WENDY HANSON: Welcome. We are delighted to have you here and I am so happy to introduce my colleague Karen Cornwell. She is going to tell us about the book that she wrote and the research behind it, You Can't Fix What You Can See: An Eye Opening Toolkit to Cultivate Gender Harmony in Business. It's such an important topic today that I knew you would want to hear from Karen.
Wendy: Let me tell you a little bit about her before I bring her on. Karen Cornwell is on a lifelong quest to improve innovation and drive top line growth for technology companies. Her experience includes project management, marketing, engineering, sales, account management, and business development with Silicon Valley companies. She's worked with companies like GE, Applied Materials.
Wendy: She has lived it, learned from it, and wants to change the tide for the next generation of technology aficionados. She also believes that diversity is the key contributor to really understanding a customer's needs. Leveraging our differences becomes the driver to create phenomenal products and services. So welcome ,Karen. It's great to have you on.
KAREN CORNWELL: Thank you, Wendy. I really appreciate this opportunity.
Wendy: Yes. Well, I'm fascinated by your book. It's an unusual title, You Can't Fix What You Can't See. Why did you name the book that?
Karen: It took a long time to figure out what the name was, but I had a couple of epiphanies along the way. First, I realized we can fix this problem, right? For 30 years I've watched it not being fixed and I suddenly realized we can fix this. And the second piece was I realized that there are many people that really can't see the problem. It's not visible to them and people are really good problem solvers, but if you don't see the problem, you're not going to do anything about it. And I think that's a big part of why we've kind of been stuck here for 30 years.
Wendy: And the problem being gender diversity in companies, is that the primary problem that you're pointing to? Or what else?
Karen: Well, there's actually two big parts of that problem. One is you have to have the diversity in the company and a lot of tech companies have trouble with that. But the second piece is you have to be able to use that diversity. So if you have the diversity but you're not listening to people and you're not hearing them, then it's like you don't have the diversity because you're not effectively using it. So it's really two big pieces of the problem, Wendy.
Wendy: Yeah, it's great because it's something that we're struggling with in companies all the time now. How do we get diversity on all levels of an organization and especially in tech, how do we get more of a diverse tech base to be able to work from? And who was the audience for this book? The book's going to come out in December, but who do you anticipate the audience is?
Karen: Well, I think there are three really good groups that need to read this book. The first group is people who are frustrated by their current situation, right? There are a lot of people who are trying to change the tide, but it doesn't seem to be shifting very quickly. So that's the first group. Then if you really want to leverage diversity, if you want more innovation or you want more creativity, you want more market growth and engagement, there's a whole group of people that there's a business benefit. They should definitely read the book.
Karen: And then there's a whole group of people, Wendy, I hate to say it, that they can't see the problem. They literally can't see it and it's not a fault of theirs. It's just they can't see it. And so if you're sitting here going, what problem? Then you should also read the book because it will explain the problem in ways that you can really understand so you can see it. Once you see it, you can fix it.
Wendy: Yeah, you gave me a few chapters to be able to read and I love the depth of the research that you provided, and one of the areas that you looked at when you talked about differences was the dichotomy with extremes and you labeled them, and talk a little bit about this research because I thought it was fascinating. Independent minded people versus community minded people and those are gender related, so give us a little background on that concept because I thought that was fascinating.
Karen: Well Wendy, that's interesting because initially I had labeled things men and women, right? As I said natural, it's something you can visibly see. It's not, are you community minded or independent minded? You have to have a conversation to see that, right? But what I found is it really turns people off if you label men and women. And so I came up with these titles because it's more the philosophy that's in your head that people can't see.
Karen: But it's how you think about the world, right? So if you think primarily as me, you're independent minded, right? It's me and I'm going to go out and do things. But a lot of women are more community minded and it's us, it's we and they're not going to be happy unless the "we" is happy. And so it encompasses a bigger piece and it looks at different things, and neither one of these is right or wrong. It just is how you think. And that's what's really interesting is people want to make it one's right and one's wrong, but it really isn't.
Karen: And the beauty is the two different ways that we think, you need to mesh them together in order to really leverage diversity. Because if you have all of one group or all of another group, you don't get the leverage, right. You don't get the insights that you need. And so you actually need the two to work together, but you have to have people be able to talk to each other and that's a piece that we constantly trip over.
