The Great Resignation: Addressing a Broken Workplace with Journalist Joanne Lipman

Jennifer Brown | | , ,

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Joanne Lipman joins the program to discuss the ways in which the workplace is broken, and how we might reinvent the workplace that so that it works for everyone. Discover some of the challenges that come along with managing a remote workforce and what leaders will need to be mindful of in the new world of work. Joanne also shares her thoughts about the impact that the pandemic has had on women in the workplace.

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

Joanne Lipman: If we were to start from scratch today, would we create a five-day work week? I don’t know. There are now organizations, companies, even entire countries, I believe Spain is trying this, that are experimenting with a four-day work week. Would we do nine-to-five at a time when so many businesses are global and we work with people across time zones? Does nine-to-five really make sense? You could rethink every single element of the workplace, because if we were going to start from scratch today, I don’t think it would resemble what we have now.

Doug Foresta: Everyone has a diversity story, even those you don’t expect. Welcome to The Will to Change with Jennifer Brown. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, bestselling authors, and entrepreneurs, as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion. And now, here’s your host, Jennifer Brown.

Doug Foresta: Hello, and welcome back to The Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. In this episode, you will hear a conversation between Jennifer Brown and Joanne Lipman as they discuss Joanne’s article for TIME Magazine, titled The Pandemic Revealed How Much We Hate Our Jobs. Now We Have a Chance to Reinvent Work.

Doug Foresta: Let me just say a little bit about Joanne, just so you have a sense of some of her credentials here. Joanne served as editor-in-chief at USA Today, USA Today Network, Condé Nast, and the Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Journal, leading those organizations to six Pulitzer Prizes. She is an on-air CNBC contributor and Yale University journalism lecturer. She is also author of the bestseller That’s What She Said: What Men and Women Need to Know about Working Together. Previously, she was chief content officer of Gannett, where she was editor-in-chief of its USA Today and the USA Today Network, encompassing the flagship publication plus 109 metro newspapers, including The Detroit Free Press, The Des Moines Register, and The Arizona Republic. In that role, she oversaw more than 3,000 journalists and led the organization to three Pulitzer Prizes.

Doug Foresta: Again, the discussion you’ll hear is about this idea of the chance to reinvent work. As Joanne puts it, she says that the modern office, which was created on the World War II military model with strict hierarchies, as Joanne says, created by men, for men, with an assumption that there’s a wife to handle duties at home, is simply not working. COVID has created this great reset and an opportunity to reexamine the world of work and how it might work for everyone. I know you’ll get a lot out of the episode. Hope you enjoy it. And now, onto the conversation.

Jennifer Brown: Joanne, welcome to The Will to Change.

Joanne Lipman: Thanks for having me.

Jennifer Brown: I’m so glad that TIME Magazine thought that it was important enough to put your article on the cover recently about what we’re calling alternatively the great reopening and also the great resignation, which is so powerful to me for so many reasons that we’re going to get into today. But before we do that, I’d love to have you introduce yourself to our audience on The Will to Change. We always start with inviting our guests to share what they would consider to be their diversity story. Let me just put that out there to you, and you can take that wherever you’d like.

Joanne Lipman: Sure, sure. Thanks. I think you know I’ve been a journalist my entire life. I was actually inspired by my dad, who was a businessman, longtime reader of The Wall Street Journal, a paper that I never picked up my entire childhood, until I was 18 years old and had a magazine internship and commuted into the city from New Jersey with my dad. I picked up The Wall Street Journal, fell in love with business journalism, and fell in love with The Wall Street Journal in particular, and that became my goal in life someday. And the reason I fell in love with it was because the writing was spectacular. The writing was the best writing. On page one, it was the best I’d ever read. And I realized that these business stories that seemed at first glance to be dry, disconnected stories were really actually ongoing dramatic sagas with swashbuckling characters. I was absolutely transfixed. And that became my goal, and ultimately, I got The Wall Street Journal internship in college.

