E19: Woman and Workplace Bias: Gill Whitty-Collins, Why Men Win at Work

[00:00:00] Section: Teaser

[00:00:00] Gill Whitty-Collins: Everywhere I have looked, every country, every organization, every business, wherever it is, when I look at the senior level, that real top top level, no matter how equal that organization started out at the recruitment level, at the top, it's over 90% men.

[00:00:24] Section: Podcast introduction

[00:00:25] Overdub: Hello, welcome to The Story of Woman, the podcast exploring what a man-made world looks like when we see it through her eyes. Woman's perspective is missing from our understanding of the world. This podcast is on a mission to change that. I’m your host, Anna Stoecklein and each episode I'll be speaking with an author about the implications of her absence - how we got here, what still needs to be changed, and how telling her story will improve everyone's next chapter.

[00:00:58] Section: Episode level introduction

[00:00:59] Anna: Hello friends. Welcome. Welcome. I'm gonna make this a quick one because we've got a full hour long conversation with today's guest and I just wanna jump right into it. We're talking about the workplace. You may remember my conversation with Mary Ann Sieghart about her book, The Authority Gap. That was the first episode of the podcast, so do go back and have a listen if you haven't. But that was all about how women are taken less seriously than men and how we're much more hesitant to see women as authority figures, which is one of the reasons we don't often elect female politicians and why we see huge gender gaps at the top levels of leadership.

And that is exactly what we are talking about today. How we still live in a world where virtually all the top jobs, in business and in politics, are occupied by men. How women are vastly underrepresented at the top levels of all of society. My guest today is Gill Whitty Collins, author of the book Why Men Win at Work? Gill spent 26 years at Proctor and Gamble, some of that time as Senior Vice President running leading global brands, such as Ole, Always and Pantene. She's a keynote speaker, non-executive director, consultant, trainer, and executive coach.

So she has absolutely brilliant insight into this problem having been at the top herself and having researched and spoken with some of the top female leaders of our time. But in our conversation today, we don't just get into the problem, but also why it is this way. And most importantly, what we can do about it. 

Uh, you may hear a car horn or two in the background as Gill was kind enough to take this interview while traveling in the busy city of Paris. But I'm sure it won't distract too much. All right. That is all for now.

Please enjoy my conversation with the author of Why Men Win at Work, Gill Whitty-Collins

[00:03:07] Section: Episode interview

Hi, Gill. Welcome, thank you so much for being here today.

[00:03:11] Gill Whitty-Collins: Thank you for having me.

[00:03:12] Anna: Yeah, I'm really excited to talk with you about your book, Why Men Win at Work and How We Can Make Inequality History, which sounds really nice. So you start off your book explaining how for a lot of your career, you never felt like gender held you back in any way and that you didn't really understand why people would make an issue out of it.

And I think that's a really familiar line that we still hear from a lot of women today that their gender doesn't impact them in work or in life. And therefore, already think inequality is history. So I wanted to start there with that journey that you went on from not seeing it to seeing it everywhere and then writing a whole book about it. Can you walk us through that mindset shift? What changed?

[00:04:03] Gill Whitty-Collins: Yeah. I mean I was, I was one of those women who didn't think it was a massive issue for a long time. And to my shame, I was very much brought up, you know, I was born near Liverpool in England. I went to mixed comprehensive school. I was a third of three sisters and I was absolutely brought up to believe that I was the equal of any boy or any man or anybody.

And that equality would never be an issue. And I carried on believing that for a really long time. Right the way through, you know, went to Cambridge university, went to work at Proctor and gamble straight from university. Promoted to brand manager, marketing director, general manager, and then senior vice president.

My last job, there was the senior vice president for the beauty business for Europe, India, Middle East, and Africa. And obviously I was aware you know, I wasn't daft. I was aware of gender inequality issues, but for me personally, never really felt like, it was getting in the way. And then at that senior vice president level, I saw it.

Um, and then I really saw it. And I think what happened was that that was the first time in my career in my life actually that I entered a male dominant culture and I know that many, I was lucky, many women enter a male dominant culture in the workplace much, much earlier than I did, you know, very, very young.

And I think that depends, that depends on the company you work for. It depends on the kind of work that you do. But for me, it was really at that senior vice president level. And I, you know, suddenly, you know, mid forties found myself for the first time in board meetings, in exec meetings I'm looking around and seeing 80% meant because most of those leadership positions.

And I really felt that. I really felt something I didn't understand at that point what it was that I was feeling, but I definitely felt I'd landed in a very different culture and I felt it affected me and I could really see the impact it was having on the other women as well. The other women that I worked with outside of that culture, I could see they were very different in this male dominant culture.

So, my reaction was fascination. Actually, I was fascinated by what is this? So I read a lot, read a lot of books, articles. I really started to learn about it and also started to learn about it from my own experience and made myself a promise at that stage that when I left that job, that company, the first thing I was gonna do was write a book about this and about what I'd learned, because I thought it could be really, really helpful for other women, for younger women, because I wasn't ready for it.

So I wanted other women to be ready for it. But also for men, I thought it would be incredibly helpful for men to understand that even if they're good and decent men, they are contributing to this inequality issue. So I did, I wrote, Why Men Win at Work as soon as I left. And that was published in 2020.

[00:07:18] Anna: Amazing. Congratulations on that. It's a very important piece of work that I hope women read, absolutely, but I really hope men read. Um, and we'll get to them and how you drew out how they can help make a really big impact because they are the dominant culture, exactly as you say.

