Even thought there were times I did not feel brave or confident I was determined to become a leader and took on many challenging opportunities.
- Carla Grimann
In this episode
Women have been told to lean in and speak up at work. But when a woman, or those with a marginalized gender, asserts themselves in the workplace, they can be called angry, demanding, or emotional. The old boy’s network is still very much in operation, so how are we supposed to succeed at work?
Host Carla Grimann chats with Sarah Greenwood of the Minerva Foundation about the barriers women are currently facing in progressing their careers, how to encourage authentic and inclusive leadership, and aligning work with personal values.
Therese Boullard, former Equity Consultant at the City of Vancouver, breaks down complex concepts like unconscious bias and microaggressions and describes the factors preventing women from becoming leaders.
2:55: Sarah Greenwood on the work of the Minerva foundation in reaching gender equality in workplaces and leadership roles.
4:40: How our values should align with how we show up in the workplace
8:30: Battling perfectionism and the imposter syndrome
12:50: Therese Boullard on improving equity through organizational change.
14:00: Can we just lean in and ask for things? Barriers women are facing on the way to leadership.
19:50: Strategies for leaders to make workplaces safer and more fair for everyone.
Therese is an equity consultant with the City of Vancouver, working and living on the unceded homelands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations. Therese has dedicated her career to the advancement of human rights, equity and inclusion.
From 1993-2002, she served as investigator, mediator, and educator with the BC Human Rights Commission and its predecessor, the BC Council of Human Rights. In 2004, Therese was appointed the Northwest Territories’ first director of human rights, overseeing the implementation of the newly formed NWT Human Rights Commission. She served as its director for eight years before returning to Vancouver to set up a successful consulting practice. Since joining the City of Vancouver in 2017, Therese has had the privilege of working on initiatives and projects that support systemic and cultural changes towards greater equity and inclusion.
Sarah has a passionate curiosity for learning and helping others learn. As a career strategist, facilitator, and curriculum designer, Sarah appreciates the deep connections and learning that can take place when people are willing to be vulnerable and challenge themselves.
Sarah facilitates the Women Leading the Way™ program at Minerva. This program is grounded in the principles of values based leadership and is designed for established. Before joining Minerva BC, Sarah worked as a career counsellor, facilitator, and program lead, supporting individuals to identify their strengths, clarify their values and achieve their goals.
Carla Grimann 00:02
I'm Carla Grimann, Fleet Supervisor for the Vancouver Park Board. That means I manage the buying and maintenance of all the equipment we use. Everything from trucks, tractors, leaf blowers, wood chippers, and line trimmers. I am also the host of this new podcast called Talk It Forward brought to you by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.
First, I'd like to acknowledge that this podcast is recorded on the traditional ancestral and unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil Waututh Nations.
When I first started at the City of Vancouver more than 18 years ago, I was in my third year automotive apprenticeship and when I walked through the yards, I was the only woman wearing coveralls, working in the trades, at that yard. There were actually barely any woman working in the yards at all. And back then, when I was an apprentice, I had no clue that my career would lead me to become the Fleet Supervisor for the Vancouver Park Board. About four years ago, I remember attending my first supervisor meeting for the Park Board and I noted that I was the only woman sitting around the board table. And I'm happy to say that now there are three women that sit at that board table amongst 11 of us. And that when I walk around to the various workyards here at the city, there are more women in coveralls and more women in operations. There are more of us taking on traditionally male roles.
We've come a long way, but we're not quite there yet. A CBC News analysis that was published late last year found that the top 10 wage earners in every Metro Vancouver City Hall 70% were men and 90% were white. We're hoping to change that.
This podcast was born out of a program with the Minerva Foundation. The City of Vancouver sponsored me to attend the Women Lead The Way course, which supports women entering executive or supervisory roles. And within the program, we had to do a project and I chose to create a podcast to inspire women to reach for leadership positions within the workplace.
Our first guest today is Sarah Greenwood, who is the facilitator at the Minerva Foundation. And she'll tell us a bit about the program, including how to support women on the road to leadership and how we can create authentic and inclusive leadership.
