Podcast

Lauren Stiebing 04 January 2021

Why Men Win At Work with Gill Whitty-Collins

On this episode of the Career Success Podcast, we have invited Gill Whitty-Collins. Gill started her career in Procter & Gamble, where she led global brands, such as Olay and Max Factor. She quickly moved up the ladder to Marketing Director, General Manager, and finally Senior Vice President. Her story and vision will inspire you to join the force to fight inequality.

Topics Covered:

  • What motivated Gill to write the book
  • Why do men win at work?
  • Five tips for organizations, recruiters, and individuals to drive equality
  • The “umbrella theory”

To Purchas Why Men Win At Work, follow this link.

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Gill Whitty-Collins:

The myth of meritocracy, many women still believes in it, most men don’t, most men worked out very early on that it is a lot more complex than that.

Lauren Stiebing:

Hi, I’m Lauren Stiebing and on this episode of the Career Success Podcast we have invited Gill Whitty-Collins. Gill started her career in Procter & Gamble, where she led global brands, such as Olay and Max Factor. She quickly moved up the ladder to Marketing Director, General Manager and finally Senior Vice President. Her story and vision will inspire you to join the force to fight inequality.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Gill thank you so much for joining me today.

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Great, so for our audience who do not know Gill, she recently released this amazing book, “Why Men Win at Work.” Where she sets out the psychology of gender diversity, from the perspective of real personal experience and shares her powerful insights on how to tackle the gender equality issue. So Gill please share with us what motivated you to write this book?

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– Do you know Lauren? I actually kind of had to write it in the end. It got to that point and you know I always tell people that I absolutely would not have written it seven, eight years ago. I would not have thought about writing it. Then you know, I’m ashamed to say I was one of those women who didn’t really, you know, I haven’t personally been affected by the gender equality issue. So it was not a top issue for me and then I saw it. That was really a senior vice-president level and that was really the first time in my life, in my career that I found myself in a male dominant culture. And my goodness that was a very, very different thing. And I really started to see these dynamics, feel these dynamics impacting me but also impacting the women around me and I became absolutely fascinated by it. Actually, that was my reaction was to think my goodness what is this? And I started reading everything, every book, every article, every piece of research that I could. And in doing that I realized the extent of it. That it’s everywhere, this was not about me. This was not about the women around me. This was not about my company. This was affecting women everywhere and you know wherever you looked at the data. Business, sport, politics, wherever you looked at the leadership levels and no matter how the organization started out, at the lower levels and the leadership level is 90% plus men and I thought wow this is huge, and it’s an issue, and it’s a huge opportunity. So I made myself a promise that when I left that job, which I knew that I would, I was going to write a book about it. And I actually, I had to, I couldn’t really move forward until I’d got it all out and got it all down.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Well thank you, I’m glad that you wrote the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and we’re gonna go into some tips and let’s say practical tips that we can share with our audience to take away, to really drive equality.

But I wanted to ask you first, so tell me why do men win at work?

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– So you know, I’ve written 200 pages on this Lauren. So it’s a tricky one to answer now, but actually you can give a simple answer to that question. Because in many ways it’s as simple as this the reason men win at work is that the people, not just men by the way, the people who decide, who gets the big jobs, or the big promotions, in the end, many, many, many times, vast majority of times, they believe that the men are better. They believe that the man is better for that job or for that promotion. So the real question is why do they think that? Because actually you know, we know all the data is unequivocal that women are equally intelligent, they have equal competence, they have equal at least leadership capability. So the question actually is why then do we so often conclude that, oh you know what? He’s just a bit better for this job and there are many, many reasons. A difficult one because many of them are invisible and many of them are unconscious, and many of them are actually not intended there. You know it’s not that most men wake up in the morning and think how can I destroy women’s careers today that most men don’t do that. So I mean, a few of the ones that you know, I would draw out, the invisible power of culture. It’s absolutely proven. You know if you belong in a culture, you feel comfortable, you feel relaxed and you can perform. And if you don’t feel you belong in a culture, it’s actually impossible to perform at your best.