Wendy: Yes, I love that, and I'm going to stereotype here a little bit because in my experience, and you can correct me on these, independent minded, like when you've described this in the book, you talk about, "I put my head down and try to solve this problem myself." I know a lot of men that come from that perspective. They know that.
Wendy: Community minded, I consider myself and a lot of other women leaders that I know, community minded in the way that if I need an answer to something I'll bring in about five different people and have conversations with them. I won't put my head down and try to figure it out. I will bring the wisdom of the crowd and in my experience it's been more... That's something that women do. And what I love is that you're bringing the two together because it isn't, it's a "yes and," it's not a "this one's better than that one."
Karen: It's not a "no but."
Wendy: Right, it's not a "no but," it's a "yes and." And that's why I'm kind of looking at it as a little bit of that male-female tendencies. Is that correct?
Karen: Oh definitely. But I'll also say you will find, and I myself, I am very independent minded. There are about half of the things I talk about, I am over on independent mind and the other half I'm over on the community side, so people can [inaudible 00: 07: 30] all over the place, right. And what's I think really important is that you look at yourself and say, "Where am I? Who am I?" And you look at other people and then you say, "How can we best work together?"
Karen: If you're a community minded, everybody gets together, we all talk, right? But that leaves the independent minded people out because they need a little time to think on their own and then they're ready to talk. So there's ways that you can design work so that you get the best of both sides. And that's really what the book is talking about.
Wendy: Yes. I love that because we face that all the time at Better Managers when we're coaching managers and leaders and we're helping them, how do you work best with your team? If you have a team meeting, you've got to give the independent thinkers time, 24 hours before to think through things, whereas the community minded people tend to be a little bit more improv oriented and so they [inaudible 00: 08: 22] love at the meeting. But you got to meet people where they are, yes.
Karen: And you got to meet different people there. You won't have all one kind on your team. So it makes the manager's job much harder, right, which is why companies like you, where you're going and coach people, because a lot of these things are things that you can't see. You for yourself cannot see them so it kind of takes another person to go, "Ah, did you notice this?" And then they start noticing it and then they can see it. But it's a learned capacity for sure.
Wendy: Yeah. We have a concept that is picked up all the time by our clients. It's called the dance floor to the balcony. When you're in the middle of the work, you're on the dance floor. You can only see things right around you on the dance floor. And you don't have that much of a vision. So you go up to the balcony and you look down and you can see things from a different perspective and you need to bring team members to the balcony so that they can see that too. And there you put your head together and I think that really adds value to this concept of let's take a different perspective, a higher perspective, and look at how do we make work a better place to be.
Karen: Oh, I love that, and you bring that up. What's really interesting is most innovation comes from the fringes of an industry. It doesn't come from the middle of the dance floor. It comes from where that industry may be meets another industry. And so it's actually really important to have that higher level view or you miss critical things that could be a part of your business. And that's really important.
Wendy: Yeah. Now tell us a little bit, you did so much, I moved it towards the gender direction before, but tell us a little bit more about the gender research and what this has to do. Because I know a big need that we have is getting young girls in tech, so they become women in tech. We also need more women in the board room and in executive positions. But what's the gender piece of this, Karen?
Karen: So what I find to be really interesting is we're all different and I think everybody knows that, we're not all the same. We're different. However, when you move into the world of companies, the standards by which we judge behavior are based. They were established by men for men years ago, right, before women were actually in the workplace and they're based on men's preferred behaviors.
Karen: So when a woman comes into the workplace, they never quite measure up because they bring a different set of skills to the workplace. But when measured by how men establish the system, they don't really measure up. So one of the things that I advocate is we really need to look at what's the scale for success. What is the leadership model?
Karen: And in fact, when you look at leadership and what are the characteristics of leaders, you'll find that there is a recent study done that 17 of the 19 characteristics that are leadership material are what women do better than men. But they still don't get judged that way because the yardstick in corporate America is not geared to women's talents. And so there's a lot of things that we're missing that we should have anyway.
