterns these days that were not prevalent 30 or 40 years ago.  We’re asking people not just a global question, but rather given this particular situation where these parents are facing these constraints and these opportunities, what do you believe is the appropriate action. That’s very different from just saying this blanket statement about whether or not it’s good for mothers to work.

SF: It seems so obvious that we should have been doing that all along, so how did you come up with this better method?

JJ: It’s an experiment. We had an opportunity to do a controlled experiment in a survey setting, which is kind of unusual.  A number researchers around the country and around the world are thinking about how they can replicate what we’ve done, extend what we’ve done, and that’s always exciting.

KG: We had this opportunity to use this method where you’re actually setting the stage before you ask people questions and then seeing how people might respond differently depending on how that stage is set differently. We’re able to add all these different situations, which is very hard to do if you’re asking everyone the same questions. Part of what happened is we began to realize from our own research how misleading some of these surveys that were asking questions formulated 30 years ago were. Because we know 40 years ago most people lived in a particular kind of family and a certain set of beliefs were prevalent.   But we’ve gone through a revolution since then and we began to ask ourselves how we can begin to formulate questions for the 21st century that don’t make the assumptions that might have been reasonable to make in the 1950s. For example, if someone is faced with bad childcare, and this is something else we looked at, they have a set of choices. They might stop working, but they also might decide to get better childcare. Same with a job. If you were unhappy with your job, one option might be to pull back from work but another option is to look for a different job. We wanted to give people realistic options rather than forcing them to give answers that really didn’t fit with the realities Americans face today.

SF: Randy is calling from Texas. Randy, welcome to Work and Life. What’s on your mind?

Randy: I was thrilled when I heard this topic. In my family, my husband and I had a very heated discussion about this exact same topic over the weekend. It seems like the research is focusing on do we think it’s okay, is there a societal shift in the belief that it’s okay for men and women to do something that’s not sticking with a gender stereotype. My question is was there any look at a non-binary question so is there an impact if you choose a non-gender-specific role, do you face consequences in the workforce, specifically thinking about men who choose to make family a larger priority than work, are they then experiencing negative consequences in the workforce because we aren’t willing to accept it in practice?

JJ: We work with companies all the time and talk to corporate leaders and try to encourage them to promote workplace flexibility and to give working parents the option to work less to pursue lots of different creative choices. You’re absolutely right that there’s a reluctance with many people because they’re concerned that there are real consequences. There is often some income loss in the short term, but I think people worry even more about the long-term consequences for their careers, and that’s both men and women. I think you may be right that there’s still more of a sales job that’s needed for men to convince everybody that this is a legitimate choice.  Kathleen and I are arguing that we’re moving toward convergence. Neither of us feel that we’re there yet. I think there’s an understanding that there are costs for both male and female employees, and that’s one of the reasons we want to move toward more explicit, systematic policies like paid leave so that it’s more institutionalized and accepted.

SF: And available for both men and women. It’s clearly not just a women’s issue anymore. Your research really helps to move us past that debate of is work and family a women’s issue. It’s a human issue, as we said earlier.

KG: There is research by others that does show that there is a stigma attached to taking advantage of the family leave policies that companies offer, and ironically I think to some extent, is greater for men than for women, because we still have a ways to go in terms of thinking about these as issues that men and women both care about and face.

SF: The data from that research is probably five years old now.

KG: Let’s hope that current and future research shows that’s declining. The more we talk about it, I think the greater chances are that it will. In the past, I think we’ve talked too much about the clash between women and men and perhaps the way we need to start talking about this now is the clash between workers’ needs and workplace policy. That will help us begin to reduce the stigma and actual career and long-term economic consequences.

JJ: Randy, what kind of choices were you considering —  cutting back or opting out of the labor force for a spell?

Randy: For the longest time, we were both equals and we had a nanny, which was wonderful. Through changes in the economy and one of our companies closing, we had the opportunity for one of us to stay home. It was me, and that’s what we decided to do. There’s a whole host of issues with that for me, but for my husband, career continues to go up and mine doesn’t go anywhere. Part of that was it’s socially acceptable for me to opt out for period. It would be harder for him to opt out even when we were both equals.   But if there was push-comes-to-shove with a family requirement, I was always the one that figured out a way to make things work because it’s okay if I leave to take someone to the doctor and not okay if he leaves to take someone to the doctor.

JJ: I do think the world is changing. Mark Zuckerberg was very public about taking paternity leave. I think there are lots of men who get points for going to their kids’ soccer games and taking off for their kids’ softball practice.  I think as more and more examples become known, I think we’re chipping away with this. The other thing I want to add is we are also very interested in re-entry ramps, trying to make it easier for people to come back into the labor force.  Stay-at-home dad is not a perfect situation. It’s not as though dads are staying home for 16 years or 18 years, they’re often doing it for six months or a year, or a lot of times they’re just cutting back to part-time. It’s not that different for women. A lot of women opt out of the labor market at some point. A lot of times it’s not their choice, things happen at work, the company closes, the office moves to a different location or whatever, and one of things that we need to do is to facilitate the re-entry of people who developed tremendous skills and abilities and are able to contribute significantly to our economy. We have to create an economy for settings where it’s easier to get back in.

SF: To off-ramp and on-ramp and to use the assets that you obtain in the parental role. There are things that you learn as a parent or by managing a household that make you more effective in the workplace; it’s not that it’s down time. Jerry, you just mentioned Zuckerberg’s very visible paternity leave.  One of the things I didn’t like about his announcement on Facebook was that he talked only about benefits for his child, which is lovely of course, citing the importance of fathers in child development, but what he didn’t speak to were the business benefits of his doing this, and I’m sure he’s thinking about them. How do you see the argument unfolding in terms of these high-profile examples but also the shift in attitudes in America about the need for support for parental leave, whether paternity or maternity?

KG: It makes a great difference, especially when the leaders at the top set the example, because that sends a signal to the people below them that they’re not going to be penalized, and if they are, it would be completely illegitimate. I think the best example I can provide is from Norway. There, they develop a use-it-or-lose-it policy, which means all parents have the right to paid parental leave for six months, but it cannot be given to the other parent. If a father doesn’t use it, then he relinquishes it and the family loses that option. Surprisingly, what that’s done is up the percentage of fathers who take it to the point where that’s the predominant pattern. What’s interesting to me is the cultural spillover effect of that change. Now, the norm has generally shifted so if a father doesn’t take leave, that’s considered strange and that requires an explanation, as opposed to the situation here where if a father does take leave, that’s considered strange and has to be justified.

SF: And that’s all as a result of social policy change.

KG: It’s not just that cultural change can lead to policy change, policy change can cause cultural change as well and we need to keep that in mind when we talk about things like Zuckerberg providing a good example for his company. If he provides an example, it also means that it changes the signals that other men and fathers and mothers receive and it gives them rights they may not have thought they had before.

SF: It might also spur people to try to push for changes in policy.   We’ll probably not see a policy like Norway’s in our lifetime. Aside from knowing that attitudes are changing and there are these outcroppings of real progress in the corporate world and a push for changes in social policy that we’ve talked a lot about on this show and that we’ve been active in, what can an individual do based on your findings in this study? Are there any implications for fathers and mothers out there listening?

JJ: Kathleen and I had the great privilege of attending the White House Summit on Working Families. Not only were the president and Michelle Obama and the vice president and Jill Biden there, they were all speaking very frankly and from the heart about their own work/family challenges including Vice President Biden commuting back and forth everyday from Washington to Delaware on Amtrak when his kids were very young. Those were incredibly powerful stories, and talk about taking leadership from the top, their commitment to these issues I thought was very powerful.

SF: I was there, too, and it was truly moving to hear all four of them and so many others speak about this issue from the heart and from real experience just like the rest of us.

JJ: Getting back to individual choices, in job interviews, this is information to be asked about. What are your work/life policies? That’s something that people need to find out about. Many corporations are increasingly flexible, and technology is making some of that more possible like working from home one day a week or part of a day. Having flexibility, again that doesn’t work for every job, but it works for a lot of jobs. Having technological opportunities, they’re increasingly common workplace practices and this might sound optimistic, but there is some beginning evidence that we’re going to be facing a tighter labor market as unemployment declines and specifically for certain occupations that are increasingly in demand. Employers are going to be seeking out employees.

SF: This is what’s happening out in Silicon Valley. Kathleen, I know you were researching that. Jerry, as the Founding President of the Work and Family Researchers Network, what are these researchers doing?

JJ: The Work and Family Researchers Network brings academics and policy-makers and corporate HR practitioners together to discuss a very wide range of issues. We don’t only talk about sick leave policy and family leave policy but also about stress, eldercare, childcare, sleep, workplace productivity, and workplace flexibility. We have over 1,000 members from 40 countries around the world and we’re going to be convening again in June in Washington, D.C. Anyone who’s interested in learning more about our organization, we’re at workfamily.sas.upenn.edu. We have a website and we’d love to see some of your listeners join us at the conference.

SF: Kathleen, I understand you’re doing some work on changes in the technology world. What is it that you’re discovering or pursuing in that work?

KG: Let me follow up to the question about what you can do in your lives. I’ve been doing research in the Silicon Valley area and the New York metropolitan area, especially among people who are in technology and new economy jobs. The first thing I would say to everyone out there is you are not alone. The momentum is growing and I think we’re almost at a tipping point where the majority of people are wanting and pushing for the same thing, and don’t be fearful to speak up because you’re part of a much larger movement of people and the more we express these needs, the more they will be acceptable and legitimate. The second thing is we’re also in the midst of an enormous change in our economic fortunes and the nature of work. Increasingly, work for everyone, men and women alike, especially in these growing sectors of the labor market, is not so much about joining a labor organization and moving up the ladder and proving your loyalty, it’s really about managing your own career and integrating that with your other values and family life and private life. Therefore, it’s on employers to pay attention to that and it means that while uncertainty or change is always scary, it also provides enormous opportunities to build the kinds of lives we want to build. To think about it, but be willing to take the risks that matter to you to build the life you want, I think the more that happens the more that we will not only have support for the social policies we need but also for the workplace changes that employers are going to have to make in order to keep up with this new labor force.

SF: And to be competitive in the labor market. We’ve been saying this for years in the world of organizational psychology and sociology, but it really is happening now. If you come to the Wharton campus and you listen to the recruiting pitches, students are asking these questions and very much upfront, and companies are saying come to work at our company, have a whole life, have meaningful work, have a positive social impact, all the things that new entrants are claiming as rights. The companies that are going to be able to attract and retain those people are going to have to be able to adjust, and they are or at least saying that they’re trying to. Whether they are actually is really the rub, but it’s a long, slow process.

KG: Assuming we’re able to make these changes, let’s try to make them for everyone, not just those people that have the skills that are so desirable, but for people up and down the economic ladder who have less control over their work. We can institutionalize these changes, and everyone will have the power to create the lives they want for themselves.

Investing in Human Capital: Conversation with Anne Erni

Contributor: Ali Ahmed

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

Anne Erni is former head of Human Resources at Bloomberg and before that Managing Director and Chief Diversity Officer at Lehman Brothers where she pioneered global efforts in the recruiting, retention, and advancement of women and under-represented groups in financial services. She came to talent management with more than 15 years of front-line banking experience in fixed income and equity sales, at Lehman Brothers, Bankers Trust and Swiss Bank Corporation. Erni serves on several not for Profit advisory boards. She recently left her position for a much needed sabbatical.  Anne Erni spoke with Stew Friedman about HR in the 21st century and how we can invest wisely in human capital.

You can listen to the podcast here:


Stew Friedman: What did you do, in brief, over your course of tenure at Bloomberg?

Anne Erni: anne erniI joined Bloomberg in January of 2009.  My role was to build leadership, learning, and diversity. Bloomberg was in a big growth phase.  We were looking not only to grow the number of employees (which, by the way, grew from 8,000 to 16,000 by the time I left) but, in the course of that growth to make sure we were fully prepared with leaders who understood how to lead others, to understand business strategy, and to learn how to motivate and manage human capital as well managing the company’s capital.  While I was there I spent the first several years working on issues, such as leadership training, the hire to retire aspects of learning for all employees, as well as succession planning, and something dear to my heart, diversity.

SF:  You weren’t trained in HR. You came at this game through line positions in banking. How did you get into this field?

AE: I started out of school going into an investment banking training program and then worked in corporate finance. But there was something about that trading floor that really attracted me. It was alive and a perfect place for an extrovert to go and learn how business gets done. And I loved to sell. That was always part of my DNA. I worked my way up from repo, which is sort of the overnight, least sexy part of the trading floor – Re-Purchase Agreements. As I moved up the curve, and as my career progressed and I was promoted, I found myself increasingly alone as a woman on the trading floor. In August 2001 I was literally tapped on the shoulder by then President Joe Gregory who said, “Anne, men run in packs and women don’t. I need you to go out and create your pack.” Creating my pack has become a mantra throughout the course of my career – bringing groups of people together to encourage, inspire, and support one another. And it doesn’t have to be like-groups of people. It doesn’t have to be women for women or African Americans for other African Americans. It’s really about getting senior leadership to understand the nature of nurturing, sponsoring, and mentoring talent. That was really the beginning of my journey of moving from the trading floor to become, ultimately, the first Chief Diversity officer at Lehman, and learning how to you make sure that human capital strategy is in tune with what the business strategy is day-to-day on the floor, and how to really reach out and engage with mostly senior-level men who don’t naturally look at HR as an important issue.

