In this era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, Joanne Lipman’s new book couldn’t be more timely.
Lipman began writing “That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together” (William Morrow) three years ago when realizing that efforts by corporations to address the gender divide weren’t having the intended effect.
Lipman speaks April 24 from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at The Associated’s Jewish Professional Women’s LeadHership Event, “Transforming the Workplace: Reaching Across the Gender Divide,” at the law offices of DLA Piper in Mount Washington, 6225 Smith Ave.
A Yale University graduate, Lipman served as the first female deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, former editor-in-chief of the USA Today Network and founding editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Conde Nast Portfolio and portfolio.com.
Lipman says all of the issues addressed in her book are based on her own experiences and observations. “As a manager I was proud to advocate for the women on my team, but I always sucked at advocating for myself,” says Lipman, 56.
While there are many books offering advice to women professionals on self-advocacy, “That’s What She Said” offers a different perspective.
“Women have been talking amongst ourselves for years about feeling marginalized, overlooked, not respected, underpaid, but we’re only 50 percent of the population,” Lipman says. “If we’re going to solve these problems, we have to bring men into the conversation. …
“There are good guys. I spent the first two decades of my work life surrounded by them. If only they had a roadmap, they could be our allies. Demonizing good men when they’re just not aware doesn’t work. Instead, engage them and keep it positive.”
Lipman cites well-documented research illustrating that gender biases begin long before people enter the labor force. In fact, she says, “bias starts in infancy” with mothers overestimating their sons’ crawling abilities while underestimating their daughters, and mothers of boys being twice as likely as mothers of girls to research online, ‘Is my child a genius?’”
Furthermore, says Lipman, “Girls and boys play differently, with girls playing more cooperatively and boys being more focused on who wins and who loses. That translates directly into the workplace.”
Other research finds that young girls believe they should be paid less than boys, says Lipman. “By the time they’ve reached adulthood, both boys and girls have internalized that girls are worth less,” she says, a fact that’s borne out by a statistic in the book that men are eight times more likely to negotiate their salaries before accepting their first jobs.
Even women like Lipman, who gain entry into top management positions, aren’t immune from the effects of gender inequality.
“Women in powerful positions will use hedging language around men and do all kinds of things to bolster their egos and not make them feel threatened,” she says. “And we apologize all the time. I know women who have ‘apology jars,” where they have to put money in every time they say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Research looking at female and male CEOs finds that 80 percent of news reports blame female CEOs when companies fail. Women CEOs’ mistakes are called out more often and remembered longer.”
“That’s What She Said,” offers a range of suggestions on how corporations can work to change the status quo. One method Lipman recommends is the “brag buddy” technique.
Women are generally loathe to tout their own professional achievements, says Lipman. Yet, most are comfortable boasting about the achievements of female colleagues. With the “brag buddy” method, women talk up each other, bringing their successes to the attention of their employers and helping each other to get ahead.
Another helpful technique, founded by the women in the Obama administration, was the “amplification” method. Studies show that when women make up the minority in a room, “they aren’t heard,” says Lipman.
In the amplification technique, when a woman makes a point, fellow women “amplify” her point so that it is recognized. When men in the room start discussing the idea, the person running the meeting comes back to the woman and asks her to elaborate. This way, the men are encouraged to listen to the woman and the woman gets credit for her idea.
Women are interrupted three times as frequently as men, says Lipman. In response, some business leaders have instituted “no-interruption” rules for meetings.
Perhaps most importantly, Lipman says, solving the gender gap at work must begin at the top, with CEOs becoming aware of what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace. Only then will they know what they can do to make their work environments more equitable for women and more profitable for all stakeholders.
Solving the gender gap isn’t just a moral imperative, Lipman says, but good business. “Every piece of research tells us that adding women leaders will make companies more financially successful and more successful by every measure,” she says.
For information about the event, contact Alexis Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-369-9295.