Technically People
Technically People

Episode · 2 months ago

Women in Leadership: Focusing on What We Can Fix


Senior women are more likely than senior men to feel burned out and under pressure to work more, according to a 2020 McKinsey report. They’re 1.5 times more likely than senior men to think about downshifting or leaving work, and almost three in four cite burnout as the reason. 

Dr. Charlynn Ruan is CEO and Founder of Thrive Psychology Group. One of her areas of expertise as a clinical psychologist is working with women in senior leadership roles. She helps clients process the pressures unique to them, including “the second shift,” where many women shoulder most or all of the burden of unpaid domestic labor after work hours.   

Even as she acknowledges that modern work is built on broken systems, Dr. Ruan aims to help women find ways to move the needle forward for themselves and those who follow. 

“There are the things we can't fix and the things we can,” she says. “Let's focus on the ones we can. We'll be surprised how much progress we can make.”

Highlights from this episode:

  • Access isn’t equity. 
  • It really is lonely at the top for women leaders.
  • The second shift is a relic of previous generations society hasn’t yet fixed. 
  • Discrimination against fathers who take parental leave is especially insidious.
  • What Sweden is doing to incentivize paternal leave for both mothers and fathers.
  • How men can model egalitarian behavior and be allies at work.
  • How Dr. Ruan created a culture of support for women at Thrive.

View the resources mentioned during the podcast:

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Welcome to technically people acommunity conversation by and for workplace futurists brought to you bythe tech recruitment platform built in the podcast features, insights fromleaders, thinkers and doers on the vanguard of building human centeredworkplaces of the future along the way you'll hear concepts thatwill stop you in your tracks, concepts that inspire you to ask yourself.What's the most future forward way to approach my people leadership, we allknow the future of work isn't waiting around. So, let's get on with the show hello. Everyone welcome to technicallypeople. I am so excited to introduce our guest today. Charlene Ruan is a PhDand licensed clinical psychologist and she is the founder of thrive.Psychology Group, which is a private practice, that's based in La, but thepractice also has offices in California, New York City and it's expanding to myhometown, Chicago one of Dr An's areas of expertise is working with women inleadership, roles and executive positions. So today we're going to talkabout some of the issues that women leaders face in the workplace. Sowelcome. Welcome to the show so happy to have you doctor an thank you forhaving me I'm excited to have this conversation. I think more, my man, Iwear it me too. I agree and speaking of kind of people needing to hear somestuff. I wanted to share some really striking. Finding senior women areconsidering down shifting their hours or leaving the workplace entirely. OnePoint: five times more than senior men, the implications of a mass exodus ofwomen leaders. There is going to be a ripple effect,so think of it. Companies they're going to suffer from the loss of talent, butalso think of any progress we've made with regard to women in the workplace.That is going to deteriorate and it's going to be harder to get back. The other thing is that women whoremain in the workforce will suffer today. Thirty eight percent of seniorwomen men tore one or more women of Color, but only twenty three percent ofsenior men do the same. So all of this is to say that women who most needallyship will have even less access so that paints a picture in numbers. DrRuan, I would love you to paint a picture from the human side and fromthe human experience, which is, of course, your domain. Well, it's all ofour domain, but it's your area of expertise. Well, yeah. I want to really it's just depressing, because we'restarting to things are shifting as more and more women do get or theyworshipping is more moment or getting into the workforce and getting intoleadership right because before it was just like you're, the one woman or theOne woman on the board or the one woman executive, and so this generation ofwomen that are getting into leadership. Something that's different for them. Isthat now it's not just the one there's a few and there's a different attitude,which is we need to make this better for all of us and this one woman. Youknow and me helping another woman helps us all, but still really thin thehigher you get, there's fewer and fewer women and that's the challenge. But aswomen were getting into more and more leadership, they were making changes inthe company. Thinking about things and like the clients that I that I workwith you know who were like say the one partner in the law firm and then hasthe baby she's thinking like. Oh my gosh, we don't even have policiesaround breastfeeding. We don't have policies around parental leave. Wedon't have any of this, because I'm the only woman who's ever been in thisposition of power and that responsibility that women, a leadership,feel to make it better for the women coming up after them. It just is makingit harder and harder. Will you have talks about this loneliness component?Can you elaborate a little bit yeah? I...