Wendy: Yeah. What are a couple of those characteristics, just so we're in the same bucket list?
Karen: Well, I'll actually I'll give you one that's not, right. Strategy is something that men tend to rate... Their rated higher on than women. But being community minded is one that women is a lot higher for women, community minded is much better and relationship oriented, right. So I've been in some business deals and many men in the deal said, "Just consummate the deal. We don't care about the relationships." And you're like, "Wait, no." Because we want this.
Karen: We want to have this relationship for the next 15 years. So we have to care about the relationship. So if we just make the deal, have it fall apart, that's really a waste of our time in the long term. If it takes longer to make the deal, but everybody's happier so that we both move forward together, then that's, from an economics perspective, a much better package.
Wendy: Yeah, that makes sense.
Karen: And like you said, we need both of these together. One doesn't work.
Wendy: Right, right. Yeah. That's why it feels like a no brainer, but somehow we still have not been able to accomplish this, so that's what's a little scary about it, yeah. You also talked about in gender differences, you were talking about women's brains were a little bit different by the research and systems thinking. Say a little more about that.
Karen: Yes. You know what's fascinating is now that we have FMRI, right, and you can look in people's brains and see what's happening. And they did a study, they weren't actually even studying men and women. They were studying young people, but they found out that men's brains are wired from the front to the back. So it's perceive something and act, right. That's their preferred methodology.
Karen: Where a lot of the connections in women's brains are from the left to the right side. So it's sensing and analytical, let's feel out the situation and then what should we do about it? So it's a very different thought process and I think it produces very different results. But again, we need both of these together because if you look at a crisis situation, think, act is what you need, right? Do it now, right? But the tornado is coming, you don't have time to sit down and have a meeting about this, right?
Karen: Or there are other times where you need that longer term thought process and you need to say, "Well, if we do this, what's going to happen five years from now and what should it look like? And how do we position ourselves so we're where we want to be five years from now." So you need the both of those pieces together. But I think that the brain wiring is interesting.
Karen: There was one neurologist and they asked her to go tell us what is the difference between men's and women's brains. And at that era she said they're just brains, but it turns out they're not just brains. So, and then you add neuro-plasticity in and you say, "Well, it doesn't matter how your brain is now. It could be very different later, right?" Because your brain changes to meet your needs and so that you can't teach an old dog new tricks is totally not true. The dog has to want to learn, but you can teach the old dog new tricks, so, and we're just really getting a handle around that, the neurologists are, right?
Wendy: Yeah. We have a member of our advisory board, Dr. George Woods is a forensic neuropsychiatrist. And so he keeps the better manager coaches up on the newest info and it changes all the time. You might see something in a book and all of a sudden we've got new research. So we always have to be aware of that. But the neuroplasticity thing is a big new learning. We can change and that's where coaching comes in, which is really helpful.
Karen: Well, and that's where coaching is fabulous, right? She's just like, "Wow, I can be different." But you have to realize you have to change, so somebody has to initiate that. That's why I love coaches.
Wendy: Right. I had an experience, now, this goes back probably 10 years now, eight to 10 years ago, I was meeting with the whole group at a very, very big company in New York city with the VP of engineering, and we were talking about how do we get more women into companies? And they were talking about a problem that they were having with recruitment and retention. And so what they did was they had like six engineering groups, and they would have a small team, say they were eight to 10 people on the team. And when they were hiring a woman, every team they would say, we want diversity, so we're going to put a woman on each of these teams. Every time we get, we're going to try to have a more diverse team and we'll add a woman to the team.
Wendy: What they found out, their experience was that the retention was awful because women were not happy, like one woman with eight or nine men on a team and they weren't staying long. They had about a year shelf life, and then they were gone. So they said, how are we going to solve this problem? So they came up with a creative solution for the time being, which was when we hire women, let's put them in their own pod and have the women together as engineers working on... Not that they're not going to be with other engineers, but their home group is going to be all women.
Wendy: Well, the retention rose I think by 100%, that really solved that problem. It didn't solve all the problems. But I'm curious your thoughts on that because I thought that was pretty innovative. It's not long term solution, but it was something to learn from.