SF: What was the greatest challenge in making that connection clear and compelling to the people that were decision makers?

AE: First, it’s related to the business challenge: to do a great job, we need great people. And you need great people to be highly engaged in order to bring their very best.   And you need people to stick around. It’s quite a competitive labor market, and when you have terrific people, your competitors find out very quickly. When you have a great performer and they leave to go to a competitor, that really strikes a nerve with senior leaders. The other piece is how do you get them to truly engage in change.  That is often through empathy.


While at Lehman and Bloomberg, one of the other things I noticed was that a lot of senior male leaders marry women they meet in the work force. And often, because they’re earning enough and have one of them to stay home, often the wives will leave the workforce. And when the kids grow up, they to tend to languish.  These are women who are highly educated, had terrific career trajectories, but had the choice and ability to spend time at home. But when they decided they wanted to go back, there were no avenues. They were not a legitimate pool from which companies recruited. The idea was how do you create those on-ramps and create an enthusiasm by senior male leaders to take a chance on someone who’s not been working for two years versus paying a premium for someone who has? Empathy was something that has often worked when thinking about how to change your organization.

SF: Can you give me an example of how you did that when you say ‘using empathy’? Can you recall an instance where you actually did that?

AE:  While at Bloomberg we spent a lot of time developing a curriculum. We have individual contributors, team leaders, and managers.  When I first arrived, when someone was promoted to team leader it wasn’t aspirational, it was like, “was I not a good contributor? Why am I having to manage other people?”  But over time, we made it an aspiration. The way you would get them to want to be leaders is to show them the impact that they have on others by relating it to the impact their boss may have had on them. When they think about “what’s a good boss?” “what’s a bad boss?” “how do I feel with a good boss?” “how do I feel with a bad boss?” it often has them think about what are the behaviors that I exhibit each day that will have an impact on my people. And it was often through that type of “relate it to yourself before you can then be able to be effective with others” that would help people understand why they would need to go through leadership training, why they would use new models of managing other people, and, frankly, changing the way work works. If people need to take time off, they need to think about their own lives before they can relate it to others.

SF: So, how did that play into what you had to do to get senior male leadership to understand the diversity challenge facing Lehman when you were first given this charge by Joe Gregory to create your own pack?

AE: When we would go to campuses to recruit, 58% of all undergrads were female. If you are recruiting a class that’s 90% male then you’ve actually lowered the standard because you haven’t taken equal parts of the intelligence that exists. Often we say, “you’re pulling an all-male class or an all-white class, how much talent have you left on the table?” You often have to appeal to the fact that, one, diversity in thought and perspective actually better solves problems, and two, to get that diversity of thought and perspective you can’t have a class coming out of school that is not diverse. You need to get them to really want to appeal to difference to bring them on board.

SF: How did you get them to be more open to see why it was important to invest in programs that were going to enrich and broaden the talent pool?

AE: First, you expose them to philanthropy and engage them with organizations like Prep for Prep in New York City where you see this amazingly talented group of African American students having opportunities to go private schools, get special tutoring, and access to training and experiences that ultimately put them in some of the best schools in the country. Seeing this, executives are much more open to looking at talent more broadly.

SF: Giving people opportunities that they may not have had otherwise helps them get a greater sense of emotional understanding. I guess that’s the way to characterize the sense of empathy.

AE: Absolutely, and we talk to them about what are some of the best ideas generated within teams. We try to highlight and understand that when you bring in multiple perspectives ultimately that will better solve problems.

SF: There is probably a lot you cannot say about the fall of Lehman. But I’m wondering if there is something you could tell our listeners about what was the biggest takeaway for you in terms of the fall of that great firm? How it went down. What did you take from that as a kind of life or leadership lesson?

AE: It was similar to Bloomberg in that it had an incredibly well defined and beloved culture. People loved being part of the organization. They genuinely believed in the mission. They genuinely believed in the leadership.  In 2001 we lost our buildings on September 11. And there was always this sense of being an underdog, and if we worked hard enough, if we fought hard enough, and we stayed together it would work. People genuinely believed that it would not happen to us. Being part of that culture, I was absolutely devastated along with the rest of folks that this had happened. One of my great learning’s was I believed so much in the company that I sacrificed many important times in my life for the company.  I had young children and worked late nights and weekends, giving up important events.   I realized that something that is here today and gone tomorrow was something I actually sacrificed very important aspects of my family life for that will never come back. That was how much I believed in a corporate entity. I ultimately learned, as trite as it may sound, that family trumps. Family decisions should sometimes, more often than I allowed them to, trump some of the work-life decisions that I made during that time.

SF: Now let’s get back to the Bloomberg story. So, you start there. Linda Wolf invites you to take responsibility for the leadership track. How did you become head of HR? And that lesson you learned at the fall of Lehman, how did that inform your own leadership act at Bloomberg?

AE: When I arrived at Bloomberg, it was a tough re-start.  It was a completely different culture, and I was an outsider coming in at a relatively senior level. Bloomberg had always grown organically over time, and we were in a time of great growth where we were going out and acquiring talent, both junior and senior.  Again, my point on empathy is as your designing programs to onboard senior leaders, you have to apply your own experiences of what you would’ve liked when you first came onboard. My focus was on building a culture of leadership. I think what I learned at Lehman, which I applied at Bloomberg, was in order to do that it always has to be in tune with what the business strategies are. And at Bloomberg, we have five different businesses: R&D, media, sales, data acquisition, corporate. And each one had very unique needs that you had to incorporate into whatever leadership training agenda you put in place. A training program for a journalist might be a bit different than the way you might approach the R&D folks. And that’s something that I really made very signature to my tenure; build an HR organization that was in tune with business strategy.

SF:  Looking back what do you think was your most significant accomplishment at Bloomberg?

AE: My most significant accomplishment was the establishment and roll out of a leadership program for our most senior leaders in which we were able to establish, at a time again of great growth, one common message about who we were as a company, what was expected of them as leaders, and have them all sing off the same song sheet, both new as well as long-tenured employees. This Global Leaders Forum was sponsored and led by the top leaders of our company. And to get them together to engage in the content and delivery (we did about 13 programs over the course of two years) was really a group effort. What I enjoyed most about that program was that all of our leaders ultimately went through individual coaching and I got to know many of them quite well before I became the Chief Human Resources Officer.

SF: Which I’m sure was crucial for your success in that role. Melila is joining us from Toronto. Welcome to the show, Melila. What is your question?

Melila: Hi, it’s very interesting that you are talking about corporate culture because in Canada we’re very multi-cultural and I suppose diversity for us is beyond women.  What I’m wondering is how do you start to build a corporate culture which recognizes and embraces the diversity but at the same time be able to unify the company and the culture so that you all start to speak on behalf of one organization? And start to have one corporate life experience?

AE: Great question. I have worked at two global organizations. At Bloomberg we are in over a hundred and ninety countries. What is so critical to the success of the company is making sure you are attracting, developing, and advancing local talent, and that not all of the decisions are coming out of the home office. And to do that you have to make sure that you understand local markets, that you’ve developed a recruiting strategy that brings in the right talent. But once they’re in the door, and I mentioned this earlier, creating the right onboarding experiences is critical. Hopefully, through the interview process you’ve designed the questions and the right type of corporate fit that you’re looking for. But once they’re in the door, it’s really helping them onboard and learn the corporate culture. At the same time, make sure leaders understand how to be inclusive in the way they manage them day-to-day.

Melila: In terms of the onboarding, is that a process that is owned by HR or is it a combined process between HR, the direct supervisor, and the communications team?

AE: I believe HR should create the infrastructure and the frameworks, but engage leaders in the process. For example, onboarding is not just day one where they sign papers and get some information about the company. It’s really about managers checking in with individuals, day 30, day 90, day 180. And also bringing together new hires over the course of the year so they can form networks, and be able to listen to each other, and talk about their common experiences. That piece of it absolutely needs to be led by both the managers of those individuals and some of the senior line managers. And to your earlier point about how do you build a corporate culture that embraces difference, you need to bring all those folks together and constantly expose them, as a group, to senior leaders and have senior leaders engage with them.

SF: But that takes so much time Anne. Who has time for all of that, if I can ask the devil’s advocate question?

AE: First of all, it’s very expensive to acquire talent, but it’s more expensive to lose talent. So, if you look at the economics, a typical rule of thumb is that it costs 1.5 times the compensation of a new employee. And we would often look at the cost of recruiting, which is significant as well.  Invest a few hours a year checking in and doing what we used to call a “stay interview” to see how the employee’s doing to get them to stay. You can ask them, “How are things going? What are you experiencing? What about our culture? How can I best support you?” Those small gestures by either your direct manager or senior leader in your group can really yield great results. I think often what you find is some managers will tend to connect, sponsor, and mentor folks that are more like them.   We need to embrace all new joiners to the company and make sure they get equal access to that stay opportunity.

SF: Melila, thanks for that wonderful question. I want to find out why you left this extremely cool job, and what you have been doing since you’ve left. How did you come to that decision?

AE: It was truly one of the hardest decisions I ever made in my life. My career was never more exciting. I had a great opportunity to work with senior leaders and Mike [Bloomberg] himself. He is an incredible visionary and leader. But it was also a crossroads in my life.  I recently celebrated a big birthday.   More importantly I have spent the majority of my HR career in the last fifteen years creating policies and practices to help individuals navigate work/life issues. So, for example, at Bloomberg created the first flexible leave programs. We were working on creating different types of long-term leave programs – maternity leave, paternity leave —  trying to make it accessible to all employees. We call them leaves of absence, and do not have differentiated leaves. So, if you were a gay parent and adopted a child, you were going to get one period of time. And if you were a female and were giving birth you would get another period of time. What I really wanted to make sure was that all employees had equal options and equal time. Bloomberg is always on the cutting edge of most policies and incredibly generous, but there were outdated approaches. The very last thing I got approved before I left was an updated modern approach to leaves, which essentially put our leave policy on the cutting edge in terms of length of time away and support that we provide.   We did primary caregiver and secondary caregiver, so that makes it gender neutral and it also makes it neutral across whether you’re a hetero- or homosexual couple.  It benchmarked incredibly well against those with whom we were competing for talent.


This passion for creating options for people led me to think what about me? I was going through a point in my life where certain things were going on that I would never get back.  For example I brought up two children and my daughter is 24 and lives in London. She has already flown the coup. And I have a son who was a rising senior in high school and I always said to my family — my husband and my mom, who is one of my great confidants – that when Noah’s in his junior year I want to know what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom. I pushed through 28 years in my career in a very fast paced, high powered, high pressured environment working 12, 14, 16 hours a day because I wanted to succeed. I wanted to get to that next level. I wanted to do the best job possible. As I said earlier about Lehman, since I was being paid to do that job it often trumped family decisions. But I knew that if I waited until my son went to college, and all of a sudden I had the time and money to take time off, what was it worth? I knew it was a very important time in any high school kid’s life when they start to look at colleges, when they start to work on applications, and I didn’t have any of that time.


Often, when I went on a college tour, something would happen at work, and I’d spend time sitting in the car, while my husband walked around campus with my son. Or on a weekend, we were going to work on his list that he had to give to his guidance counselor and I was in the office and I didn’t have time.  I also have elderly parents. I’m part of the sandwich generation.  My dad has Alzheimer’s and is 81.  You feel a different kind of obligation not only to support the parent with Alzheimer’s but really more to support my mother who is taking care of my dad. And they need support to make difficult decisions they may not be seeing objectively. And there is my husband.  He and I had equally intense careers, and he has been an incredible supporter of mine throughout it all. And often when he would pick me up from work, and I’d get in the car, I was the one who spilled the beans first.  I’d talk about decisions I had to make, problems, or politics I was dealing with at work. And we haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on his career. Also, for my marriage it was a very important thing for me to spend more time focusing on him. I really came to this point where I had to make this decision: I can continue to keep my head down and plow through it like I’ve done at every other stage of my career, or am I going to exercise the option that I put in place for everybody else.


And I have to tell you, Stew, I shocked everybody. No one knew that I was going through this sense of personal pain. No one really knew the toll it was taking on me personally in terms of lack of sleep, and the inability to do what I really wanted to do.  I spent two weeks on vacation – my first vacation in fifteen or twenty years and during that two weeks I felt a sense of freedom. This was in December and January of 2014 going into 2015. I was in Uruguay, South America.   Far away. No cell phone reception. And it was during that time that I decided that I need more of this time. But I needed to sit on that thought. I needed to think it through. I needed several months before ultimately approaching my boss to say that I needed to take some time off. And there was a great discussion about should we change my job, would I be interested in doing something else, but I really felt that I needed a genuine break, time to focus on family, to experience for myself what it meant to be a stay-at-home mom after being a professional mom for my whole life. I resigned in early March. My last day was May first. I stayed on to help with an orderly transition. I’ve stayed in close touch with most members of my team, but I really took the summer off and did the things I set out to do.