And so you know in a male dominant culture, which we so often have at the middle to senior levels. Guess who feels comfortable, guess who feels relaxed, guests who can perform and you know, of course women less so. You then add to that the authenticity factor. So when you’re in a culture that you feel you belong in, you are your authentic self rather than trying to fit in. Which obviously also affects your performance and how you’re perceived because people can smell in authenticity and it ups and affects their perfection. So you know, we don’t see the culture, we don’t see it’s invisible power. All that we see is the performance. We see somebody performing and somebody performing less strongly. And so we think we’re seeing a man who’s better or stronger. And actually, what we’re often seeing is just a man who’s more comfortable. Seeing the invisible power of culture is one dynamic and then you know, we’ve talked about it. The competence versus confidence equation, massive factor. You know we all love confidence, don’t we? It’s a very human thing to love confidence in a person. It’s very natural to like a confident person to feel that you can trust them, and obviously, the problem is that for many, many reasons. So often we actually miss the competence, we miss the competent woman and instead, we were drawn to, and we choose the confidence when it comes to making decisions of again about who gets a job, who gets a promotion. So that a massive one, and obviously, the third one is possibly my favorite. Favorite, least favorite I don’t know, what I call the umbrella theory. You know over my far too many years doing my job, I mentored, I mean hundreds and hundreds of women. And I can’t tell you how many times. I’ve heard exactly these words. My work should speak for itself. So many women believe this. Men laugh, men laugh when they hear this. They say you don’t seriously believe that your work speaks for itself, and that’s all you need to do. You know the myth of meritocracy many, but women still believe in it. Most men don’t, most men worked out very, very early on that it’s a lot more complex than that. And you know to our bosses, when we’re working, we’re under umbrellas. They just see the top of our umbrellas and what that means is it’s not enough for us just to get our heads down and do the work under the umbrella. The work needs to be visible and we need to be visible and this is something that I think men generally are much more savvy about. And that’s why they invest a lot more time in networking and self-marketing, and women think that they shouldn’t have to and they don’t. And then obviously for all the reasons that you know, anyone who knows me knows that I bang on about women generally have less time. They’re carrying most of the unpaid work at home. So as we all got 24 hours in the day, a lot of women I think make the call that this extra networking, visibility, self-marketing stuff is the stuff that’s gonna go out of the window for them. And you know that umbrella theory hugely works in men’s favor because they’re aware of it and they’re investing time in it. So those are the key dynamics for me that all lead us to conclude, well the man is better, she’s great. But you know what? For this big job I justthink he’s the man for it.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Yeah and I think the umbrella theory was really fascinating when I was reading the book because I started head hunting when I was around 23 years old. And I was connecting with people across consumer goods and retail. And I was wondering why so many men would make time to speak with a headhunter. I couldn’t seem to track down or get a response from women. And you’re thinking like, what is this about? You know and then over time you study and you learn these things, but no one kind of directly tells you that. And then when I read this umbrella theory I was thinking, well that would have been very helpful to realize in the beginning. Because I was puzzled what was going on? When no women were responding and all the men were happy to jump on a call, happy to you know, grab a coffee, go to lunch and it was just puzzling in the beginning but that made so much sense when I read that.

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– Yes it’s a great insight and it does not surprise me at all. That will be the stuff that most women will have deprioritized because they’re trying to get everything done in the day and they don’t think they have time for that. And they think that they absolutely must get the fantastic job done and that’s gonna come first. And of course, we all want people who do a great job right but the problem is we often don’t see what a great job they’re doing because they’re under that umbrella. So I think this is one. You know, I posted a rant about this today, I think this is one where I think women need to be more savvy about this and they need to carve out the time, whatever that takes for it and just accept that this is the way human beings work. They need to know you, they need to trust you. They don’t just make objective evaluation of your work, side-by-side with someone else withno emotion. But I also think bosses need to be more savvy and you know, recruiters. And about the fact that the most visible person is absolutely not necessarily the most competent person, or the biggest contributor, or the person with the most potential. I think we’ve all got a little bit of work to do on this one.

Lauren Stiebing

– Yes I agree, I agree. Well we can go into I’m sure I’ll have some comments to make as well, but let’s go into your tips. So I would like you to share with the audience, the top five tips for organizations and individuals to drive equality. Let’s start with organization. So I know you have a few for organizations. What can organizations do?

Gill Whitty-Collins:

-I mean obviously as you know, I’ve got so many on the list.

Lauren Stiebing

– There were so many in the book so you want more?

