Leesa Hill
Senior Director, Head of DEIB Enspira

Leesa (she/her) has 25 years of experience in the Human Resources industry with deep expertise in the areas of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB), and Learning and Development. Leesa has a Certificate in Diversity & Inclusion for HR from Cornell’s ILR School, is certified in the ED&I 360 & Inclusive Behavior Inventory Assessment and earned her BFA in Dance from Shenandoah Conservatory. Leesa actively mentors women from underrepresented groups who are passionate in the space of DEIB.

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On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Leesa from Enspira about the challenges and barriers of women in the hybrid workplace.

Some Conversation Highlights:

It was an ugly realization. And here’s what we know, in times of economic crises, women tend to earn less. They’re hit harder. And they’re hit harder because they earn less, they have fewer savings, they’re, I mean, I could just go on. They are disproportionately more in that informal economy where folks are being paid in cash maybe for taking care of homes, hair, all of those things. They’re not able to work in a hybrid workplace. They’re more likely to be burdened with what we were just talking about, the unpaid care domestic work. And as a result, then they have to drop out of the labor force. So the intersection after intersection, after intersection, and then as you point out, which is a piece I really want to talk about today is yes, women, for sure. And then double click on how that impacts women of color.

And there was a Harris poll out there recently that showed that women and people of color, so people of color, not just women of color, are generally happier working from home- or a hybrid workplace, no big surprise, and are likelier than their white male counterparts to want to continue working remotely. So if you hold that in one hand, and then the other fact that we already know is that globally women’s jobs are almost something like almost two times more vulnerable to the crisis, so this crisis of the pandemic ,than men’s jobs. So two times more vulnerable are women’s jobs than men. So you hold those two things into your separate hands and layer in that more and more organizations are returning to work or sort of this hybrid workplace option, and there’s a huge potential for those hybrid environments to become inequitable workplaces.

Tune in for the full conversation.

Listening time: 30 minutes

 

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Music: This is Recruiting Daily’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: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Leesa from Enspira and then we’re going to be talking about, or the topic today is the challenges and barriers of women in the hybrid workplace. Can’t wait to talk about it. Leesa, please introduce yourself and Enspira to the audience.

Leesa Hill: Yeah, happy to. Good to be here William.

William Tincup: Sure.

Leesa Hill: So I’m Leesa Hill and I’m senior director and I head up DEIB. So diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging for Enspira. I’ve been in the HR space for a very long time. And if-

William Tincup: You noticed at one point you just stop saying years?

Leesa Hill: Yeah. I do.

William Tincup: Have you noticed that? You’re like, eh, just long time, let’s just leave it at that.

Leesa Hill: It is for the best.

William Tincup: Yeah. It is for the best. Everyone understands.

Leesa Hill: But along those, many, many years. A lot of times in various spots. So talent acquisition, benefits employee relations, spent a lot of time in learning and development, and certainly in the course of DEIB. I’d also just say the bulk of my career has been spent in biotech and pharmaceutical industries. So a lot of experience in that space. In terms of-

William Tincup: I think that what’s interesting is because you’ve kind of been all around HR and done different things, I think that gives you a wonderful Vista and look and ways to look at DEIB. Whereas some people, when they come into the industry, they might only have diversity experience, which is fantastic, but they don’t understand kind of some of the connection spots. You know what I mean?

Leesa Hill: I do. Spot on.

William Tincup: So your career really, really helps because you’re like, okay, in talent acquisition we treat candidates like this, here’s what’s going on. I think your background is just amazing and I think it just makes you a better DEIB leader. So anyhow, go ahead.

Leesa Hill: Love that. Well, I’ll tell you about Enspira but I want to speak to that for a minute. I appreciate that piece. And what I love about it and what I think is true is that so often when you have a very niche consulting firm, let’s say, for example, that’s coming in to do a very specific piece of DEIB work, and those kinds of organizations have a place, they do terrific, really cutting edge work. And the piece that can be missed is that sort of the forest for the tree syndrome where they’re just looking at it with a DEIB lens. And when someone with my experience and those that are here with me at Enspira, we can come in and get a, as you said, it’s a beautiful view from the Vista and a much more holistic approach to say, oh, we might be here doing some work that’s specific to DEIB, but in our listening, our bunny ears are up and we can hear problems that set be beyond that for sure.