SF: So, was this understood to be a sabbatical where you would return/might return/might not return? What’s the mutual understanding if you can talk about that?

AE: Sure, I can. Bloomberg had a no re-hire policy.  It’s quite public and Mike [Bloomberg] writes about it in “Bloomberg by Bloomberg.” Over the years many people who were incredible performers had to leave for personal or professional reasons, but ultimately realized that they might want to come back. So we have hired back several key people. When the announcement went out that I was going to be leaving Bloomberg to pursue family pursuits, first of all, there were lots of snickers like “oh, sure you’re going to take care of your family,” or I was being fired or something more sinister. I knew it was the euphemism often used, but it was the truth for me. But I was so honored and pleased when it was written “Anne will be returning at some point.” So while I didn’t go on a formal sabbatical because we don’t have sabbaticals at Bloomberg, there was absolutely an agreement and opportunity that should I want to return that I could go back and talk about what potential opportunities exist, which I haven’t yet done.

SF: So, you’re now in this interim period. Noah, your younger child is now a senior.  So, you’ve got a year?

AE:  That’s correct. We did the visits over the summer, we worked on his list, he’s worked on his essay. And I think he’s in a terrific place where he genuinely knows the direction he wants to go in. I’ve spent a great deal of time with my mom. We’re working on getting care at home. We’re looking at what long-term care looks like, looking at homes. I’m going to D.C. next week to do that with her. I was actually most surprised about the space I’ve made for myself, and my own personal nurturing. I love to entertain. I love to cook. So, I spent a great deal of time working on that this summer. And I’ve also done a great deal of research. Because the question is: Do I want to go back to doing what I did, or is this an opportunity to pivot, change direction? I did a great deal of research on “great women” or “high-powered women” that have made career changes. I’ve been studying that quite hard, Stew.

SF: So, what have you taken away from your study?

AE: There are lots of people that have worked in the White House, or state department, or in investment banking, or in media that came up with an idea, and took some time off, and then went in completely different direction.  Someone like a Martha Stewart, she worked in the state department. Or Ina Garten, who’s the Barefoot Contessa, who worked in the White House and now has an incredible food network brand and global following. There are entertainers who have built multi-billion dollar businesses. Jessica Alba, she’s a billionaire. So, there are great examples that have been inspiring to me.   I have a notebook, which is in front of me here, which has the ideas that I’m thinking about. But also, I’m thinking about whether I want the portfolio career, my own entrepreneurial venture, or do I want to go back to the corporate world. And that’s sort of the crossroads I’m finding myself in now, and I’m looking to January 2016 to make that decision.

SF: Wow!   That’s only a few months away.  You’re going to have to come back to tell us what you ultimately decided and why. As you think about the next phase of your journey of discovery, as you referred to it on the break, what’s going to be paramount in your thinking because there are some competing interests here? You can’t just do everything. How do you come to understand what’s really most important to you now and where you want to invest your precious moments and energy in your life?

AE: One of the things I’ve always made a core principle as I decide what to do is: can I make an impact? Am I empowered to make an impact?  When Joe Gregory tapped me on the shoulder and said men run in packs, women don’t, he put money behind it. I had a pool of compensation that I could reward for engaging. He put his money where his mouth was. When I was at Bloomberg, I was working with senior leadership. They completely put the right resources behind us. So, whatever I do has to have the right resourcing for me to have the kind of impact that I want.  That’s a core principle. Impact can be measured in dollars or political capital.  One of the other aspects I’m exploring is the whole notion of ‘affiliative capital,’ ‘affiliative power.’   The extent that you’re working for someone as amazing and world-renowned as a Mike Bloomberg, that’s an incredible affiliative capital to be able to have in order to get things done. The question is whatever I do next, do I need affiliative capital or does my own capital carry itself. I’ve always been part of a corporate system, and I’ve always had that benefit.  I would say the third criteria that I’m setting is:  I do want to have more freedom. So, whether it’s a portfolio approach, perhaps consulting, or whether it’s going back to corporate, it’s going to need to have more flexibility than I’ve been able to have in previous roles.

SF: Which is what we know everybody wants: greater freedom to pursue the things that matter in ways that enable them to have the kind of impact that they want to have. That’s what the show is about and what all of my work is about: to create opportunities for people to be supported to pursue the lives they want to live. Of course that happens at the level of social policy, corporate practice, and empowering and skilling up of individuals to claim that power.  As you think now about your kids and their future, and of the millennials generally, what did you learn in your experiences most recently at Bloomberg? What did you learn about how the rising generation sees the whole issue of work and life? And what is the most pressing concern for business with respect to addressing those needs and interests?

AE: I think whether you’re a millennial or a baby boomer, what has changed all of our lives is technology and the ability to work 24/7. You’re reachable 24/7 pretty much anywhere in the world, except where you can’t get reception. I think that has blurred work and life. I think the millennials are doing a much better job at navigating that and being able to leverage that to get their work done.   But on the other hand, I think they’re much more intent on making sure that they have a distinction between their work and life. And that whatever they are working on has meaning. And one of the things I was incredibly proud of while working at Bloomberg was the fact that we were able to work so closely with the Bloomberg Foundation, which is one of the most high-impact foundations in the world, and engage particularly our millennials in a lot of the volunteerism. I think bringing that meaning to the office and allowing employees to, for example, clean beaches, or clean schools, or work on a myriad of projects, that was incredibly meaningful to the next generation. It’s blurring the lines because they can come to work and then go work on the beach, or when they go to the beach and they may be working on a proposal. They’re able to integrate it, but we have to make sure that we are very much more intentional in providing them meaning as it relates to work.

SF: Absolutely, we did a study comparing the class of 1992 to the class of 2012 at Wharton, and one of the major findings of that study was how much more the current generation values having meaningful impact through their works, especially women, but men too. The growth in that value as expressed by women is really powerful and it makes perfect sense that a company like Bloomberg would invest heavily to create opportunities for people to have a greater sense of meaning through their work, and not just through volunteer projects, but the everyday. So, were there ways that you did this at Bloomberg For other business leaders listening in, what advice would you have for them to create a greater sense of meaning and purpose for millennials, to fully engage them?

AE: It goes back to our opening conversation about corporate culture, and I think that it’s really important for any company to define what is the ‘there there’. What are we ultimately accomplishing?  At a place like Bloomberg, which provides incredible transparency to global markets, which ultimately feeds economies and affects everyone, it was something everybody believed in and understood. People understood what Bloomberg did, whether it was Bloomberg media bringing information and breaking news, or whether it was allowing you to get data and analytic overlays that help you make better decisions. People believed in that mission. But the other thing that I thought was just incredible about working at Bloomberg was the fact that a large percentage of every dollar was going to philanthropy. It’s a privately held company, and people knew the profits we were making were for a higher purpose. A very large percentage, a majority of the profits, were going to fund the Foundation and the Foundation was going to re-distribute that to really important projects, which by the way were highly measurable.

SF: That’s a part of the Bloomberg world that not many people know all that much about, so I’m glad that you pointed that out. Before we sign off, Anne, let me ask you as you advise younger people coming out of school as they think about their careers based on what you’ve seen in the financial services world and tech and media world, what is the most important thing for young people to know as they’re launching their careers?

AE: I think the most important thing to know is that every magic carpet ride is going to experience some turbulence. You really need to do what you love, what you believe in, and work for a company that will help you understand the ultimate purpose of what you do every day.  And understand that a career is long-term. There will be good days and bad days, but ultimately being focused on the higher purpose is such an important thing for all of us to do. Otherwise, it becomes a drudge day in and day out.

I want to say one last thing, Stew. When I graduated from SAIS with my masters in International Affairs, I wanted to go into the government because I wanted to do good in the world. But the best piece of advice I ever received was go to the private sector, understand how it works, accumulate your own power, your own wealth, and with that then you can affect real change.   Then go back to the public sector. So, I think really understanding ultimately what you want to do, you need to have your own influence and your own power to be able to make that happen.

About the Author

Ali Ahmed Ali Ahmedis an undergraduate senior majoring in Biological Basis of Behavior and minoring in Cinema Studies.

The Courage to Walk Through Doors — Amanda Eversole

Contributor: Jacob Adler

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Amanda Engstrom Eversole, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff of the US Chamber of Commerce and acting president of the Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation.  She was recently named one of Wharton’s 40 under 40.  They discussed how she manages her high powered career while hewing to her core values – how she aligns her actions with her values.

Stew Friedman: You’ve just been promoted to the President of the Chamber’s Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation. How did you end up in that role? Tell us the brief highlights of how you got to this role right now.

Amanda Engstrom Eversole:

Washington, DC, USA - October 23, 2014: Amanda Eversole. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Washington, DC, USA – October 23, 2014: Amanda Eversole. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

My background is actually in communications, and I started off about 15 years ago as a business development person within an advertising agency in Washington, D.C, completely unconnected to politics in any way.  I thought I really wasn’t going to fit in in Washington but I wanted to figure out what the public policy world was all about. I went over to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and what we are is we represent businesses broadly from small companies to large companies before the government, before the court, and before what we like to call the court of public opinion. I came over in a relatively junior level position and worked in a communications capacity and since then I’ve had about 22 different jobs in that time. I’m sort of what you’d call the utility player. When we’ve had a project that’s hard and they needed somebody to jump in, roll up their sleeves, and figure it out, I’ve been that person on a number of different projects and so this Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation is the latest example of that. It’s really a startup organization within the Chamber of Commerce. I’ve had that for just a few months now.

SF: What’s the mission of the Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation?

AE: We’re actually figuring that out as we speak and I would be really interested if some of the listeners, if they’d like to reach out to me offline or through social media, that would be terrific.  What we’re really trying to do is give technology companies of all sizes a voice in the public policy development.  What we’ve found is that particularly in the startup world, you have companies so focused on getting their companies off the ground that they don’t see possible regulation or legislation that could have a massive impact on their business model. We’re trying to connect that process much earlier in the cycle. Likewise, on the flip side, with larger institutions, we’re trying to make sure that their voice is represented as part of the broader business community.

SF: So you’re wanting the public to speak to you in and add their ideas about what exactly?

AE: Well, we’re defining our mission. Innovation in the economy is what’s going to be driving the job creation, which is really the heart of what the Chamber of Commerce is focused on.

SF: You didn’t graduate and say I’m going to be the the head of technology for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, did you? Or was that the plan?

AE: Absolutely not.

SF: So how did you get there? What was the path that led you this type of work and what you believe is important about your life and your purpose in your work?

AE: It’s really one where doors had been opened for me along the way. The headline is really about having the courage to step through those doors. Candidly, at the time, I didn’t always know what I was doing. I’ve often come across people who have been very clear in what their life mission, from a work perspective, has been. They wanted to be a doctor, they wanted to be a lawyer, they knew what their calling was. I, on the other hand, didn’t.

SF: I think that’s like most people. So you didn’t know, so what did you do?

AE: When opportunities came up, by default, I would say yes. My career at the Chamber, I’ve been there for over 12 years now, which if you had asked me at the beginning if I thought I was going to stay in any place for more than five years, I would have said very unlikely. But the beauty of this organization for me is that I’ve been given the opportunity to go and create several new programs from the ground up and learn how to add value to our membership. It’s a unique business proposition because we represent businesses broadly so I have a chance to think about things from a different perspective, meaning how would businesses of all sizes or industries be affected by a particular public policy or by a particular piece of legislation.  Once you understand how to do that, applying it to the different policy areas is all about learning the substances, because you already have the tools in the toolkit at that point. So I was involved in our Capital Markets Group in the lead-up to and following the financial crisis. It was a very important time, clearly, not only from an economic perspective but also from making sure that any policies, or ultimately the Dodd-Frank Act that was passed, prevent future crises but don’t ultimately impact the ability to raise capital for businesses of all sizes. So, different subject matters, but interesting how you can apply it in business contexts of all fashions.

SF: So the core mission, then, how would you describe what the core mission of the Chamber is and in terms of how it relates to what you believe is important about business and society?

AE: At the end of the day, we’re advocates for our members and businesses of all sizes, and we find it to be our role to speak up and say things that perhaps businesses can’t say on their own or would prefer that a trade association like the Chamber might say. Formerly one of my positions was as Chief of Staff and I was able to leverage our resources broadly, not only from a public policy perspective but I also led our charitable giving program.  One of the things that was important being a student of yours in the Total Leadership Program was making sure that all four of my domains were aligned with what my own personal interests were. So I was able to figure out how to tie together both a work objective and being a good corporate citizen, and also my own personal belief of how to give back to the community and society. That was really sharpened and honed through this program, and we’ve been able to do some really wonderful things, both for our staff and for the community as a result of that.

SF: So tell us, what are you most proud of in terms of what you’ve achieved in that capacity?

