Technically People
Technically People

Episode · 4 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.

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Welcome to technically people, a communityconversation by and for workplace futurists brought to you by the tech recruitment platform builtin. The podcast features insights from leaders, thinkers and doers on the vanguard ofbuilding human centered workplaces of the future. Along the way, you'll hear conceptsthat will stop you in your tracks, concepts that inspire you to ask yourself, what's the most futureforward way to approach my people leadership? We allknow the future of work is a waiting around, so let's get on withthe show. Hello everyone, welcome to technically people. I am so excitedto introduce our guests today. Charlonne Ruan is a PhD and licensed clinical psychologistand she is the founder of Thrive Psychology Group, which is a private practicethat's based in La but the practice also has offices in California, New YorkCity and it's expanding to my hometown, Chicago. One of Dr Juan's areasof expertise is working with women in leadership rolls and executive positions. So todaywe're going to talk about some of the issues and women leaders face in theworkplace. So welcome, welcome to the show. So happy to have you, Dr on. Thank you for having me. I'm excited have this conversation. I think more women were, me too. I agree. And,speaking of kind of people needing to hear some stuff, I wanted to sharesome really striking findings. Senior women are considering downshifting their hours or leaving theworkplace entirely, one point five times more than senior men. The implications ofa mass exodus of women leaders. There is going to be a ripple effect. So think of IT companies. They're going to suffer from the loss oftalent, but also think of any progress we've made with regard to women inthe workplace. That is going to deteriorate and it's going to be harder toget back. The other thing is that women who remain in the workforce willsuffer. Today, thirty eight percent of Senior Women Mentor one or more womenof Color, but only twenty three percent of senior men do the same.So all of this is to say that women who most need ally ship willhave even less access. So that paints a picture in numbers. Dr Rouan, 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 of our domain, but it's your area of expertise. Well,yeah, and it's a really it's just depressing because we're starting to things areshifting as more and more women do get or they worshipting is more and morewomen are getting into the workforce and getting into leadership right because as before thatwas just like you're the one woman or the One woman on the board orthe one woman executive. And so this generation of women that are getting intoleadership, something that's different for them is that now it's not just the one, there's a few and there's a different attitude, which is we need tomake this better for all of us. And as one woman, you know, and mean helping another woman helps us all. But still really thin thehigher you get, there's fewer and fewer women and that's the challenge. Butas women 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 thelaw firm and that has the baby. She's thinking like, oh my gosh, we don't even have policies around breastfeeding. We don't have policies aroundparental leave, we don't have any of this. Because I'm the only womanwho's ever been in this position of power and that responsibility that women in leadershipfeel to make it better for the women coming up after them. It justis making it harder and harder. Well, you have talks about this loneliness component. Can you elaborate a little bit?...