Sarah, thank you so much for joining us and for being a guest on our show. I was wondering if you could tell us what the Minerva BC Diversity Pledge is. I know, it's part of the City of Vancouver's Women's Equity Strategy. And I'm wondering if you could tell our listeners a little bit more about what that is.
Sarah Greenwood 02:55
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Carla. Thanks for having me today. I might backup and answer the question by giving you a sense of the work, the broader work that Minerva does, because the pledge fits into looking at ensuring inclusive workplaces and spaces for corporations and organizations. We also have programs for women and girls. I mentioned that because really what we are thinking of is, at Minerva, our mission is to change the face of leadership and really to make sure that we focus on women that women have equal opportunity to enter into executive level positions, as you noted. We start with 16 year old young women or individuals that identify as young women. And so the face of leadership that you were asking about is really looking at, that we recognize, okay, we can really focus on individuals entering into leadership positions. But we also need to look at systems that are in place, systems, policies, processes that are in place. And that really comes from the organizational level. So the Face of Leadership Program and the Diversity Pledge is exactly that. It's looking, it's asking organizations to sign the Diversity Pledge, and to really focus on and commit to reaching gender equity within their managerial, executive level positions. It has a very inclusive focus. And that's, that's a bit about it.
Carla Grimann 04:27
Sarah, I know you've talked about being inclusive and authentic in leadership positions, and I'm wondering, what does that look like?
Sarah Greenwood 04:37
Yeah, that's a great question. When we're thinking about identifying what makes an inclusive leader, it starts with that self reflection of, who am I? What do I stand for? How do I show up in the workspace? Which gives people a pause to reflect how are they showing up and how are they showing up for others?
Carla Grimann 04:57
Is that part of the values portion? I remember being in the classroom when I took the program, and we really honed in on what our values were. It was a really hard task to do. We were all sitting around in the classroom, all the participants, looking at each other and it was just a really hard thing to do. And I know that once I identified them, it really helped me to become a better leader, and bring those values into the workplace as I lead.
Sarah Greenwood 05:26
Yeah, absolutely. And so the idea of value is being: What's core to me? What's a big piece of my identity? What's my true north? How do I follow my why? If we can really look at, our values are why, they're our true north. If we have a sense of what our core values are, not these values that have been placed on us by our friends, our family, our you know, just the culture around our society, not those should values. If I feel like I should feel this way, or I should be this way, but our core values to what is really important to us. If we are clear about what those are, then it helps us to, more easily make decisions, more easily stand by the decisions, because we know that they are based on what's important to us. It also makes us more empathetic individuals because often what happens, and it can be hard to be really clear about what's core, a core value for oneself. Often, it becomes more clear when you have this this rub, or this level of dissonance in a situation. Maybe it's a rub, you're interacting with someone at work and you feel this rub or you're in situation where you feel this disconnect or this level of dissonance. Usually, that's a sign that you're, there's a values misalignment, or you're not acting in accordance with your values. And so, those are the times we can pause and think hmm, why is this challenging for me?
Carla Grimann 06:47
Yeah, it was a daunting task. And I remember we had to whittle it down to our top five or something like that. It was, it was hard.
Sarah Greenwood 06:57
I say this to every group that I work with, this is not something that you're going to figure out, no matter what age you are, if you're 16, or 20, or 50. You're not going to figure out in five minutes, by looking at a checklist. The idea is to plant some seeds, and then live in a way where you are living with purpose and awareness. You have this idea of; I think this is one of my values, and then test it out as you're going through life in the next few days. Look at how you're living and assessing this value. As you said, it's daunting, it absolutely is. It can feel, sometimes almost disappointing. I say disappointing, because it can feel like a struggle, like I should know, this should be really easy thing for me to roll off the tip of my tongue. I would say be gentle with yourself and play with it. It will become really clear. You will have interactions with people, you will be in situations where you can clearly identify "Oh, right, this is a strong value from my books, I'm actually, this is getting me really excited or really passionate or really upset." When you have those strong feelings, that's when you pause and think, "Okay, what what value is showing up here?" So just switching direction here, how how do we make women in leadership positions more than norm in the workplace?I think it starts with a couple of things. I think it starts with individuals being able to see themselves in the roles that they want to get into. How else do we do that? We need to give individuals the confidence to step up and have challenging conversations. We need to give people the confidence to step up and try new things. I think one thing that can get in the way, especially more common for women, than men, is this idea of perfectionism. So, you know, as we're searching for something we're reaching for perfectionism, which can cause us to question ourselves, and then maybe not apply for that next position. Maybe not apply for a position where we feel like, "Oh, I'm almost there, but not quite". I think perfectionism can be our enemy. Sometimes good is really good, and sometimes good is good enough. If we can step into that, and it'll also open up more opportunities for us. And I think that also speaks to looking at the imposter phenomenon.