AE: Well, there have been a couple things. The first is there was a domestic violence shelter in D.C. called WEAVE, Women Empowered Against Violence. One of the things I like to sharpen when we’re deciding where to invest our time and our resources is where our dollars and where our time is going to make the biggest impact. This organization’s mission is to help women and men who are victims of domestic violence find not only access to legal resources but access to resources to get them out of situations that are difficult. We were able to provide our resources and we were able to gain access to people who volunteered their time to help from a financial standpoint. The organization was about to go under, and we were able to extend the life of the organization for well over a year. Unfortunately, it ended up closing down and reforming in a different capacity, but that one year’s time was so important. We helped many survivors of domestic violence to have a second chance. If we hadn’t there, there would be dozens of people who would have been in very difficult circumstances.   I’m really proud of that work, and there are a lot of different cases like that.

SF: So this is an interesting example taking advantage of an opportunity at work that enabled you to have a real positive social impact on an organization that you wanted to support and to also help your organization in some important way. I’m assuming it also it also helped your career, I’m inferring. Is that accurate?

AE: Absolutely.

SF: That is a great example of integrating the different parts of your life in a way that works for all of them, to look for and take opportunities that enable you to express what you believe is important and especially when it’s going to be helpful to your business life. You just had your first child. How has that changed things for you and the role that you play in the Chamber and how you’re thinking of your career?

AE: Everybody told me before I had the baby that it’s going to change my life completely, but until she was born and until I had held her for the first time, I really truly couldn’t understand what that meant. It’s just a richness and we are so blessed to have her. I’ve only been back at work for one month now. Interestingly I was promoted into this technology capacity two months before I had the baby so there’s been this break between work life and family life and now I’m trying to manage both together and its caused me to think through and make some difficult choices. As I alluded to earlier, one of those choices was I stepped out of the Chief of Staff capacity, where I had a relatively interesting job design with three very significant management roles. One with the technology program, one in an operational capacity as Chief of Staff, and one in our Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness. And the beauty of having three months away from the office, where I was actually fairly disciplined at staying away from email and really focusing on the present and my child, my family, was when I came back my perspective was quite different.

SF: How has it changed?

AE: I thought about things like how can I set myself up to be successful rather than just taking on more and taking on more. I made a very conscious effort to see how I could do things differently and end up performing at a very high level. This entrepreneurial effort as it relates to technology was where the growth was, whereas the operational role, albeit extremely important, was something that I had done for a while and it was likely time to pass that opportunity on to someone else. But it was quite hard for me, to be candid with you, to say I can’t do everything anymore.

SF: You said earlier in our conversation that one of the keys to your successful growth in the early stages of your career was to step through the open doors. This is kind of contrary to that, isn’t it?

AE: Absolutely. There are days when I wonder if I made the right decision. When I take a step back and take a deep breath I’m very certain that the answer that is yes. It’s an inflection point and I’m sure that many people, particularly working mothers, question themselves: are you letting your career go by? are you making decisions that put you on a different trajectory? In this case, I felt like I needed to make sure that I was going to set myself up to be successful. And it was fairly evident to me that trying to do, in essence, three full-time jobs in addition to my new daughter is impossible. The idea of doing all those things so-so wasn’t appealing.  So I made a decision, and it will be an interesting experiment.

SF: What do you expect and what do you hope for? What do you think is going to happen? This is new for you, to say “no” to opportunities as opposed to saying “yes” to open doors.

AE: I expect that I’m going to have days where I’m going to be motivated to jump back into my old capacity. I’m going to have to be very disciplined about not doing that. Being Chief of Staff is one of those roles where people have been very conditioned to come to me for certain questions or certain advice. Helping people find somebody else to serve them in that counseling role is very important. On the other hand, it’s very easy to get dragged back in if somebody knocks on the door and just needs a few minutes. Then the next person needs 15 minutes and all of the sudden, your day has been eaten up.

SF: Right, but that’s been, as we have been saying, the key to your success, to be available, to jump in there, and be the Jane of all trades. And to get it done no matter what. Inflection point is an interesting way to put it. Saying “yes” is something you were really good at and got a lot of rewards for. What do you think is going to be helpful to you to have the courage to be able to draw those boundary lines?

AE: Well, I think a lot of it is how this new program is ultimately structured, and a lot of it is the team that we ultimately build. One of the things that I find to be both most satisfying and most important is creating a structure so people can succeed in the tasks ahead of them. Finding the talent who can help create this program from the ground up is exceedingly important. It’s the discipline of being conscious of my behavior as opposed to simply reverting back to what’s comfortable and what I have done to date.

SF: What’s the most important thing you want our listeners to know, both about what you do with the Chamber and what you discovered about leadership through your journey?

AE: One of the things that was most illuminating as a student in your program, Stew, was the conscious decisions that we make and I now no longer talk about “work -life balance.” Rather I talk about how do I make sure that I’m aligning myself with my own personal goals in the appropriate way and not just reverting to whatever is the most in need of attention and is drawing my resources that way. And while it’s never perfect, and clearly my daughter has changed everything in a very great way, it is being conscious about how I move forward in all of these various domains that at least gets me to the appropriate starting point and gives me the control to decide how I move forward as opposed to just reacting to what comes across the transom.

SF: Do you have a specific thing that you do to help you make those conscious and deliberate choices?

AE: It’s about friends, family members, and coworkers that help me through this journey, personally and professionally.

SF: They’re holding you accountable to what you believe in.

For more information about Amanda’s work and where you can contribute to the conversation at the Chamber about what the Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation should be doing, now is a good time for you to go and add your voice by going to cati.uschamber.com.

Jacob Adler , jacob adlerW’18,  is a sophomore at Wharton and a contributor at The Daily Pennsylvanian, numberFire, and Fake Teams.

The Power of Encouragement in Women’s Advancement — Julie Coffman

Contributor: Ali Ahmed

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XMs Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the worlds leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Julie Coffman, a partner at Bain and Company for over 25 years and also a chair for Bain’s Global Women’s Leadership Council, which aims to increase the number of women in Bain’s leadership ranks. Her primary focus in management consulting is to address the most pressing strategic issues in healthcare practice. Coffman has co-authored three whitepapers on gender parity: The Great Disappearing Act: Gender Parity Up the Corporate Ladder, Flexible Work Models: How To Create Sustainability In a 24/7 World, and Everyday Moments of Truth: Frontline Managers are Key to Women’s Career Aspirations. She spoke to Friedman about building a support system for women to diminish the gender gap in senior leadership positions.

Stewart Friedman: Julie you have been at Bain for over 25 years as a very successful management consultant. Healthcare has been your primary focus. How did you get into issues of gender parity in the workplace?

Julie Coffman: Julie CoffmanIt’s interesting, Stew, because I would say early in my career it was not something I spent time on or focused on. Bain is a meritocracy. You do a great job, you get recognized. About 10 years into my career, I was noticing as I got more senior, there were fewer and fewer women in meetings with me, externally with my clients, but also internally. It all dawned upon me as I got married and had children; I have three wonderful kids and my husband. And as all those things came together – I love your Work/Life integration by the way, it’s such an important way to describe it all –that led me to start thinking a lot more about what it was that was enabling me to pursue my career, and build the family life I wanted. What was different for other people? And what were we doing at Bain to try and figure this out more coherently.

The other part I’ll mention is it became more and more important to our clients; diversity more broadly, gender, of course, but also ethnicity, race, background, education were a variety of things that we believe could solve tough problems.  Bringing multiple mindsets, multiple perspectives and styles to the table actually increases your effectiveness. And so it was not just a nice thing to do or the politically correct thing to do, but actually something we believed that for our continued growth of the firm, we had to try and get out in front of.

SF: Because the marketplace was demanding it?

JC: Exactly right, the marketplace – we were seeing more and more that in buying positions both inside and outside with our clients. If you think about who controls purchase decisions at a consumer level and increasingly at a B-to-B level, there’s a new female dominance or at least real strong influence in healthcare, in particular, but also hospitality, retail, consumer goods. And so bringing more women perspective into the boardroom into the executive suite and also into the multiple functional areas that we’re getting, more and more populated by the women became increasingly important to our clients.

SF: What did you have to do to start to be more systematic to really change the makeup of the top management team?

JC: First saying that we are at the middle of the journey as opposed to the end of the beginning – I’m not sure which. – It is a long path for any organization to truly try and tackle this issue. I would say that Bain, what we’ve done in this journey in the last five or six years is, first and foremost, to establish the fact base. To sort of dimensionalize the challenge.  Our internal challenge for numbers – male vs. female – at all levels of the firm. Where we were seeing the leaky bucket? We were doing pretty well bringing people in from top university campuses, from MBA programs.  But then we needed to think about where we losing people. Where geographically we were having “hot spots,” if you will, was in the 10-year ladder, losing people. And then what were the issues being raised by folks when they made career decisions?

SF: So, what did you discover when you began to look systematically at the issue?

JC: There were three broad themes that started to emerge. Number one was that we clearly needed to focus on women feeling like there was someone out there truly investing in them to succeed. We’ve always been a big apprenticeship firm – lots of coaching, lots of mentoring. But we started to get enamored by this concept of sponsorship versus pure mentorship and I’m guessing you’ve probably discussed that maybe in past shows. But this idea that someone will truly advocate on your behalf. And I don’t mean to change the promotion process. But I do mean a senior leader that leads projects or works with clients and knows your work, and is looking out for ways to help you grow and be successful and taking you on their teams and getting you opportunities that may not just come along.

SF: So, that’s the sponsorship role? Different than mentorship, which is more – or how would you describe it?

JC: If you show up at my office and say, “I’d love some coaching or advice or learning on how I can get better,” I think I could probably provide that to someone whether or not I had personal knowledge of their own capabilities or would co-brand my own reputation with theirs.

SF: Co-brand you reputation? So that’s really linking your future with theirs? Is that what you mean?

JC: That’s right. That’s what differentiates sponsorship from pure mentorship. I think that mentorship is coaching that you could provide but you may not want to hitch your star to theirs. Sponsorship is another level of saying we’ve done things together, we’ve accomplished great outcomes together, and I want to help you grow in the business. I will go out of my way to help you do some things that will help you get your next opportunity, etc.

SF: So is that the essential part of your strategy, to develop more successful sponsorship relationship because those are hard to engineer, aren’t they?

JC: They’re really hard. So that was the first thing. It’s sort of an elaborate matchmaking process. They are not assignable. Well, first of all I was going to make the point of saying it’s mostly our senior men that were reaching out and sponsoring our up-and-coming women. We had many more male partners than females so if you’re thinking about the junior partners, or the managers, the people who have been with us for 5+ years from business school – that was our target group to start with. Women weren’t making the push for partner in the numbers we thought they had the capacity and capability to do so. And we thought that one of the missing pieces was the belief that there were existing partners that wanted them as part of the partnership. So we needed our men, who I think were more naturally were sponsoring even without label, but sponsoring other men, to sponsor women. They were either just naturally hanging out together more socially or having more common interests, or just felt more comfortable. We needed to create a little bit more of an ‘ask’ for our senior men who had worked with these women. And think about ways to deepening that relationship that transcended just the transactional business –into more of a personal relationship.

SF: So, how did you do that? How did you overcome what must have been that natural discomfort? Perhaps getting too close with women who were younger. What was your approach to easing those connections and making them more natural?

JC:  We knew that there were organic stories that were happening already without there being a big push. We needed to get those more publicized. We needed to get more of our senior men who have already gotten women under their wings – people who have been quite successful in a two-way street relationship to be more outward about it. Tell the story, describe it, talk about what was useful and start to distill some best practices. So we interviewed a bunch of people and said “How did it work? How did it naturally coalesce? What other things could we do that could instigate it a bit more, to nurture it a bit more?” Then we got together with a bunch of our leaders who run our various offices and practices and said “We want you to work with the leaders of our client accounts.” Make this a specific request. Who are the up and comers? And who can naturally sponsor the women there? And at the same time ask the women, “Who do you see out there that you would love to have as your sponsor, whether you’ve asked them or not?” And then let’s figure out by announcing this that you want to give them permission to ask. But behind the scenes we made sure the people who would be the ask-ees would be willing to do it. So we’ve engineered like a dating game, if you will. No dates involved, but…

SF: Right, wrong metaphor.

JC: Wrong metaphor, right. In other words, the relationships were already there. You needed to have that common experience in order to activate them. You have to create the language and the opportunity for people to try to build those relationships and to make them a bit more formal in the way in which they talked about the next steps in helping each other.

SF: So, it was really about changing the culture. And we know that one of the most powerful means of doing that, and it does take time, which you said at the top of this conversation; this is a long slow process. One of the most effective ways to changing culture, of course, is to tell stories of the kinds of episodes that illustrate what you are trying to make normal, which might not otherwise have been in the past.

That seems to have been an important part of your approach, but also, as you said, to change the language and to authorize or give permission for people to develop these relationships. So, how did you find a path for success? Or what are you finding is most effective as you proceed down this journey?

