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 Kate Reigel. She most recently served as the Director for a new specialty master’s program at the University of Minnesota’s business school, the Carlson School of Management, launching the program from inception. At the Carlson School, she taught several graduate-level experiential learning courses, including the Global Business Practicum in China. Prior to the Carlson School, she served as an independent management consultant, working for executives on strategic initiatives. Prior to her independent work, Ms. Reigel was a project leader for the Boston Consulting Group. Earlier in her career, she was a platinum consultant for SAP. She holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and earned her MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
If there was one element of gender equity that you would like to see promoted in the workplace, what would it be?
Pay. Pay and placement. I’d like to see equal pay for work being done equally, and I would like to see more women ascending to the ranks of senior management: Not only CEOs and other C-suite positions, but also VP and Director level positions, so women are experienced and prepared when entering C-level roles. I’d like to widen the pool of women candidates for C-suite consideration.
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?
Regarding my own upbringing, my mom is a vascular surgeon who has now moved into an executive position at a hospital. She waited until I was in kindergarten, age 5, to enter medical school in the 1970’s. Prior to that, she was a homemaker. My childhood and adolescence was spent watching my mom furthering her education to attain a career she found fulfilling, and observing my dad step up on the home front, along with the rest of us, to allow her to do this. This early example set a foundational belief for me that we all can reach our goals, regardless of gender.
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?
Throughout my career, I have typically been surrounded by more men than women in the room. I am incredibly privileged to have been in environments where my voice has been heard as much as those of the men in the room. I enjoy spirited debate and the back and forth that comes with the vibrant sharing of ideas in conversation, which often includes interruptions. However, there was one example recently that comes to mind: I was in a formal meeting, with many powerful people in attendance. It was the type of meeting where each attendee thinks carefully before speaking, and each individual has minimal air time. I contributed an idea when a male attendee interrupted and redirected the conversation. The momentum of the conversation shifted to his point. Immediately after the man completed his thought, another woman present said, “Let’s go back to what Kate was talking about; I think she has an important idea that we need to act on.” The entire cadence of the meeting highlighted the importance of amplification and advocacy. I sincerely don’t think the male attendee interrupted intentionally or with malice, yet the result of my idea being glossed over would have been the same, had it not been for the intervention of a female peer (or I would have had to interject and reiterate my point myself). I became aware of the issue in a way I hadn’t before. I’d like to increase awareness across both men and women of these nuances of conversation and how these can impact women’s involvement in decision making. A Forbes article from a couple years back discusses the scourge of “manterrupting”!
What guidance, if any, have you received from mentors or coaches about how being a woman in the workplace may affect your career? How do you feel that this advice has helped you? What resources would you recommend to people who work with teens that would help them to better understand the scourge of gender inequity and inequality and impart that information to young people?
My mom always said, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” She was a homemaker, full stop, then trained to be a surgeon, full stop. I modeled my career comparably, where I entered the work force and worked full time until we had a family, then I intentionally chose to opt out for several years when my children were young. I re-entered the workforce full time six years ago. I chose to be at home for several years when my children were young. Today, there are more opportunities for working part-time during various phases of a career, and more flexibility even within certain full time roles. However, these choices do impact long-term career trajectories and lifetime earnings: I still see limitations on how women’s careers evolve, including knowing several incredibly qualified women who have not been promoted to VP in their organizations.
What seems terribly missing from the conversation on gender inequity is voices of men. In October, the Wall Street Journal hosted “Women in the Workplace,” with insights from Lean In & McKinsey. Every speaker shown in the photographs reporting the event was a woman. Although these are great opportunities for women to speak, men in leadership need to take accountability for this issue, also, to the level of being able to speak as an expert on the topic.
My advice is that the world is a vast and beautiful place. Set your mind to do something, then go after it in whatever work schedule works for your life at that particular phase of your life.
Famously, Sheryl Sandberg encouraged women in the workplace to “Lean In”. Can you describe suggestions that you’ve read about or learned from others (outside of direct mentorship) that have been helpful? Detrimental? Any you needed to tweak for your particular situation to be successful?
It is incredibly fulfilling when you find a profession that brings out your strengths and allows you to use all of your talents to improve our world. Ideally, every individual can achieve this relationship to work. In this instance, 100%, Lean In with everything you have. Play by the established rules of the game to achieve impact. However, the proposed model of “work just as hard as the guys do” seems short sighted to me. We need to create a new model of work based on how often your ideas push forward the entity, make the organization better, improve the output for employees and customers, not on how much you can relate to those in power. I appreciated the recent op-ed in the NY Times that considered, perhaps we can tell men to “Lean Out.”
What advice would you have for teens who are entering the workforce when it comes to gender roles and gender inequity?
For boys, I’d suggest that they think twice before interrupting someone, and consider whether it is a collaborative interruption that builds on the stated idea, or an intrusive interruption, that redirects the discussion. Actively seek contributions from all in the room. For girls, make sure you speak up. And think twice before interrupting anyone, as well. As advice for all teens, I’d recommend working to create a collaborative environment that will bring out the best ideas in the room and be sure to solicit ideas from everyone rather than making unilateral decisions.
Finally, what ideals about gender equity and equality have you worked to instill in your own kids and others around them, and how?
Here’s the thing about gender equity: It ought to be re-branded as people equity. It’s essentially the idea that we all have value, and we all have the ability to contribute, and if half of the population’s contributions are unheard, spoken over or ignored, you will miss some really great ideas.
Thanks for participating, Kate, and thanks to readers for everything you do to counter gender inequity and inequality in and outside of libraries!
Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020 | Twitter: @toddbcpl