Kate Bischoff is an overly enthusiastic, sarcastic and opinionated management-side employment attorney and SHRM-SCP-certified HR pro. She works closely with management and HR folk to improve organizations and make it easier to recruit and retain talent through having easy-to-understand policies, easy-to-use technology, and easy-to-explain compliance initiatives. Kate has been recognized by The New York Times, CNN.com, National Public Radio, and other journalistic sources as a leading authority on harassment and employment law. Prior to founding tHRive Law & Consulting, Ms. Bischoff served as a Human Resources Officer for the United States Department of State at the U.S. Embassy Lusaka, Zambia and for the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem. Kate is also an Adjunct Professor at Mitchell Hamline, serving as faculty for the School of Law’s HR Compliance Certificate Program.
Heather Bussing has practiced employment law for 30 years and regularly writes for the HR Examiner on the intersection of people, technology, and work. She also teaches Social Media and Internet Law with John Sumser.
Kate and Heather will present the session Gender Equity: Practical Strategies at the upcoming HR Technology Conference. The session will examine the wide range of factors that contribute to sexual harassment claims and gender equity issues. From the proverbial “bro culture” to blatant pay inequity and more subtle forms of discrimination, two respected employment attorneys will share practical tips on how to address gender equality in your workplace. Topics such as maternity benefits, leadership skills and promotional opportunities, and how to lift others as you climb the corporate ladder will be explored.
With so many excellent sessions at HR Tech, it will be difficult to decide which to attend – and as is usually the case -- many of your top picks will occur at the same time.
I asked Heather and Kate a few questions to give attendees a better understanding of the information there session will deliver.
What was your inspiration for coming together to create the session “Gender Equity: Practical Strategies” for the 2019 HR Technology Conference?
HB: HR technology is still a male-centered profession, gender pay equity is still a problem, sexual harassment is still too common, and women are still struggling to be heard and move into leadership at work.
And these are not just women's issues. They are important for everyone, especially as HR tech companies are designing software that influence who we hire, how performance is measured and judged, and how organizations really work.
KB: I completely agree! The more women are included by tech companies in all aspects of the development, the more effective the tech will be. And, like Heather says, this applies to everyone.
There are a wide range of factors that contribute to sexual harassment and gender equity issues in our workplaces today. What do you see as the 800-pound gorilla that continues to be the enabler in organizations?
HB: That women continue to see success as a scarcity and each other as the competition. That men treat each other horribly too. We need to think beyond women v. men and look at how our organizational structures, resources, and systems support some pretty crazy views and behaviors by everyone.
KB: Exactly. Tech companies need to focus on creating environments where their people feel safe to speak up. Not just on harassment issues, but on everything. If employees feel comfortable, they will raise product issues, compliance concerns, and tell us when they think harassment might be an issue. The kind of organization where people don’t feel like their job is on the line whenever they raise an issue is what all organizations should be striving for.
Some of the most advanced industries, such as the technology industry, are the most deficient when it comes to gender equality and equity. What advice do you have for women for not only surviving, but thriving in “bro culture” environments?
HB: Be yourself. Support other women. Learn to call out bad behavior in constructive ways. And if you keep hitting walls or ceilings, don't wait for incremental improvement. It won't come. Leave and go somewhere you can thrive.
KB: Don’t feel like you have to become a “bro” just to survive. You don’t. If you feel you must, then that might not be the place for you. And, that’s okay! The right org is out there for you. You can find it or you can start your own. Don’t place so much emphasis on where you work and focus on doing work that brings you joy.
What are the best ways to find employers that support and champion women, gender equality and gender equity? What are the characteristics of these organizations?
HB: Find the ones that walk the talk. Look for companies with women and diverse leaders and managers, leadership programs and ERG's, flexible schedules, realistic parental leave policies, on-site or backup childcare, and who are inclusive toward people of color, the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities. Organizations that support women tend to support everyone and that's how it should be. Oh, and it's also the LAW.
KB: The research is key! Talk to women who already work there. Ask them what makes them successful there, how concerns are addressed within their team and by leadership, about their work/life fit, and what, if anything, they’d change if they could. The answers to these questions will give you some good insight in whether equality and equity is really a core value of the organization.
What guidance would you give women who have their eyes on executive leadership? What specific skills, competencies and experiences will they need to thrive in leadership roles of the future?
HB: First consider starting your own company. And if you're not ready to do that find an organization where you will get solid business and management training.
I have been interviewing some amazing women in STEM for ADP over the last few years and I always ask them what their advice is for women coming behind them. Almost uniformly, they say: take risks, apply for the job even if you are not sure you're ready, raise your hand for opportunities that interest you, and above all let everyone know what you want to try next so they can help you get there.
KB: Definitely learn how to be a good manager for different employees. If you can manage the type-A and the surfer-dude effectively, your ability to lead will be recognized, and you'll be more than ready to lead. Plus, you don't have to be in a position to lead. Using your influence, you can be an amazing leader without a manager title. Good organizations recognize those who use their influence effectively.
What is your goal for those who attend your session? What do your hope they will learn?
HB: I am hoping people will start to see the issues more broadly and in new ways and come away with at least one thing they want to try differently. It starts with you.
KB: Yes! Opening minds just a smidge to gender issues will be success.