...think, especially in I work with a lotof women in tech fields, finance law like by the time you get to that level.Yeah, there's very few. You may be the one senior leader who's, a woman inyour entire company, and so that's really challenging when you don't havepeers to talk to, and so I think a lot of women are now. Leaders are like verygood about mentoring, the younger generation, but there's no one tomentor them, and so they don't have someone to ask a question around likeokay, I'm you know I'm going on a retreat and allthe you know all the partners are men and I'm a woman. How do I handle thator I'm going to a fund raising event? You know and Silicon Valley and there'swomen like dancing in the background and I'm a woman WHO's, an investor it.Some one mistakes me for like one of them- and you know like it's wheneverthe gender part is like highlighted, they feel very alone. You know, if youmaybe, if you're in a meeting- and you have a good company culture and may beless noticeable, that your woman, but there's things that do make them feelothered, and so, if there's several women in the room, it just changes thatdynamic completely. So I really encouraged women in these leadershippositions like you, may be the only one in your company. You need to connectwith peers in your industry, yeah and then, on top of that, you know a lot ofthe clients that you work with say. If I only had a wife, so tell me whatthat's about well, I mean so, even if we get the access like so much women,you know say like I just want to be. I just want to see it at the table rightand I think about like that, the first woman to run you know in a marathon.She I think her husband had to get the number for her, so she could even get anumber and the people kept trying to rip it off. She just wanted a numberand then to run of her own accord right and so, but it's not equal, becauseeven if you run at the same speed of the men you're carrying the kids withyou, you are you're still the CEO. They call it being like the CEO, the home.Women are the CEO of their home and that, even if you have a partner andI'm going to say male partner because it's different for couples where one isa man and one is a woman- that's where this gender dynamics really come intoplay, but a lot of women they're, the ones who needs the doctor. Wiman, whohas the dentist names? Who Does the pickup times like their family, is likea company and then, if their husband isn't taking a role where he's taking apiece of the cognitive load for her she's holding all of that and holdingit for Work Right, women are so afraid to say this is really hard. I'mexhausted I'm burned out, because if I say that the response is going to bewell, maybe you can't handle it. Maybe you should stay him with the kids.Maybe you shouldn't be in leadership, and so women are terrified of showingany cracks, but I'll say no you're like a race car right. So men are race cars,your race, car you're, not going to be happy tootling down the back road. Likeyou want. You love your career. You Love Your Company, you love your field,you want to do all of that, but these male race cars right. They have a pitcrew. They've got like you know they and I'm like. Who is your pin crew? Notonly do you not have a pit crew you're someone else's bit crew, so they'reracing around. You know competing with these men in the workforce, but then,while the men are having their pit career, where they've got the wifedoing all the things for them and the domestic help and all the support thatthey have a woman's doing it for someone else and no one's doing it forher, and so their wheels are falling off, doesn't mean they're, not anamazingly, fast race car in their career. It means that they don't havethe support. So it's just like. Oh access should be enough well yeah, butwe need the same level support that men. Have you have said that when you workwith clients, you encourage them to stop enabling husbands or male partnersto let them pick up all of the work, so how in the world can that happen? Howdo you counsel your clients yeah well, and it's so different like a couple percouple, but I see trends and themes. A couple needs to decide for themselves.Who Does what? First of all we need to? Let we need to think about our owninternalize sexism? Well, oh! Well, I need to do all this domestic stuffbecause he can't do it as well, but I do think that that's a way that wecomfort ourselves about doing things that maybe we don't want to do andwe're like. Oh I'm some help better, and then we get stuck in that role.Where then we don't have a choice. That's not true. Men just are notsocialized they're not pushing around...