William Tincup: Sure. Well, and because getting to the title, some of the barriers you can see in talent acquisition. If we’re talking about something like bespoke women in leadership roles, that sounds fantastic, okay, great. We have to find them, so we have to source them, then we have to recruit them. So what’s the interview process look like? And, oh, by the way, the connectivity or the connective tissue to learning and training and development, your team’s going to be able to then see that connectivity or something like that with a program that’s like that. Whereas somebody that hasn’t had that experience might not be able to connect those dots yet. I mean, they will in time, but just at this particular moment, they won’t be able to do it. So tell us about Enspira.

Leesa Hill: Yeah. I love it. Enspira is this terrific, excuse me, HR consulting firm. We do HR consulting, executive search, technology. And so we really have this cross industry experience in terms of the 60 employee, 60 plus employees that are here. And what I think makes us so unique is most of us didn’t grow up in the consulting space. We are HR professionals. And so we like to say sort of this corny tag, which is we can do the work because we’ve done the work.

William Tincup: That’s right. That’s not corny. That’s real right there.

Leesa Hill: Totally.

William Tincup: You know where the bodies are buried, that’s the beauty of HR. And that’s actually one of the reasons I fell in love with HR is because HR professionals know all the darkness in an organization. They know the sexual harassment claims, they know the investigations, they know the pay in equity issues. They know the dark crevices of the organization, yet most are still hopeful.

Leesa Hill: Yes. You flipped the coin for me, I was going to say that, yes that’s all true. And-

William Tincup: You just, yes and me, I love that.

Leesa Hill: I’m a yes and girl, I’m a yes and girl. And it’s true because there are understanding just sort of the evolving values around work life integration, company culture, and especially now with this ever changing landscape that we’re in, we have to balance that. We have to balance those dark crevices that you spoke to with knowing that, hey, the work that we’re doing is really providing this launchpad, this springboard for people to do their work much more efficiently in a way that makes them happy, that makes them grow. And guess what? The organization’s going to benefit from that.

William Tincup: I love that. So one of the things I had on my list is things that my mom fought for in the 70s when she worked for the IRS was flexibility. Just this idea. She had three kids, well, my mom and dad had three kids. But she had three boys and she worked for the IRS for 35 years and she fought vigorously for just flexibility, just schedule flexibility. It wasn’t even like four day work week or this other crazy stuff, it was just like, hey, I need to drop my kids off. You know what I mean? Basic stuff. So what are you seeing when this return to work, which I think is kind of a… I’ll just tell you the truth. I think that a return to the office for folks that don’t necessarily need to return to office, I think is kind of a tell for bad managers.

So I’m just going to say it as I think it. I think leaders that want people back in the office, it comes out of the manufacturing age, it comes out of the World War II, it comes off command and control, and it’s mostly male. I’ll just kind of call what I think of it. And it’s men wanting to see people work. And so I think hybrid is just code for men wanting to see people work. Which I think we’ve proved to ourselves over the last painful two years that a lot of this little knowledge working work doesn’t need to be done in an office. So I look at hybrid and I’m very cynical, to say the least, and I also just think it flies in the face of common sense and what we’ve learned and radical flexibility. And I’ll let you tear all that apart by the way.

Leesa Hill: Oh, I can. And I’m ready with big, gnarly heat to jump in.

William Tincup: Good, jump in. Do.

Leesa Hill: Well, first of all, it’s like you’re in my head with respect to what your mom experienced that 30 plus years ago is no different now.

William Tincup: I know.

Leesa Hill: We need flexibility, it’s not new news folks. And you’re right in terms of, and research is showing… Hey, let’s just talk about Goldman Sachs for a second. Who, white male sort of above middle age in that range saying, no, I’m the CEO, I want everyone to come back to work. And guess what happened? 50% of the people showed up. So like two weeks ago. So forgive me, but I think that’s a big, talk about a tell. I mean, it just goes to show that people say, look pall, this is not where we are. And I recognize this sort of white male executive into your point, William, about just it’s so antiquated with manufacturing. It goes into the education system and watching people work. It’s what we know, which doesn’t mean it’s what we should continue doing.

William Tincup: 100%. Well, and it’s a failed bit because productivity, again, if done right… I mean, the way that you and I both look at flexibility is if somebody wants to go to an office, cool.

Leesa Hill: Right.