So we'll get into that in a little bit, but you started to notice it, right. And once you saw it, you saw it everywhere. and you can't unsee it. You know, I, again, I think that is also a really common experience, but before that happens, it is invisible to most people. So just to kind of note, you know, that's the type of inequality that we're talking about today, and you point this out in your book, not the overt sexual harassment or assault, or as you put it in the book, "the old school bump tap in the photocopy room kind", almost all of us agree that these things are not acceptable, but we're talking about these more invisible forces at play. So I'm curious, what are some of the more common responses people give about your work when they don't see these invisible forces?

[00:08:28] Gill Whitty-Collins: I mean every conversation I've ever had about gender inequality, obviously, sometimes you're talking about it with a woman or a person who has experienced it and seen it and they get it. But all too often you get responses like, I don't think it's an issue anymore, I don't know why women are still banging on about this, it's not a problem, it's certainly not the biggest problem that we face in society, we've got much bigger issues. You often get women saying, I consider myself very lucky compared to women in other countries, in other cultures, I consider myself very lucky and I don't really face any issues, anything like that. And then you obviously get the old, ah, so you are a feminist then Gill and I say, absolutely, yes, I am a feminist. And if you are not a feminist, then we need to talk about that. Cuz we have a problem because I think if you're not a feminist, then you don't know what feminist is. 

And I think where it all comes from is society does a very good job of creating a perception that this isn't a massive issue anymore. You know, every time a woman's promoted to CEO, it's celebrated and it's advertised. And you know, last year there was the, you know, the release of the update and it was celebrated as record number of women CEOs, which creates a perception of equality. But actually when you look at the data, this record high is 7%.

I mean it's absolutely laughable every, you know, female head of state, we know about her and she's very, very impressive, but actually only 9% of heads of state are women. So I think the media has a lot of responsibility here actually. They create quite a false perception that we're living in an equal world and we are so, so far away from that.

So what I always do when people come up with these reactions is say, can we just pause for a moment and have a little bit of a look at the facts, at the data. And they'll sort of look at me and they'll realize, okay. Yeah, the numbers got it. And then you can start having a conversation. You gotta get beyond that percetion.

[00:10:46] Anna: And I wanna get into a little bit of data just next, but first, one more question on, you know, if anybody's listening who thinks this way, that their gender doesn't make a difference in the workplace, that we are past the time of inequality, what would you say to them or ask them to think about so they can begin to identify what you're talking about and how they are in fact impacted?

[00:11:12] Gill Whitty-Collins: Yeah. And I mean, you mentioned it earlier, I talk about the, the gender equality pyramid, and at the base of that pyramid, you've obviously got those really fundamental basic things like, not having women treated in an overtly sexist way, even in a violent way. All of those things are fundamentally important and need to be dealt with. But I think what a, a lot of women can, or some women can feel is that that's what we mean by gender inequality. And that's all we mean, and that if they haven't experienced that stuff, if they haven't been sexually harassed or worse, then they haven't experienced the issue. 

And what I will say to those women is okay, that you know, that's great. I'm really happy that you haven't and many women have, and we need to fight that, but have you, for example, ever been in a meeting, and found yourself struggling to get a word in while you were waiting patiently for the men to finish and that moment never came? Or have you found yourself in a meeting where you did manage to get a word in, but you felt like you had to say what you had to say in 20 seconds because you knew you were gonna get cut off and oh, sure enough, you got cut off while the man, before you and after you got five minutes to present his thesis uninterrupted, or have you ever seen somebody get a promotion that you felt you deserved because of your work?

And you saw that promotion go to a man who you didn't think was a stronger performer than you? Or have you ever felt that you were in a culture in the workplace where you just didn't really feel comfortable and you didn't really feel like you could totally relax. And just be yourself and just perform as yourself and that you have to actually really think about how do I fit in here?

And then when you start asking women those questions, well, I, I never met, I never met a woman who says no to all of those. But I do meet a lot of women whose initial reaction is, oh, I've never experienced this issue, I don't why women talk about it. And I think a lot of that comes actually from well, partly feminist phobia talk about feminist phobia, but also I think women have been trained to not make a fuss.

You know, if a woman is doing okay in the workplace, she's encouraged to be one of the lads and to not pipe up and to, you know, Hey, this is working for you. So don't make a fuss about it. I was told by a very senior person in my company, Gill should really tone it down on the women's stuff, because it doesn't reflect well on you. And I think, I think women are being told that kind of stuff every day. And unfortunately, some women do choose to not fight it and not speak up because, um, they think it's gonna make things worse for them. So that's a real shame.

[00:14:22] Anna: Mm-hmm and the reality is it could make things worse for them, depending on the culture and

[00:14:27] Gill Whitty-Collins: Absolutely.

[00:14:28] Anna: The leaders. So it's sad, but it is understandable as you say you can understand why that is the way that people act when that is very much the culture. And sometimes it's overt like that person who told you explicitly enough with the women's stuff. And other times it's more, subconscious, but that is definitely the underlying sentiment. So what is the reality, then let's get to those facts. Can you give us some of the most shocking statistics that you know of offhand.

[00:14:58] Gill Whitty-Collins: Yeah, and this is what, you know, really struck me because when I, I became fascinated by this the more I looked, the more just alarming the data was, and I realized the extent of this and obviously that it wasn't about me and it wasn't about the men around me or the women around men. It wasn't about my company. It was everywhere. 

Everywhere I have looked, every country, every organization, every business, wherever it is, when I look at the senior level, so that exec level, that real top top level, no matter how equal that organization started out at the recruitment level, at the top, it's over 90% men.

So 7% of CEOs are women. That's all. 9% of heads of state are women. And then when we go to that level down the senior management, we're looking at around, you know, 25% women, 75% men. And then also, by the way, we could talk about that 25% of women, generally, the women are taking, roles like the HR roles, not for example, that the finance roles and there is nothing wrong with that, but there is definite bias in that skew. It is not a 50 50 split. 

