On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Tina from CarParts.com about how employers can empower and support women in the workplace.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 26 minutes
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Announcer: 00:00 This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three-year-old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host William Tincup.
William Tincup: 00:34 Ladies and gentlemen, This is William Tincup, and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Tina on from CarParts.com, and our topic is how employers can empower and support women in the workplace. So, can’t wait to learn from Tina, so we’ll just jump right into it. Tina, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and CarParts.com?
Tina Mirfarsi: 00:57 Absolutely. Well, first off, thank you so much for having me today.
William Tincup: 01:00 Sure.
Tina Mirfarsi: 01:02 I’m Tina Mirfarsi. I’m the vice president of communications and culture at CarParts.com. We are a global organization headquartered actually in Torrance, California; a technology supply chain company with the mission to not only get the right parts to our customers quickly, but kind of re-imagining what that is in its entirety and creating a platform that’s transparent where we can empower our customers to really give them the resources they need for full auto care.
William Tincup: 01:31 I love it. So, I’m hoping, and we’ll see how this plays out. But I’m hoping that the empower part of how we can support women is a bit deeper than it was a few years ago. Meaning, I kind of hope we’ve learned some things in the last couple of few years, so that maybe we’re better at this, but that’s a hope. Let’s just… You don’t have to kill my hopes all at once, but…
Tina Mirfarsi: 02:02 I absolutely think we are. I think just as a community in general. I mean, of course, CarParts.com is. But, I think, as a community, I think we’ve learned so much, especially over the last three years.
William Tincup: 02:12 Yes.
Tina Mirfarsi: 02:13 I think the careers of so many women took a hit when the pandemic started, causing millions of them to make the decision: Do I choose my family, or do I choose my job? And those who kind of decided to take that leave of absence to go take care of remote schooling and at-home childcare, some of things that women had never had to do at that point in their lives, they’re now finally starting to kind of slowly shift their way back into the workforce. So, I think, it’s always been important to really consider women, but I think now more than ever, it’s really critical for employers to start listening in the hiring and retention efforts.
William Tincup: 02:48 Yeah. It’s actually interesting because, I mean, before the pandemic you have Me Too which heightened, I think, a lot of sensitivity, which is nice. For me, I’m just being jaded, so bear with me. But when Me Too first came out, when it first came out, I was shocked that people were shocked. So, here’s how dark I am. I actually thought people knew that all this happened in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and I just thought that this is the world. How’d you not know this?
Tina Mirfarsi: 03:27 Yeah. I mean, in my past life, I came from the entertainment world as well, so I have to partially agree with you in some regards that some of it was not a surprise, right?
William Tincup: 03:36 Right.
Tina Mirfarsi: 03:36 Some of the very specific things to entertainment. But I think what was really shocking and disheartening to me is it was story after story, months after months, and I just thought maybe I’m just in that entertainment bubble. But then, you started realizing it’s…
William Tincup: 03:50 No.
Tina Mirfarsi: 03:50 … in banking, it’s in gymnastics, it’s in toys, it’s in…
William Tincup: 03:54 It’s everywhere.
Tina Mirfarsi: 03:54 … retail. It was everywhere. And I think that was really the hardest part, was how disheartening that was to see how common it was.
William Tincup: 04:03 That’s what floored me. That’s what floored me as well. It’s that it wasn’t that it was happening that I thought men are pigs. Of course, [inaudible 00:04:10], but I didn’t know the depth and the breadth of where it was happening. I mean, there isn’t a place that it hasn’t touched.
04:21 And thank God that stories are finally coming out. So, on one level, again, after getting through my own guilt on some level and understanding that I’ve probably empowered some of these people to make some of these decisions, then all of a sudden understanding the gravity of like, “Okay, this isn’t just to Hollywood, or Silicon Valley, or Wall Street, et cetera. This is everywhere. This is everywhere.”
04:47 Once all those stories started to come out, I actually had a different guilt. I had actually like hearing the stories. Not the actual stories themselves, but the fact that we were talking about it, and the people were, at least, they felt comfortable enough talking publicly about some of the horrors that they had been through.
