Fairygodboss – Women’s History Month with Romy Newman

Today’s show has a friend of the firm, Romy Newman from Fairygodboss, and we’re gonna be talking about Women’s History Month. I’ve got a ton of questions, and Romy is probably one of the most knowledgeable people about the topic.

Romy will help give some insight into why COVID has disproportionally affected women, and especially women of color. We’ll talk about what companies can do about it, like flexible scheduling and practicing inclusion, and how to make some real tangible initiatives.

Listening time: 21 minutes


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William 0:33
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have a friend of the firm, Romy Newman from Fairygodboss on and we’re gonna be talking about Women’s History Month. And I’ve got a ton of questions, and I’ve got probably one of the most knowledgeable people about the topic actually on the call. So Romy,

Romy 0:54
No pressure!

William 0:55
No pressure, no pressure. Would you do us a favor both introduce yourself and introduce Fairygodboss?

Romy 1:02
Absolutely. Thank you for having me, William. I am the president and co-founder of Fairygodboss. Fairygodboss is the largest career community for women. About 10 million women used us in the last year to make connections, seek advice, give advice, look for jobs and read anonymous job reviews for women by women. And I came to found Fairygodboss after 20 years in corporate America, where I worked for Estee Lauder, Google and the Wall Street Journal.

William 1:35
So you learned a couple things on the practitioner side. And you brought that over to Fairygodboss. And you’ve helped a lot, a lot, a lot of women. At all stages, I would say the feedback, at least that I’ve gotten is people at all different points in their career, women at all different points in their career have actually benefited from this.

Romy 1:55
That’s the goal. I mean, and it is that it’s a hard mandate to try to satisfy the needs of so many different women in so many different life stages in so many different circumstances. But really our goal is to see how we can help all women now in America and one day, globally,

William 2:11
Right. So Women’s History Month, I want to start off with A, why isn’t the entire year women’s history year, but we’ll put that aside,

Romy 2:20
That’s what I just asked my husband.

William 2:22
Well, why do we have a month? Why is, I mean I ask this every year, of African American Black History Month? I said every year I’m like, why is it just February? Why aren’t we celebrating this stuff? You know, all the time? I’m assuming we have enough content? Like what? Why is it just in one, one particular month? But in all seriousness, if not, if we can’t make it all year long? What should companies do? As it relates like, what’s the corporate side of this of Women’s History Month? Because there’s a lot of learning. There’s a lot of things that that they can do. But I want to get your take on what they should do as it relates to women in Women’s History Month.

Romy 3:00
Yeah, well, so we’re at a really tragic and vulnerable moment, I hate to say. In the prep, you and I were talking about how we, you and I are both fortunate that our kids are in school, but because of both school closures this year, and because industries with more women in them were disproportionately financially impacted by COVID. We have now returned, in the last 12 months, we’ve lost so many women out of the workforce, we’ve returned to 1980s levels of workforce participation among women.

William 3:32
Well, that’s frustrating when, when you especially when you add in the pay equity side of things.

Romy 3:36

William 3:37
What was it December, November, December of the jobs that were lost where, it was at a high number I want to say 90 to-

Romy 3:45
It was 140,000 jobs lost, and actually all lost by women of color.

William 3:50
Oh, wow, I didn’t know that. I thought I knew it was women but I didn’t know it was women of color.

Romy 3:55

William 3:55
That is horrible.

Romy 3:57
It is horrible. And so you know what companies should be doing? The great news is, I’ve been, it’s been six years since we founded Fairygodboss. I’ve never seen more energy, more momentum, more investment, and frankly, more specificity around commitments, both to gender equality and to diversity more broadly, in corporate America.

We really, if that’s the first step, we have much more squarely taken the first step than ever before. You’re also seeing a lot of high, high-impact promotions, where you have women getting leadership roles and people of color getting leadership roles at more and more companies. Which is the first thing that matters in so many ways because it starts at the top right. So that’s fantastic.