William Tincup: And I’ve actually talked to folks that are younger, I feel like I’m old when I say that, I’ve talked to folks that are right out of college and they want to go to an office because, and I’ve forgotten this, but it’s like that’s where they meet people. That’s where they meet their friends, that’s where they go out and do social things. And it’s like, okay, well, I’m not in that particular spot but I recognize that if someone wants to go… And in fact, a dear friend of mines in New York, she owns a staffing firm. She has four children under the age of eight.

Leesa Hill: Oh boy.

William Tincup: Yeah. Okay. So she wants to go to the office.

Leesa Hill: Yeah, she does.

William Tincup: You know what? Fair enough. We should have the flexibility, elasticity enough to say, hey, if you want to come to the office, cool. But mandating it or forcing people in some false construct that you have to be there, I just think that’s just antiquated. You use that word. I love that word. It’s just antiquated. And that shows that leadership is antiquated when they look at employees in that way.

Leesa Hill: Yeah. We’re at that tipping point. And I’ll women are looking for sort of three things. They want the ability to control their own schedules, which gets to your point on flexibility, they want less reliance on visibility in order to move their career, whether that’s horizontally or vertically. And they need more compassionate managers.

William Tincup: Yep.

Leesa Hill: And those aren’t out of reach for organizations to help impact. Because as we know, and again, just the last two years and what even got us here to this hybrid/remote workplace with the pandemic is that it just became clearer and clearer that those three things that women are wanting are really based on the barriers that generally fall on the shoulders of women. So childcare, elder care, supporting children’s educational needs. Who was in there doing the school from home?

William Tincup: That’s right.

Leesa Hill: Who? It was mainly women.

William Tincup: Yeah. McKinsey and Cheryl, Leeanne’s organization.

Leesa Hill: Oh, Cheryl [inaudible 00:12:02]

William Tincup: Yeah, Samberg.

Leesa Hill: Samberg, yeah.

William Tincup: So they did a study and it broke my heart, but they did this study of the first year of the pandemic. And basically women disproportionately stepped up. So when you’re going through all the different forms of care, I was about to interrupt you and just say care.

Leesa Hill: Yeah, right?

William Tincup: Because it could just be husband, partner, children, and just care in general. All right, stop there. But yeah, they did this study and they said women disproportionately stepped up and were also disproportionately not recognized. So on one level it’s like women just took it by the reigns and said yeah, we got this. And then on the second, they didn’t get recognized for that. Then you add the economic part at the end of ’20, where women were disproportionately terminated and women of color were disproportionately terminated within that number. It’s like you add those things together and it’s like…

So first of all, women stepped up, didn’t get credit, got fired or got what, furloughed, whatever we want to call that word, which I still don’t understand the definition of what furloughed means. But they got furloughed, got fired and oh, by the way, women of color were disproportionately affected as well. That’s just crazy. That whole scenario, just if we work that out. Yeah, it was a tough time and yeah, it was crazy for everybody. Got it. But how that played out with those four things playing out in just a span of nine months is insane in this day and age.

Leesa Hill: Yeah. It was an ugly realization. And here’s what we know, in times of economic crises, women tend to earn less. They’re hit harder. And they’re hit harder because they earn less, they have fewer savings, they’re, I mean, I could just go on. They are disproportionately more in that informal economy where folks are being paid in cash maybe for taking care of homes, hair, all of those things. They’re more likely to be burdened with what we were just talking about, the unpaid care domestic work. And as a result, then they have to drop out of the labor force. So the intersection after intersection, after intersection, and then as you point out, which is a piece I really want to talk about today is yes, women, for sure. And then double click on how that impacts women of color.

And there was a Harris poll out there recently that showed that women and people of color, so people of color, not just women of color, are generally happier working from home, no big surprise, and are likelier than their white male counterparts to want to continue working remotely. So if you hold that in one hand, and then the other fact that we already know is that globally women’s jobs are almost something like almost two times more vulnerable to the crisis, so this crisis of the pandemic ,than men’s jobs. So two times more vulnerable are women’s jobs than men. So you hold those two things into your separate hands and layer in that more and more organizations are returning to work or sort of this hybrid option, and there’s a huge potential for those hybrid environments to become inequitable workplaces.

And we know proximity bias is very real.

William Tincup: That’s right.