And then, you know, for me, possibly the most shocking of all is when we look across the world on average only 25% of positions held in government for countries are held by women. And that is possibly the most important of all because obviously governments are making decisions about things that affect us all and things that will ultimately affect the makeup of the workplace and leadership. Things that affect childcare, parental care, care in general, all of those things. And women are just not adequately represented in those rooms, in those meetings, in those discussions, and in those decisions.

So, yeah, I mean, honestly every day I just get more and more frustrated. I'm waiting for the day when I, I wake up and I see a, a piece of data that's inconsistent with this and I will celebrate it from the rooftops, but so far, I just keep seeing the same percentages over and over again. 90 plus percent men, 10% or fewer women in those key positions, those decision making positions.

[00:17:38] Anna: Hmm. Yep. I'm gonna read a few of my favorites from your book as well. So only 10 countries in the world have gender equal cabinets. Only six countries currently give women and men equal rights and, you know, shocking, given the percentage of women that are in those governments. um, The United Nations, pretty important global organization, won't reach gender parity at the top level for another 703 years. In the UK there have been fewer female MPS, which is members of parliament, in all of history then the number of men that hold seats in parliament at any one time, that was a huge shock for me. And then my personal favorite as of 2018, of the FTSE 100 companies, that's the Financial Time Stock Exchange, seven are run by women, but 17 are run by men called John and 14 by men called Dave. So yeah, I would say gender inequality is still a problem.

[00:18:44] Gill Whitty-Collins: I think it's still a problem. Yes. And it's fantastic, you know, one of the things that I really encourage, women to women and any, um support of gender equality, cuz there are many, many men out there. I call them my feMANists, um, I have this data top of mind, have it to hand because the next time somebody says, I don't know why we're really talking about this anymore.

There are bigger things to focus on, throw out some of these numbers because it will move a conversation forwards constructively in a way that nothing else really can. So, it's very important. The data is very important, but what's really interesting is the why I think, you know, why does it happen? That's where I got really excited, cuz that's is how you solve it, isn't it? Once you understand, why does it happen, then you can start to fix it.

[00:19:42] Anna: What a beautiful segue, because that is exactly where I wanted to go next, because your book does that beautifully. Like there is plenty of ammo. I like that piece of advice to tuck away two or three of these statistics to just have up your sleeve. And there are loads of those in the book, but your book does a great job of going beyond that and exploring the why.

So, so Gill, can you tell us what are some of the reasons that you found why these inequalities still exist? Why men continue to win at work?

[00:20:12] Gill Whitty-Collins: You know, it's interesting cause obviously everyone always asks me and they often will ask me so that they don't need to read the book. They say, come on, Jill, just give me, give me one sentence then why do men win at work? And then I can, you know, I can move on. And I, I surprise them because I say, actually, I can give you a very simple answer.

I can actually give you a one sentence answer if you like. And the very simple answer is men win at work because the people who make the decisions about who to give the big promotion to the big leadership position to, they think the men are better, right? So of course they choose the person they think is the best for the job. And they believe the man is better. So they have all their candidates that they evaluate. They judge that the man is better. So they give him the job 90% plus of the time when it comes to the big jobs. 

But it can't be right, can it? It can't be right that they are better. So they think they're better, but they can't be better nine times out of 10. I would say I have a very simple brain. I would say if women are 50%, 51% actually, of the population and they have equal intelligence, which the data says women absolutely do, and they have equal competence, which the data says they absolutely do, and by the way, they have equal leadership ability, which the data in the research says they at least absolutely do, then it cannot possibly be right that over nine times out of 10, a man is the best candidate. It simply let's say for the sake of argument, five times out of 10, the man's the best candidate and the other five times the woman's the best candidate. So the real question is actually what happens to those five times out of 10 women, where did all those brilliant and talented and intelligent and competent women go in that decision?

And why do we, and it's not just men, by the way, why do we so often believe that the man is better and stronger and the stronger performer, even in those instances, when he isn't, sometimes he is, even in the instances when he isn't. And that's obviously a much more difficult question to answer. That's fine. I can't give a one sentence answer to, because that is, and this is where it gets really fascinating, that's due to a combination of so many invisible and unconscious and unintentional often forces, which are combining and intertwining to make us believe that. And that's forces like the invisible power of culture and the impact that a culture has on the people who are not part of that dominant culture. 

So for example, the women in a male dominant culture, how that impacts her sense of belonging, her ability to perform, the perception of her performance, the ability to focus on strengths rather than fitting in. Another massive force is the competence versus confidence equation and how much we love confidence. And we are often very biased towards confidence in people rather than really seeing the competence. And obviously that's an issue because women generally are less confident than men, even though they're absolutely not less competent. 

Forces like the umbrella theory, which we can talk about. And, women being generally not as savvy about making sure they're seen underneath that umbrella and their work is seen. The time issue, that women are much more likely, unfortunately, if they have a family, if they have a partner, if they have kids, they are much more likely to be doing the unpaid work in the home, up to 80% of it, on average.

And that's a major problem because that is literally hours in the day that women are spending on the work at home. And that men have extra to spend on all of those things that go with the work, which are the networking and the self marketing and the visibility and all of those things that drive a sense that he is a stronger performer.

And then there are other forces like feminist phobia and what I, I talk about sisters not doing it for themselves, the sisterhood is not as strong as it could be at those senior levels. And they all combine into this invisible ceiling as I call it, because I don't think it's glass, you know, a glass, I think glass is easy, right? We can see glass, we can smash glass. Invisible ceiling, a little more difficult because you have to really work to understand it. And they combined to make us believe, really, really deeply believe that when we're making that decision about who to give that promotion to, we are choosing the best candidate and the candidate is a man, but actually in some instances, he's not the best candidate.