JC: That’s exactly what we believe. That storytelling in the right venues with the right language and the right follow-on steps is the critical enabler here. So, one of the things that we have been spending a lot of time on as a firm is looking very critically at our bigger events. So when we have leadership team meeting at a regional level, the Americas, or Europe, Middle East, or Africa who are we showcasing in those meetings? Who is the MC? Who are the speakers? How are we bringing to life the success of our firm? What are we intentionally signaling in terms of what our goals are and our desires? And are we comfortable with that? Are we creating the right message? Are we creating room for those stories and those spotlights to be shined on enough diverse stories? Again, when I say diverse I don’t just mean race and gender, but I also mean stylistically. What we need to break down at Bain is the belief that there is only one model that can make it. There has to be an understanding if we are as diverse a group of leaders in term s of how we do this job, what drives our success. So, therefore if you are looking up at a partner you see something, some element you can relate to, that you can be a part of. So we started doing those kinds of meetings.  And then on a more micro-level, thinking office-by-office, and practice-by-practice. Who are the leaders? And are we giving them the opportunities to share their stories and messages of success in a way that works. You mentioned earlier that global Women’s Forum, which is a big event every other year. And we just had our 2015 version in Atlanta at the end of June. It was a huge success. One hundred and eighty women from around the globe gathered. And we invited 40 of our male leaders to join. And the entire two and half days was effectively story telling, best practice sharing, brainstorming in workshops, and a lot of opportunities for people to hear from one another what works, and how to make it work.

SF: As your coming away from that, what was the big take away?

JC: I think what we set out as a goal was that we want to thrive in a client-facing career. We don’t want to survive. We don’t want to just get through the day. Our aspiration is thriving. We asked: “what does that mean to you?” and asked for 30 to 60 second testimonials throughout the two and a half days. When do you feel like you’re thriving? Tell us what that looks and feels like. And what we realized is that for the majority of us, it’s that moment of inspiration when you realize you’ve nailed it with a client. Or you and a team have worked your tails and come up with the big insight that you know is going to create real value. But it’s also those moments when you know you are able to work on high-impact stuff with a group of people that you really like, but still make you kids soccer game. Or get there for the school play. Or be able to take guitar lessons, or fit in the yoga class, or volunteer at your church.

SF: So, it’s not just about kids of course?

JC: Right, it’s not just about the parents at Bain, it’s got to be about the whole person. And what you said at the top of your show, people feel like they’re thriving when they are not overly indexed on one aspect of life. It’s when all aspects are – not everyday, which I tell people all the time. If you ask me if I’m working in harmony on a daily basis, I could rarely give you a yes. But if every few weeks I take stock, and I’m not in harmony then I know I have a problem and I know I have to adjust.

SF: Yes, indeed. That is a main theme of a book I published  few months ago called Leading the Life You Want, which profiles six great leaders in America, two from business, two from public sector service, and two from sports and entertainment. One of the two is Tom Tierney, who is a former CEO of Bain.

JC: A good friend of mine.

SF: I’m sure. And of mine too and a terrific role model. One of the important take -aways from looking at the stories of these and so many other people was just exactly what you said: It’s not about balance on any given day. Balance is a word that I personally think is the wrong metaphor. It’s misguided. It gets us thinking in terms of trade-off all the time.  Harmony over the long haul, really over the course of a life is a much more fruitful way to think about. So, it’s not surprising that you see it the same way.

JC: Yeah, exactly. I totally agree, by the way. I started reading your book and I’m looking forward to finishing it. It’s a great read. The thing I wanted to mention, the other things we were hearing loud and clear at the forum, which also built on the research we recently published was all about the role of confidence and aspiration in going after your ability to thrive at work, but also across you whole life.

I mean obviously men and women both need to have the aspirations to succeed and get to top roles and the confidence that they can get there. But what we’ve been learning through our external research and then doing it internally at Bain as well is that there is a bit of a confidence gap in our women, as they get more senior.

That women really do experience certain setbacks or turbulence in the job in a different way than some of our male colleagues. But in particular, their own confidence needs to buttressed and supported more overtly than it has been by their supervisor or by their day-to-day managers. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate being encouraged or being thanked or having gratitude shown toward them. But our research would indicate that for women, in particular, that it is more needed as a way to maintain confidence, and to build up resilience. And I will be honest, I don’t like painting all women or all men with the same brush. Of course, there’s variation in all of us. But on average, it does seem that we see a confidence gap for women.  There are opportunities out there for more ways for direct encouragement, support, and recognition to help women build that confidence and continue to strive forward the next role.

SF: This is the impetus for my inviting you to speak on the show. It’s about that finding that you saw with women just starting out. There ambition was as high as their male colleagues, but as they move further along their career they had reduced aspirations and decreased confidence. And this is independent of motherhood or marriage. It was across gender. So how did you explain that?

JC: It was disturbing and unsettling to see it that starkly. And it was exactly as you said. We did a survey that looked at folks earlier in their careers, mid-level, and more senior. And in the mid-level you could see that the confidence and aspirations dropped by over half percentage point-wise for women vs. their male colleagues.  And we tried to unpack that a bit and understand the root causes. We saw three core trends emerging that seemed to indicate why this might be happening more with women than for men.

The first thing was this belief that there was an ideal worker out there. Meaning there was a stereotype of what success looked like in their particular organization. And those who no longer had high aspirations said, “I no longer feel that I resemble that stereotype.”  “I don’t feel like I will fit in with what’s going to get valued here.” And when we went further on that, a lot of that stereotype had to do with high-visibility projects, and networking a lot, but also hours, being always on, and those sorts of things.  It’s not that women don’t want to work hard, but they would say to themselves, “I’m not sure I can always be that person. And if that’s what it takes to be successful here, I don’t want to go there.”

And then the second thing was this idea of supervisor support. Do you believe there is someone out there who has your back, who is rooting for you. That’s going to work hard to get you to the next role. So, it’s not just looking for recognition but it’s looking for believing that someone is out there that’s going to be a co-conspirator almost, someone who’s going to help you get ahead to think about how you work through your areas of development and strengthen yourself to be a great candidate for that next role. And again, those with more confidence felt like they had much more supervisor support than those with less confidence.

SF: And what was the third piece?

JC: The third piece was role models. And in some ways, people think that it is similar to my ideal worker comment, but it is a little bit different, meaning that did you believe there was someone out there in management that looked like you, talked like you, acted like you that you felt like you could pattern yourself after, and be able to learn from and grow with and feel comfortable joining that person, and that their styles were similar to yours.

SF: So that gets us back to where we started, the importance of having a variety of different kinds of people speaking in high-visibility places, and being seen as the face of the executive core. But I imagine that changing the mindset about what the ideal worker really is, that must be a tough nut to crack. So, how are you going after that?

JC: Yeah, that is the hardest one probably because that’s where you get at the heart of cultural change, and biases, and all sorts of things like that. So, part of it is what you just mentioned, which is trying to make sure we’re profiling, showcasing, rewarding, and celebrating enough different models so you can point to it explicitly. Part of it is also being more explicit about valuing other attributes in a different way. For example, at Bain like at many professional services firms, typically the big heroes out there are the client leaders, the folks that are selling the biggest accounts, and travelling a lot of hours and miles to get that done.  And that’s terrific. But we also wanted to make sure that we showcased people that were developing great teams. So, we have upward feedback scores, for example. And we give a special award to anyone that gets a 100% net supporter ratio, meaning every single person that works for them in that year said they would either gladly work with them again or actively seek them out. And so that means you are a 100% effective in net supporter ratio, and we call them our rock stars and there is a special award and recognition for those folks, independent of whether they were on the biggest accounts or on the shiniest new piece of business.

SF: So, that’s taken seriously? It’s not taken as the good sportsmanship award at sports tournaments where the guy doesn’t win gets the ‘well he’s a nice person’?

JC: You know what, I think it is taken seriously. We have our managing director and three regional managing directors that take the time announce those folks, to showcase at least three of them in terms of special stories, standing ovations, and a special plaque that goes out. We’re a competitive bunch.

One way we did it was made it a real metric that we could measure and say look, “There’s a whole bunch of them that’re not getting it, which means you’re not quite living up to that.” And that’s an important part of what it means to be a Bain partner or Bain manager.

SF: So, it something that people do indeed aspire to?

JC: That’s right. And the people that are up there are often some of the very best in the business on a commercial generation side just as much. It’s not just a bunch of people that are maybe good at time, but not good at clients. It’s actually typically a whole bunch of people that excel at both. And we’re trying to showcase that you actually can have people really enjoy the ride, want to work with you, be inspired by you. And we’ve really been pushing our whole inspirational leadership curriculum through training and development, but also frankly into our compensation and promotion processes. So, you got to make it real in terms of people believing it’s part of the curriculum to get ahead. It’s how your measured, and it’s a very tangible part of all our talent development processes.

SF: What’s the most important thing you want our listeners to know about you’ve learned in your work in trying to really change the culture of leadership for men and women at Bain?

JC: You know, one of the simplest things that we’ve learned that I think anyone can go and do is say “thank you” more often. Think about all of the people that you’re managing that are on your team that are doing great things and working their tails off. Take the moment to actually genuinely thank them and give them positive feedback. And encourage them, saying that you believe in them. Don’t couple that with the constructive criticism in the same dialogue. Literally have that moment where you are just being positive, expressing gratitude, or giving someone some feedback that’s positive. The next day you can go back and sort of give the constructive things to continue to work on. But the power of encouragement I think is a very under-utilized aspect, and all of us can build our confidence and resilience by using of that tool.


Ali Ahmed Ali Ahmedis an undergraduate senior majoring in Biological Basis of Behavior and minoring in Cinema Studies


Empowering girls: If You Can See It, You Can Be It — Katlyn Grasso

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life Stew spoke with Katlyn Grasso, a senior at Wharton pursuing a B.S. in Economics with concentrations in finance and strategic globalization. In addition to the many leadership roles Katlyn holds at Wharton, she is also a Community Leader for the United Nation’s Girl Up initiative and C-E-O and Founder of GenHERation, a female empowerment network for high school girls.  Katlyn and GenHERation have been featured in numerous national media outlets, including Forbes, The Huffington Post Live, and Seventeen Magazine where Katlyn was included on their list of “Real Girls Doing Amazing Things. She just won the University of Pennsylvania President’s Engagement Prize, and she’ll be using the funds to host conferences nationwide for 15,000 girls.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman:  Katlyn,  what is genHERation?

Katlyn GrassoKatlyn GrassoGreat question. Gen-HER-ation is a female empowerment network for high school girls.  We’re an online platform that connects girls with national corporations and nonprofits to launch advocacy campaigns on a monthly basis. For example, this month we are working with an international branding house, Brandberry; they are challenging the girls to create a socially conscious brand. The girls have the whole month to submit their ideas. At the end of the month we will put all the ideas into a poll and the girls vote on them.  The winner of this challenge will get to work on their product idea with Brandberry, the branding house for wild Disney and the Wiggles and they do really incredible work.

SF: What’s the Wiggles?

KG: You don’t know what the Wiggles are? I think they are an Australian singing group on the Disney channel.  They’re for the four to eight year old audience.  They’re big deal.  And we have also worked with other companies like ESPNW and The American Heart Association.   We have some other partnerships coming up with Roominate, which was just named by Time magazine Toy of the year for girls. Our website is also a comprehensive media outlet for girls.  Every day we have informative content including videos.  We do interviews in a question and an answer session on our website. We also give away scholarships for girls.

SF: What types of scholarships?

KG: We do scholarships for projects.  So, if a girl wants to launch her own advocacy campaign we can fund that.  But we also fund scholarships for colleges or camps girls want to pursue or online courses they may want to take.

SF: How did all this came to life?

KG: I have always been really passionate about empowering girls.  I drank the Kool-aid; I went to an all-girl school, was a girl scout and when I came to Wharton I thought someday I want to have a Katlyn Grasso Leadership Institute for girls which will be a high school.  Girls have to step up and become leaders if there are no boys that would be hogging the spotlight.  So when they need someone to lead the team or when they need someone to be the class president, then it has to be a girl. When I came to Penn I was sort of shocked that in my classes — and I take financial classes so they are pretty male-dominated — girls were afraid to raise their hands in class because raise their hands even if they don’t know the answers!

SF: I have never seen that happen. Just kidding!  So that’s still a thing, as you said, in your finance classes?

KG: Yeah. Girls they have to make sure they are 100%.

But I think even earlier in my career here, when I said I want to be an entrepreneur and I started googling who are female entrepreneurs and CEO’s, I found that there are very few.  I wanted to create role models, relatable models, for teenage girls 13 to 15 years old so that they could aspire to be like them. I always had the mantra that if you can see it, you can be it.  And it becomes harder when you are in those finance bio-tech, tech worlds so that you need someone out there encouraging you to get out there and get over those huddles that are in those fields.  That’s why I created genHERation.

SF: To provide role models and inspiration for girls to see and be able to say, “I see that, so that means I can be that.”

KG: Right.  I also think that the experiential learning platform is important. Every month, working with a different company, girls actually implement these projects. Last year when we did a campaign with the American Heart Association the winner went to a charter school in New Jersey.  The girl came up with an after school program for CPR training that was implemented in nine schools in the district and she put that together herself.