Carla Grimann 09:33
The imposter phenomenon. You know, I've heard of that. What exactly is that?
Sarah Greenwood 09:38
This is the idea that when something happens to you, you maybe can't own it as this great idea. You might be responding, if someone said to you, "Hey, Carla, I'm really glad that you got this. I'm so happy to see you have received this award. It's so deserving." You might say "oh, it's no big deal. You know, look at all these other people that have gotten it." You really diminishing this idea of why you deserve it, or perhaps you're receiving an award and you're up on stage, and you're surrounded by two other people that have received the same award, and you're thinking, "Ah, I don't deserve to be here. This is for people that aren't me." It's this idea of, that what you are receiving, whether it's promotions, awards, opportunities to work on different projects, it's this idea that you're not deserving of it. That you just lucked in to this scenario, versus this idea of, "Actually, I've worked really hard to get here, I have a lot to offer. And I'm so proud to be surrounded by these other two amazing people and look at the impact that we can have in our business unit in our world and our organization." In everyone, at some point will have an imposter moment. Male, female, wherever you are on the spectrum, it is not uncommon to have these moments where you question why you're there. But, studies do show that women feel these imposter moments more often. I've shifted, you'll notice I've shifted from speaking from an imposter phenomenon, to moments. This idea of a phenomenon makes us sound like we are living it every day all day. And that can happen. And if that if this is something that's resonating for listeners, then the idea is to say, "That's okay, but what can I do to make this not a continuous feeling and turn it into these moments?" And then when you have these moments, what actions can you take to step outside your comfort zone? Also to recognize that you are deserving to be there, you've done a lot of work to get to where you are.
Carla Grimann 11:45
So I'm making a note for myself here to give myself credit when credit is due.
Sarah Greenwood 11:50
That's a great, succinct way of identifying the imposter moments and what to do with them. Yes.
Carla Grimann 11:57
Thank you, Sarah. Again, thank you so much for joining us on our show and giving us insight into the Diversity Pledge, imposter phenomenon and our values. Thanks so much.
Sarah Greenwood 12:07
Thank you. It's, nice to be able to chat with you again, Carla. It's a pleasure to share our thoughts, I should say, my thoughts and the thoughts around Minerva's beliefs around leadership. It's always energizing to me. So thanks for having me today.
Carla Grimann 12:25
You're listening to Talk It Forward, brought to you by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, and I'm Carla Grimann. We're talking about changing the face of leadership and how we can encourage women to become leaders. Next, we'll be looking at the barriers we are still facing, including gender bias and stereotypes. Should women just lean in and speak up to be respected in the workplace? Thank you, everyone, and welcome back to Talk It Forward. Our guest today is Therese. Therese is from the Equity office at the City of Vancouver. Actually, Therese, why don't you introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about what you do at the equity office? And what do you like the best about your job.
Therese Boullard 13:09
My name is Therese Boullard, I'm an Equity Consultant, my pronouns are she, her, hers. My role as an Equity Consultant, in the Equity Office, is supporting organizational change, to enable equity throughout all the City's functions. We're really focused internally, as an office, and in supporting departments in their own equity work. Supporting leaders to improve equity, improve conditions for equity denied groups within the City's workforce. The best part of my job is, is really the relationships that I get to have with people from across the organizations, who really care about equity and who really care about moving these issues forward.