05:10 I thought that was good or cathartic in the sense of, okay, at least now, we’re talking about it. Okay. So, surely, strides are being made. And then all of a sudden, COVID. I mean, it kind of… And then, there were years in between there, but then it just felt like, “Oh, okay, COVID.” Now, I’ll say, women, at the beginning of COVID, the first six, nine months are disproportionately stood up and took care of things. Then, towards the end of the year ’20, disproportionately fired, had not given credit for doing the job, and I’m not sure where we stand today, two years after that slaughter. I’m not sure where we stand today in corporate America.
Tina Mirfarsi: 05:53 Yeah. I think going back to your first point, I think… In my own mind, I can only imagine a few things worse and more difficult than having to come out and have those conversations than feeling empowered and supported to have those conversations. But I think, one of the really important things that it brought up is how important it is to have women in leadership roles at organizations, because…
William Tincup: 06:17 A hundred percent.
Tina Mirfarsi: 06:18 … you want to encourage people to come out and speak. And then, you want to also provide after that. It’s so important. Every company was kind of looking at what was going on. I mean, everyone had an eagle eye on everything that was kind of going on. And when you have women, female representation, at a leadership level within your organization, that can really help. Someone who actually knows what’s going on, someone who might have a better understanding of what someone’s going through can help implement policies, and women are choosing to go work at companies that they feel supported.
William Tincup: 06:51 Oh, a hundred percent. As they should.
Tina Mirfarsi: 06:54 Yeah. And I think, the pandemic… The interesting thing was that, that was really an awakening.
William Tincup: 07:00 Yes.
Tina Mirfarsi: 07:00 I think, obviously, for people, but I think especially women. It was always such a taboo conversation, I felt like throughout my entire career, to even mention childcare.
William Tincup: 07:09 A hundred percent. Yeah.
Tina Mirfarsi: 07:09 If you had a kid, it was like, “Keep it to yourself. The boys don’t want to hear about it.” It is not something…
William Tincup: 07:14 “That sounds like your problem.”
Tina Mirfarsi: 07:15 Exactly. And so, the pandemic really heightened those conversations because it became an our problem, not a your problem.
William Tincup: 07:24 Right.
Tina Mirfarsi: 07:24 And in that sense, I think it’s helped progress women’s careers because it helped that it’s more everyone’s thinking about it rather than just women having to think about it.
William Tincup: 07:40 Well, thank God, right? I mean, it’s horrible how we got here, but the fact that we are here now… I mean, it’s not when you say it’s our… We know it’s a problem, but when we say a child is… We used to look at it as YPMP, right? So, it’s a your problem thing. Now, I think, it’s not only is it our opportunity, rather than problem, between the couple, between the parents of the child, but also the company now has an active role, which is relatively interesting because before, the company wouldn’t have cared that you have children, or that you have soccer practice at four, or whatever the bid is. They wouldn’t care. I mean, it’s outcomes-based. You get the job done, great. Fantastic. We don’t care about your soccer practice.
08:28 Because of COVID, people are in each other’s lives. Probably good and bad, obviously, that aside for a second. But they’re in each other’s lives, so you do know about soccer practice. You do know that people have kids, and all of the elder care and all these other things that they’re dealing with.
08:47 How different do you think it would’ve been with Me Too and even in the pandemic, if women were, let’s just say, roughly the population, 51, 52% of those leadership? How different do you believe it had been, or would it… I could be jaded. So, I’ll start with, would it have been different?
Tina Mirfarsi: 09:12 It’s hard to say, but I do because I feel like it’s really hard to be, as a woman, I would be a great advocate and my counterpart at the company who’s a male doesn’t understand, right? It’s never going to be so…
William Tincup: 09:26 That’s a hundred percent.
Tina Mirfarsi: 09:30 I’d like to think that people, just as general, are understanding and caring, and I think, could it have been more advocates or always more helpful?
