As a continuing commitment to look at the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff through the EDI lens, and my presidential theme of Striving for Equity using the same Competencies, I considered the fourth of these Competencies. I thought about how career preparation is a considerable aspect of Learning Experiences (formal and informal), and realized that a notable, ongoing issue of equity, inequity and inequality revolves around gender issues in the workplace.
Because I feel that our perspective can become myopic if we stay wholly within the library sphere, I chose to interview women in the non-library workforce and I asked them about their experiences around gender inequity and inequality, and how these elements shaped them, both as teens and during their careers. I also asked them about how they feel gender inequity and inequality has affected the teens in their own lives today.
The next interview is with Wendy Volkman, currently a Minneapolis-based UX Content Strategist in the financial industry. She has also been a Digital Marketing Manager, Webmaster, Compensation & Classification Analyst, Institutional Researcher in higher ed, and a Welfare Policy Analyst.
If there was one element of gender equity that you would like to see promoted in the workplace, what would it be?
There are two – pay equity and broadening the idea of what leadership looks like to include more women leaders and female leadership styles in the workplace. I think it is very circular – more women in leadership roles will diversify what leadership looks like in the workplace, which allows more females to imagine themselves as leaders, which will hopefully lead to more women seeking leadership positions.
Considering the research that gender stereotypes are set into motion around age 10, how would you say that you worked against these stereotypes for girls, and in what ways did they become a part of your own upbringing and adolescence?
I guess I felt from a young age that my intelligence was valued the most. I don’t recall feeling overpraised for my appearance, cleanliness or politeness. I’m not sure I felt like I was treated any differently than my brother who is two years older than me. Though I was very good at math and science, I don’t recall ever being encouraged to continue studying it after high school. I do recall telling my HS guidance counselor that I thought that engineering was for guys, and I don’t remember being corrected. I knew that appearance could be disproportionately rewarded in women, but I guess I never really felt like going down that path.
Can you discuss any experiences that you have had that made you feel singled out as a woman or as one of the women in your workplace or chosen career? Are there particular instances of gender inequalities that you have had to deal with? How did you handle them?
I think I’ve spent most of my career in fields that were female-dominated – marketing, human resources, social services. There aren’t any specific instances that I’ve had where I’ve felt singled out as a female. I’ve tried, in my own way, to address any issues of pay inequity by working very hard to negotiate salary when I start a position. I’ve also passively kept my eye out for new job opportunities, and kept my resume and LinkedIn profile fresh, because I believe the best way to increase your salary over time is to move companies.
What advice would you have for teens who are entering the workforce when it comes to gender roles and gender inequity?
In general, I would advise to know your worth and to look for opportunities to show your talent. People don’t talk about salaries very easily, but it’s important to try to learn what different positions make. Sites like Glassdoor.com can be helpful. Also, in any job, know how you might best show your talent. Understand the environment you work in and how different leaderships styles might be effective. Learn about how you communicate (you jump into conversations and think aloud, you wait until discussions are over and need to think about your reply) so that you might use your strengths and work on your weaker areas (you learn to listen more, you learn how to jump in and share an idea). Don’t be afraid to reach out to people with more experience (a peer, a manager you like) and talk to them about how to be successful in your role.
Finally, what ideals about gender equity and equality have you worked to instill in your own kids and others around them, and how?
I have always tried to let my daughters know that while their gender is an important part of who they are, it does not define or limit them. My daughters have been encouraged to pursue whatever interests them, and that their hard work, kindness and thoughtfulness will take them where they want to go.
Thanks for participating, Wendy, and thanks to readers for helping to counter gender inequity and inequality within and outside of libraries!
Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020 | Twitter: @toddbcpl