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– Is their last thing to do list for everybody so but you know let me focus in on key ones. I think the first one, is having this 50-50 mindset as an organization. You know wherever you are in an organization. Whether it’s in the HR or you know at the senior management levels. Really having the 50-50 mindset and just totally buying into that at all levels and making that reality. It makes me so livid when I see people setting targets, which are you know this German target, this German quota of we must have at least one woman on a board or even 30%. I mean where the hell does this come from? We’re 50% of the population. We’ve got equal intelligence, which means we’re 50% of the intelligence in the world, the capability in the world. Why on earth would we settle for anything less than a 50-50 target? And I’m not saying it’s easy to get there. We can talk for hours about all the reasons why we’re way behind on that, but at least get into the mindset of what I walk into a room and I look at my team, that’s what I want to see and how do I get there? Don’t settle for anything less. And as you’re recruiting, as you are promoting, don’t settle for anything less. Because I can promise you absolutely without question that if you have less than that, if you have fewer women than that, you have missed out on some talent. You have somebody in that room who is probably fantastic, but not as good as someone else who should be there. So just getting into that mindset and really you know not settling for anything less. So that’s my first big one. Link to that you know one close to your heart, recruiting equally. Just you know if you don’t start equal, it’s gonna be really, really tough to end up equal at the senior levels. Where we really, really need it because that’s what changes cultures. And obviously you know Lauren and that means attracting women equally. And there’s so many learnings out there about the language you need to use, the images you need to show, the benefits you need to talk about that will attract women as well as men. And there are things that just turn a woman off before you’ve even started. You won’t even get her you know, looking at the application form. So attracting equally, and then knowing how to evaluate. When those women come in for interview, knowing how to evaluate them and knowing how to really evaluate their ability and their potential and getting beneath the surface of confidence. Because as we’ve said, confidence is very attractive but sometimes beneath the surface of confidence or lack of confidence, there is some very surprising ability or not.

Lauren Stiebing

– Sure.

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– So really being super focused on that. I think the recruitment stage is so critical and I know it’s something you’re very passionate about. Helping companies and organizations to do which is just fantastic. The third one for me for organizations is making sure you have a balanced culture. You know do you really look around and see, and smell, and feel a culture that is equally comfortable for everybody. Whatever the gender, whatever the race, whatever the culture, whatever.That everybody truly feels that they can belong , which almost means you know, it cannot have any dominance. That if you look around and you see a dominant group you know, that you don’t have a balanced culture and I can promise you that what that means, is you’ll have people who are not comfortable. They’re trying to fit in and they’re not performing, and that’s gonna make you evaluate them unfairly. So and this is something you know, it’s just a case of awareness. It’s not difficult when you’re aware to have a little scan around your workplace. Whether that’s real or virtually and ask yourself that tough, tough question. Do I have a dominant culture here? And if I do how am I gonna balance out as quickly as I can?

Lauren Stiebing:

– Yeah, yeah I wanted to make a couple of points from the recruitment perspective of course. That that’s something that I’ve seen from the very beginning of recruiting. That if you don’t think about the diversity of recruitment and really putting your mindset into, we need to get more balance. You end up very easily with a long list of six males. Just because as we said number one, getting females on the phone and networking with them is harder. So that was my first realization. Is first you need to connect with them, network with them, and build a relationship with them. And it’s something that we’ve been trying to do for years since we were founded, and we are working towards 50-50. We’re at 43% now of all the individuals which we’ve presented to our clients, 43% of them were females. And I would say even more than that, challenging clients during the briefing of what they’re really looking for, especially when they’ve given us the brief that they want to bring diverse talent into the company. But the brief is shouting out something different when it comes to culture and requirements of that individual. You know, let’s say requiring we want them to be charismatic. Okay well explain to me why you want them to be charismatic and how that contributes to the success of that role? So I think those key questions, especially in the briefing of each job and challenging them is really key from the cultural side of their internal culture. That’s something that they need to choose to change obviously from our perspective. We can help, but we can’t really change very much from an outsider’s perspective, from our consultancy perspective.