So then I think the next thing though, I don’t, I don’t, I’m not a cynic. I think companies make these pledges and they want, they really want to live up to them. But it’s there’s no silver bullet. And it’s not easy. And I think one of the first things companies need to do is make some serious investment in the way that they measure both their internal demographics of their employees, and also their candidate pipelines, their hiring funnel all through the funnel to see if they’re not hiring diverse candidates, why not?

Where’s their fallout and how can they address it? So I think there needs to be some pretty serious technology investments made to better measure the demographics of the employee base and who’s churning? And who are we recruiting?

William 5:41
So, you know, when we use that number of layoffs. And then you added the part that I didn’t know in terms of people of women of color. How could that have happened? Like, like, it wasn’t? Was it arbitrary? I want to be optimistic because I don’t want to go down that dark path. Was it just arbitrary? And or was it that they didn’t have the technology to have insight into who they were? To the riffs like?

Romy 6:14
Well, yeah, so I think the industries that have flourished have skewed more toward white men. And the industries that have suffered like, travel and tourism, and retail, were historically more dominated by women and women of color. But then, you add on to it this school snafu, right, where two-thirds of schools in this country are still either completely remote or hybrid.

Which has opened up a whole other need for families to provide full-time childcare. And let’s face it become teachers, right. And because of the pay gap in this country, in most hetero, heterosexual relationships, the higher paid worker is the man. So who exits their job? It’s the woman. And so that has also contributed. That’s why actually, a lot of the job losses were seen in August and September when it became clear that schools were not going to reopen. So I think that brings me to another thing companies can do. Two parts to what companies can do.

One is, become much more accepting of flex scheduling. I think this whole difficult experiment of the last 12 months has helped everybody understand that virtual work can work. Now everybody has to accept and understand that flexible scheduling can work. Because no matter what happens with schools, as long as you’ve got flexible scheduling, maybe I can’t get something done at three o’clock because my kids are coming in to complain about not wanting to do their homework, but I could do it later.

William 7:50
That’s not a real scenario, by the way.

Romy 7:52
Asking for a friend.

So flexible scheduling. And by the way, interesting case study, Zurich, in the UK ran an experiment where they added the words flexible and remote and part-time to their job descriptions and saw a 50% increase in the volume of women applying to senior roles. Yes, so it works if you just add those words, right. So that’s number one.

But then, number two is I think, hopefully, all these schools reopen. And so companies are going to have to figure out and get comfortable understanding that they can and will hire someone who’s been out of a job for a year or two years.

William 8:35
That gaps don’t matter, especially during COVID. That gaps don’t matter. Let me ask you, as we learned about women’s history, right, which is great. I want to talk about ally and allyship. Yeah. So how do you teach how to be a great ally? Like when you talk to you know, Anyone? Anyone? That’s anyone to be considered an ally? How do you coach them to be a great ally for women?

Romy 9:05
Yeah. So first of all, I think I always want to emphasize I’m sitting here because I had amazing men sponsors in my career. No question, and I am so grateful to them. I think they inherently knew that there were certain things they could do to support me. Like, for example, bringing me into a meeting that I wasn’t originally invited to and then giving me the floor to speak. Right?

So they helped shine a light on my capabilities, my skills that otherwise would have not been seen. But they somehow just knew that. I think what is great is our research shows that 80% of men say they want to be allies. I’ve got you know, I gotta give you the list of who the 12% aren’t, you can talk to them. But um,

William 9:50
Yeah, like, why isn’t that 100%? That is odd. Even even even if you don’t believe in it. Why wouldn’t you lie?

Romy 10:00
But out of those 88 percent, 54% said, but I don’t know how. I want to be an ally. And I don’t know how. So I think. And I think I’m a huge, you’re from Texas, I’m a huge acolyte of Brene Brown, also from Texas. And one of her adages that I’ve really glommed on to is to assume positive intent. Right? And so often what can happen is a woman is maybe spoken over by a male colleague, where she isn’t she doesn’t have a manager like I have, and she wasn’t invited to the meeting. And we don’t assume positive intent.