...strollers with babies in them. They're,not you know, sitting next to their parents cooking and some of them aresome of them are but more and more, but I think generationally they're not, andso I think making an assumption that they can't do it maybe instead be like.Maybe nobody taught you, and so, when you are in a partnership like sayinglike, do you actually know how to do it, or did nobody actually sit down andteach you how to do it? Like women, don't realize how much time you weretaught how to do things, and so you know I say as a couple go into it andsay like what is it that you enjoy doing? What is it that I enjoy doing?What is it that we both hate and how can we figure out how to make thisequal, like you do this, and I do this and then, as a woman, let him go then.So US letting go of, I think, sort of that mixed pride guilt that we have andwhat we're supposed to do in the domestic sphere and instead likevaluing who we are as women for other things than you know, because it'sreally hard for us to be all things and that's what the expectation is now beamazing at work and have a beautiful home and be you know, super thin andhealthy and have perfect children and, like it's just not doable for oneperson. I think this is one example of you know how it is about workingexternally with your partner, but there's also a lot of internal workthat I don't think people consider often like the idea of letting go. Youknow another thing I want to say, and you have brought this up a couple oftimes, is that we're talking and sometimes generalizations you know soyou've mentioned out. It varies by you know from couple to couple and it'sgoing to vary from culture to culture and human to human, and so I just wantto make that point that throughout this conversation, we have that in mind.Just a a side note for our listeners, so I want to touch base with you about asrealm of the double shift or the second shift. What is that like for women whoidentify as lesbian or Queer yeah a lot more flexible t is what it is isbecause, like all the the research on it really shows that, because bothpartners grew up with very similar expectations around gender and what isdone and who is done, you know doing the domestic they get it there's a lotmore turn taking, there's a lot more division based on who enjoys what so,then they divided up really on. You know she enjoys this and she enjoysthat and it's equally okay, that we both do that. You know male femalecouple could do it that way, based just on preference what they enjoy skills?All of that, if we let go of all of these pre existing beliefs of what weare capable of the second shift, there is nothing new about it. I read Arleyhalf shells second shift, which was all about this, but that was in the late sand I think the sub title had to do with you know beyond coming revolutionaround it, and I don't think that we've seen that revolution, this problem ismore pronounced among Latinac and black women. Lat Necks. Mothers are one pointsix times more likely than white mothers to be responsible for all childcare and all house work and black mothers are twice as likely yeah. Itvaries a lot based on family. It varies a lot of based on culture, but if youdo come from a culture where that is really linked to your success as amother and as a woman, how you raise your kids, how you know held your home,how you do all of those traditionally female held domestic duties, there's alot of pressure if they're choosing something different, and so we do a lotof work on that of why maybe their mom- and this is something that's really. Ithink beautiful and sad, the like my mom is still part and so good. Whatjust a generation or two back then you have access, and especially coming youknow from some cultures, Thure's literally zero access. You know, buteven in the US very little access, and so women held a lot of their identityand really poured all of that passion, intelligence. You know strategicthinking all the things that would make them amazing senior leaders, they putit all into their home and there's a...

...lot of sadness in Alderman's or youknow, jen women or younger baby boomers were like Oh, my mom, she's, sobrilliant and she never got to really shine outside of out of the home. So Ithink a lot of that mother, daughter, dynamic, is really important to look atand think doing that deeper work and sometimes that's conversations they canhave with their mom. You know and they're not and to say, mom like I'm,not honoring what you did for me like. I understand, that's what you do andhow you show love your hard work and sacrifices made it so that I can dothis. We carry this really complicated thing with US generation aftergeneration and that mother daughter dynamic is such a complicated one. So Iwant to sort of move to the flip side, or I don't know if it's actually theflip side, but something like a shift here. A lot ofmen want to be allies in working with their clients. If women shared thingsthat men have done to make them feel supported a lot of men, they really they want tobe supportive, but they don't even know the things that women are strugglingwith. So I think, having like really vulnerable conversations around. Whatis it that you actually need? What is the thing that supports you, and Ithink that's the conversation to have with women and not assume that thething that you think is helping is actually helping ask. I also think thatI mean modeling is a male leader right, so think about that if you're like a inyou're one of the sor partner in a firm right, take time off for your kids showthat, like model that to the rest of the people in the firm right say ifyou're like a higher up leader woman in the company and say your CEO is superinvested in you, a male co if he is also a good parent, if he's alsosupportive of his wife's career, the women are seeing a different thing andmay have hope that the men in their life may also support them in that way.Okay. So this is a piece of literature I do not have on my night stand, butthe journal of managerial issues found that employers are less likely to hiremothers than women who don't have kids and when they do make that offer theypay mothers less and there's also some evidence of a fatherhood bonus so wherea man's earnings may increase, as they have kids, because they are seen assomehow more responsible and it's more socially acceptable, yeah. So theFatherhood reward, so it's partially because they're seen is more stable,less threatening like having kids or being married. Having a wedding ring,you know, having kids makes you look like a stable, solid guy who's going tostick around and care about his job, and so what's- and this is just bad forculture in general, like our society, because women actually get more collegedegrees than men, we are, you know, getting much more educated and thenwe're not having the same Roi e on all this investment that we're putting intowomen and a lot of times our career to directory will be high up until thepoint that they have kids right as you're getting into your flow right isyou're starting to make those you know, positions of leadership is where youstart to biologically speaking, usually want to be having children, and thenyou just get knocked down like motherhood ends up being the big thingthat really gets women out of the workforce because of the extra workload and couples who even may have a moralitie way of being tend to defaultto if they come from, traditional family roles tend to devault to thosewhen the kids are born. They wanted to see. If we could talk about thebacklash against men, that they're feeling cut off from parenthood thatthey are they're also judged if they take that leave yes, so men there'sbeen a research that shows that men who do take parental leaf are seen is lesscommitted. They are also looked over for promotions, they're judged as beinglike less leadership material, so...