Potentially he's just more comfortable in the culture, or he's more confident in himself, not necessarily more competent. Or he's more savvy about the umbrella theory and about networking and self marketing. Maybe he also just has more time in the day to devote to it all. So all of those things combining, we believe the man is better. We give him those big jobs over 90% of the time. And we miss out, frankly, sometimes on women who were more brilliant. And for whatever reason, we didn't see it.

[00:25:57] Anna: Mm, not to mention that even if a woman carries herself with confidence, which as you've mentioned, you talk about in the book, how from the time we're in school, girls are taught to be perfect. and boys learn that it's kind of okay to fail and can take criticism and pull themselves back up again. So you have these different forces that lead to women being less confident or presenting less confidently, but even if they do present confidently, there's that double bind that she perhaps goes down in her likability because we're not used to seeing confident women, assertive women, dominant women, these traits that we associate with leadership. Is that right? Can you talk a little bit about that, that double bind?

[00:26:47] Gill Whitty-Collins: Absolutely. Yeah, I took there's a chapter as you know, in the book called The Cruel Bit, which is, you know, even when a woman studies all of the things that work for men and emulates them, that doesn't work either because we have expectations of how women should behave versus how men should behave that are imprinted on us from such a young age.

And particularly now, I mean, you see tiny kids on screens. We are being trained to expect certain things of women and certain things of men. You know, men leaders. Women in the bedroom, in the kitchen, still a majority of the time. And yeah we don't see as many women in leadership positions behaving a assertively, so we're just not as used to it.

And so when we see it, it does still jar a little and what we really need is to, you know, get to a point where just whereas used to seeing women in those positions as men. And there is no norm anymore for what leadership looks like. Leadership can look like anything. It can be any gender, it can be from any culture, it can have any skin color, it can have any sexuality, it can have any accent. Leadership is not a style. Leadership has nothing to do with how you speak. Leadership comes in many, many forms. We've just gotta get used to that. 

And I think the likability point is a very interesting one because, girls are, you know, much more likely to be programmed to be good girls and sweet girls. And, boys are much more programmed at school to play and mess around and be shouted at and they get used to that. They're cool with that. They learn that it's absolutely okay, the world didn't end because I got something wrong or I didn't do my homework or I didn't you know, I, I did something naughty.

 I am still likable despite my imperfections. I am still successful despite my failures. And I think it's a big disservice that we do to our girls. We give 'em a very different experience as young people and, the girls may be more likely to get their a grades at school and less likely to get... boys are told off eight times more frequently in a day at school than girls are.

And they're learning from that. It's fine. It's fine. They don't have this need to be perfect and likable that girls have. So I think it holds so many girls back. Every of the speaker event that I do, every workshop that I do, I will get a question from at least one woman and know very, very experienced women who have, you know, been around who will say, but how do I do that and still be likable? And I will say, honestly, the biggest thing you can do is not worry about whether or not you are likable. Just say what needs to be said and say it in your way and say it authentically and say it from a point of confidence that you have in yourself. And by the way, it will not be unlikable and even if it is, do you know what in this world, some people like us, some people don't. Whatever I do, there are always gonna be people who don't like me and I am absolutely fine with that. I make the choice and I'm sure you do too. If, if saying what I believe needs to be said makes somebody not like it fine. I need to do it. I have a responsibility to do it. This likability thing is such a pair of handcuffs on women. Need to lose those.

[00:30:47] Anna: Yeah. Get 'em off. I agree. And like you said, it, it's literally not possible to be liked by everyone, because everyone's so different. So no matter which way you go, it's, it's not possible. So you might as well go the way that you want to, say the things that you wanna say, because someone will not like what you have to say one way or the other and it's the same... 

[00:31:07] Gill Whitty-Collins: I accepted a long time ago that I am polarizing. I am polarizing and, and you know, the literal meaning of the words, some people love me and what I have to say and some people don't. And do you know what, for me, the alternative to being polarizing is to hold in what I think needs to be said and to moderate it and to soften it to the point that nobody really noticed what I was saying. And to me, I absolutely choose polarizing over that. And I, I think we all should. 

[00:31:43] Anna: I love that. Yeah, you're not being your true self otherwise. And it's the same kind of with the "perfectionist syndrome" as you called it in the book, which I like that term for it and how that's also not possible. I liked this line from the book, I don't remember if it was you or you were quoting someone, but " the closer you get to the summit of success, the more you realize everyone is winging it." And I think that's such a brilliant point because it's so true, but men are just more comfortable winging it. Exactly as we've been saying more comfortable with failure, with not being perfect, with exuding confidence when they might not feel it. It's just about being comfortable and knowing that it's okay not to know everything and, and not to be perfect. So I really liked that line.

[00:32:27] Gill Whitty-Collins: It is it, isn't my quote. It is a quote from somebody. As you know, there's a chapter in the book called The Women Who Win at Work because some women do, there are 7% of the CEOs who are women. It's not zero. And it, I interviewed, a lot of what I call super 7% women about, okay, so what differentiates you? You must have experienced all the same crap as every other woman has. So, you know, what is different about you? And it is a quote from one of those women, but I think it is so true, isn't it? And I think it is one of the fundamental differences between girls and boys and women and men. And it's a generalization, of course, there are women who absolutely do not have perfectionist syndrome.

