Joanne Lipman’s book THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID is helping end the workplace gender gap, one honest conversation at a time. This impressively-researched volume probes the disconnect between how men and women communicate about the issues that women have difficulty surmounting – respect gaps, pay gaps, unconscious bias, and more. While on her book tour, Lipman appeared in conversation with Ann Shoket to analyze how these findings contribute to the cultural shifts that #MeToo and #TimesUp have spurred. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are the highlights of their discussion.
Research is showing that, even despite the odds, women are naturally born to lead. No one is more aware of that fact than Joanne Lipman, who made history as the first female deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal and was Chief Content Officer at Gannett and Editor-in-Chief of USA Today. Described as an “Innovator-in-Chief,” she created WSJ’s Personal Journal Section, moved to Conde Nast to launch the business magazine Conde Nast Portfolio and site Portfolio.com, and her litany of honors includes the National Magazine Award. Lipman is certainly the perfect person to illuminate the reasons behind gender disparity in the workplace. Her new book THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID: What Men Need to Know (And Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together (William Morrow) does a brilliant job of explaining how the professional deck is stacked against those lacking a Y chromosome – and how we can rise above it.
In February, Women’s Media Group hosted Lipman in conversation with another acclaimed thought leader, Ann Shoket. Author of The Big Life, a guide to shaping the world for Millennial women, Shoket is perhaps best known for her work as Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen and as executive editor of CosmoGIRL! Named by Forbes as one of “The Most Powerful U.S. Fashion Magazine Editors,” during her tenure she steered both platforms to explore young women’s ambitions, evolution, and emotional terrain in groundbreaking ways. If anyone can provide insight on the modern day career world’s turbulence, you can bet it’s Shoket.
The two were excellently matched as they discussed bias, pay gaps, harassment, and more to a spellbound crowd of media professionals. Not only did Lipman and Shoket offer invaluable advice on how the post-#MeToo spotlight can be used to engineer change, but they also touched on points that hold significance across generations. Regardless of age, we have clearly entered a brave new working world.
“It’s been a pretty stunning year for women,” Shoket proclaimed.
Of #MeToo and #TimesUp, Lipman said, “I’m glad it’s becoming a social issue for our culture, not a sex scandal.”
Declaring that it’s now more imperative than ever that we shift our workplace diversity and gender dynamics, Lipman spoke about the inspiration behind her book. THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID originated because she knew several businessmen who were going through diversity training at work and heard only the message “It’s all your fault.”
“We need men to join us; we need to seek out the men who want to close the gap,” she asserted.
TV producer Glen Mazzara, known for his work on The Shield and The Walking Dead, is one such progressive thinker. In THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID, Lipman reveals how Mazzara evened the gender makeup in primetime writers’ rooms by specifically seeking to hire more women, and became the first executive producer to establish the “No Interrupters” rule. Noticing female writers were getting interrupted all the time, Mazzara mandated that when any writer on his shows pitches a new idea, everyone must be quiet until that pitcher has finished speaking.
The bombshells came fast and furious throughout Lipman and Shoket’s talk. Equally fascinating and disturbing was research that showed gender bias begins from early childhood. Mothers overestimate when their baby sons will begin to crawl and underestimate their daughters doing the same. An experiment where 6-year-olds were given tasks to do and then paid in Hershey Kisses ended with the boys paying themselves more candy than they earned and the girls paying themselves much less. Repeating the experiment with teenagers and cash money, the boys in that scenario were found to pay themselves a whopping 76% more than girls.
Nevertheless, Shoket believes that “Millennials will help us solve the problem.” She mentioned the emergence of young male feminist advocates, such as the Harvard-based group The Man-bassadors. She and Lipman also discussed new measures being implemented in the workplace both by Millennials and those guiding them. “Amplification,” originating from the women in the Obama administration, helps women’s voices be heard in business meetings. If one woman pitches an idea, another will say, “Hey, that’s a great idea,” and repeat it so everyone else understands. (Another bombshell: research shows that women are better at advocating for other people than for themselves.) Other initiatives include the “Sorry” jar, which lessens the need to apologize in a professional setting, and formal mentorship programs, which have proven to be successful in areas where typical diversity training is not.
Finally, Lipman and Shoket pointed out the necessity of having women in leadership positions. Scientifically, females in power are vital to success. As it turns out, women have an innate sense of how to maintain and develop a business’s growth, while men in similar positions experience testosterone surges that lead them to push a business until it fails. Apparently it takes a woman to do several men’s jobs.
“This is a key time in social history for women,” Lipman summarized, also noting that we need to act fast if we expect behavior to change in our lifetime. “If we don’t strike now, that moment could slip away from us.”
This is true, but I prefer to head into the future with the thinking that Shoket put forth in her November 2017 TedTalk: “This moment of change is an opportunity for every woman… to make her life bigger… You have the choice to be the architect of change or let change happen to you.”
If we listen to each other, if we collaborate across all lines of gender and culture, if we use science and information to their advantage, as Lipman advocates in her book, then we’re already many steps closer to building the society we want to live in. That’s not just what she said – it’s what we all need to be saying.
Jaime Lubin is the Managing Editor of Honeysuckle Magazine. Her profiles on art and culture have appeared regularly in The Huffington Post and Observer, as well as Billboard and Irish America magazines among other publications. Also an actress, producer, and singer, Jaime is working on a solo show about Tarot. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram (both @jaimelubin).