SF: Is that a high schooler?

KG: Yeah a 10th grader in Newark.

SF: Wow!

KG: We have had girls do financial leadership campaigns where they do financial lessons for girls in schools or communities and arrange advocacy campaigns where they learn so much about themselves.

SF: And about their capacity to lead.

KG: Yeah.  Because even with my experience as an entrepreneur, you really don’t know what you are capable of until you have set really high goals. Sometimes they seem impossible, and then when you achieve them and you say, “Wow! If I could do that I can do anything!”

SF: What was the goal for genHERation when you first started?

KG: I don’t know if I had a really clear cut goal.  I was listening to your earlier guest, Dr. Ned Haollowell, and he was talking about entrepreneurs having a race car mind. I definitely have a racecar mind. We are a year old; we launched our campaign on March 1st 2014 and we have reached 10,000 girls since then. I didn’t think we would be that big in our first year. I just said I want to provide quality content and experiences for these girls so that they feel motivated to go out and make changes in their communities. When we launched our pilot program I said I want to reach 250 girls.  Over the summer we held our first Summer Leadership Series and we visited five cities across the U.S. to hold workshops for high schools girls — and we had over 500 attendees.

At the end of the summer I said I want a 1000 members and then we started growing.  But the true impact that genHERation can have on a girl’s life is not quantifiable.  I go back to that girl in New Jersey who was in the charter school. One day she called me to talk about this project and she said, “Katlyn, thank you for taking a chance on me because no one ever has.”  When I get emails from girls and they thank me so much for helping them pursue their dream; that’s really what is all about for me.

SF: Who influenced you and helped you along the way?

KG: I think there are so many people. I have I great family, my mom, my dad and my sister I am going to be starting a campaign called Dad’s for Daughters soon. I think having strong male role models in your life is important.  When I came a Wharton I really just started talking to anyone and everyone who would listen to me about entrepreneurship and I have met a lot great professors here. I work at the Small Business Development center where I have met incredible entrepreneurs.  Just rounding yourself with positive, optimistic people; they are the ones who have really helped me achieve success.

SF: Let’s talk about Dad’s for Daughters; tell us more about that initiative, what is it about and where you would like it to go?

KG: It’s still in its very early stages but I am working on a really big project that I hope will take place around Father’s Day this year. Growing up I realized what a big role my dad played in my leadership development journey and I realized some dads are not taking this role in their daughters’ lives. I thought that if we really want to get dads who are in the highest positions of power — CEO’s of companies, athletes and professors — coming together and saying,  “We have daughters and we want to pay them as equals to their male counterparts. We want them to be promoted and we want them to work in the tech industry as well.”

We need to come together and raise public awareness about this. I had a conference in the fall here at the Penn Museum for about 200 girls. I put together ideas for my Dad’s for Daughters panel and my dad came down from Buffalo to speak.  It was a big deal.  We also had Michael Rinzler, a Wharton MBA and CEO of  Wicked Cool Toys who has a two-year old daughter. I met him because he is also on the board of a company called Women In Toys, an organization that I am a part of. I was like Michael?  Is it Michelle?  He was a guy.   And he said,  “I think it’s important for me as a man in this industry, and someone who has a wife and a daughter, to stick up for the rights of women and to encourage their advancements.”

SF: What are the keys for fathers?  There is are lot of fathers listening out there who might be thinking,  “I would like my daughter to grow up to be like Katlyn.” What do they need to do?

KG: I think it’s really about being optimistic. My dad always said, “What’s the worst thing that any one could say? No?”  I think that’s why he is a natural salesman. I grew up seeing that he would always do anything it took to close the deal; he would be persistent. That always stood out to me; you have to keep on knocking on doors, pounding on pavement, you have to go on. I think it’s really important to be there when your daughters are going to fall, or have a hard time, and when they are applying to college. You need to say, “You know what?  It’s going to get better from here.”

I also have a younger sister so it’s not like there was a boy in my family.  I always thought that I could do anything that a boy could do.  I never thought because I am a girl I might not be able to do this.

SF: Was there something that your father said or did or implied that made you feel that way?

KG: I think he was just always there for me when I started my first business, Tap for Tots, and I didn’t even know if that was going to work out.  I have tap danced for 18 years now and my first business was teaching kids how to tap dance. When I started I couldn’t drive yet and he drove me to all my appointments during the summer.  And I just said thanks dad for always believing in me. I think it was just for always being there.  It’s not anything I think that they can say or do in particular but it’s just being the number one fan in the audience.

SF: What has been the most challenging part of bringing genHERation to life?

KG: I think this is what the importance of dads for daughters. Being a female entrepreneur can sometimes be the biggest thing that gets in your way.

SF: How so?

KG: I was pitching for a competition here last year. I was the only female finalist out of 10 contestants. They were MBAs, not a junior, like me.  It was a practice pitch and there were two male judges there. One of the male judges just stopped me in the middle of what I was saying.  And I am like, “What did you say?”  And he said, “I just want to tell you right now that this is a good effort and everything, but you are a girl. I don’t know how far this is going to go.”  I am seeing your face right now, Stew, and that’s how I felt.

SF: My jaw is dropping.

KG: He said, “This is cute and everything, but I don’t know if it could be a full time venture.”

SF: I am so sorry to hear that.

KG: I left there and that was the day I started, right after I called my mum and said, “Can you believe that this even happened?”  And she said, “You know what, this is going to happen in the business world. People are going to try to bring you down. You have to keep going on.”  And when talked to my dad he said, “They are never going to understand unless they have daughters of their own.”  Hence the idea for Dads for Daughters was born. I think being a female entrepreneur, especially being a young female entrepreneur, sometimes people don’t take you seriously.  You always have to go in even more prepared, showing why you are just as worth it.

SF: D you see that happening in your generation in the same way it has in prior generations?  Or do you think the dynamics of men and women in the work place have changed so that it’s easier for men and women to play different roles than they might have played traditionally?  There are now more women in positions of power and authority in the public professional world and men having a more active role at home. Do you see change happening?

KG: I think that there is no saying that I can’t work in this bank because I am a woman. I think I have the same skills as my male counterparts but I think in the entrepreneurial world — I am in the venture initiation program here, the incubator program for student startups at Penn — and there are about 30 ventures in it between the Philly campus and the San Francisco campus.  I can name three women in that. Women aren’t prominent in entrepreneurship yet.  I am not saying it’s a bit of an old boys club.  I think it’s because women are less likely, they see it as a risk to be in entrepreneurship. Other than that time [in the contest] I have actually never been discouraged by people saying girls cannot be entrepreneurs.  But there are just so few of them that when I tell my friends you should be an entrepreneur they are like,  “I can’t do that; that’s too risky and I don’t have the skill for that.”

I say, “Why not?”  When I ask them that they don’t even have an answer. I think they just think that’s a career that’s sort of off limits for them.

SF: What do you think is causing that sense of inhibition where these young women are hesitant to take the initiative?

KG: I think entrepreneurship is seen as something that is unstable; one day you may have a job and one day you might not have a job. I always thought that there is a greater likelihood if I worked for bigger corporation that one day they just say we went bankrupt I could get fired just because I am the young analyst on the totem pole. If it’s my company, sure maybe we don’t have a big capital like the investment bank, but I have control over my finances, how much money I want to make, in my day to day life. I feel more in control of my life in that way.  But other people don’t really see it in that way.

SF: What do you see as you look as the next five or ten years how do you see the world unfolding in terms of opportunities for men and women and how men and women are going to be working together both at work and at home?

KG: I think Sheryl Sandberg is the exemplary female icon of this generation saying we need equal agendas at the table. I think we are going to move to parity.  But I think the big change will come in politics.  I think that there would need to be a female president because when you look around the world the United States is 75th on the list on women empowerment.  There are more women in government in Rwanda, Pakistan and Iraq.

I think wow, we don’t have enough women in legislative positions who are working on daycare at work for women, paternity or maternity leave. The legislators aren’t even considering these issues just because they are not women.

SF: Unless men take a greater role for domestic responsibility and child rearing as they are starting to.

KG: Right and I think they are starting to but not the majority.

I think having the example, not even a female president, but more female governors and more women in Congress.  I think that will be a big shift. I also think there is a lot to be done about how women are portrayed in the media. I did a social impact research experience — a program that we do here at Wharton where they give students grants to study over the summer. Last summer I studied how girls’ consumption of media influences leadership development.  I was fascinated to see how the websites and the television shows that girls consume affects their daily lives. I interviewed about 500 people and 92% of them said that they don’t think that the media they consume portrays women in an equal light.

We see this but we don’t take action.  There has been an emergence of shows that are putting women in positions of political power to show that women can achieve. This goes back to my concept of if you can see it, you can be it, and that means female journalists. When you look at female journalists delivering hard hitting news about middle eastern conflicts — its usually not women, its usually men. Men sort of get seen as the trusted sources on important issues and bring more people in because it’s just a subconscious bias, you don’t even think about that.

SF: If you think about the rest of life — and let’s just look at family life — we have been talking about community and changing the cultural values and the iconography of who has the voice of authority and who has institutional power. At home how do you see the roles of men and women evolving in your generation?

KG: I think they will be equal because I think men and women both want to have families and I don’t think women now are content to stay at home. Women are earning more advanced degrees and at higher rate than their male counterparts.  That’s a lot of time and money invested.  So obviously they want to put that to work. I think what we are going to see is that not only are people going to want to have an active role in the household but companies are going to need to adjust in order for there to be more life and work balance.

SF: What do you think is the most important thing for young women to be thinking about in terms of breaking what remains a glass ceiling in large companies especially of reaching positions of authority and power?

KG: I just think that they need to be persistent and not let anyone or anything upset their perception of themselves as leaders.  They can’t worry about what their male bosses or their female bosses might say. They just have to go on with their goals and say I am going to achieve this and make sure that they are surrounding themselves with the right mentors and sponsors to elevate themselves up to those leadership positions.

SF: What’s the best way to get started in developing a network of support?  I am sure that is something you must address on genHERation?

KG: Yes. My best advice is talk to everyone and anyone. I think you can learn as much from a taxi driver as you can learn from a CEO of a company. You never know what you can learn from someone or how that can influence how you think about something.

SF: You’re graduating from Wharton.  What happens next?

KG: We will be working on growing genHERation fulltime in the beginning of May.  We are going to have a big announcement about a summer program. Then I will just continue and growing the company.

To find out more about Katly Grasso and GenHeration visit their web site www.genheration.com and follow on Twitter @KatlynGrasso and @GenHeration

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Solving a Problem Created a Business — Nova Covington

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Nova Covington, CEO and Founder of Goddess Garden Organics.  She joins me today to share her unconventional journey from her rural upbringing to leading one of the fastest growing and most innovative natural skin care companies.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Nova Covington is the Founder of  Goddess Garden Organics. She joins me today to tell us about her unconventional journey from a rural upbringing to leading one of the fastest growing and most innovative natural skin care companies and how her mission driven company is profiting by embodying its values. Nova, could you give us the capsule summary of where you came from and how you got to be the founder of  Goddess Garden?

Nova Covington: I grew up in the Canadian wilderness and the Oregon rainforest. My family was always inspired by natural healing. My great grandmother was an herbalist so she passed down to the family love of things like echinacea and goldenseal. I was brought up thinking natural products were all the  rage everywhere.  It wasn’t until I became a mom in my 30’s that I had an experience with my own daughter that inspired the real impetus for starting the company.  My daughter, Paige, was born and was allergic to synthetic chemicals. Even with the products that I was finding in natural grocery stores, she was still breaking out in hives.  That first year we started with sunscreen and I was like “wow! there’s up to 35% toxic chemicals in this bottle.”  And no wonder she’s having a reaction.

SF: Even in those that were labeled “organic?”

NC: The organic movement hadn’t quite started yet.  Even natural products had parabens and known carcinogens and a lot of synthetics were still being used —  especially bubbles and surfactants.

SF: Surfactants?

NC: Yes. That’s the stuff that makes soap foam. Any foaming is usually a synthetic.  There are a few natural sources, but that was the inspiration for starting the company and we really have bootstrapped this brand. We started as a small farmer’s market brand in Boulder, Colorado. Like other great brands, we grew up in Boulder, like Justin’s and Celestial Seasonings, starting at farmer’s markets learning our market. I was my target market so that helped a lot. I understood what I was looking for and solving a problem really created a business.

SF: How did your growth happen so rapidly or is it only recently that you’ve experienced a surge in interest in your products?

NC: The first event we ever did was back in 2005. We sold out of sunscreen at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.  Hindsight being 20/20 I would have ditched all our products and just gone right for sunscreen.  But in 2009 that’s really when we launched in the natural channel.  We launched in Whole Foods and that first year we had about 100 stores. Since 2009 we’ve more than doubled each year. This year we’re on track for more than 170% growth. So we’ve consistently—I jokingly say we’ve — organically grown.  Word of mouth has been huge for us. Folks love our sunscreen.  It’s a little more elegant. If you’ve ever tried a mineral sunscreen, a lot of competitors have very greasy and white formulas.  Ours goes on sheer and it’s nice to use. It even comes in a spray bottle, the container you’re used to with sunscreen. We did some really good innovative things as well. We put testers on the shelf on the first day so folks could try the product before they purchased it.