William Tincup: 09:42 Yes.
Tina Mirfarsi: 09:42 I think at the end of the day, what I hope for from the Me Too movement and from everything else is that men step up more as advocates, and more people use their platform and their voice to advocate now that they know how important it is and how helpful it could be.
William Tincup: 10:02 I’m right there with you. Once again, as a man, being in conversations and being around conversations, I know I could have done more. Historically, if I would go back and actually look at my career and think about the conversations I was in or part of, I think, yeah, I could have probably done more. I didn’t have to laugh at that joke. I could have corrected that person at that time, or I could have pulled more out of the women that were in the boardrooms with me, or whatever. I could have pulled more out of them and said, “Hey, what do you think?” That type of stuff.
Tina Mirfarsi: 10:33 Yeah.
William Tincup: 10:34 So, for me, just as a man, it’s gotten me to think more about, if roles were reversed, what would you want? How would you like for your peers to be supportive of you? And so, from that perspective, I think it has gotten a lot of men to think.
10:55 I’m not sure the do part, the action part, is quite there. Again, being jaded. But at least, it’s gotten most men to think. I mean, some men just aren’t going to think just because they’re Neanderthals. So, I mean, some, let’s just put that aside. If we’re trying to fix all men, let’s just stop now. That’s just not going to work.
11:14 However, there is a group of men that are definitely worth saving. So, now it’s a question of, okay, after you get past the thinking part, how do you get into programmatically? How do you get into the here’s how to support. Which is where I’d like to take the conversation next is, if you were building a laundry list for guys like me who recognize problems of the past clearly and want to be supportive, what’s the toolkit? What do we need in order to be supportive of women?
Tina Mirfarsi: 11:54 I think, number one is just to listen, and truly listen, to what women are saying their needs are. I think, you having that thought of, “I could have been better. How can I be better moving forward?” is exactly the conversation that each person needs to have. And I think, the more men and advocates, and allies who have that thought, the better we’re going to all be. And I think, another part of that is women are starting to have that same thought to themselves, too. “How could I have stood up for myself more? How could I have communicated more what my needs are rather than keeping it to myself because I don’t think people care, what if they say no, or what if they look at me a specific way?” So, we’re all thinking those things just in different perspectives. But I think, ultimately, listening to what women are saying they want is how we can really start helping them.
William Tincup: 12:44 I love that. Let me get back to that in just a second. How much history do you know about South Africa, especially after apartheid?
Tina Mirfarsi: 12:55 Not very much.
William Tincup: 12:56 No worries. You didn’t miss much. So, they had this thing called Truth and Reconciliation Act, which essentially said to all South Africans, Black and white, “Just say what you did. Again, just tell the truth and leave no stone unturned. Tell the absolute truth, everything. Doesn’t matter what you did, just, right now, just say what you did.” And whites and Blacks both did it. They went through this process where they just got it all out there. So, all the horrors were now out in front of everybody, but there was no punishment attached to it. There was just people telling, “Okay, here’s what happened. Here’s what went on.” And then after that, they went on this second part of Truth and Reconciliation part. It was then they forgave people.
13:48 So, they let everyone kind of tell their story, good, bad, or otherwise, and then they forgave everyone. And then, they said, “Okay, the past’s the past. Here’s how we go forward. None of that stuff in the past goes forward.” So, whatever was done before, if you stole someone’s land and you murdered their family, that doesn’t go forward. If it goes forward, you get punished just like a regular criminal.
14:16 I thought it was fascinating. I thought, on some level, men and women could do that. It’s a lot of listening, so it gets back to your point. It’s going to start and end with listening to women. But in there, there’s probably more stuff that men need to cop to. You know what I mean? I know where you’re starting from. It’s like, well, if men would just listen and understand. There’s the probative part of that, that after you get done with saying everything you need, that there’s some things you haven’t said.
Tina Mirfarsi: 14:49 Yeah.