Well, I can’t believe George, he never brings me to meetings. What is he thinking? That’s so mean? Why isn’t he bringing me to meetings. When George, it’s just never dawned on George that he should bring me to the meeting, right? So what we can do is assume positive intent and say, Hey, George, you know, what would really help me? If you brought me to this meeting? Right.

Now, this now he knows, and he knows how to help me. And also, he’s probably, I’m helping him, because he’s going to look better, because he’s being a very public ally of mine. Right? So I think being willing to open up the conversation, assuming positive intent, and also collaborating. How can we work together? How can I partner with George, on a work project where we both can win together through our collaboration, right? So I think that yes, we want men to stand up as allies. But I also think we have to help take the lead in showing them what would help. And make them feel comfortable because it can feel uncomfortable to be an ally. And we have to make this work, because there were more men named Jeffrey, who became a CEO in 2020, than women.

William 11:46
Right. And that’s not our future, it shouldn’t be our future. And so for those that are listening, one of the things that I’ve learned in, in discovering how to be an ally, is also listening. So being an active listener, so so asking questions, and in listening and finding out like, there’s so many as you peel the onion, of what’s what really women go through at work.

You start finding out things that you had no idea that were going on that some of, as a man, you clearly knew, and know of. But there’s a bunch of things, microaggressions that you, you’re not aware of, that you need to be aware of. So some of that for, for the men that are listening to the show, it’s just, I would suggest, just listen and ask about their experience. And don’t be overwhelmed with all the negative things that you might hear. But take those as learns.

And then I think the, as Romy as you said it, I was thinking about how to how to be inclusive. Like, you know, you know, it’s typical, it’s it has been historically typical, that sales guys will go out and play golf. Right? And they’ll leave a lot of their counterparts, not there, not playing golf with them. Right. And so, you know, when one and this is just it’s kind of a simple thing, you know, don’t play golf go do a different activity.

Romy 13:11
Or how about cuz I can play golf? How about don’t assume, yeah, that the woman can’t play golf?

William 13:17
100%. That’s exactly right. So it’s, it’s inclusionary in that, hey, do you play golf? If so, do you want to play with, you know, the folks great. If not, hey, you know, what, we can do a different activity. Like, like the ideas, we’re just gonna get together, and then bond and talk about, you know, things that are going on both in and out of work. So there’s that, but it’s, but it’s being inclusive in that idea of, Okay, we’re not just going to go off and do stuff by ourselves, right, that those days should be over. And

Romy 13:54
A truly inclusive workforce with, and by the way, if you want to benefit, right, we invest in diversity, because it returns the business. And if you want to reap that reward, you have to practice inclusion, which means you’re not having by default, you’re not having outings that not everyone can participate in.

William 14:12
So, so again, advice that you’ve seen from the community that that vibe of the Fairygodboss community, where have you seen some of the highlights of where folks, companies and maybe even managers all the way down to that level, that they get women’s history right like they understand how important it is? And how to celebrate it?

Romy 14:33
Yeah, well, I think I think it is taking the time to celebrate the stories of the women who have succeeded and have risen through the ranks. And I think it also though, is about not just how do we celebrate our women employees, but it’s about how we everyone is going to have to do things radically differently. Like, we are going to make any kind of progress, we are on the slowest boat to China right now. And we have to expedite.

And so, I think the best thing that companies can do is stand up and change the way we pay people, change the way that we reward award promotions, right, change who our Leadership Committee is, and who’s involved in that. Change who our board is. Without those, we don’t, we don’t want any of these months, whether it’s Black history month, or Women’s History Month, or Asian History Month, or Latin history, whatever we, It is like, let’s not make them window dressings.

I think these are great. You know, to your point, even though this should be all day, every day, it is helpful, because to have like a specific time of the year to focus in on this. But if we’re going to use that time of the year, let’s use it to do planning and investment and decide what are what our real tangible initiatives will be that will help advance this population in this.