Leesa Hill: And so when people can have FaceTime with managers and executives that are at home or sadly falling out of sight out of mind. And here’s just sort of like my bumper sticker of this whole podcast with you today is when there’s a choice available, William, and in this case working from home or going into the office, it can often seem like there is a right choice. No, you can do this or you can do this, but really are we saying there’s a right choice. And I want to be really clear that choosing to work from home does not make you less dedicated to your job, doesn’t make you less interested. And this is a dilemma that’s just a massive barrier for women and even more so for women of color.

William Tincup: You know what’s interesting, there’s a bunch of stuff to unpack there. People of color that they’re more comfortable, again, if the setup is right. So they have high speed connectivity, they’ve got a great work environment. So let’s hope that all of that is true and they’ve got that. Then people of color not wanting to rush back to the office, again, to me that also signals the office wasn’t successful for them. That wasn’t an environment where they fared well. And so working from home, it feels like they can control their success more. Now, my fear is that we’ve created, or we will create a different citizenry of people that work in the office get promoted faster or get more… Just basically we create different levels of citizens. So I’m fearful of that.

But also when you said that men’s job and women’s job, that the disproportionate female jobs are more vulnerable, I look at that, first of all, I think to myself as a male, white middle-aged pear shaped male, so I’ll just throw myself in all those categories. Although I’m becoming less pear shapes, which is nice. But I think that vulnerable part is also a choice, not for women, but for men to recognize that, okay, if we would’ve done people analytics correctly, and if we say we care about DEIB, in the late ’20 when we make a recognition we have to do something with our workforce, why don’t we look through the lens of DEIB so that we don’t disproportionately impact any one group of people.

I look at that vulnerability and I think, yeah, that sounds like choice. You know what I mean? That sounds like a bit of mansplaining. Sounds like choice to me. Sounds like we didn’t have the analytics. Technically you do. It’s in the payroll data, just FYI. It’s in the IRS, HRIS. And oh by the way, that could have been a very easy thing to look at and go, are we disproportionately impacting any one group? I mean, we’ve all been through rifts, we’ve all had to do this bit. It’s not easy. But if we say we care about DEIB, then why wouldn’t we have taken the extra step to then look through the lens of DEIB before we make those hard decisions?

Leesa Hill: So you hit on a piece that for me is just something like my team, they’re like, okay, here’s Leesa on our soapbox, but it’s just facts William, which is-

William Tincup: Just facts folks.

Leesa Hill: Just facts folks. I mean, you couldn’t have hit the nail square on the head with it is choice. And when we think about equity specifically, this is probably something you’ve heard, it is a choice. Like that’s how we describe it. Diversity is a fact, inclusion’s a verb, it’s this act. Belonging is the outcome of these things. And equity is a choice. And organizations, and that’s sort of this big at the macro level organizations, but high hiring manager, high HR business partner, and, and, and. All these individuals every single day have the opportunity to make equitable choices.

William Tincup: That’s right. That’s right. And learn. I mean, some of this is, I think, as you peeled the onion of DEIB the more you start to learn. I can tell you from my own experience, the more I learn about the trans community is the more I end up learning what I don’t know. For example, I have a great friend that’s doing a lot of good work in pronouns and teaching people about pronouns of it. And the more she talks, the more I learn. And this is for all people, not just men, but if we can just be vulnerable for a moment and say there’s a bunch of stuff I need to learn that maybe I made some assumptions, maybe I thought I knew this, but I didn’t. And that’s with people of color, let’s just cut it anyway you’d like.

Let’s talk a little bit about some of the challenges of the hybrid workplace for women and people of color and women of color as well. What are some of the things that as people think about hybrid, so you’ve got leaders and especially HR leaders, people leaders that are thinking about hybrid, how should they kind of just approach hybrid in general?

Leesa Hill: Well, I’m going to back into that question, but someone was asking me recently about what is it that women can do to sort of express their needs. So it’s a similar question that you’re asking me. And my immediate reaction was like, well, I want to turn that question on its head. What can companies do? What can companies do to really make sure that they’re holding space in a safe way, a psychologically safe way, that’s going to allow an open communication for employee, period, to express their needs? And I think that organizations have the opportunity right now to really leverage this hybrid work thing as an unprecedented opportunity to really build employee experience that works for women, for women of color. And when we do that, by the way, even if we’re thinking in this case about women and, click down women of color, it will benefit everyone, right?