William Tincup: 14:51 And as a man, I’m going to have to ask and say, “You know what? First of all, I hate every one of those stories because I could have done something to change that, but we’re here now. What have you left off? What have you not said because you don’t feel comfortable enough, or don’t feel safe enough to say what’s really on your mind?” And I think-
Tina Mirfarsi: 15:12 Yeah, I-
William Tincup: 15:14 Go ahead.
Tina Mirfarsi: 15:15 Sorry. The key word that you said is kind of that safety, right? Creating a space where people feel comfortable, an empathetic space where people can really tell you how they feel, things that have really upset them, things that maybe if they said before, it’d be like, “Oh, you’re an emotional person.” We’ve been kind of trained our entire lives to just be like…
William Tincup: 15:37 “You’re awfully aggressive.” What?
Tina Mirfarsi: 15:39 So, it’s like, the second you have a little bit off the medium, it’s like, “Oh, this person’s an emotional person.” So, you try so hard in your career to keep things so buttoned up. And now, you’re learning that by doing that, you’re not only doing yourself a disservice, but were doing a disservice for all women by not having those conversations that feel very uncomfortable.
16:01 And so, I think, listening, of course, is number one, but also that acknowledgement. I think part of that feel of your story of people feeling like they let something go and move forward is maybe not complete forgiveness, but it’s really having someone see you and acknowledge what you’ve been through, and knowing that you are on their side and that you’re going to now do what you can do to support them going forward.
William Tincup: 16:27 It’s interesting, in the mid nineties, the Southern Baptist Convention Board came about and said, officially, after one of their annual events and said that slavery was bad. And I remember reading the paper going, “Yeah, great. Glad you caught up. That’s cool.” What I failed to recognize at the time, and talking to members afterwards, I figured out, is they had to actually plant a flag in the ground and say, “This is wrong. We see you.” Like, “This is wrong, and we now understand that there’s a bunch of stories we need to hear. Because not only was that event wrong, but there’s a bunch of things that stemmed from the event that also were wrong.” And so, on some level, after I kind of got it, it’s like, okay, that’s actually really smart to give people that space to then say whatever’s on their mind, what their truth, and also to learn from it.
17:23 Because one of the things that you said and I totally believe is that, if you give this space to women and say, “Okay, listen, we’re listening. Clue us in because, A, we need it…” It’s not just women and men. I mean, there’s a bunch of other people that have been marginalized for whatever reason…
Tina Mirfarsi: 17:45 Absolutely.
William Tincup: 17:46 … that this could help.
Tina Mirfarsi: 17:47 Absolutely.
William Tincup: 17:47 Just the act of listening and… How do you this from a corporate perspective? We can do it. You and I can do it on a podcast because it’s relatively easy. Because I can just say, “Hey, tell me your horror stories. Tell me the worst thing that’s ever happened to you at work.” And at one point, you’ll tell me, or not, whatever. But how do you do that in a corporate context?
Tina Mirfarsi: 18:16 I think, every company and industry is going to be a little bit different. And in our industry we have corporate team members, we have warehouse team members, we’re 2000 people.
William Tincup: 18:28 Right.
Tina Mirfarsi: 18:29 So, it’s really just making sure that we have the right people on our teams through culture, and our HR teams to really have their finger on the pulse and really have people in positions where they care. They care about going and talking to team members to make sure that the services that we’re providing, the benefits that we’re providing are helping them. How can we make your life better? I don’t have the crystal ball, and I can’t tell you what would fit our team member in Texas. So, it’s really important as leadership to really look at who is our team, what is the makeup of our team, and how can we create a leadership team that can support them the best that they can. And I think, at every company, that’s going to look a little bit different, but we have a lot of pride in our company of making sure that we have team members in place to really consider, and listen, and advocate for our team members across the board.
William Tincup: 19:32 What if someone… First of all, I think you’re right. I think some of it also just having enough people… I mean, you can look at certain companies and you can just look towards the top and middle, and high and above, it’s all men, or whatever. And you can just see that, okay, if I were a woman, I wouldn’t want to work there. You’ve already told me that there’s no path. Without telling me that there’s no path, you’ve already told me that. So, why would I put myself into that situation?