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– But you know, I think it’s fantastic that you’re putting that focus on. Because I do believe, and I know you and I have talked about this before. That people like yourself, organizations like yourself, helping companies with recruitment, they can really bring in that awareness and that perspective that sometimes you know on the inside. Say yes we’ve put a brief in saying, oh we’d really love a woman if possible? But then lose that way on that very, very quickly. So I think the role that you can play on making sure that you know, the candidates go in 50-50 and just catching them at each moment. I can’t let you know, let’s just talk about why you don’t wanna put that candidate? For we’re talking a little bit about competence versus confidence. Talking a little bit about some of those invisible dynamics. I think you’ve got a massively important role to play, in changing the world here, Lauren. You really do.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Yes. Yeah, we’ve also started recently our executive mentoring program. Which for some organizations that may not have senior female mentors yet, ’cause that will take time for them to build that in their organization. To offer some of their more junior female talents, senior female mentors, which I think is key. And what we’ve heard from the industry as well, I had Steph Lilley on the last podcast who’s the Sales Director for UK and Ireland at Reckitt Benckiser. And she was saying through her journey through sales, she realized that there were no female role models and how important that was, and how much it adds to let’s say your journey and your view of your career. So I think even organizations, we don’t want them to feel discouraged if they don’t have that today. And kind of give them, let’s say any immediate support while they build their organizations. Because of course you can’t change that from one day to the next.

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– Absolutely and it’s such a great point and such a great idea. Obviously it’s ideal when an organization does have female role models. They absolutely must use those but if not yet import some. Because you know there is so much truth in the whole motto, “What you see you can be.” And you know a woman doesn’t necessarily need to see a senior woman in her own organization. She can see her coming from somewhere else and say, you know what? I can be that here. I always say to women, sometimes you’re the role model in your organization. Sometimes you are going to be the role model. So you know, if having a mentor from someone else helps you get there then fantastic.

Lauren Stiebing

– Yeah and what about for women? So what can women do?

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– Oh so many tips for women, but I’m gonna have to pick the umbrella theory. Just really never forget the umbrella theory. Think about it you know every single day. Remember it is not enough to do great work. It needs to be visible, you need to be visible is not a dirty word. Self-marketing is not a dirty word. You need to make time for it. You have to carve out that time in your agenda, just like you would for a meeting because otherwise it won’t happen. I would say ideally, ideally an hour a day. Minimum an hour a week and you know don’t see it as selfish. See it as it’s for you. It’s in order that you ultimately get the visibility that you need, in order to get the jobs that you deserve. And I promise you if you don’t do it, you can get very, very frustrated because your competition are doing it.

Lauren Stiebing:

– And what about for men? What can men do?

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– So much and you know we need them too right. They have all the power right now. So we’re gonna get nowhere without them but I think the biggest ask would be, be an open supporter, be an open support, be an open femanist as I call them. My feminists, my too small but amazing group of feminists. Who openly support women, who openly speak about how important this is. Not as a charity but as business, as a business driver. It is so powerful when men do this. You know, unfortunately when it’s just women talking about this it can look like you know, mourning. When men talk about it too, it starts to look like, okay maybe this is actually you know good for everyone. So of course isn’t it fantastic and obvious that for us to get to gender equality, we need men to do the equal parts, at least. So being an open supporter, being a feminist, speaking up. I mean nothing more powerful than when a man catches a woman being interrupted, for example, and says you were interrupted, I’d like to hear what you were going to say. And when a man you know, if gender equality is on the agenda when a man speaks up.

So, so powerful, so, so important and by the way men good for your business. Whatever your business is I promise you this is good for you. So there’s absolutely no reason not to get on the feminist team.

Lauren Stiebing

– Well Gill, thank you for sharing these tips. I think that everyone listening now has something to take away and start doing even today. And yeah in terms of the book, we have many, many more tips in the book. So where can our listeners who may want to read the book and gain more, where can they purchase it?

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– So it’s obviously on Amazon UK.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Okay.

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– It is currently only available in English. It is in the process of being launched in Brazil actually, so it’d be in Portuguese.

Lauren Stiebing

– Oh exciting.

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– Yeah Amazon, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, bookshop obviously which is fantastic. Because bookshop they actually do support local bookstores which is more important now than ever and it’s horrendous year and there’s also a book depository, which has a free delivery worldwide for those who aren’t in the UK. So lots of places and Kindle. It’s also on Kindle for those who prefer that but the cover so beautiful, I always say.

Lauren Stiebing:

– It is, it is, or the smell of a new book.

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– I like the hard copy.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Well, thank you so much and I appreciate you coming on the podcast today.

Gill Whitty-Collins:

– Thank you so much for having me. It’s always a pleasure to talk with you, Lauren.