And there are men who do, but we do see so many women who, they leave school, they go into the workplace and they want to remain perfect. They want to remain a grade and what that does is knocks the confidence because they're waiting to feel certain. They're waiting to feel a hundred percent. They're waiting to feel like I've absolutely definitely got this. And meanwhile, the boys and then the men are much more likely to say, I've 60% got this, I'm going out there. I'll apply for the job or I'll make the point. Because they know that that's enough. They know that it's enough. And I see so many women and I say to them, if you don't lose this perfectionist syndrome, you are going to be really, really frustrated because you are going to spend your life watching people doing things at 60% capability of doing them, when you are not ready to try them at 95% capability. And you know what, that's gonna be really frustrating for you, but it's also a real shame for the world because we'd rather have you doing it at your not quite perfect level than other people doing it a lesser level, because they've got more confidence and they don't have that perfectionist syndrome holding the back. I think it's so important.

[00:34:35] Anna: Absolutely. So then what, Gill, what did you find in common? What else did you find in common with the women who do win at work?

[00:34:44] Gill Whitty-Collins: Yeah. So my super 7% women that I interviewed, who are the women who do win at work, cuz as we said you know, many women do, obviously they're very different women. They're very, very different. They have, you know, very different backgrounds and very different styles, but they did have some real things in common.

And I'm gonna talk about two of the big ones now. And the two that I think are possibly the most important and that we can all most learn from. The first one is they all knew from really early in their lives and their careers, they knew their strengths. They knew their superpowers. They knew what they were good at and they leveraged it. And, you know, Hanneke Faber, who's was a colleague of mine at P and G and is now a president at Unilever, is one of the super 7% women. She has a brilliant quote. I know my strengths. I stay away from the rest. And there is such a confidence that comes from that. I call it finding your confident core. And they did that and their strengths are not negotiable for them.

They are, I know what I'm good at, I'm going to use it. I expect it to be leveraged. I expect it to be valued. If I find myself in a culture, in a workplace where my strengths, me doing me, is leveraged and valued, I will stay and I will be happy. And if I find myself leveraging my strengths and they're not valued, then I will go. And I will take my strengths and my talent and my brilliance somewhere else. 

And it's oh, the, confidence that comes from them knowing that and knowing that yeah, you know what, we're all brilliant at some things, we're all not so good at other things. The stuff I'm not so good at, I'll leave it to somebody else. And just having that confidence to say, oh, I'm not your woman for that. Pass it over. Oh, it just incredible. And the confidence to walk. Not enough women are ready to walk away. They put up with a lot of rubbish because they don't deeply believe in themselves. They don't have that confidence to say, I'll be fine somewhere else.

Cuz I've got this big backpack of strengths and brilliance to take with me. And I, I just really wish more women would do that. I think men are generally much better. I think, there's so often a sense in the workplace, the bosses know they can't mess too much with the talented men because they'll walk, they'll lose them. I'm not sure enough women project that sense as well of, I can go, you know, at any point. So knowing their strengths, knowing their superpowers, having that confident core, they really had in common. 

The other massive thing that I have to say, I think it's so important. All those women I interviewed, those super 7% women, and all women I've looked at since, not a single one of them has also carried the burden of unpaid work that comes with having a family, kids.

[00:38:01] Anna: Wow.

[00:38:01] Gill Whitty-Collins: Every single one of them, either, either they had chosen not to have kids. That's obviously their choice. Or they had had kids and they had, many of them had a partner who had downsized their own career in order to take on the more traditional role that women take on of running the house, running the family. Or if they weren't lucky enough to have found one of those partners, like gold, they are, um, they had just outsourced the hell out of it.

So they and their partner, if they did both have successful careers, they had full time help for the kids. They had full time housekeepers. They had full time everything. I have never found a woman who is real at that top, top, top level in her career, who is also doing all of that stuff.

And I say, I say to women, please, don't try to do this. It doesn't work. Please. Don't try to have this incredible career if you are also doing all that stuff. Something has got to give. If you are not 50 50 at home, please go home tonight and have that conversation. Because you literally do not have enough hours in the day to do all of this, to do your job, to do it brilliantly, to network, to build that relationship currency, to make your work visible, to make yourself visible. And by the way, to get a few hours of sleep and hopefully a bit of relaxation, which is really important. It doesn't fit. So please don't try, something has to give.

[00:39:42] Overdub: “And now for: “men are losers too”... in gender inequality of course. These are not "women's" issues, these are everyone's issues, because as long as women are held back from their full potential, so are we all.”

[00:39:57] Anna: Okay. So let's talk about these potential partners. If these women are with men, can you tell us and you, again, I think you did this brilliantly in the book in speaking to men and saying what they have to gain. And I really like how you talk about this is a business issue. You know, it's not something that should sit with HR or even worse PR and it's not charity. You don't have to sacrifice anything. This is about business and it's for your own good. So can you tell us more about that?

[00:40:30] Gill Whitty-Collins: Yeah. I mean the book, in many ways, first and foremost, I wrote it for men. Of course I wrote it for women too, but I think most women read it and they'll say, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh, I know. Oh, I know. Oh, I know. I'm not sure there's a lot in there that, that women say I did not know that. 

They've experienced it, unless they have feminist phobia. In which case, hopefully they're converted by the end to understanding, yes, it is an issue and yes, we do need to be feminist and do something about it. But predominantly it is for men. And that the big thing that I, I want men to take out from it and to take out, you know, when I talk to them and when I consult with their companies and when I do workshops with them is firstly, it is an issue. 

So don't be duped by the perception that is being created, that we live in an equal world. Here's the data, we don't. But also really helping them understand that they are contributing to it. So I do believe most men, men get a bad press, right? And some men deserve to get a bad press, but most men I believe are good and decent and well intended, and they don't jump out of bed in the morning shouting, how can I build the patriarchy today and destroy as many women's careers as I possibly can and elbow them out of the way so that all the men can get. I really don't think men are doing that. But what I want them to understand is despite that despite being good and decent and well intended, they are nonetheless every single day contributing without realizing it to driving gender inequality and holding us back from gender equality.

