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Gloria Feldt on Women, Pay Equity and Patricia Arquette

03/04/2015 11:35 am ET | Updated May 04, 2015

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Right to Left: Gloria Feldt, Kimberly Bryant, Kristi Mitchem, Victoria Pynchon
Photo with permission from Gloria Feldt

On February 24, I spent the day in Silicon Valley at the Watermark LeadOn Conference for Women (#LeadOnCA) along with 5000+ women listening to speakers like Hillary Clinton, Brené Brown and Diane Von Furstenburg. Gloria Feldt led a panel discussion on women and pay equity. Gloria is co-founder and president of Take The Lead, the new women's leadership movement to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. In my interview with her, we discussed negotiating for pay, Patricia Arquette and unconscious bias.

How does unconscious bias play a role in the internal, external and systemic barriers facing women?

I am more and more working on unconscious bias from two angles, because railing about it doesn't change anything.

First, is for women and men to understand what unconscious bias is. And by that I mean men are not bad guys, but we all grow up in same cultural soup and end up with the same types of bias. The first step is to unpack unconscious bias and have a laugh about it. In a training, for example, I'll ask women to sit like men and men to sit like women and they crack up and we go from there.

The second angle is to teach people to be able to communicate with each other. Oppressed groups have to understand the language of the group with all the power. Then you can teach them YOUR language. Bring them over to your ideas and your experiences.

Then there is also the hard work of organizational culture. Creating ways to look at resumes, ways to build your talent pool that decrease unconscious bias.

How does unconscious bias impact pay equity for women and negotiating - the topic of the panel you led here at the conference?

When it comes to the pay gap, the biggest issue is that as a woman you have to ask and know how to ask. For example, a woman I was working with laid it on the table. She told them, "Given unconscious bias I know I am likely to be treated differently as a woman, so I'm somewhat uncomfortable bringing this up, but here's what I want." She deflected the bias by putting it on the table in a way that didn't shame the other person. She named a bias that would have remained unspoken.

And what is your reaction to Patricia Arquette's speech on wage equality and women at the Oscars - and the subsequent backlash from many feminists that say she bungled it by not acknowledging race and by implying that women have fought for others' rights and now it's our turn?

Maybe her language didn't take into account the nuances that feminism has been discussing for years about intersectionality. But I don't want to attack her. Historically she's got a point. Women have been the street fighters for so many people. Sexism, racism, homophobia are joined at the hip. It seems a waste of energy to be sniping at each other. My favorite tweet about this was Justin Simien's:

She was right about motherhood. Her words had a "We brought you into this world and we can take you out" tone. She spoke to the lip service our culture gives to motherhood and then doesn't really support it. If women had created the institutions in our society, they would look different. We would as a culture have figured how to deal with having babies. Come on, it's not new in human history.

It is embarrassing how little the United States acts on its supposed valuing of childrearing. Embarrassing to be almost the only country without extended paid leave. Embarrassing to be one of few without quality, affordable childcare. I talked to a woman recently who is achieving in her career and just had a baby. She said, "I can't find full time day care for an infant." If we could do only one thing, making quality affordable childcare available to all would revolutionize women's ability to participate in the workforce.

We have to do something. Either like Scandinavian countries, let one parent have a year off then the other one, or provide the daycare. If we value children we should want them to have good care without sacrificing the family's breadwinning capability.

How do we go about engaging men in the fight for equality for women?

What I'm learning as I pitch training to corporations, is always start with a session for the top leadership. Almost always that group is mostly men. I need to be able to give them at least an hour overview. Otherwise I prefer not to engage with that company. If you don't get buy-in at that level, people will just get bitter because the culture doesn't change.

It is important to continue presenting the business case over and over again. For those people who don't want to deal with the justice issues, the business case is a way to build buy-in.

One thing that is changing is that younger men want the same kind of flexibility young women want. But they are afraid to say it. They get dismissed if they ask for flexibility. So it is still up to the women but we have allies in younger men that women haven't had before. Younger men want to be so much more a part of their children's lives. This is a very compelling reason for men to get involved in changing the workplace.

Daughters are another compelling reason. I loved it when the CEO of Intel said, when he announced a $300 million diversity initiative,, "I have two teenage daughters. I want to make sure they can be everything they want to be".

What is your biggest takeway from your experience here at the Watermark LeadOn Conference?

What struck me was the impact of the tech industry here. I heard incredible numbers of women all day saying things like "I've never been around this many women before."

Some of Gloria's Favorite Resources:

 

Take The Lead why women remain far from parity in top leadership and how we will get there

Take The Lead is what happens when a woman with a financial industry success story (Amy Litzenberger) and a women's advocate and leadership expert (Gloria Feldt) get together to figure out why women remain far from parity in top leadership roles -- and how we will get there.


No Excuses: 9 Ways Women can Change How We Think About Power

In No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power (Seal Press), feminist icon Gloria Feldt asserts that nobody is keeping women from parity -- except themselves.

Vickie Pynchon's website: She Negotiates is the premiere destination for business, professional and entrepreneurial women determined not only to shatter the glass ceiling individually, but also on behalf of their gender.

Gloria described this as her "new favorite book. It eviscerates the brain 'science' on men and women being different."