Carla Grimann 13:58
Do you have an example or anything of how, you know, women need to lean in, when they're in the workplace? Say there is harassment or some sort of microaggression occurring. You know, we've been told just lean in and ask for things that you want or expect in the work but that that comes at a cost. Can you can you expand on that a bit more? Do you have an example? Some guidance?
Therese Boullard 14:29
As women, we've been told to just lean in and ask for things. Is this a realistic strategy? My answer to that is; it's a bit too simplistic as advice. It might work for some women in some contexts, and it might also backfire terribly, as you said. I think it's because we live in a society that still has stereotypical expectations for gendered roles, for men to be assertive and outspoken and strong; and women to be more adaptable and caring and accommodating. When a man asserts himself at work he's looked at as leadership potential. But often when a woman or a gender diverse or non-binary person asserts themselves, they're viewed as angry, ungrateful or demanding. It can actually work against women and limit their career advancement. This is especially so for women who are indigenous, black, women of color, or women with disabilities. They are facing additional stereotypes or social expectations, that kind of layer on to what people expect of them and how being assertive and leaning in and calling out inappropriate behaviors might be viewed even more negatively, that much more negatively. If I'm asserting myself as someone who's white, who's cisgendered, I may be tolerated and in some contexts I might even be celebrated for my assertiveness. I can't speak for other women's experiences. I do encourage listeners to research the regular experiences of discrimination and microaggressions that are reported by diverse women in the workplace, so that they can get a more nuanced version of this advice to lean in and and why it can be problematic as advice.
Carla Grimann 16:12
What do you think are other barriers for women in the workplace and women who are striving for leadership in their careers?
Therese Boullard 16:21
I think there's a few things. I've mentioned gender bias and stereotyping. In particular, for those who are indigenous, black ,women of color, women with disabilities, and those who are gender diverse and gender non conforming. I don't know if you've heard these stories; but I've even heard of this as an example that happened at the City where the professional woman at the board meeting or at the meeting, was mistaken as an administrative assistant or asked to take the meeting notes, or they're constantly being interrupted. Or maybe they're labeled as emotional when they express an opinion with a bit of passion and conviction. I think these deeply engrained attitudes, they subtly work against women getting the respect and opportunities for advancement that they deserve. There's all the statistics and research kind of point to this and confirm this. Gender bias and stereotyping, I think is one of the key barriers. The other one is our workplaces themselves have a lot of systemic and structural barriers, that make it more difficult for women to fully participate and to fully take advantage of opportunities or for advancement, for example. If a workplace doesn't provide flexibility for things like child care, elder care or other family responsibilities, that's a huge barrier, because women still carry the brunt of care work. That lack of flexibility, or, in particular, often leaders are expected to be available on weekends and evenings, to answer their phone. These can be barriers for women aspiring to leadership. I think that's something that needs to be examined more. I know that during the pandemic remote work became... it was great, unless you were a caregiver and your children weren't in school. And I think, as we as we go into endemic or coming back into the workplace, hopefully hanging on to some of that flexibility. And for management's ability to manage remote workers more effectively, rather than assume that they're productive, because they're in their desks and you can see them eight hours a day. Look at different ways of measuring performance. I think there's systemic barriers that still limit women's advancement in the workplace, in addition to those attitudinal or stereotypes or gender bias barriers. Then others are limited access to established networks, or what we call the Old Boys Network, which is still very much an operation. Because women don't occupy positions of leadership at the same percentage as men, in the City, 39% of our senior leadership is made up of women. In the same way that there's an Old Boys Network, for example, the Women's Leadership Networks aren't nearly as well developed. The combination of that and less visibility of diverse women in leadership, it means that the important sources of sponsorship and mentorship and support and also just the visibility of women.
Carla Grimann 19:32
That's huge, that visibility. Seeing someone like yourself in that position and the ability to say, "hey, if they can do that, so can I".
Therese Boullard 19:41
Exactly, exactly. I think those are some key barriers that impact women aspiring to leadership in the workplace.