William Tincup: Yeah. Yeah. I love the way that you use space in your discussion because I think it’s, from a leader’s perspective, it’s that we never had needed to have all the answers. There was kind of a false premise that we had to have all the answers and kind of come down from the mountain top like Moses and here’s all the answers. I think the idea is that being vulnerable and opening up that space and saying, we don’t have all the answers. Like we know where we want to go, we have an idea of where we want to take our product or services or grow the company, we have some initiatives that we’re thinking about, but we don’t have all the answers. Anybody that would like to add, anybody that will, again, space, anybody that would like to help us out, fantastic. Let’s do this and let’s do it together. Let’s row in the same way.

Leesa Hill: And I did a podcast, good God, this is about a year ago. It was really at the beginning of the pandemic. And it was Amy Mosher, Chief People Officer at isolved. And she said, because I asked her, because this is at the beginning of the pandemic, so 2020. A crazy time. And she goes, you know what I’m learning is radical flexibility. Everything I thought I knew I just threw out the window and everything’s up for grabs. So our onboarding process, throw it out. And just look at it and go how does it need to be shaped for this person for this person, for this person, this group of people, et cetera. And she just went and rethought, her and her team rethought everything. And they continued to do so even to day, they continue to rethink things and go, you know what? We don’t have the answers. We’re just going to continue to be flexible.

Yeah. I think that’s so beautiful. And I think it’s right. And for me, and it goes back to I was joking a minute ago about my soapbox, which is so many organizations, most organizations just continue to have DEIB as this separate piece of work. It’s this thing that gets bolted on, that gets layered on top. And you are already talking about managers. Let’s just talk about sort of that mid-level manager who’s already, their plate is not even a plate, it’s like a platter that’s overflowing. And now we’re going to say, oh, by the way, we’re going to layer on more DEIB staff. And they’re just like, I can’t take another thing. And it’s fair, they’re already, managing the managers of managers doing the work and it will not work. DEIB will not take root. It won’t be sticky if we aren’t building it into all those processes.

So Amy, you’re talking about Amy, right? Like dismantle it, break it down. And just because it’s the way that we’ve always been doing it, does that mean it’s the right way? Does that mean it’s not rot with bias? And the answer is no, it’s fully rot with bias.

William Tincup: Of course it’s rot because it was built by men. Most of those things were built by men. And again, we’re not man shaming in this sense. It’s like it was built by men, okay, it is what it is. Doesn’t need to stay that way. And in fact, if it stays that way, we’re not going to get any better.

Leesa Hill: No, it’s a definition of madness.

William Tincup: It is the definition of madness. It’s interesting. I was doing a diversity inclusion event, June of 21. So I talked to 100 diversity and inclusion leaders. And one of the things that came out of all of those conversations is they said diversity is everyone. Diversity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility. Like to think this idea that Sally is responsible for diversity and inclusion at the organization, that was a dumb concept to begin with. It’s become even more ignorant as we look at it. Now, they also said, if it’s everyone’s responsibility then it’s no one’s responsibility, which I found fascinating. So I said here’s how you basically balance that out. It’s everyone’s responsibility. I don’t care if you’re a learning or comp or you’re a line manager or hiring manager, you’re the president of the organization, doesn’t matter. It is everyone’s responsibility.

However, there is a group within the company that owns it and communicates and transparency around what’s going on, where we’re at, where we’re tracking towards, what we’ve learned, where we’re not great, what we’re trying to do, programs that are new, et cetera. So there’s both. There’s a real need to have someone within the company that owns it, but at the same time, responsibility wise, it is decentralized. And it’s everyone. I don’t care where you work in the organization, receptionist, CEO, chairman of the board, doesn’t matter. Anywhere in between. Everyone owns diversity and inclusion, if we do it right.

Leesa Hill: If we do it right. And I agree with that, has to have a home, right?

William Tincup: Yep.

Leesa Hill: And we talk about that a ton in our work. We’re like, look, yes, it has a home, and, told you I’m an and girl, it is also your job as an employee, as all the jobs that you just listed off. I mean, it has to be built in, it has to show up in every process and system or no one is held accountable.

William Tincup: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. And oh, by the way, we won’t be any better. Five years from now we’ll look back and go, yeah ,we’re still making the same mistakes. I could talk to you forever but I know that we both have stuff to get on to. Leesa, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I absolutely appreciate the work you’re doing and thank you for your time.

Leesa Hill: Thank you so much William. I appreciate it.

William Tincup: Absolutely. And thanks everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast, until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

Authors
William Tincup

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.


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