...having a child right being a father isgood for your promotions and salary, and all of that, unless you are someonewho takes time off of work for your children. So if you take time tosupport your wife or if you take time to stay home with your kids or you takeyour kids to a doctor's appointment, they face the same backlash that womendo so there is an assumption between the parents. Women get the automaticbacklash whether or not they take the time up at their kids, because there'san assumption that women will do that because that's their gender, a it's,what they do. They get a a pre backlash if they're Satan, basically like it,comes with the baby right, like you, just get it like in part of it the men.It's not that way. However, if they want to be an involved dad or makechoices to do that, then they start to face it in the same way that women doand it can be even more insidious. That's why I think it's important forseeing your male leaders to like show that is an acceptable thing to do andset that as an expectation for the company and model that, because thereis this thought that, like well you're, just not as committed the same thing,this the same thing that happens for women, except that I do think that men have that extra judgment that there'ssomething tied up in their manhood about them right to thing on e and sothere's different. You know that's why some of the cultures that you know likeSweden or way there's some of the countries that have on parental leave.They have a. They call like a fatherhood quota on the leave, sothey'll give what they found. Is they gave parentally to both men and womenwere still taking over ninety nine percent of the leaf and men weren't?For those very reasons either they just didn't. You know they didn't want thebacklash or there wasn't that just wasn't the expectation baked in so theystarted creating a system where there was a of the amount of time that thisfamily got off. The men had to take a certain percentage of it or they didn'tget it as a couple both and they both of the visit yeah, that's incentive.That is what you call an incentive we need to as a society realize it's notjust giving them the ability, it's actually incentivizing the ability forthe men to take it because they're afraid to yes yeah again. Sexism is badfor everybody, so Sweden is a big time success story and I think it's why somany advocacy groups are fighting to pass the National Family Act with whichwould mandate paid family and medical leaves insurance programs now, alongthose lines of making things easier for women you're, not just a therapist, but youare this Eo and founder of thrive. So, as the leader of your practice, youhave control over what work is going to be like for women at your company. Tellme what you're doing policy wise or even just in terms of culture, to makea difference for your employees yeah and it's interesting. So when I lookedat the field, I didn't like my employment options, because youroptions are, you go into private practice and because of the way ourhealth care is set up right, you either have to buy your health car on theexchange or you don't have health care, which means you need a partner whogives you health care, and I'm like I like at any of the options I'm going tomake a new one. So I tried to create something where is like. Where would Iwant to work so when I create- or I did it very intentionally with havingbenefits amazing benefits, you know, having the you know, parental leave andin California when we started here we're one of the few states that has aparental leaf. You know baked into our system as a state, so as we'reexpanding Chicago is the example, I'm still giving those print alea benefits,but we're just covering them as a company right. So it costs us more, butI just believe it's a quality of life, and I want my employees to be with melong term and to think about the seasons of a woman's life, because youknow, as she has a baby, how does she shift in a way that works right Ho way?Keep her part time? Can we make it more flexible, and so it's been fun and also challengingbecausee? I T K to a lot of the. I have...

