Make this your summer reading must. Five months ago, right in the midst of the explosive Harvey Weinstein story and the #MeToo movement, Joanne Lipman, the former chief content officer of Gannett and Editor-in-Chief of USA Today, debuted her almost instantaneous bestseller, That’s What She Said:What Men Need To Know (And What Women Need To Tell Them) About Working Together. Turning the tables on our perceptions (in an almost Malcolm Gladwell-esque way), Lipman dives deep into complex gender equality issues and solutions in today’s workplace. She argues (ever so successfully with precise research and antidotes) that to achieve parity in the office women don’t have to change—men do—and (rightly) emphasizes that there will be no gender shaming.
Drawing from her reporting background, Lipman reveals crucial facts about how women radically improve corporate performance from “companies with more women in senior leadership perform better by virtually every financial measure to women employees help boost creativity and can temper risky behavior—especially in relationship to financial decisions—to a recent Harvard study which found that corporate diversity training has actually made the gender gap worse—in part because it makes men feel demonized.” Not what you would expect, right?
As women seek more ways to empower ourselves (besides just leaning in) and millennials often have their first encounters with these issues, Lipman brings powerful solutions to complex issues by coaching us all on how to speak up, be more confident, demand to be paid what we are worth and not only discuss (and support each other) but talk to the men at work about how to close the gender gap.
In a recent follow-up interview with me after her #MeToo movement piece with Forbes Contributor Dirk Smillie, Lipman shared five key takeaways about achieving greater gender equality that help you grapple with tricky situations while giving you the tools to make positive changes in your career path and your work environment.
NJ Goldston: One of the big takeaways in your book is women are interrupted more frequently than men. Almost three times more when speaking. Literally they are talked over by their male colleagues. What’s your advice to women everywhere on how to manage this in meetings and in the workplace when there isn’t a “no interruption” policy in place?
Lipman Solution: As I say, interrupt the interrupters. I believe anyone in a meeting can interrupt. In fact, women who do speak up at meetings were judged more than 14 percent less competent. The reverse of a Yale study which found male executives who spoke more than their peers were viewed as more competent. For female executives, it was the reverse with even female Supreme court justices interrupted three times more than male justices. If you or another women is cutoff in a conversation, cut off the interrupter. It’s also important to support other women in the room by acknowledging she was speaking. It can be as simple as ‘Let’s let her finish her thought first.’ You can also work towards instituting a “no interruptions” rule for everyone.
NJ Goldston: How can women better support each other in the workplace to accomplish mutually beneficial goals and move ahead? We’re in the pipeline but not getting the recognition we need to be noticed.
Lipman Solution: I talk about about two different tactics in my book. The bottom line is we all need to be allies with each other. One is amplification. Amplification is the idea that one women says something and another colleague repeats it and gives her (colleague) credit by name. This insures the original speaker gets heard and she gets credit for her ideas. This tactic was actually popularized by women in the Obama administration supporting each other. Another strategy is brag buddies. I learned about this from a group of women utilizing this at a consulting firm.
Research shows women are better than men at advocating on behalf of others but not on our own behalf. We are seen as outside of gender norms as pushy and aggressive. Their solution was ‘I tell you you my accomplishments and we each brag about each other to the boss.’ An ally can also be a man and not just a women who can be your brag buddy and amplify you. Make sure to have that connection with someone else in the workplace. Before you step into the meeting you have each others backs.
NJ Goldston: I’m guilty of this just as so many women are. I often apologize and say ‘I’m sorry’ and use frequent qualifiers. How does this hurt us and what are some tricks to break the habit?
Lipman Solution: Women are highly aware of these issues and the verbal ticks we have. I’ve spoken to women who have tried to break these tick habits. There are even women executives who have ‘sorry jars’ in their office. There’s even a Google app extension which qualifies them so you have greater awareness of your own sorry habit. Alternately, women have gotten drama coaches and voices coaches to work on their communication. We also have to have men understand that women have different ways of speaking. Women tend to use ‘up speak’ and we should try not to. It’s often misinterpreted. She’s not asking a question, she’s making a statement. However, the communication style comes across as a question instead of a statement. It’s not just a women’s issue it’s the men’s issue to understand the difference in the communication styles. It’s important to practice your speech patterns and just like others, explore coaching if you need it.
NJ Goldston: One of the hardest things we all face is being boxed out of promotions and raises. Help! How do we a better job in being considered and most importantly negotiating salaries and raises?
Lipman Solution: With promotions and raises, women tend not to put their hands up and are consistently penalized. I tell women to think of yourself in the third person. How would you describe yourself as if you were your best friend or your favorite colleague? This helps women get out of their own heads and see their own accomplishments. For managers, I do think managers need to be aware of who is raising their hands for promotions. The managers should go to the women in their companies and on their teams and see if they are are interested. Learn to talk about yourself without about embarrassment. Men need to notice the women, but women need to put themselves forward. Women are just as qualified and need to put their hands up.
NJ Goldston: Life happens. How do you keep yourself in the pipeline if you have a life event from a new baby to family members who have significant care issues?
Lipman Solution: It is possible for organizations to work these issues out. Every other country but the U.S. has paid maternity and parental leave and subsidized child care and manages to be productive. It’s important to be proactive and present a solution. Not just the employee, but the employer. Life happens to men and women. Companies need to be proactive. Maybe it’s a man who has a family emergency and who has a life crisis. Policies need to be in place that treat all employees equally. A big consulting firm found in its research, if women women left work early, they commented and made excuses and there were often repercussions. When men picked up a left early, they didn’t make excuses and there were no repercussions for them. Men didn’t say sorry sorry sorry. Treat all men and women equally. Bring solutions.
NJ Goldston: Finally, any special advice for female founders and leaders about the example they should be setting in the workplace or policies they should be setting?
Lipman Solution: Ownership of workplace policy must come from the top of the organization from the CEO and COO. Too many companies offload this to the the HR department. Number one, you have to have your leaders set your culture. A lot of companies now have these resource groups and are now inviting the men. That seems to all be a new, effective strategy. The senior women started inviting the senior men. A consulting firm started doing this and they suddenly have became coveted invitations. They men subsequently had more exposure to women in the firm and have created better working relationships in the firm. If you are in the position to set the culture, make sure you take the lead.
For an even deeper dive into everything from “Don’t Be afraid of Tears” to “She’s Pretty Sure You Don’t Respect Her”, Lipman’s bestseller is your essential summer reading must. A clear roadmap for revving up your career path, its a breakthrough gender equality guide full of strategies for your workplace and for all the good guys out there.