Yeah, I think especially, andI work with a lot of women in tech fields, financed 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 in your entire company, and so that's really challenging when you don't have peers to talk to.And so I think a lot of women are now leaders are like very goodabout mentor the younger generation, but there's no one to mentor them and sothey don't have someone to ask a question around. Like okay, I'm youknow, I'm going on a retreat and all the you know, all thepartners are men and I'm a woman. How do I handle that? orI'm going to a fund raising event, you know, and Silicon Valley andthere's women like dancing in the background and I'm a woman who is an investorand someone mistakes me for like one of them. And you know, likeit's whenever the gender part is like highlighted, they feel very alone. You know, if you maybe if you're in a meeting and you have a goodcompany culture and may be less noticeable that you're a woman, but there's thingsthat do make them feel othered, and so if there's several women in theroom, ages changes that dynamic completely. So I really encouraged women in theseleadership positions. Like you may be the only one in your company. Youneed to connect with peers in your industry. Yeah, and then on top ofthat, you know a lot of the clients that you work with sayif I only had a wife, so tell me what that's about. Well, and they so, even if we get the access like so much women, you know, say like I just want to be I just want tosee at the table right, and I think about like that. The firstwoman to run, you know, in a marathon. She had, Ithink her husband had to get the number for her so she could even geta number in the people get try to rip it off. She just wanteda number and then to run of her own accord, right and so.But it's not equal because even if you run at the same speed of themen, you're carrying the kids with you. You are you're still the CEO,they call it, being like the CEO of the whole women are theCEO 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 asa man and one as a woman. That's where of this gender dynamics reallycoming to play. A lot of women, they're the ones are who needs thedoctor's appointment, who has the dentist names, who does the pickup times, like their family is like a company. And then if their husband isn't takinga role where he's taking a piece of the cognitive load for her,she's holding all of that and holding it for work. Right, women areso afraid to say this is really hard, I'm exhausted, I'm burned out becauseif I say that the response is going to be, well, maybeyou can't handle it, maybe you should stay him with the kids, maybeyou shouldn't be in leadership. And so women are terrified of showing any cracks. But I'll say, you know, you're like a race car, right. So men are race cars. You're a race car. You're not goingto be happy tootling down the back road like you want. You Love Yourcareer, you love Your Company, Love Your field, you want to doall of that. But these male race cars, right, they've a pitcrew, they've got like you know, they and I'm like, who isyour pin crew? Not only do you not have a pit crew, you'resomeone else's pit crew. So they're racing around, you know, competing withthese men in the workforce. But then while the men are having their pitcrew where they've got the wife doing all the things for them and the domestichelp and all the support that they have, a woman's doing it for someone elseand no one's doing it for her and so their wheels are falling off. Doesn't mean they're not an amazingly fast race car in their career, itmeans that they don't have the support. So it's just like, oh,access should be enough. Well, yes, but we need the same level ofsupport the men have. You have said that when you work with clients, you encourage them to stop enabling husbands or male partners to let them pickup all of the work. So how in the world can that happen?How do you cancel your clients? Yeah, well, and it's so different,like couple per couple. But I see trends and themes. A coupleneeds to decide for themselves who does what. First of all, we need tolet we need to think about our own internalize sexism. Well, ohwell, I need to do all this domestic stuff because he can't do itas well. But I do think that that's the way that we comfort ourselvesabout doing things that maybe we don't want to do and we're like, Oh, I'm somehow better, and then we get stuck in that role where thenwe don't have a choice. That's not true. Men just are not socialized. They're not pushing around strollers with babies... them. They're not, youknow, sitting next to their parents cooking, and some of them are, someof them are, but more and more, but I think generationally they'renot, and so 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 apartnership, like saying, like do you actually know how to do it, or did nobody actually sit down and teach you how to do it.Like women don't realize how much time we were taught how to do things.And so, you know, I say, as a couple, go into itand say, like, what is it that you enjoy doing, whatis it that I enjoy doing, what is it that we both hate,and how can we figure out how to make this equal, like you dothis and I do this, and then, as a woman, letting go.Then so US letting go of, I think, sort of that mixedpride guilt that we have and what we're supposed to do in the domestic sphereand its stead like valuing who we are as women for other things than youknow, because it's really hard for us to be all things. and that'swhat the expectation is now, be amazing at work and have a beautiful homeand be, you know, super thin and healthy and have perfect children andlike it's just not doable for one person. I think this is one example of, you know, how it is about working externally with your partner,but there's also a lot of internal work that I don't think people consider often, like the idea of letting go. You know, another thing I wantto say, and you have brought this up a couple of times, isthat we're talking and sometimes generalizations, you know. So you've mentioned. Oh, it varies by you know, from couple to couple, and it's goingto vary from culture to culture and human to