That's the big thing I want, I want them to understand. And then the next big thing I want 'em to understand is how good gender equality is for them too. I think too many men think it's a women's issue. And, and women's opportunity. And I want 'em to understand it absolutely not at all. It is absolutely, it's an issue for everyone. It's an opportunity for everyone. The data is incredibly clear. And there's stacks of it that from a business point of view, for example, businesses that have gender equality at the leadership level, at the exec level, at the board level, equal and diverse leadership teams deliver better results, they deliver sustainably better results.

So, you know, I will say to men, do you want to work for a company where only the men get to the top and you deliver mediocre results, or would you like to work for a equal and diverse company that delivers exceptional results? I think most men, when they think about it would choose that. It drives better business results. It also, by the way, drives better relationships, stronger societies, happier societies and happier people. I have so many men who've said to me, you know, since I've been talking about this since the book was published, obviously I do a lot of posting and ranting and writing articles about all of this stuff.

And one of the things that I have ranted a lot about is the burden of unpaid work falling on women. And I can't tell you how many men write to me and contact me and say, Gill, I want to, I don't want this. I don't want to be winning at work and losing at home and losing in life. I want more time with the family. I want to do my share. But the way things are set up, doesn't enable that. Employers, you know, they may have gender neutral policies on paper, but they don't really in too many cases. In too many cases, their expectation is that it will be the woman who takes them up on flexible work. And it'll be the woman who takes up the parental leave or the care leave.

And they'll welcome that. When the woman in the team says, oh, I'm gonna be working from home two days a week, oh absolutely fine, of course. When the man requests it or the man requests the paternity leave, raised eyebrows, side glances, question marks raised about whether he's serious about his career. It's fundamentally sexist. And we've really got to get to a point where gender neutral about this. So men are telling us that this world where men win at work, they're not really winning. Here's the secret. They're not really winning, because a world where we have 90% plus men in those leadership positions in business and society is a world where men aren't winning and a world where women aren't winning, no gender is winning in this world.

So the big thing I say to men is be a feMANist, be one of my feMANists and it's a ever growing gang of amazing men. There's nothing to fear. There is everything to gain and we really need you men, because you've got over 90% of the power in the world. You take or influence every single decision that is taken in this world.

So if you don't become a feminist and embrace gender equality and drive it, we will never get there. We women can talk to each other about it as much as we want. But we, we need you on this. And there's absolutely no reason not to. And you will win. You will win from it.

[00:46:14] Anna: Wonderful. Absolutely. I, I feel like applauding right now because that was just spot on. I really like that point that you made that men aren't winning. They're winning perhaps at work, but not at life, not at home, not at family. So until everybody is winning, nobody is winning.

[00:46:33] Gill Whitty-Collins: Absolutely.

[00:46:35] Anna: So then, now I wanna talk a little bit about what we can all do about it. And at the end of the book, you lay out brilliant to-do lists for parents and teachers, media makers and providers, organizations and businesses, and of course, individuals as well. And I wanna talk about what broadly people in these types of positions can do, teachers, the media, business leaders. Cuz of course we can't go through everything. But I am also curious to know if there's something you would say specifically to men about what they can do, so that they can start winning outside of work as well.

[00:47:14] Gill Whitty-Collins: Yeah, absolutely. And as you know, there is, there's a massive to-do list for everybody in the back of the book. Proctor and gamble trained, we always end with an action plan. So there absolutely is. But I think the big thing that I would say to men is, well, apart from be a feMANist, generally just sign up nothing to fear, everything to gain. I would say two big things. 

The first is what that means above all else is speak up because that is so powerful. I think for men, never underestimate how powerful that is. Unfortunately, when a woman speaks up for gender equality, it is seen as defensive, weak, um, self-serving often. We still should, but it is nowhere near as powerful as when a man backs her.

When a man says I'd like to talk about gender equality in our organization at the senior levels, it is taken a very different way from a woman. Because the man cannot possibly be self-serving, can he? So please do that and things like small things, next time you see a woman interrupted in a meeting, rather than leaving her to have to say- I was interrupted, I'd like to finish my point. Which it's impossible to deliver with any grace or self respect, to be honest, I don't know how, no woman manages that situation brilliantly. Be the man who says you were interrupted. I was really interested in what you were saying. I'd love to hear the rest of that. So little things like that, just speak up for it and just know how helpful that is to women. 

And the other massive thing I would say to men, and to be honest to everybody, to the media makers, to everybody, if you think 50% in every moment, in the job, in any context, you will not go far wrong. So, look around you in the meeting, whether it's a real life meeting or a zoom meeting, look at those spaces. Do you see a dominant culture? Do you see a dominant culture of any kind or do you truly see a mix of everything. If you see a dominant culture problem, alarm bells, say to yourself, I have a problem here because the people who are not part of this dominant culture will not be performing at their best.

They will not be comfortable. They will not be relaxed. They will not be performing. They will not be themselves. Think 50% from a gender point of view in your team. Think 50% at recruitment, think 50% when you are doing talent reviews, think 50% when you are putting together a promotion panel, think 50% when you're putting together a team, think 50% when you're looking at your salary report. If you think 50% all day, every day, you're gonna get this pretty right I would say.

[00:50:29] Anna: And on that note, I really liked the goldfish analogy in the book. Can you just tell us quickly what that is in terms of this dominant culture? Cause I think that really brings it to light.

[00:50:39] Gill Whitty-Collins: Yeah, I love the goldfish analogy. It's not mine. It's from a brilliant organization called MARC, Men Advocating for Real Change, they do a great training for men. And yeah the thought is, there's a goldfish in a bowl and you say to the goldfish, how's the water? And the goldfish says what water? And that is what it is like to be in the dominant group in a dominant culture of any kind. But obviously when it comes to gender equality, that's what it's like to be a man in a male dominant culture. You don't even notice the water because for you it's, it's just the atmosphere. It's just the culture, it's really comfortable. It's not even there for you. Only the people who are not members of a dominant culture, feel the culture and notice the culture. Only they will know. 