20:06 I can see where women… Especially now just being more sophisticated buyers, all of us being more sophisticated buyers on the internet. There’s things like Comparably, and Glassdoor, and all kinds of different tools where we can see behind the veil of a company to know what we’re going to get ourselves into. I can see a lot of women, but also marginalized people in general, I can see them just saying “Yeah, no. I’m not going to waste a decade trying to teach them right from wrong. At this point, they should know and I’ll just go elsewhere where they get it.” Especially with the pandemic, defined women have more in line with that line of thinking of like, “Yeah. I’m just not going to invest.”
Tina Mirfarsi: 20:52 Oh, yeah.
William Tincup: 20:55 “I’m not going to invest the best years of my life on a company that just doesn’t get it.”
Tina Mirfarsi: 20:59 Oh, absolutely. And I think, we’ve seen that trend for quite a bit even prior to the pandemic where companies have to evolve. Back in the day, when I was kind of coming up in my career, it was like, “If you don’t like this job too bad. We’ll replace you in a day.”
William Tincup: 21:14 Right.
Tina Mirfarsi: 21:14 No one cared. But now, you’re getting to a place where corporate social responsibility matters. What are your views? What’s the hybrid schedule. Essentially, people are now thinking, “What are you going to give me?” Because the employer is getting something out of it, and you want to make sure that this is a happy partnership between you and your employees. And this is a new way of thinking. Back then, that just wasn’t part of the conversation. You didn’t really have that voice. So, people really want to align with their own purpose, whatever that may be.
William Tincup: 21:51 At the end, their purpose changes. And as they become more sophisticated buyers, all of us, you just don’t make the same decision twice.
Tina Mirfarsi: 22:01 Absolutely.
William Tincup: 22:01 I’ve seen this with gen Z and the hiring process. They don’t want to work with a company where they don’t see people like gen Z in the hiring process, which isn’t shocking when you unpack it. You’re like, “Yeah. Duh?” But now, thinking about it, it’s like, “Well, yeah, of course I don’t want to. Why would you want to work in a place where you don’t see someone like yourself? Duh?”
Tina Mirfarsi: 22:24 Yeah.
William Tincup: 22:26 So, something I want to ask you about is more the subtlety and subconscious. Being supportive of women, again, as a male, [inaudible 00:22:38] deal with women or anybody else. But as a man, you can listen and then kind of just do what they say, kind of be supportive in that way. Understand every woman’s going to have a different story. There’re going to be different things that come up, and just be supportive. That assumes a couple things, though. That assumes a man that wants to do that, A, or has the ability to do that, but also, it assumes that a woman can articulate in whatever way, shape, or form, her circumstance, the situation in which she’s come from, or some of her stories, et cetera. And some of these things are too painful to recount in a real, I don’t know, social way. So, two things. One is, what advice do you give men to just be supportive without, I don’t know, talking too much about it, I guess, is what I’m really thinking of.
23:38 There’s probably a better way of phrasing it, but I’m thinking to myself, if we sit around and talk about being supportive, that’s cool because we’ll hear some stories, we’ll learn some things that’s great. But it doesn’t get to how can we actually help because we’ll spend the majority of time listening, which is fun. We need to do that. So, how do men shortcut… I’m asking for a shortcut, Tina. How do we shortcut this? So, we do listen. That’s not the point. It’s not to skip that. It’s to get to the actual empowering part and supportive part faster.
Tina Mirfarsi: 24:14 Yeah. Honestly I think this kind of goes back to just having women in those leadership roles.
William Tincup: 24:22 Right.
Tina Mirfarsi: 24:23 Because when you have confidence in your colleague, or you see someone who you’re just like, “That person’s incredible and I respect them so much,” and they’re giving you this inside information… If you’re the type of person who’s not going to do anything with it, you’re not going to do anything with it.