human, and so I justwant to make that point that throughout this conversation we have that in mind.Just a side note for our listeners. So I want to touch base withyou about this realm of the double shift or the second shift. What isthat like for women who identify as lesbian or Queer? Yeah, a lotmore flexible, is what it is. Is Because, like all the researchon it really shows that, because both partners grew up a very similar expectationsaround gender and what is done and who is done, you know, doingthe domestic they get to there's a lot more turn taking, there's a lotmore division based on who enjoys what. So then they divide it up reallyon, you know, she enjoys this and she enjoys that, and it'sequally okay that we both do that. You know, a male female couplecould do it that way, base just on preference, what they enjoy,skills, all of that if we let go of all of these pre existingbeliefs of what we are capable of. The second shift, there is nothingnew about it. I read Arley Halfshel's second shift, which was all aboutthis, but that was in the late s and I think the subtitle hadto do with, you know, the oncoming revolution around it, and Idon't think that we've seen that revolution. This problem is more pronounced among LatinX and Black Women. Latin xt mother's are one point six times more likelythan white mother's to be responsible for all child care and all housework, andblack mothers are twice as likely. Yeah, it varies a lot based on family. It varies a lot based on culture. But if you do comefrom a culture where that is really linked to your success as a mother andas a woman, how you raise your kids, how you know held yourhome, how you do all of those traditionally female held domestic duties, there'sa lot of pressure. They're choosing something different and so we do a lotof work on that. Of why. Maybe their mom, and this issomething that's really, I think, beautiful and sad. Add the like mymom is so smart and so good, not just a generation or two backthen you have access and especially coming, you know, from some cultures there'sliterally zero access, you know, but even in the US very little access. And so women held a lot of their identity and really poured all ofthat passion, intelligence, you know, strategic thinking, all the things thatwould make them amazing senior leaders. They put it all into their home andthere's a lot of sadness in elder millennials...

...or, you know, Gen xwomen or younger baby boomers were like, oh my mom, she's so brilliantand she never got to really shine outside of out of the home. SoI think a lot of that mother daughter dynamic is really important to look atand think doing that deeper work. And sometimes that's conversations they can have withtheir mom, you know, and they're not and to say mom, likeI'm not honoring what you did for me, like I understand that's what you didand how you show love. Your hard work and sacrifices made it sothat I can do this. We carry this really complicated thing with US generationafter generation 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 ifit's actually the flip side, but something like a shift here. A lotof men want to be allies in working with your clients. If women sharedthings that men have done to make them feel supported, a lot of menthey really they want to be supportive, but they don't even know the thingsthat women are struggling with. So I think having like really vulnerable conversations aroundwhat is it that you actually need? What is the thing that supports you? And I think that's the conversation to have with women and not assume thatthe thing that you think is helping is actually helping. Ask I also thinkthat I mean modeling as a male leader, right. So think about that.If you're like a in your one of those, you're a partner ina firm, right, take time off for your kids, show that,like, model that to the rest of the people in the firm. Right. Say if you're like a higher up leader woman in the company, andsay your CEO is super investing in a male CEO, if he is alsoa good parent, if he's also supportive of his wife's career, the womenare seeing a different thing and may we have hope that the men and theirlife may also support them. In that way. Okay, so this isa piece of literature I do not have on my nightstand, but the journalof managerial issues found that employers are less likely to hire mothers than women whodon't have kids, and when they do make that offer, they pay mothersless. And there's also some evidence of a fatherhood bonus, so where aman's earnings may increase as they have kids because they are seen as somehow moreresponsible and it's more socially acceptable. Yeah, so the Fatherhood reward. So it'spartially because they're seeing as more stable, less threatening, like having kids orbeing married, having a wedding ring, you know, having kids makes youlook like a stable, solid guy who's going to stick around in careabout his job. And so what's and it's just bad for culture in general, like our society, because women actually get more college degrees than men.We are, you know, getting much more educated, and then we're nothaving the same Roy on all this investment that we're putting into women, anda lot of times their career to directory will be high up until the pointthat they have kids, right as you're getting into your flow, right asyou're starting to make those, you know, positions of leadership is where you startto biologically speaking, usually want to be having children and then you justget knocked down. Like motherhood ends up being the big thing that really getswomen out of the workforce because of the extra workload, and couples who evenmay have a more egalitarian way of being, tend to default to if they comefrom traditional family roles, tend to default to those when the kids areborn. They wanted to see if we could talk about the backlash against menthat they're feeling cut off from parenthood, that they are they're also judge ifthey take that leave. Yeah, so men. There's been research that showsthat men who do take parental leaf are seen as less committed. They arealso looked over for promotions of their judged as being like less leadership material.So having a child right, being a...