One of my favorite stories, favorite non favorite stories, but I just have to share it because it makes me laugh every time was when I was, a senior vice president and, and we, we dedicated two days as an executive board, obviously which was 80% men, we dedicated two days to talk about gender equality and inequality and how it was manifesting itself. And we had been talking for hours about the board meetings and the women had been, predominantly me by the way, because many of the women were not comfortable sharing it cuz they knew they'd be viewed badly and, and that's true unfortunately. The women had been sharing why they didn't work for the women and why they were uncomfortable and why the women didn't feel they could contribute. And all of that, I mean, we spent hours and at the end of this discussion, one of the men, one of the, at the time of the senior vice president said, well, I would just like to say that I really like the executive board meetings and I feel really comfortable in them. And I think they're excellent and I wouldn't change them. And I sat there and I thought we've just wasted so many hours of our lives and there's the goldfish. There he is right there.

[00:52:59] Anna: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Yeah. I don't know how you even respond to something like that in that situation,

[00:53:06] Gill Whitty-Collins: I broken by that. I think I had to give up and go home.

[00:53:12] Anna: Just give him your book. I hope you sent him a copy of your book.

[00:53:15] Gill Whitty-Collins: I think, I think that might be a wasted copy on that one. We'll focus on other other men I think.

[00:53:21] Anna: Okay. Okay. Fair enough. Okay, so now I'm curious about advice for women and, you know, as with most of these things, we know it's not a fix the women problem. Um, But we still live within workplaces. And within this context we've been talking about, so it's good to learn what we can kind of do for ourselves.

So I dunno if you could quickly mention, I thought the umbrella theory and you mentioned it earlier was a really good kind of again, visual and there's an actionable thing that can be taken away from that. If you wanna mention that and then anything else, yeah, just more generally, you might wanna mention...

[00:53:58] Gill Whitty-Collins: I'm, I'm really glad you said it, you know, it's not about fixing the women. I'm always really careful to say that. It used to be really fashionable, didn't it, to fix the women. And it was all about women do this and do that and dress like this. And don't wear that and don't eat a banana in meetings and all that stuff.

And then it kind of became fashionable to make it all about, you know, this is evil, nasty, horrible men, and they need to do this and that. And I'm actually really in between. I just I think it's both. Men clearly have a lot of work to do, as we've said, they make over 90% of all the roles they're making or influencing all the decisions. We need men, we won't get anywhere without them. But I do also think there are some things that women can be savvy, more savvy about. And this is absolutely not about being like men, but I think that there are some human realities and dynamics that men understand in the workplace that women maybe generally don't understand so well.

And do you know what I always say, the workplace is a game and men have been playing it a lot longer than women have. So it's maybe not surprising that they know that stuff. So, yeah, a few things that I would say, and I will talk about the umbrella theory, but the first thing I will say is, you know, to the women out there, learn from my super 7% women.

If you don't already know deep in your soul, your strengths, your superpowers, what makes you absolutely amazing and unique because I promise you, you have those, if you don't know those top of mind, you need to invest a little bit of time and a little bit of energy into knowing those. I call it finding your confident core. I say to women, gimme 90 minutes, just gimme 90 minutes and we will find your confident core. And you will take that into any situation you go into. Any meeting, any work issue, you will speak from there, you will show up from there and people will feel it. They will feel your confidence. They will feel that that is authentic confidence. That is not arrogance. That is not a performance. That is very real. 

And by the way, there is nothing unlikable about genuine, pure, confidence because it comes from your strengths. It comes from things that you are really, really good at. I'm a master fan of the strengths finder philosophy. I'm a certified strengths finder. I think it's brilliant. I love it. If you haven't done that or something, please do that for yourself. These super 7% women often did it really early. It is never too late to do it. Do it. That's the first thing that I would say. 

And yeah, the, the second big one is never forget that umbrella theory never forget that it is not just about doing great work. And assuming that your work will speak for itself. From your boss's point of view, bosses are looking down on organizations, the people who work from them, they're not seeing the work, they're not seeing you, they're seeing just the tops of lots and lots of umbrellas. They generally have no idea what brilliant work or not is going on under those umbrellas on a daily basis. And I think men are generally more savvy about this. They don't believe in the myth of meritocracy. They don't believe that just doing the work is enough. They know that you need to make the work visible, you need to make yourself visible and you need to be known. You need to sometimes think I'm gonna move this umbrella aside, I'm gonna invite my boss in to have a little look under it. I am going to share the work, share the project, share the status, get the project visible. 

And by the way, being known, just being known is so important. It is another human reality that when people make a decision about who to give a job to, or who to give a project to, unfortunately it's not a spreadsheet decision. It is not just a database decision. It's a human decision. Yes, of course, we expect our bosses to look at the data and look at our results and look at our contribution, but they are also human beings and they will go with somebody that they know and trust or somebody that they know knows and trusts and is recommended to them.

So just carving out that time to say, I'm gonna share the work. And I'm gonna just make sure my boss knows me. Big thing I say to women, however many hours in a week you have for your work, I want you to carve out 10% of it. 10% of it every week for making sure that your work is visible to your boss, you are visible to your boss. Your boss is getting to know you a little bit, because I tell you for women, I see so many women who are deeply, deeply frustrated in their careers because they are seeing other people, often men, getting their job, getting their promotion, getting that promotion that they worked so, so hard on the work. And yet someone else got the reward. Someone else got the salary increase. Someone else got the big job. And it's not usually because they did better. It's because they were a lot more savvy about the umbrella theory. So I really want, I would love to see women getting better at this. Women hate doing it by the way, generally, they don't like doing it, but you know what we've gotta learn.