SF: So sunscreen was the big mover?

NC: That’s right. Sunscreen was the big mover and we’re still only focused on sunscreen. This year we’re launching multiple other categories.  But for that you’ll have to wait till the end of the year. It’s going to be exciting.  You’ll be able to find our new products in the fall in Whole Foods. We’re innovating some really cool concepts between multiple categories in skin care that haven’t been done before. Innovation has really been the name of the game for us. We had the first “testers”, the first family-sized tube in natural and it’s still our top seller. Nobody copied us. And we wonder “why not?” People are always scared of the price point because it is an organic product which has been great for us! It’s made in America. It is more expensive. And we buy from organic farmers in the U.S. So we totally support organic farming businesses here in the U.S.

SF: So you did this out of the need to help your daughter, Paige, deal with the hives she was getting from these synthetic products?  How did that morph into a company with a mission to make a difference?

NC: I think the mission to make a difference came even before the company started.  I started at Hewlett-Packard, had a great corporate career, got a Master’s degree, and did all these different things but the whole time I was thinking, “I’m not using my skills. I really should be doing something good for the earth.” I was training leaders to be better leaders but in the long run is this good for the earth?  That was always in the back of my mind so I knew I needed to do something and my path was going to be to do something influential — developing products like ours.  We’re alternative products is really how I see it, for folks who either have allergies or want a better product for their families. Two, it’s totally safe and effective.  We’re only using pure minerals.  There’s no side effects.  There’s no allergies and in the long run that affects the planet. What’s happening is the sunscreen chemicals are so small that they’re going through our water treatment plants and making it all the way to the ocean — even from the middle of the country like where I am in Colorado. There’s bleaching happening in the coral reef and they have tied it to sunscreen.   If you go to a snorkeling tour in Mexico, if your bottle doesn’t say “reef safe” on it, it will be taken away by the Mexican government in the protected areas.

SF: Wow!

NC: The Mexican government is all over it.  And of course you don’t want to be in and out on a snorkeling trip without sunscreen.

SF: Of course, but you have to have sunscreen that’s not going to kill the reefs.

NC: It’s the same environmental issues. We can’t process it out in the water treatment plants.  That’s actually why it’s a hormone disruptor for us as humans, especially for kids, and there’s infinite websites that I have used throughout my career.  The entire website was created as a breast cancer research database to help determine what the healthy product is and what’s safe.

SF: So what would you say are the core values of Goddess Garden?

NC: We want people to enjoy the sun again. We want people to have peace of mind, as they are putting on their sunscreen, that they are not doing more damage to themselves and the planet and it’s the best possible product and that you’re well protected. I mean the sunscreen is serious. Those bad burns are the ones we know we don’t want. Parents take it very seriously. They really want to know the product works and so that peace of mind is being able to enjoy the sun again and we’re a family brand. Our employees are treated as a family as well. So, I think that family values, and not in the generic sense, but caring about people and flexibility in the workplace is always one of the benefits that I make sure my employees have.

SF: How does that play out?  Can you give us an example of what a common practice might be in order to be ensure that people have flexibility and are being honored for who they are outside of work as well as at work?

NC: One of my marketing team members took three weeks to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  And I said “do it.” He used all his paid time off and took some unpaid time as well. We’re still a fairly small company. We’re still under 50 employees.  I think being able to travel and do those once in a lifetime opportunities that come your way whether it’s travelling with your family, whatever it is that inspires people.  And a lot of people volunteer. They spend their time in outside organizations so on certain days in the week they say, “okay see you later” and go and volunteer for whatever it is. I think having work-life balance is really critical for me as well as my entire company.

SF: How is it for you as the CEO? I’m sure it’s not easy to draw those boundary lines to enable you to be the mother you want to be, spouse, friend, et cetera.  How do you do it personally?

NC: I think the first lesson is “you’re not perfect.” If I’m being an awesome CEO, I’m not being a perfect mom. If I’m a perfect mom, I’m not a great CEO. So, you can’t really be perfect all things at the same time.

SF: Bravo! It’s an important idea. You can’t do everything all at once.

NC: No. One little step at a time is how we got here. We always tell the team that each day to do what you can and chip away at the goals and head towards the vision.  And all of a sudden you’re there. Wow! Yeah we made it!

SF: So what does that mean for you though personally as you try to accept “okay, I’m not perfect.”  You have to make some adjustments in order to be the person and the leader you want to be.  And not just work but in the other parts of your life.  What are some of the most important principles that you try to follow to realize that ideal?

NC: I think one is not trying to micromanage and control every aspect of the business. I have fantastic people who I totally trust. I’ve collected these amazing people in our company that are from all over the place, from great brands, that have really done great things like Chipotle and Starbucks.

Having people that I really trust;  and without my supportive husband who’s been the real reason why I could not have a salary for a few years in the beginning when starting the company, and all those things that you do, the sacrifices you make as an entrepreneur. He has been so supportive. He’s actually the formulator of the products; he has a nutritional science background.  He’s really been the rock. And a year-and-a-half ago he left his upper level management job at IBM to join the company.

So, he’s my COO now. That is the key to me having more balance and having somebody great that I trust in that role.  He does the CFO job as well. He has an MBA from CU Boulder with upper level management experience from IBM.  He had about 400 employees under him and he helps me a lot. Without his help, I wouldn’t have as much work-life-balance as I do. We’re usually juggling.

SF: How do you find time for your personal life and your family time when you’ve got your COO next to you at home?

NC: Well, our kids start to bill us a dollar every time we mention Goddess Garden. They cut us off, “can you discuss this later at work?  We don’t want to talk about Goddess Garden.” I have an 11 year old and a 4 year old and the 4 year old is happy to cut you off!

SF: The 11 year old?

NC: She’s pretty into it. She sees herself as a part of the brand.  Up until this last year her picture was on the package with mine — another very unconventional move that we made.

SF: You mean to have your personal picture on there?

NC: Yeah that was an innovation as well and now I see a lot of brands putting a picture of someone on the front.  But we did a big re-brand in the fall and launched in March with our brand new packaging with a great design firm from San Francisco

SF: So your kids cut you off but, how do the two you, your husband/COO/CFO, find time to devote to the things that are beyond your company when you’re together at home?

NC: There’s a few things we do. We have a lot of hobbies in common like road biking. He supports me while I’m doing yoga and I support him while he’s mountain biking. I think spending time to do the things that you need to regenerate yourself is important. And then we have date night once a week. Having time together without the kids, without the business. Especially when he joined the company full time that was when we said, “Ok, we need a night designated as our time.”

SF: And how does that effect the performance of your company – having the time that’s just for the two of you?  In other words, how do investments in your family life, community and for yourself actually help you at work?

NC: By staying more connected, which is super important when you’re running a company together, you have to make sure you agree on things.  Communication is really important. We do take time, when the kids are asleep, to talk about business issues. We have a 9 PM cut off rule; past 9 PM we can’t talk about business anymore. Those are some of our techniques that we’ve accumulated to help us stay balanced. And still, you struggle everyday. Balance is an ideal we all shoot for but you have your days when it gets a little out of control.

SF: I abhor the term “balance.” And I’ve been advocating for over 25 years now that we talk about harmony or integration among the different parts of life because balance is impossible. A better way to think about it is how to create a sense of integration or harmony over the course of our whole life not at any one minute.

NC: I love it! Not having a separate work self,  I think being myself at work helps me. I totally agree with your point on balance. I don’t make any New Year’s resolutions but I choose a word for the year and a couple of years ago my word was balance. About half way through the year I said, you know balance is always a struggle.  It’s like a knife edge you’re trying to stay on top of. I agree with you; it’s the wrong metaphor. And harmony was my word of the next year after that.

SF: What does the future hold?

NC: We’re going into 4000 CVS stores Memorial Day Weekend. We’re in REI and all the natural grocery stores.

To learn more about Nova Covington and Goddess Garden visit their web site www.goddessgarden.com

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Dual Career in Couple-Run Family Business

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Jordan Lloyd Bookey, Chief Mom and Co-Founder of Zoobean, a service that helps families discover children’s books and apps at home or their local library. Before she decided to make the leap to the entrepreneurial life, Bookey led teams working at the intersection of technology and education at Google. As a speaker, educator, and mom, she is passionate about innovations in education, technology, and startups. Friedman spoke with Bookey about the challenges and insights gleaned from starting a social enterprise with her husband, Felix Lloyd.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation. Or listen to the full podcast here.

Jordan Bookey with Stew Friedman

Stew Friedman: You call yourself “Chief Mom”, and your husband Felix Lloyd is “Chief Dad”. Those are interesting titles for business; a lovely way I suppose to integrate the different domains of your life. What do those titles really mean though? What do they signify to the people who work with you—your clients, customers, other stakeholders?

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: When we were deciding what we would call ourselves (because we were co-founders and husband and wife), we initially thought that I would be CEO, COO. However, since we were both doing everything together at the beginning, we decided not to delineate responsibilities in that way, at least to start. The idea was to have something more playful that we used to refer to ourselves. Interestingly, within a few weeks, you wouldn’t believe how many friends said to me “I love that so much because it’s showing that family is a part of your life and that you put that first—you’re really integrating these pieces of your life together, and I love what that says about your company and your mission.”

SF: What does it say?

JLB: I think it says this is who I am, and I’m bringing my full self to this job. I am a professional in all work situations, but there are times when I really am Chief Mom, and I have to leave on a Friday because the kids don’t have school or my daughter was called home. There are many difficult challenges to being an entrepreneur as well as having a family business, but forgoing your family all of the time is not one of those. You really do get to decide [to prioritize family], and I think we’re putting that decision out front and saying this is really what matters first, and this is a core part of our business. That is as much for us as it is for our customers.

SF: Have you gotten any pushback? Like hey, if you’re a mom, how are you going to deliver the products on time?

JLB: I think Wharton has helped with that stigma. The way people perceive the Wharton pedigree works to counteract that. What we have heard, though, from many couples who are entrepreneurs together, is that you shouldn’t go in and pitch together or try to raise money together. You don’t want to both be in the room and remind people that you’re married because it will be perceived as a distraction. What if they fight? What if they get divorced? What if anything else happens? A relationship can overcomplicate things, so we try not to remind people about that part of our lives [that we’re married].

SF: What’s the biggest challenge you find in working with your spouse?

JLB: I’d say the biggest challenge of working together is carving out the space (to use your framework, Stew) for self. Because so much is together—work, family, and community. That is actually the hardest part… besides the actual work we’re doing. It’s so important, though, to make that space and find time to nurture yourself, and it can be especially difficult [for me] because it feels like every part of our life is intertwined, so I don’t really have that space. For many people, your work space is separate from family, but for us, work and family are circles on top of each other.

SF: What have you found that works for you in terms of finding time to restore and rejuvenate—to tap into the things that give you sustenance?

JLB: If you had asked me this a year ago Stew, I would have said “I don’t know, and you probably shouldn’t have me on this radio show!” [laughs] But we have recently found ways that work for us through implementing what you call experiments.

For example, it’s really important to me to do yoga and work out. We both aim for 4-5 days per week where we wake up at ungodly early hours and I am doing work while he goes to the gym and then drops the kids off. At night then, he’s helping with the bedtime routine, and I go to the gym or go to yoga. It helps to be able to have those separate spaces. We’ve also recently started carving time to spend with our unique friends and making sure we have planned date nights, especially ones that aren’t necessarily just the two of us but with other people in the community as well. It’s good to have other people we are able to connect with because we already do spend so much time together.

We did (and still do) really have to force those things though, otherwise honestly there’s no end to the work. We could probably be home every Saturday night just working, doing laundry, and other “exciting” things.

SF: The exciting and wonderful aspects of the entrepreneurial life. Let’s stay on this subject of boundaries, which I think is an important issue in family business, especially in the case of a couple-managed business. You can maintain those boundaries by making commitments and being very explicit about the needs that you have both as a couple and a company. What advice would you give listeners about how to make that happen?

JLB: I think one piece involves just being honest with yourself and not trying to accommodate what you think the other person really wants. That can get really muddled. In a romantic partnership, you often think to yourself what do they really want… they say this, but they might really want that…? But in a work relationship, you need to be extremely honest and direct. It’s a different dynamic, and you can’t take things personally if someone doesn’t like something you’ve done or doesn’t agree with it. At the end of the day, it’s nothing personal, but still it can be hard to separate those two things from each other. For example, at one point I was working from early in the morning until maybe 2AM every night because there was a limitless amount of work to do. I was thinking that this is probably what Felix wants, given that we’re both so dedicated to the business and there’s so much we want to do.

SF: It sounds like you were making assumptions about what his real needs and expectations were.

