In honor of International Women’s Day, we interviewed some of our women leaders at The Predictive Index, as well as two of our women PI Certified Partners. We asked them to share their experiences in the workplace, discuss potential barriers that hold women back from leadership roles, and give advice to other women rising to positions of leadership.
Introducing our panel of women leaders:
Jackie Dube – VP of Talent Optimization at The Predictive Index
Dani Dawkins – Client Marketing Manager at The Predictive Index
Heather Haas – President at ADVISA
Lisa Black – Senior Research Consultant at The Predictive Index
Christine Nast – Founder and Owner at Nast Partners
Jennifer Mackin – Owner and CEO at the Oliver Group
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Dani: Women are socialized to minimize. They don’t necessarily speak up or ask for what they want. That dynamic is changing, and people are so much more aware of that behavior. Being aware of it and giving people the platform and opportunity to work on that behavior can go a long way to helping women achieve more within their organization.
The other thing I notice is that, as women, we’re conditioned to believe that our careers take a backseat to our families. That’s not entirely a bad thing, but it does create an imbalance. At my last company, there was an SVP who didn’t have kids and another SVP I reported to who had two kids. It took the SVP with kids longer to grow in her career trajectory because she had to overcome gender discrimination. Her husband worked there, too, so it was an interesting dynamic to watch. He worked the long hours and went on the business trips, while she stayed home and watched the kids or left work early to get the kids from school.
Heather: Male and female leaders who are blind to the competitive business advantage that gender parity presents are the biggest barrier. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day, record low unemployment, and a huge gap in skilled labor and leadership readiness, every organization on the planet should be racing to figure out how to make their work cultures magnetic for women. This is no longer about “leaning in,” “stepping up,” or creating programs and support groups for women. This is a business imperative. In many sectors women make up the majority of the workforce, and women hold more undergraduate and graduate degrees than their male counterparts. Meanwhile, organizations are starving for talent and wringing their hands over how to develop future leaders. Not to mention that we simply cannot solve the most pressing social, economic, and political problems of our time without figuring out gender-balanced talent optimization. We desperately need the unique strengths women bring the table to create more collaborative, empathetic work environments that become a distinct competitive advantage in a tight labor market.
Christine: There is a lot of unconscious bias in the workplace, and it negatively impacts how women, their abilities, and their potential contributions to the business are perceived. There are companies working to change this through awareness and education, but there is still a lot of work to do.
Jennifer: Unfairness. More women graduate from college than men. Yet, as we move up the ranks of an organization, a smaller percentage of women continue to get promoted to the higher ranks. Out of all Fortune 500 companies, only 5 percent have women in the top position. Something happens between college and top leadership that isn’t just explained by some taking time to have or raise a family. There is still disparity even if we neutralize the data for this time away from careers.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give other women in the workplace?
Jackie: I suggest that all women realize they need to be assertive when it comes to asking for raises and promotions. This is the area that I believe creates inequity, but that can also close the gap. It isn’t about being louder; it’s about negotiating and have the confidence to ask for, and get, what you deserve.
Dani: Notice the things that are not within your control. Be aware of the fact that people are socialized to be one way or another. It’s changing, but it’s still a variable and a factor. When you can, believe in yourself and your own capabilities. Have the confidence to ask for what you want and to not see some of these things as weaknesses.
Try not to second-guess yourself, because most of the men in the room aren’t.
Lisa: Be confident in who you are, what you know, what you’re capable of doing, and areas where you know you need to develop. If someone thinks you can’t do something because of who you are, be yourself and prove them wrong.
Jennifer: Take care of your clients and provide added value in every interaction. I don’t worry about whether I’ll benefit from helping others see potentially better ways of thinking about their situations or problems. Helping others always comes back two-fold in our business growth.
What’s been your experience working at, or partnering with, PI?
Jackie: Working at PI has been an experience better than you can imagine. Working with smart, focused people who challenge me daily is such a rewarding experience. Our culture is strong and intentional. We have built a culture here where every single employee can have and does have an opinion that matters.
Dani: I can’t say enough about how empowered I feel that people allow me to be myself. They’re happy I am who I am. My Reference Profile is a Maverick. At previous companies, my personality was billed as “aggressive” or “assertive,” but leaders at PI see my personality as something to be championed—not squelched. People here understand that we’re all different, and there’s no one “right” way to be.
Heather: I have been a part of the PI family since 2004 and in a partner leadership role since 2012. My experience is that PI is passionate about helping leaders optimize their talent within the PI Partner Network and within their clients’ organizations.
Christine: I was an end user of PI before I was a certified partner, so I was already a strong advocate. I know that when I’m working with my clients to align their people strategy with their business strategy, I’m helping to create not only a more successful business but more satisfied, engaged employees. This has far-reaching effects—like a pebble thrown into a pond. This is what gets me out of bed every morning!
How do you see PI growing to support women in leadership roles across all levels of the organization?
Jackie: PI is very focused on diversity and inclusion. We feel that it’s important to support this in our leadership. We’re excited to have just named two new female board members. In the world we live in, sometimes people don’t realize that they’re not supporting leadership growth for women. To make sure that we are being part of the solution, we perform periodic gender equity audits to ensure that we are creating the same opportunities and compensation for women and men in the company.
Heather: One of the most beautiful things about PI is that it cuts across all manner of protected classes. It measures motivating needs that are present in all people—irrespective of race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. For that reason, organizations who implement PI are more objectively equipped to identify and proactively nurture latent leadership potential across their organization. Furthermore, PI helps organizations neutralize perception gaps by providing insight into why people behave the way they do. This is a really powerful thing. To equip an organization with the tools to suspend judgment, assume positive intent, and meet others’ needs for the greater good is to radically unlock performance potential. It equalizes the playing field by democratizing access to data about people’s strengths.
Lisa: I think the growth trajectory PI is on provides an incredible opportunity for women in leadership roles—both current leaders and those grooming to become leaders. I’ve been at PI less than a year, and many women within the organization have been promoted so that they now manage teams. I think PI’s people strategy of hiring smart people and helping them do what makes them shine is going to enable women to grow in leadership roles as well. Even if you’re in an entry level position, there are lots of opportunities to learn, grow, and mentor others.
Christine: When a woman’s behavioral drives are a match to the behavioral drives necessary for success in her role, she has the ability to give discretionary effort. Then she has the energy and brain space to innovate and think creatively about how to best grow herself, her team, and her company. Helping match people to positions based on behavioral pattern is how PI is empowering women to step into more positions of power within organizations.
How we can support women in the workplace
How we can support women in the workplace is a question we all should be asking ourselves—regardless of our industry or business model. As the folks at International Women’s Day so aptly put it, “Balance is not a women’s issue; it’s a business issue. Collective action and shared responsibility for driving a gender-balanced world is key.”