...a lot of understanding of thepracticalities of the business side, where I think sometimes where it may be like. Oh well, playersshould just do this and this and this and this and like yes, but I have tokeep the lights on and pay the bills right, so we have to think of otherways to make this work. So how do I show that you can create acompany that is supportive? Where women I mean my employees make significantlymore than what psychologists generally do, so they get paid more and they getbetter benefits they get matching for O. Okay. How do we do that? Well, I haveto be a lot more strategic and thoughtful around the business parts ofit in order to make it work, and so- and I try to have these conversationswith my employees- there is a solution, but it's not one. That's alreadyexisting. We have to get curate and start some and I'll say this to thriveis an extremely successful, fast grind company. So I like to also point outthat we live our values right and I show that you can actually pay womengood wages, and you know and understand the just: Do things in a different wayand be successful. I think that, like the thing that companies don'tunderstand is that by investing in women, your company benefits rightsociety benefits. Clients Benefit, I'm very flexible, about non client facingwork. Do it whenever you want to do it after your kids, go to sleep awesomeright. If you want to like go down to part time for a while awesome, go downto part time right like and figuring out how to do it now, we're smallenough still that I've been doing it basically on like an employed byemployed basis, but we're getting so big that it's like now, I'm having toput it into the systems. I also like you said, do a ton of mentoring,because I have kids right and so and my husband is the COO, so they see a lotof how we do it with the CO parenting. He holds the baby as much as I do.Maybe in a meeting you know- or you I had mentioned to you, like I rest petthrough my first two orientations with new employees, I'm like welcome to awomen's company. The systems are broken, but I want to make it better for otherpeople that come. You know behind me on that. I think that you know maybe someof our listeners from an enterprise company would say yeah, I'm not goingto be able to breastfeed during an on boarding session, but though you know,one thing that you said, which is the best practice for anyone and for anyleader working with any employee is just to customize your approach, and sothat totally applies to companies of all sizes, so yeah yeah. So I would love to shift to a segment called the twominute take away. If you could leave women in leadership, three or fourpieces of advice or counsel for dealing with all of the challenges that we've discussed. Whatwould they be? I would say a couple different things.One just of looking at it from holding to truth right is that we are workingwithin broken systems and it is not built for a well balanced lifestyle formen or for women, but especially for women and knowing that those systemsare broken and not blaming ourselves. For that and saying, shaming ourselvesthat it's hard like it's supposed to be hard. That being said, how can we movethe needle forward for ourselves and for those who come after US and a lotof women leaders are really inspired by that because they are getting to be an? This is a saying, I'll use forwomen and rether mothers stepping and we become the woman we needed as alittle girl. We become the female leaders and change makers that weneeded when we were coming up through the ranks of leadership, be what youneeded and then for ourselves realized like there's no map right like, ofcourse, it's hard. We're just wandering out into this, like wilderness ofnewness in the way that work is being done, is more and more when they're inthese leadership roles and there's going to be times where we fall downfrom our own standards. But I think and there's a lot of research around this,that women are very shame. Oriented and society is hard on us when we fail aswell. But we are, you know we can't...

...necessarily fix all the things aboutsociety, but there's a lot of things that we can fix and there's usually asolution for something you know, there's the things we can't pick andthe things we can, let's focus on the one we can will be surprised how muchprogress we can make. Well, I have to say personally, I feel like Ijust had a therapy session myself. I think this idea of being the woman thatyou needed when you were a girl just left me inspired for months. So thankyou for that. Now I have a feeling that our listenersmight want to learn more about. You learn more about thrive. What's a goodway to reach you yeah, our website is www. My thrive psychology com and youcan reach me at Dr Druon at my thrive psychology com. I just can't thank youenough for sharing so much and helping so many women in your practice and inthis podcast. So until we meet again next week. Thank you. Everyone built inis a tech recruitment platform. That's in constant dialogue with leaders aboutthe future of tech, Bilton's podcast. Technically people expands thoseconversations to help fellow futurist, create and lead exceptional workplaces,environments that inspire in Demand Tech professionals to join your companyand thrive to learn how building can help your company attract besting classprofessionals, visit employers, top Bilton you've been listening to technicallypeople, a community conversation about the future of work. If you want to hearmore cutting edge ideas about creating human center work, places subscribe onyour favorite, podcast player and you'll never miss an episode and ifyou're over the moon about what you've heard we'd be honored. If you took thetime to give us a five star review so signing off until we meet again in thefuture, I.

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