Joanne Lipman: The interesting thing on the diversity front there is, I didn’t really think about it, but it was an extraordinarily male paper and a very, very male readership. I entered, and I got this internship, and then they hired me right out of college. I started right out of college in the ’80s, at a time when there were hardly any women in the newsroom when I very first started. The journal very quickly started hiring lots and lots of women, at a time when the overwhelming percentage of readers and the overwhelming percentage of people who I interviewed, my sources, were men. It was a really interesting time to come into the world, but very, very exciting. I think the big difference between then and now is that the women who were coming into these male-dominated fields, my female colleagues coming into this, we were thrilled to be in the room. I always say we were tougher than the guys. We out-cursed the guys.

Jennifer Brown: Beat them at their own game.

Joanne Lipman: We were tough broads. It was interesting, because it was a different time. It was a different time. Right now, the stuff that we put up with that we let roll off our shoulders is stuff that women today would never put up with, and the guys would probably go to jail for. I tell the story sometimes about how one of the very first articles I ever wrote, I had to go and interview this business guy. He was a small business owner. It wasn’t a big corporate executive, but he was a small business owner. I had to go interview this guy, and he literally locked the door to his office and stripped while I was interviewing him.

Jennifer Brown: What?

Joanne Lipman: At the moment, it was terrifying. He then put his clothes back on. I got out of there. I got out of there.

Jennifer Brown: Right. Thank goodness.

Joanne Lipman: Thankfully.

Jennifer Brown: Thank goodness.

Joanne Lipman: When I told the editor on the story what had happened, his response was to laugh, because it was such an outrage. It was kind of like a you-go-girl moment. You showed him. The guy started stripping, and I just kept interviewing him.

Jennifer Brown: Right. You didn’t miss a beat. Of course.

Joanne Lipman: I was like, “I’m not going to let this guy intimidate me.”

Jennifer Brown: Wow.

Joanne Lipman: Now, if that happened, if I had a young reporter come to me and tell me that happened, that guy would be going to jail.

Jennifer Brown: Big changes. Thank goodness.

Joanne Lipman: Things really have progressed a lot, a lot since then.

Jennifer Brown: A lot, a lot. Oh my gosh. And The Wall Street Journal readership and writing, how would you describe what you’ve seen change over there, or not? I’m just curious.

Joanne Lipman: I actually was in a really fortunate position to be able to lead a lot of the changes. I started Weekend Journal, I started Personal Journal. My mandate became… As an editor. I started a reporter and then a columnist and then an editor on page one. And then ultimately, my mandate became to create new sections that really addressed people’s entire lives. We called it the business of life, as in we realize you’re not just a nine-to-five person anymore, that you are a whole person, a dimensionalized human. We started creating coverage that addressed people’s personal lives, their investment decisions, but also, we took a Wall Street Journal business spin on things like buying a car. Not just what’s happening in the auto industry, but how do you buy a car? Getting a used car for your teenager, what’s the best credit card, stuff that people cared about in their lives. I would ask the person who covered the industry of the art business, “How do you start a collection if you’ve got no money?” We just started doing things that appealed more to the whole person.

Joanne Lipman: That has continued at the journal, and the journal’s got a lot, lot, lot more women now than it used to, though it’s still never had a female editor-in-chief. I think the whole world of media has significantly moved forward, particularly, I would say, in the last decade. I don’t remember how many years ago this was. Maybe 10 years ago, I wrote an op-ed about women’s progress backsliding. That was on the op-ed page of The New York Times. Well, right now, The New York Times has an entire staff of people who are devoted to covering issues like that. At that time, that coverage didn’t exist in the paper, so I wrote an op-ed about it. Now, you don’t need an op-ed about that, because you have news coverage that’s actually following the trends of what are happening to women in the workplace.

Jennifer Brown: Wow. I love that you described the arc of that. It’s just good to take a pause and appreciate that, right?