And again, men are savvy about this. Men know some stuff and we can learn from it without becoming men. We can learn from some of their some of their experience in these things definitely.

[01:00:06] Anna: Love it. Brilliant. All right, Gill. So if people take one thing away from this conversation with you today, what would you want it to be?

[01:00:16] Gill Whitty-Collins: Yes, it is an issue. Please don't ever let anyone talk you into thinking that gender equality is not an issue and that it should not be a priority. It is. I believe one of the biggest priorities we should all have in the workplace because it will drive better results for businesses and it will drive better lives for all of us. So, I just want everyone to get it and once they get it to start serious work on it.

[01:01:03] Overdub: And now for: the “feminism gets a bad wrap because the narrative has been just a bit one-sided" corner.

[01:01:10] Anna: Alright. And now for some rapid fire questions to wrap up, these are questions that I ask every guest at the end. So Gill, what does feminism mean to you?

[01:01:20] Gill Whitty-Collins: Equal rights and opportunities, whatever your gender.

[01:01:25] Anna: And what is one of your earliest memories of gender, a time that you realized the world didn't treat girls and boys the same?

[01:01:33] Gill Whitty-Collins: You know, when I was growing up, when I was very young, I was the third of three sisters and I had friends who had brothers and I saw their fathers and their mothers have very different expectations of their boys versus their girls. And I have to tell you, my parents never did. My dad is, was the first feminist I knew. And he absolutely believed that girls were equal to boys. Women were equal to men. And that we could do and be whatever we wanted to do and be. But I saw that not everyone was like that and I really wish, I really wish all parents were. I really wish all dads were like him.

[01:02:20] Anna: Hmm, Me too. Um, and what is the story of woman to you?

[01:02:24] Gill Whitty-Collins: We started out equal and we allowed men along the way to take control of the world and we need to urgently get that balanced back out.

[01:02:39] Anna: Absolutely. And a few more, uh, what are you reading right now?

[01:02:45] Gill Whitty-Collins: Okay. So I have a strategy where, I have a strategy for everything, strategic is my number one strength, where I read one serious book. And then I read one book for my entertainment, then back to one serious book. So right now I'm reading a more fun book called Daisy Jones and The Six, which you may have read. But interestingly, what I find is even when I'm reading the more fun stuff, I always find incredible quotes. And there's a brilliant quote in it from Daisy Jones, "I used to care when men called me difficult, then I stopped. This way is better." Isn't that brilliant?

[01:03:27] Anna: I love that. I think we should all take that away. That is absolutely brilliant. So maybe this is a recommended reading?

[01:03:34] Gill Whitty-Collins: Definitely recommended reading. Definitely. And then the serious one would be for anyone out there who has not read Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, you must. It is, I think it's possibly the most important feminist work that's ever been written. And to that, you know, that point of being armed with some data that proves that this really is an issue and it really does impact the world and the way it's run in society. My goodness, she delivers on that. uh, It's a brilliant book.

[01:04:09] Anna: I second that, absolutely. All right. And, what are you working on right now? Or is there anything that you're working on that you would like to share?

[01:04:17] Gill Whitty-Collins: So I now, obviously I talk, a lot about why men win at work. I talk a lot about the gender equality issue. I do a lot of speaker events, podcasts. I talk about it to anyone who will listen, cuz I think that that's how we'll get things moving. I also do a lot of consulting work with companies who want to drive equality and diversity, but dunno how to do it.

So I help 'em to do that. I do a lot of workshopping. I have a lot of workshops that I run for organizations and teams to help them with this and help them with driving equality, but also, with creating super teams, leveraging strengths across the team. And obviously I do some individual coaching as well and finding people's confident core as an individual coach, but also with workshops too. So lots and lots of different stuff, basically anything that I think helps move us forward as individuals or as teams or as organizations on equality and diversity, I am in.

[01:05:15] Anna: Love it love it. And that's, that's what we need. So where can we find you? And this will be in the show notes as well.

[01:05:21] Gill Whitty-Collins: So, I'm on LinkedIn. Love to connect with you there. Twitter, Instagram. I have a website, gillwhittycollins.com. So there's lots of stuff on there, that's a great way to connect and I have a monthly newsletter, which is coming out this afternoon, actually. So, signing up for that's a brilliant way to keep in touch. Cause then you'll know what's going on. And, I have every, every month when I issue it, I get a lot of fantastic notes from people and inputs and stuff. So, love that. So yes, find me, I'd love to connect with you.

[01:05:54] Anna: Amazing brilliant. And I'll have the links for all of that in the show notes, but thank you so much for your time today, Gill, author of Why Men Win at Work, what a pleasure it has been to speak with you.

[01:06:06] Gill Whitty-Collins: Thank you so much for having me. I've loved talking with you.

[01:06:10] Overdub: Thanks for listening. The Story of Woman is a one-woman operation... so if you enjoyed this episode, there are a few small things you can do that make a big difference in helping other people find the podcast and allowing me to continue putting out new episodes!

You can subscribe, leave a review, share with a friend, follow us on social, become a patreon for access to bonus interviews and content, buy me a... metaphorical coffee which helps with production funds, or head to the website and check out the bookstore filled with 100's of books like this one. If you purchase any book through the links on the website, you support this podcast - and local bookstores! Soooo feel free to do all your book shopping there! All of these options are in the show notes.

Anything you can do is appreciated and makes a big difference in elevating woman from the footnotes of our story to the main narrative.

💌 Sharing is caring
Gill Whitty-Collins
Gill Whitty-Collins
Author of Why Men Win at Work