...father, is good for your promotionsand salary and all of that, unless you are someone who takes time offof work for your children. So if you take time to support 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 women do. So there's an assumption between the parents, women get the automatic backlash whether ornot they take the time off of their kids, because there's an assumptionthat women will do that because that's their gender and right, it's what theydo. They get are a pretty backlash if they're sad, to the hangingbacklash, basically like it comes with the baby right, like you just getit like in part of it. The men it's not that way, however. If they want to be an involved dad or make choices to do that, then they start to face it at in the same way that women doand it can be even more insidious. That's why I think it's important forsenior mail leaders to like show that as an acceptable thing to do and setthat as an expectation for the company and model that, because there is thisthought that like, well, you're just not as committed the same thing.This is the same thing that happens for women, except that I do thinkthat men have that extra judgment that there's something tied up in their manhood aboutthe right thing, and so there's different you know. That's why some ofthe cultures that you know, like Sweden or way, there's some of thecountries that have on parental leave. They have a they call like a fatherhoodquota on the leave. So they'll give what they found as they gave parentalleaf to both men and women were still taking over ninety nine percent of theleaf, and men weren't for those very reasons. Either they just didn't,you know, they didn't want the backlash, or there wasn't the just wasn't theexpectation baked ten. So they started creating a system where there was aof the amount of time that this family got off. The men had totake a certain percentage of it or they didn't get it as a couple bothand they both of those visit. Yeah, that's incentive. That is what youcall an incentive. We need to as a society, realize it's notjust giving them the ability, it's actually incentivizing the ability for the men totake it because they're afraid to. Yes, yeah, again, sexism is badfor everybody. So Sweden is a big time success story and I thinkit's why so many advocacy groups are fighting to pass the National Family Act,which would mandate paid family and medical leave insurance programs. Now, along thoselines of making things easier for women, you're not just therapist, but you'rethe EO and founder of thrive. So, as the leader of your practice,you have control over what work is going to be like for women atyour company. Tell me what you're doing, policy wise, or even just interms of culture, to make a difference for your employees? Yeah,and it's interesting. So when I look did the field, I didn't likemy employment options because your options are you go into private practice and because ofthe way our healthcare is set up right, you either have to buy your healthcareand the exchange or you don't have healthcare, which means you need apartner who gives you healthcare. And I'm like, I don't like any ofthe options, I'm going to make a new one. So I try tocreate something whereas like, where would I want to work? So when Icreated throw, I did it very intentionally with having benefits, amazing benefits,you know, having the you know, parental leave, and in California whenwe started here, we're one of the few states that has a parental leaf, you know, baked into our system as a state. So as we'reexpanding, Chicago's the example, I'm still giving those parental leaf benefits, butwe're just covering them as a company right. So costs us more, but Ijust believe it's a quality of life and I want my employees to bewith me long term and to think about the seasons of a woman's life because, you know, as she has a baby, how does she shift ina way that works right? Can we keep her part time? Can wemake it more flexible? And so it's been fun and also challenging because Ito a lot of the I have a...

