HR leaders: Stop paying ‘lip service to gender, racial parity’

Jun 29, 2020 12:27:32 PM / by Human Resource Executive

Laurie Ruettimann doesn’t mince words.

When asked her outlook on gender parity in corporate leadership, she didn’t sugarcoat things: “I’m not optimistic. According to the World Economic Forum, a woman would have to be born in the year 2255 to get equal pay at work. I’m irritated. How about we speed this up, OK?”

That straight talk will be at the heart of the closing session of Women in HR Tech this fall, as Ruettimann moderates a discussion on the long game of achieving gender parity in leadership ranks, which will feature PlanSource’s Nancy Sansom and Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Tomya Watt. The speakers will discuss the progress and pitfalls of gender equity in the workplace and share their personal experiences climbing the corporate ladder, a journey that, for Ruettimann—a corporate trainer, speaker and author—has taken some interesting turns, which she recently shared with HRE.

HRE: You’ve written that, in your early days as an HR leader, you “hated” your job. What are some of the experiences or environments that contributed to that feeling?

Ruettimann: I jumped into my first HR job in 1995 because I needed the money and was immediately frustrated by managers and supervisors who felt their leadership was a birthright and a blessing. These powerful individuals brought all of their opinions and biases to the workplace, and if you didn’t like it, you could quit.

I wanted to quit, but I needed to pay off my student debt. And I convinced myself to continue working in these terrible environments because I was the hero. I’d say things like, “They’re lucky I work in HR. Without me, who knows what shenanigans would happen.” But I was lying to myself. At best, I was operating in a state of learned helplessness and a victim of my own low expectations. At worst, I was complicit in propagating toxic cultures and unfair labor practices.

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