William Tincup: 24:39 That’s right. You’re pure evil.
Tina Mirfarsi: 24:42 But if you are someone who’s willing to learn and put actions behind things that you’re learning because you can, then this is where having representation in the leadership team by women is so crucial. Because, I think, one, it helps men to understand like, “Okay, I really respect this person, and what they’re saying is horrible that it’s happening but something that I can help fix or help, at least, to move towards the right direction.” But I think, it’s also really important for women within the organization.
25:14 Mentorship programs are critical to making sure that not only can women in the organization see other women and say like, “Okay, this is where I want to go with my career,” whether it’s within the organization or five years down the line. But I think, ultimately, the way that I think to myself is, if I’ve been through adversity, why not share my learnings to benefit someone else. And I think, sometimes there isn’t that road from lower level positions to leadership. You just don’t ever cross paths. You don’t ever get to chat with each other.
William Tincup: 25:49 Right.
Tina Mirfarsi: 25:49 And that’s when I think these formal mentorship programs, like the one we just started at CarParts, is crucial because I was connected with women in the organization who I might have never had the opportunity to chat with, and the things that I learn about them and their obstacles and their insecurities, I would’ve never known any of that. And from having these conversations with them just allows me to take everything that I know and help somebody else. And sometimes things that they know, and perspectives they have, and kind of part of that reverse mentorship, they give back to me as well.
26:24 Every new generation has something to provide and something to add. And as much as we all try to keep up with everything going on, it’s just impossible for one person to know everything. So, it’s really important to have that two-way communication between women in leadership roles and the women in the organization.
William Tincup: 26:41 One of the things that you just unlocked for me is that, when we see the words support or support and empowerment, actually those words are code for budget spend, when we see those as men. And when we see those words, they’re great. They’re fantastic words. However, what they really are indicative of, or should be indicative of, is programs, like you just mentioned with mentorship and coaching and things like that. They should lead to programs and/or things that happen in the budget itself for a company.
27:23 So, the last thing I wanted to ask you is how are you best supported and empowered? Where do you thrive? When you know you’re in your element, what does it look like for you?
Tina Mirfarsi: 27:39 Man, that’s such a good question. I feel like…
William Tincup: 27:42 I saved it for last.
Tina Mirfarsi: 27:44 I think it really just depends on what environment I’m in. I’ve been very lucky and blessed in my life. I have an incredibly supportive family, incredibly supportive group of friends, and I have had been lucky in my career to really have supervisors and bosses who have been really supportive of my career. And I think, for me, it’s really just been giving me that support, and really giving me the autonomy to be myself, do what I think is best kind of at a arm’s length, is really where I thrive, personally. I think that someone respecting what you’ve done, and your experience, and what you bring to the table and really appreciating you for that, I think is such a beautiful thing, especially in the corporate world where it’s like, “I’m not trying to change you. I’m not trying to micromanage you. I know what you can accomplish. I know what you can do. And I’m going to allow you to do that.”
William Tincup: 28:45 What I love about that… The beauty of that is people have gotten to know you and know where you thrive, and like a lot of folks, you thrive with some distance. “Give me the outcome, give me what you want, and get out of my way. Let me go do me.” And some people don’t. Some people, that’s not a knock on any work style. Some people actually like the camaraderie, so they don’t necessarily want to be by themselves. They want to actually do stuff as a team. And so, I think, one of the things for the audiences to decode is to find out where people thrive. And when we’re talking about, in this particular case, women, having the discussion, not only listening to the stories of things that have gotten sideways in the past… The past could be, like, yesterday, so let’s not make that years. That could have been yesterday, we made mistakes. But also kind of understanding and decoding for where do you thrive? What do you need? What are those tools and resources for you to be successful, and how could we do that?
29:47 Tina, we could talk all day and…
Tina Mirfarsi: 29:49 We really can.
William Tincup: 29:51 But people would be upset with us if we did. So, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. You’re wonderful.
Tina Mirfarsi: 29:57 My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
William Tincup: 29:59 Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.