We are proud to be supporting International Women's Day 2020. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.
We interviewed Lisa Hershkowitz, Chief People Officer at KWI.
The theme for IWD2020 is #EachforEqual. Have you experienced gender stereotypes/gender bias in a professional context? If so, how have you been able to challenge this?
Sure, but in my early years, it was near impossible to make that connection. When you're younger, you tend to make excuses for why things happen a certain way because it seems impossible that these types of things can happen in the 21st century.
For many years in my early career, I earned less money than male colleagues with the same experience and performance level as me. I remember a specific time when I received what on paper was a big promotion, and I got a very small raise. My manager told me that I deserved more, but he didn't have the budget. At that same moment in time at the same company, a male colleague of mine also got promoted and received a very significant raise. I didn't know how to internalize that. Maybe my manager really didn't have the budget. Maybe my perception of my performance was inflated. Maybe I didn't deserve more money. Maybe my colleague was just that much better than me. But the reality is that none of that rhetoric was true. The reality is that I was likely perceived as the person who would have made less noise about the small increase. That is when I realized I had to find my voice, not just for myself, but for others who couldn't find theirs.
What does equality in the workplace look like for you?
The opportunities have to be there with access to all, and the decisions being made about those opportunities have to be based on merit. It may seem like I'm oversimplifying it, and there are other intricate details that could be discussed, but this is what is fundamentally required.
If you mentor professionals at the early stages of their careers, do they/have they encountered different equality issues than you experienced at the same stage in your career? What changes have you seen?
Being a millennial myself, I can certainly say that those who so graciously mentored me have faced inequality issues in a different way. It was more explicit and there was less structural support in the workplace. For example, when I was pregnant with my first son, I remember a mentor of mine telling me about how maternity leave was just not discussed or honored when she was becoming a mother; so two weeks after she had her first daughter, she was sitting at a board room table nursing her infant daughter in a room full of men.
How do you think parental leave should be approached in 2020?
We need more support at a government level. It should not be that candidates are making employment decisions based on a company's parental leave policy. It has to be table stakes across the country. Something that isn't discussed as a "perk" but is rather something we should all come to expect.
It should be added that having a parental leave policy doesn't solve the root cause of the challenges we have in the U.S. when it comes to support for working parents. It goes beyond giving parents time off after the baby is born or adopted. In a society where dual-income families are becoming the norm, we have to have more support in place to enable both working moms and dads to balance it all.
Do you feel social media has influenced a positive shift change for female leadership?
Absolutely. Social media has the amazing ability to create movements at lightning speed. It allows diverse voices to be heard and it forces conversation of important issues on platforms where everyone must look. Turning a blind eye is much harder in the age of social media, so the right eyes are having to pay attention.
On a personal note, it also helps create a sense of community. At important inflections points in my life and career, I have turned to social media to either hear others' voices or to ask for my own voice to be heard. In some of my darkest moments, I have received empathy, community, and validity through sharing common experiences on social media.
Please note that all commentary and opinions provided are those of the individual, and not the organisation/company they are employed by.