We’re Thankful for Harvard Business Review’s Women at Work Podcast
Now that it’s the beginning of November, the days are getting shorter and the long haul of New York winter is looming. To combat our impending wintry blues, we’re jumpstarting our holiday reflection about what we’re thankful for this year.
Near the top of our list? Women at Work, a podcast produced by three editors at Harvard Business Review.
This podcast focuses on specific challenges women face in the workplace, through topic-based episodes that feature interviews with experts, shared personal experiences, and lots of great advice. Over the course of their two seasons, they’ve covered topics like making yourself heard in the workplace, doing less dead-end work, decision-making, and more.
Here are a few of our favorite episodes to get you started.
make yourself heard: Season 1, Episode 1
“I’m just writing to ask…” “I’m sorry about that the room is so cold.” “This might be a silly idea…”
Sound familiar? These phrases certainly did to me.
Women at Work kicked off its first season with an episode that examines conversational trends and habits common among women, many of which undermine their authority and confidence in the workplace. As such, it may be the case that women are socialized to sound less confident, not necessarily to be less confident. Some of these patterns include:
- Using “we” to describe an individual accomplishment instead of “I”
- Apologizing for things that are not your fault
- Using the word “just” to soften a request or opinion
- Downplaying strengths and confidence to avoid being perceived as arrogant or boastful
- Phrasing suggestions as questions and using qualifying statements like “this is just an idea…”
The episode is filled with personal anecdotes and advice from the hosts and experts. Two pieces of advice that particularly resonated with me:
- When women do not feel like an expert in a meeting or situation, they tend to remain quiet. Yet, meetings tend to be a stage where employees are heard and evaluated. Rather than feeling silenced, prepare for the meeting by developing a few well-thought out questions. Questions that help to raise new issues, insights, and facilitate discussion are a great way to contribute.
- Use what Jill Flynn, Founding Partner at Flynn Heath Hold Leadership, describes as “muscular language”:
“…instead of phrasing your suggestion as a question, you should say, ‘I strongly suggest…’ Or, instead of saying, ‘Well, I think maybe…,’ you could say, ‘Well, my plan is.’”
These suggestions are helpful as you navigate all stages of your career, from creating a strong presence in your first meeting to asking for your next promotion or raise.
—GAYLE GOLDSTEIN, Graduate Student Career Development
Mind the (Wage) Gap: Season 1, Episode 4
This episode digs into the wage gap—what it is, and how it arises.
what is the wage gap, exactly?
Research shows that women earn 80 cents on the dollar to men. This means that what the median woman earns, working full-time and year-round, is only 80% of what the median man working the same amount earns.
The wage gap isn’t static. After men and women complete the same degree, research shows they earn “sort of the same”—that is, the wage gap exists, but it’s smaller. But then, for the next 10–15 years, men start a lot more and the wage gap increases over time. For instance, the show shares, after 10–15 years, women with MBAs are earning 60% of what men earn!
While there are many interesting conversations in this episode, the part I liked the most included things that need to change in the workforce and actions women can take, like:
- Finding sponsors on the job. A sponsor doesn’t just give you advice, but advocates for you to get better work. Sponsors can get you better assignments and assignments are what get you promoted.
- Compete within your organization. Put your hand up when you find an opening, and stay away from assignments that are going nowhere.
—REBECCA SCHRAMM, Undergraduate Career Development
Perfect Is the Enemy: Season 2, Episode 5
This episode really resonated with me as a recovering perfectionist. In this episode, the hosts interview Alice Boyes, a writer and former clinical psychologist, about how perfectionism can be problematic, and the specific ways in which it often affects women. For instance:
- Perfectionists often avoid making decisions or taking action because the idea of making a mistake, and then agonizing over it, is too painful. This experience can be amplified for women, who, research has shown, are often called upon over and over to prove their competence.
Boyes advocates practicing non-perfectionist behaviors as a way to overcome a perfectionist mindset. One of my favorite pieces of advice she gives is what she calls the 80/20 rule:
“I think well, is there a version of this that would take 20 percent of the work and would give me 80 percent of what I want? And taking that approach over and over helps you get used to the idea experientially that getting 80 percent of what you want is often enough. So, it’s really behaving in ways that are different that help your brain realize that not always doing 100 percent of what you would ideally like isn’t going to be a disaster.”
Another piece of advice I loved—and which I actually used when I was writing my PhD dissertation—was breaking down a big, stress-inducing task into manageable micro-steps. Boyes talks about how she creates project-specific to-do lists, and identifying one first next step she can take to chip away at it. Definitely a strategy that one could use for a job search!
There’s so much more amazing advice in this episode about overcoming perfectionistic thinking, becoming more comfortable with delegation, receiving feedback as a perfectionist, and more. I can’t recommend it enough!
—SARAH GOLDBERG, Undergraduate Career Development
our upcoming programs for women
If Women at Work sounds like your jam, you might also want to check out our upcoming programs and resources tailored specifically to the career needs of women:
This Google-designed workshop, on November 9, will highlight the importance of self-promotion in your careers and provide you with the tools to start developing this skill.
In this November 16 workshop, you’ll learn how to negotiate a salary that reflects your worth and practice your skills with peers.