Carla Grimann 19:50
Therese, could you tell us, if you could give any strategies or advice to leaders in our organizations or any other organization? How can they be more aware of what is happening in their workplaces? You know, we want to make sure that their employees and others are not experiencing discrimination or any other barriers in the workplace.
Therese Boullard 20:16
That's a great question. And that is the question, really. Because really, the leaders have huge responsibility in this. I think there's a few things that I recommend. First it's that leaders need to be self-aware, and to model appropriate behaviors. So that self-awareness is the awareness that they have unconscious biases, that they may have impacts, and that they're sensitive to that and how these impact on others. Also demonstrating self-awareness, and behaving with care and attention of their impact on others, and just being honest when they make a mistake they're modeling the behavior that they expect from their employees. Then they also need to be vigilant and to correct inappropriate behaviors in the moment, not a year later during the performance review. For this, they need effective communications and conflict management skills to have those difficult conversations, but these are all skills that can be developed. There's a flipside to correcting inappropriate behaviors, and that's affirming positive behaviors. Too often we're focused on, don't, don't, don't, when in reality, the culture that we create in our workplaces is based on the behaviors we reward, not based on the behaviors that we correct. If we're publicly thanking someone for helping out their coworker, or for being polite. Just reinforce the behaviors that you like, by affirming them and thanking people and recognizing them for that, and then they'll want to step up to it. And then also model inclusive behaviors during team meetings and with the team by including and actively seeking out the diverse voices on their team. And it sets an example that everyone is valued and respected on the team. The final tip also is if they're noticing that a staff member is showing signs of disengagement or disconnection from their work or their team, there may be behaviors or discrimination that the leader is not noticing. Maybe just taking time to check in with those workers to see what's happening, to provide support, to hopefully build a relationship of trust sufficiently that the person feels safe. Bringing forward concerns and discrimination that might be going on. So I think those are kind of some tips that I think would help make a difference.
Carla Grimann 22:37
Those are big tips. It's a lot. It is a lot, but I think part of it is that we're not used to it and I think that as people engrain that and do it more, and it becomes more of a habit, then it will just become more natural. I really liked what you said about the flip side of things. I think that that is, a huge thing with a lot of people. When you're at school, and you get in trouble, you get pulled into the principal's office or the teachers office, or you get called up to the front of the class and it's always a very negative experience. As you sort of mentioned it, it's not safe. Right? I think that is something really important to reiterate. The positive affirmations, and hearing more and more and more of that. If we can change that around more then I think just the whole employee engagement would become much better.
Therese Boullard 23:39
Yeah, and when I mentioned, being self-aware, and educating, I think that includes, and I should have mentioned it earlier, it includes educating themselves on the kinds of stereotypes and the kinds of subtle discrimination that are experienced by their diverse staff members. Based on race or sex or ability, just so that they're more attuned to issues that might come up that if they're a person of privilege, who's white, who might never experience these things, it's harder to notice. So being educated on on those things will make it hopefully easier will support them in their noticing.
Carla Grimann 24:24
Wow, Therese, thank you so much for, giving us a lot to think about. These are all great things. These are all great strategies and tools that we can put into our toolkit. I really want to say thank you for giving a voice to those that either don't feel safe or they have other barriers, as you've mentioned. Thank you for coming on to the show and being with us today. It was lovely to have you.
Therese Boullard 24:55
Yeah, thank you so much for providing the platform and thank you for having me.
Carla Grimann 25:02
Thank you for listening to the first episode of Talk It Forward. As we've heard, we still have a ways to go before women are the norm in leadership roles and it's clear that there are still a lot of issues; but we need to solve these issues or at least start to move the needle on making workplaces more equitable. I have a 15 year old daughter and I don't want my daughter to have to go through some of the stuff that I went through in order to get to where I am today. In our next episode, we will be discussing what it's currently like to be a young woman entering a career in engineering. We'll talk about why some jobs are still seen as men's work and how we can feel safer in those environments. Please follow Talk It Forward to receive episodes as they come out, and why not share the podcast and tell your friends about us. You can learn more about the City of Vancouver Woman's Equity Strategy online at vancouver.ca/womensequity. Take care and talk soon.