Conversations about inclusion can’t just be ‘between women about women’


In 2008, when Diane Dietz was in negotiations with Safeway for the role of executive vice president and chief marketing officer — filling a position previously held by Brian Cornell, now chairman and CEO of Target Corp. — she found herself rationalizing that her pay would be lower than his, probably because she had less experience. Then her husband stopped her in her tracks, urging her to ask for what she deserved.

Dietz, who is now president and CEO of Rodan + Fields, realized she had been negotiating against herself. It is something women often do, but without a shift in thinking — among both women and the men who support them — not much is going to change.

The Sunday morning session “Power of the Pack: Women Alone Can Be Powerful, But Together, Have Tremendous Impact” explored the changing times of diversity and inclusion of women in the workplace — and in the C-suite. The panel was moderated by Sarah Alter, president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, and in addition to Dietz, included Andy Dunn, co-founder of Bonobos and current SVP of digital consumer brands at Walmart, and Rebecca Minkoff, founder of the eponymous global fashion brand.

The speakers took a broad view of barriers that remain, but also spoke of individual efforts helping break those barriers down. Minkoff talked of listening to the needs and desires of her primarily female corporate workforce. One result: Monday office hours begin at 10 a.m.; Friday hours end at 3 p.m. — both designed to give workers more time to spend with family.

In addition to handing the reins of Bonobos to a woman last fall — new CEO Micky Onvural — Dunn has become a board member for the Network of Executive Women, and he has written about male privilege, entitlement and his own unconscious biases. But he also spoke of the need to understand the nuances of compensation when it comes to gender inequalities, looking not only at current compensation but also when and how often it might increase, in addition to options like stock, bonuses and relocation.

When conversations begin about such factors, they’re often met with silence, Dunn said, but they should be transparent, open and spirited instead. “If something is bothering you,” he said, “you have to have the courage to bring it up. Create those uncomfortable and messy conversations, because until we’re all willing to do that, to individually be the agents of that change, we’re just not going to get there.”

The need for courage and willingness to talk about the discrepancies became a bit of a theme for the panel, with Minkoff adding that women are still “far more comfortable talking about sex than money.”

“I need to get better at that,” she said. She’s not alone; women, she suggested, need to start talking to their friends about money the way they talk about sex, and then “bring that into the office.”

Alter also asked the panelists how they could help prevent feelings of isolation for women who do make it to the C-suite.

Dietz, who previously managed an all-male and mostly older team, agreed that it could indeed be isolating — especially at first.

“I realized that you have to find allies,” she said. “Both men and women can be amazing allies … . Now, I’m in a female-founded company, and when I joined the company, the executive team was almost all women. It was funny — I said to the recruiter, ‘We need more guys.’” The recruiter said the comment was a first, but Dietz continued: “Diversity is important on every front. It’s not great to be all women, and it’s certainly not great to be all men. Diversity is all about how we’re different, and leveraging that difference.” Women, she said, are simply different than men, “and we have to work in an environment where we feel we can bring our whole selves to work.”

Dunn closed the presentation by speaking to the men in the audience. He encouraged them to find a way, in the coming year, to experience something as a minority, whether by attending an event of the Network of Executive Women or one geared toward the LGBTQ community (if they don’t identify with that group).

“It’s important to become a minority to understand the difference,” he said. Too many of the conversations about inequities are “between women about women,” and it’s not enough.


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