...lot of understanding of the practicalities ofthe business side where I think sometimes where it may be like, oh well, employers should just do this, in this, in this and this,and like yes, but I have to keep the lights on and pay thebills, right. So we have to think of other ways to make thiswork. So how do I show that you can create a company that issupportive where women, I mean that my employs make significantly more than what psychologistsgenerally do. So they get paid more, they get better benefits, that getmatching for own Kay. How do we do that? Well, Ihave to be a lot more strategic and thoughtful around the business parts of itin order to make it work. And so and I try to have theseconversations with my employees there is a solution, but it's not one that's already existing. We have to get creative and start some and I'll say this,to thrive as an extremely successful, fast growing company. So I like toalso point out that we've live our values right and I show that you canactually pay women good wages and be you know, and understand the just dothings in a different way and be successful. I think this is like the thingthat companies don't understand is that by investing in women, your company benefits. Right, society benefits, clients benefit. I'm very flexible about nonclient facing work. Do it whenever you want to do it. After your kids goto sleep, awesome, right. If you want to like go down topart time for a while, awesome, go down to part time right,like and figuring out how to do it. Now we're small enough still that I'vebeen doing it basically on like an employe by employee basis, but we'regetting so big that it's like now I'm having to put it into the systems. I also, like you said, do a ton of mentoring because Ihave kids, right and so, and my husband is the COO, sothey see a lot of how we do it. With the CO parenting.He holds the baby as much as I do. Be In a meeting,you know, or I'd mentioned to you, like I breast fed through my firsttwo orientations with new employees. I'm like, welcome to a women'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 some of our listeners from an enterprise company would say, yeah, I'm not going to be able to breastfeed during an onboarding session. But the you know, one thing that you said, which is thebest practice for anyone and for any leader working with any employee is just tocustomize your approach, and so that totally applies to companies of all sizes.So yeah, yeah, so I would love to shift to a segment calledthe two minute take away. If you could leave women in leadership three orfour pieces of advice or counsel for dealing with all of the challenges that we'vediscussed, what would they be? HMM, I would say a couple different things. One, just of looking at it from holding to truth right,is that we are working within broken systems and it is not built for awell balanced lifestyle for men or for women, but especially for women, and knowingthat those systems are broken and not blaming ourselves for that and saying shamingourselves, that it's hard, like it's supposed to be hard. That beingsaid, how can we move the needle forward for ourselves and for those whocome after us? And a lot of women leaders are really inspired by thatbecause they are getting to be, and this is a saying I'll use forwomen and mother mother said, you know, we become the woman we needed asa little 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, realize like there's no map right likeof course it's hard. We're just wandering out into this like wilderness of newnessin the way that work is being done. Is More and more women are inthese leadership roles. There's going to be times where we fall down fromour own standards, but I think, and there's a lot of research aroundthis, that women are very shame oriented and society's hard on us when wefail as well. But we are you know, we can't necessarily fix allthe things about society, but there's a...

...lot of things that we can fixand there's usually a solution for something. You know, there's the things wecan't fix and the things we can. Let's focus on the ones we can. will be surprised how much progress we can make. Well, I haveto say personally, I feel like I just had a therapy session myself.I think this idea of being the woman that you needed when you were agirl just left me inspired for months. So thank you for that. NowI have a feeling that our listeners might want to learn more about you,learn more about thrived. What's a good way to reach you? Yeah,our website is wwwve Psychologycom and you can reach me at Dr Dot Ruan atmy thrive psychologycom. I just can't thank you enough for sharing so much andhelping so many women in your practice and in this podcast. So until wemeet again next week, thank you everyone. Built in is a tech recruitment platformthat's in constant dialog with leaders about the future of tech. Built in'sPODCAST, technically people, expands those conversations to help fellow futurists create in leadexceptional workplaces environments that inspire in Demand Tech professionals to join your company and thrive. To learn how built in can help your company attract best in class professionals, visit employers dot built incom. You've been listening to technically people, acommunity conversation about the future of work. If you want to hear more cuttingedge ideas about creating humans inter workplaces, subscribe on your favorite podcast player andyou'll never miss an episode. And if you're over the moon about what you'veheard, we'd be honored if you took the time to give us a fivestar review. So signing up until we meet again in the future.

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