Karen: Wendy, when you're having that kind of trouble, and I have talked to some very small tech companies about this were all men. The company was founded by all men, right? So how do we get the first women in? So that's an excellent way to retain them, right, to be able to have that bonding together. So that's step one is get the women in.
Karen: But step two is make everybody feel comfortable and be able to work together. So that model actually isolates the women and the men separately, so you have the danger of forming your own silo where the two silos don't talk to each other. So that part can be a little bit dangerous. But you can't get to the second part without, you have to do something to get started. So I think it's a very novel way to get started and now you need to integrate women.
Karen: Interestingly, one of the things that I sometimes think about is what are women's groups doing, right? They bring women together so that they can feel more comfortable, but is there a point where we should have more men in the women's group, right, so that it's about learning to work together. Kind of just like we did an elementary school, right, but at a really higher level.
Karen: So we have to be able to mix those groups together to make them function well together. So I love the first step, but there was a few little dangers associated with that. But it gets you started. It gets you started because who wants to be the first woman in a small company? And you've got a small startup with 10 guys and one woman. Do you want to be that woman?
Wendy: Right, and all the research, the background research that Buckingham has done, when he did his 12 questions years ago, it's like, do you have a best friend at work? Like I stay at work. I'm less likely to leave this job if I have a group of peers-
Karen: A best friend.
Wendy: ... I love working with these folks, so I'm not going to go to that company. I'm going to stay here. So it is something that we need to think about. How do we look at these things creatively and not create new problems but deal with that?
Wendy: But deal with that. One company that I've worked with for years in Rhode Island, HPSO, it's an insurance based company and that they had a wonderful women's leadership group that they... First it was all women and then now men were like, "We want in, we want to know what these conversations are about." And it has become much more highly successful and it's an internal group within the company, when they have men in there and they're working on this together. So we're moving slowly in some right directions here.
Karen: We are, Wendy, the one thing that I always find odd, a lot of companies in Silicon Valley have a women's group, right? You ever heard of a men's group?
Wendy: Right [inaudible 00: 20: 47]
Karen: Men feel isolated too sometimes, right. They don't have a place that they can necessarily go talk. So sometimes I feel like maybe we ought to start some of those so that they have a place, and I know there are many groups now that are starting like male ally groups, right? How do you be a male ally, right? How do you speak up for women?
Karen: Because men do ostracize each other, right, and even at the highest levels you can look at CEOs making comments on LinkedIn and they can get slammed because why are you doing this? What about us? What about the men, right? So, you don't really want to isolate anybody in their own little corner because it's not good for anybody.
Wendy: Right, right. So you have so much great research in this book and so many things for us to think about because we need to think through how are we going to create the world that your kids want to work in someday? So, give us some information, how do people find out more about you, Karen, and be able to get an advanced copy of the book? Give us some links here.
Karen: Oh, okay, great, Wendy. So the best thing to do is to go to, I've got a tiny URL, so it's tiny.cc/Karensbook and the K needs to be capitalized in Karen, and if you go there, that's my Indiegogo page for the book. And currently-
Wendy: Okay. And what will-
Karen: I'm trying to raise enough-
Wendy: We're going to put that link in the show notes so when you go on and see the show-
Karen: Okay, good. Good.
Wendy: Yes. Great. And, and to learn more about you just go on LinkedIn and find you?
Karen: You can go on LinkedIn and find me and you can put my LinkedIn profile in the notes too. I'd be happy for that because it's fun and I love to hear from people. I've had several people reach out because I'm writing a book and I have interviewed them and gotten some absolutely fabulous material. So I actually really appreciate chatting with other people. So that makes it all that much better. I even have an advanced reader in the UK who reached out and said, "I'd like to help. How can I help?" And I said, "Here, read some chapters."
Wendy: Great, great. Because the more that you can put in there about case studies of here's what we have done and here's what we have learned. Yeah. So that's awesome.
Karen: It is.
Wendy: Keep that going, right? Well, thank you, Karen, for sharing this with us today. Very provocative thoughts of how are we going to grow our diversity in business so that we can be more happy, productive, and better companies and just give more opportunities to the right people. So thank you for what you do and it was great to talk with you.
Karen: Thank you, Wendy. I appreciate it.
Wendy: Take care.