William 16:02
It’s interesting that you say that, because so much of what I’ve seen in women’s history month in years past has been the past. It’s been women’s suffrage, and you know, kind of a history lesson on what’s gone on with women in the history in the history of this country. Which is great, but I would assume that you learn some of that at least in eighth grade. It really should be women’s, you know, future month, like what how do we actually to your point, how do you change the dynamic, so that we don’t have what we have in December, like when you’re going to make layoffs when you’re going to do a riff, it should be proportionate.

You should be looking at the front end of your pipeline, your talent pipeline, with diversity inclusion in mind, you should be looking at how people exit in the same way. And how people are promoted in internal mobility, then you’ve mentioned leadership and the board development, like all these things should be looked through the lens of diversity and inclusion. We know they’re not, but they all should be. And so I think one of the things that I advise some of the listeners is, you know, the history lesson is great. And celebration is especially great.

Celebrating specific people in your company, specific women that have done things in your company that are fantastic. I think, the more personal you can make that I think that that resonates. There’s Sally, and she did this. Let’s take a moment and celebrate that, like the I think that would be fantastic. But also think it’s without action, without some level of action, it is window dressing.

Romy 17:37
Right. That’s right. And, and so what’s great if we’re going to do this once a year, next year, we should take a look at the past 12 months and if we can, going back to the measurement like we, first of all, have to be able to measure, right? Because a lot of companies can’t even measure whether they’ve made any progress. So we got to institute the technology that’s gonna allow us to measure and then in 12 months, let’s see, did we make progress?

William 18:01
Right. And if we didn’t, why? Like I’m, diversity inclusion, I think some pipe, sometimes people are parallels, they know what to do. But they’re afraid to do things and fail. Yeah, there’s a real fear of failure with a lot of leaders, both HR and TA. So the fear of failure, has, we have to somehow replace that with Hey, listen, you’re going to fail. So let’s say you’re going to do a women’s leadership program. And this is the first time in your company you’ve ever done this bit. You might get it wrong. The first couple of times. Okay. Well, they, you know, to try and fail is much better than to not try at all right. So I think, I think one of the things is to ease up, because I think right now, there’s a lot of outrage, and a lot of and some of it’s justified clearly, but some of it’s just there because there’s nothing else there. And I think that freezes HR and TA into a place of just non-action.

Romy 19:03
Right. Right. Right.

William 19:04
Which is, it sounds like mansplaining or excuse-making, but, but it isn’t. I know, women that are in this particular and people of color, they’re in this particular position because they fear making the fear make program bombing. And, and it’s like, well, that fear is worse than anything else that could possibly happen to him. It’s like you got to get past the fear because guess what, you run a program and it doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean you don’t run the next program.

Romy 19:34
Right. Right. Right.

William 19:36
So last but, last parting words for Women’s History Month. What else, sage advice do you have for folks?

Romy 19:47
I think it is about understanding that flexibility. In this environment, flexibility matters a lot. And women employees can still be extremely productive. And men, right. And, by the way, flexibility is going to matter in the future for all employees, right? But especially as long as schools are closed, we have to be willing to be more flexible so that we don’t deal with more attrition. Because this is attrition. The more attrition that happens, the harder it’s going to be for us to walk back from where we are.

William 20:24
I talked to a CHRO the other day, and she used the phrase radical flexibility. Yeah. And I thought I thought it was a beautiful kind of phrase, a beautiful concept to just be able to meet people where they are, be as flexible as you can. And to your point about job gaps or gaps in their employment. Like, first of all, we’ve got to really care enough to ask the questions like, Okay, well, what was going, obviously something was going on, you know, what, you know, what was that?

And does that really impact whether or not you should get the job or not? You know, again, does it? Are you competent? Yes. Okay, well, then you were at home during COVID. Fair enough. You made it through COVID, which is more important than anything else. I love this. And you and I could talk about this stuff for hours. So thank you for carving out. I know you’re really super busy, especially this week. Thank you so much for carving some time out for us.

Romy 21:23
Thank you for having me. It’s always so good to talk to you.

William 21:26
Vice versa, vice versa. Thanks to the audience for listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast and until next time. Thank y’all.


The RecruitingDaily Podcast

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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