JLB: Jordan Lloyd BookeyExactly. And I also wasn’t thinking about what my needs and expectations were. One of the most important reasons why I wanted to start this business was to be able to spend more time with my kids and have that flexibility. So Felix and I talked about it, and we realized that it actually is important for me to have those few hours per day with the kids. I get scared thinking about looking back later in life and feeling as though I missed that chance to spend time with them. From there, we discussed how we were going to manage that need, and what it would look like for us. In a family business, it’s important to express when you’re unhappy about something in your personal space, but then you must also be able separate that out from what is happening workwise.

When it’s happening at work, just keep it at work; when it’s happening in the personal realm, try to still keep them separate. One domain does not always need to impact the other. It’s a hard balance to achieve, but it’s critical for us to attain what we want both for our family and for our business.

To learn more about Jordan Lloyd Bookey and her work, visit Zoobean and Beanstack and follow her on Twitter @zoobeanforkids.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan Motzel Morgan Motzelis an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

Valuable Tips to Relaunch Your Career — Carol Fishman Cohen

Contributor: Shreya Zaveri

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life Stew Friedman spoke with Harvard Business School graduate Carol Fishman Cohen. Cohen is CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch, a comprehensive resource for career reentry strategies, and co-author of career reentry strategy book Back on the Career Track.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Carol, you returned to work at Bain Capital after an 11-year maternity leave. What were the hardest things about getting back into your career?

Carol Fishman Cohen: Carol Fishman cohenThe hard parts fell into three categories. First, I skipped an essential step while I was away. I didn’t think through what I wanted to do, and whether my interests and skills had changed. I thought that because I was in finance, I needed to go back to the same role, and it wasn’t until I was well into it that I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. I could have avoided that with a career assessment pre re-entry.

Second, it was hard to build up confidence again and think of myself in terms of my working identity as opposed to the diminished sense of self that happened over time the longer I was on my career break. The longer that you’re on career break, the more you separate yourself from your career identity. To feel good about yourself as a professional is a process. It involves updating, sometimes academically if you’re in a STEM or other technical field, reconnecting with your networks from the past and getting comfortable telling your story.

SF: What are your strategies for coping with that?

CFC: I wrote a book called Back on the Career Track, and one of the career reentry strategies is a career assessment tool called a Job Building Blocks Worksheet — a framework for looking at prior significant work and volunteer experiences, identifying which of those components you love and are best at, and then using them to build a new career path.  Another strategy is to connect with your alma mater and see if they have alumni career services that can help with a career assessment – I know Wharton has a fantastic department!

Two tips for confidence building: when you get back in touch with your networks from the past, it’s important to remember that they have a ‘frozen-in-time’ image of you. Even if you have a diminished sense of self by being away, they don’t, so it’s sometimes a great confidence booster! LinkedIn is a great gift for re-launchers trying to find past contacts.

SF: What are some best practices in using LinkedIn for past contacts?

CFC: It’s low key and an easy way to connect, so they’re likely to accept your connection request. You want to tell them that you’ve been out of the workforce and are looking to re-launch, and are in a structured career assessment process. Make sure it’s clear that you are in information gathering mode, and it is not opportunistic – you’re not asking for a job. Ask for fifteen or twenty minutes to talk about changes in the field or their own career path. Inevitably, they will bring up more people to talk to.

As I said before, you have to get comfortable telling your story. Have these conversations with your non-judgmental friends and family first and ask for feedback. You will feel and sound better over time, which will build confidence. They’re essentially interview rehearsals.

SF: How do you coach people to talk about motherhood? Is it diminished because it’s not really relevant to business, or emphasized because of how much they’ve learned and changed?

CFC: It’s important not to make assumptions about your audience. You don’t know if the person interviewing you has been a parent who hasn’t taken a career break and may not think it’s a huge accomplishment at all, or they might even be resentful. You don’t want to talk about your ‘mom skills’ as part of the interview – only the skills that pertain to the jobs you’re applying to. When the interviewer inevitably asks about the six year gap in the resume, you want to acknowledge it – don’t apologize – and move on to why you’re the best person for the job. Draw attention to meaningful volunteer work and freelance work you’ve done in your time off if it is relevant, and treat it on your resume the same as paid work. Regardless of whether you had experiences during your career break relevant to your career goals, reference anecdotes from your pre-career break work experience that are pertinent to the job opportunity.

To learn more about Carol Fishman Cohen, visit her website www.iRelaunch.com , or follow her on Twitter @iRelaunch .

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the author

Shreya Zaveri Shreya Zaveriis a junior in the Wharton School studying Management and Marketing and OPIM with an International Relations minor. She also serves as a vice president for the Work-Life Integration Project Student Advisory Board.

The Best Strategy for Navigating at Work When You’re Pregnant: Laura Little

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dr. Laura Little, the director of the Institute for Leadership Advancement and an assistant professor at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. She received her MBA at the University of Texas and her PhD in organizational behavior at Oklahoma State University. She spoke with Stew about the results of a survey she conducted on the positive and negative professional images of pregnancy in the workplace.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman:  Laura, you’ve studied pregnant women and the different strategies they use for managing and maintaining their professional identities. Was the subject of this research based on experiences you’ve had in your own life?

Laura Little:Laura Little It was, yes. In my doctoral program I had two babies, which is not a normal thing in a doctoral program. It’s a time when you’re very concerned about maintaining the image that you’re a serious researcher and that you’re serious about your future career. I felt like I was constantly trying to manage that image.

SF: To whom did you have to prove your seriousness — your colleagues, your fellow doctoral students, supervisors, faculty? Which group was the most critical?

LL: Probably the faculty, even though they were very supportive. I just felt like I didn’t have a role model for this. I didn’t know how they would react. I didn’t know what they would think of having two babies in the program.

SF: So you were concerned the faculty would judge you as not really serious?

LL: Exactly, it seemed like I just couldn’t be too serious about the career that was just beginning if I was starting a family.

SF: So tell us about the research that you did. How did you set it up, what did you expect to find, and what did you discover?

LL: We started with my co-author doing a qualitative study where she was interviewing women about their experiences with pregnancy in the workplace. She interviewed 35 or so pregnant working women without any direct hypotheses. She just wanted to understand what their concerns were and to keep it open to allow the model to develop itself.  What we expected to find were concerns about identity change, about how pregnancy was affecting them internally, and how these perceptions would have an impact on the workplace. But what we found, in an overwhelming way, was that the primary concerns were outwardly focused. They were focused on their professional image and how they would be viewed at work. That was a little bit surprising, not that it was a concern, but that it was the overriding concern. I think it suggested to us that there are perhaps some issues in the way we handle pregnancy in the workplace if this is the overriding concern for most of these women.

SF: I was talking to another guest about becoming a father and all the benefits that derive from that change in status for men. How does that square with your own research and what you’ve observed?

LL: I think we do see more “Good Job!” directed towards men. And then for women there are more concerns.

SF: So there’s not a lot of high-fiving for moms when they come back from maternity leave?

LL: Well we see a stark difference between—and this maybe is true for men too—happy for you personally and happy for you professionally. And so a lot of what the women experience in the workplace is I’m happy you’re becoming a mother, but what does this mean for our organization? So it is a congratulations but not in a professional sense, and that leaves many women wanting from that standpoint.

SF: So naturally they are focused on how they are being viewed or potentially devalued?

LL: Exactly.

SF: What else can you tell us about what you discovered about how people cope?

LL: We find that there are two primary strategies, and they stem from two motives. One is to maintain your image—maintain that professional image of who you were before you got pregnant. This one has a strong driving motive. The other one is reduction of devaluation, as we call it, to try to avoid being discriminated against and to try to avoid these negative career consequences that come with pregnancy. So these are the two overwhelming motives that we see women use. What we see with women who want to continue to maintain their image is that they direct their energy in a very proactive way towards making sure they’re not viewed differently. That includes maintaining the same pace they did before they were pregnant, not requesting accommodation, going the extra mile—some of the things that I kind of described myself doing—even shortening my maternity leave. And these are very proactive behaviors aimed at not having that perception changed.

The other strategies are what we call decategorization, which is about hiding the pregnancy. So these can be literally physically hiding the pregnancy and not telling people about it or just downplaying it.  They are trying to reduce the salience of the pregnancy, not talking about it, not talking about what they’re going to do once they have their baby. We see that a fear motive—worries about negative career consequences—really drives people to behave in this way.

Interestingly we find that these two types of behaviors have very different outcomes. So we looked at it with burnout and perceived discrimination and then whether or not they go back to work. We find that the image maintenance behavior has positive consequences to reduce burnout and perceived discrimination and increase the likelihood of these women going back to work.

To learn more about Laura Little and her work, visit here.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Sathvik Ramanan Sathvik Ramananis an undergraduate freshman in the Vagelos Program in the Life Sciences and Management at the University of Pennsylvania.

Professional Women: Opt-Out Or Take The Road Less Traveled? — Pamela Stone

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dr. Pamela Stone, Professor of Sociology at Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY and a visiting scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. She is an expert on women in the workplace and has written widely on such topics as the gender wage gap and pay equity. She is also the author of Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home. Stew spoke with her about her studies on women in the labor force.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: In 2007 you wrote Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home and more recently, you, along with some of my colleagues at the Harvard Business School, have found that women are not actually opting out of work to take care of kids. They’re changing jobs. So what’s the story?

Pamela Stone: Pamela StoneThe whole “opting out” story has always been overblown. People thought that it is happening at a much greater scale than was actually taking place. When I was starting to study it, it wasn’t that I was interested in the subject because women were opting out in droves. It was really because those who were opting out were a key group of women—those who are extremely well-trained and groomed for leadership—who were leaking out of the pipeline to leadership. Opting Out was never about a huge trend. The trend was way overblown by the media.

SF: Why do you think that was?

PS: Most likely because it confirms a stereotype. Part of it is that when women take a traditional path—in other words, returning to motherhood, as opposed to trying to combine work and motherhood—that confirms traditional notions of womanhood. I think the media fixates on this group of women who came of age during the feminist revolution, and who supposedly are the standard bearers for its accomplishments, but who then seem to be turning their back on it.  It confirms that women really don’t want to have it all.  There’s a lot of interesting cultural commentary going on there. But the phenomenon is counterintuitive, in a way, and that’s what got me interested in studying this group of women. I, as a suburban, working mom, knew a lot of stay-at-home moms and found that they had these incredible backgrounds. I was surprised and intrigued as to what led them to take such a different path than they had initially set out on. I think I was less surprised than some might have been by the numbers we saw in the Harvard Business School survey, the 10%.

SF: Can you tell our listeners about that 10%?

PS: We looked at the women [Harvard Business School grads] and asked them if they had ever taken significant time out of the labor force. Some said yes, but in the cross sections it appeared that not that many women had. It was a relatively small percentage of women who were full-time out of the labor force taking care of home and family as their primary activity; that’s the 10% number.

SF: So that 10% refers to all study respondents across generations?

PS: Yes exactly, at the time of the survey.  You should also recognize that the 10% is a cross-sectional measure as opposed to a life-span measure.  When you ask women if they have ever taken time out of the labor force for a period of six months or longer, you do see a higher number. So among the Gen X’s [those born between the 1960s and 1980s], about a quarter of the women reported at some point taking six months or more out of the labor force. And when you look at the Baby Boomers, who are 50+, there was a higher percentage who reported having taken some time out of the labor force. You can better understand that 10% number by knowing that this is a group with fairly high labor force participation to begin with because they’re highly educated.  What we see happening instead is that women are not entirely dropping out of the labor force in droves, but rather they’re often times making accommodations in their jobs or switching jobs to deal with work and family.

SF: Did you notice any particular patterns or trends about how those adjustments are being made, and whether they’re different for people of different age groups?

PS: This is one of the questions that remain. The study that we did was a survey of largely Harvard MBAs. We meant it to be a diagnostic benchmark, a starting point. The second phase of the study is going to try to understand the gender gap that we discovered. We’d like to learn more about the sources of that gap and the micro-decision making that both women and men make. Right now, we don’t have as much of that as we’d like.

SF: You’ve been studying this topic for some time now, and you’ve seen some changes in how these issues are playing out in our society. What has been the most striking change in the couple of decades that you’ve been studying? What’s changed the most in your view?

PS: In terms of the causes of the gender and pay gaps, there has been much greater attention paid to the family nexus. I think the earlier studies of inequality were very much workplace focused, and they didn’t really understand the interlocking systems of work and family and how they both in themselves generate inequality. The recent focus on understanding the motherhood penalty is a good example of this.

SF: Define the motherhood penalty for our listeners.

PS: It’s the penalty that, other things being equal, is exacted in terms of pay and promotions when a woman is a mother as opposed to not being a mother. And then there’s a fatherhood bonus on the flip side of that. It’s a really interesting dynamic in which the traditional breadwinner model is rewarded; in the workplace, men are rewarded for fatherhood and women are penalized for motherhood. That remains to this day, and this is the kind of phenomenon that shows clearly that there is not a firewall between work and family. These decisions are carried out in the workplace with an eye towards people’s parental status at home.

To learn more about Pamela Stone and her work, visit here. Click here to learn more about her book, Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Sathvik Ramanan Sathvik Ramananis an undergraduate freshman in the Vagelos Program in the Life Sciences and Management at the University of Pennsylvania.