Joanne Lipman: Yeah, because we complain a lot about… There’s a lot of things that need fixing. A lot. And there’s not as much progress as I would’ve liked to have seen, and we still see backsliding. I think there’s so much work that still needs to be done. In a way, you could be frustrated and dispirited about that, but in another way, when you look at the overall arc of what’s happened, what’s happened in the course of my career, you see that we aren’t back where we used to be. Some of the stuff is still happening, but we have made some progress.

Jennifer Brown: Yes. Agreed. That’s a really good segue, actually, into your piece that you did for TIME. I wanted to know about TIME Magazine. Since were on the topic of publications and media changing, I have noticed a real shift in TIME Magazine over the years. How did you approach writing this piece? How do you understand TIME’s audience, and then how did that dictate how you positioned the piece? I’m curious. Can you tell us a little bit about who reads the magazine now versus who used to? How were you trying to reach people in language they understand about, obviously, a topic we care very much about, you and I?

Joanne Lipman: Sure, sure. Just to be clear, I’m not on staff at TIME Magazine. I contribute. The reason I contribute to the… I have to tell you, if we can just talk for a moment about TIME, if you look at the current editor and the previous editor. Previous editor was Nancy Gibbs, who I think may have been the first female editor of TIME. She’s a rockstar. She’s great. She really moved that coverage forward. And then the current editor, Edward Felsenthal, who is a very close friend, who I worked with at The Wall Street Journal for many, many years, is just brilliant. What he is doing with that magazine is transcendent. Together with Marc Benioff, who bought the magazine, have really, really brought that magazine not just into the 21st century, but really looking ahead into the future, looking around corners. Where is the culture going? Where’s the culture at large going? What’s really cool about it is, it’s a magazine that is broadly distributed across the United States and abroad, so the audience is an audience of everyone.

Joanne Lipman: One of the things I thought about while writing this piece is a lot of what we focus on with the workplace is the professional white-collar workplace. Most of the stories you read, it’s about, “Do we want remote work, hybrid work? What’s happening?” But it’s really important not to forget, dismiss, or underplay the plight of so many people who don’t have that option. It’s a privileged option when we talk about a hybrid remote workplace, because there’s so many people out there who have hourly jobs, who have onsite jobs. And frankly, the people who were hit the very, very hardest during the pandemic were those people. Obviously, you have your frontline doctors and nurses who we applaud, but you also have your frontline grocery clerks, drivers, delivery people, who really, really bore a lot of the brunt of suffering, and particularly women, and particularly women who are mothers. It’s been an impossible situation, and it’s really played up and brought to light, there’s a real divide between those workers who have the privilege of being able to be remote and those workers who do not.

Joanne Lipman: I think one of the beauties of writing this piece specifically for TIME is that that audience encompasses everyone. It’s an educated audience, but it’s not just an elite coastal audience. I think that’s really, really important to understand when we talk about… The workplace is broken. It’s broken for everybody.

Jennifer Brown: Yes. Yes. Broken for everybody. Oh, so true. I know this so much. What I look at every single day is the question of feeling a sense of belonging, which I believe is the wellspring of creativity. I think that we have to feel comfortable taking care of, have our needs met to a degree, to a greater degree than is currently true, and beyond that, feel a sense of respect, agency, not being treated like a cog, being seen a full person as much as possible, instead of being infantilized, which I think is the way workers and employees have been treated and seen, frankly. Trusting your people, and this year has forced employers and managers to wrestle with, “How do I measure what I can’t see every single day with no face-time? How do I direct work differently now that everybody is in such different availability and mental health states and parenting challenges?”

Jennifer Brown: I am actually grateful. I don’t think we could have had the conversation we’re having now without this huge stressor of the pandemic that literally turned the whole thing upside-down. It was a conversation I was trying to have, but there was no wind at my back for the conversation, I felt. There was no urgency. Now, we have more than enough urgency from the last year, where it feels like all the rules have to be rewritten and get to be written. This was the moment. I feel like we have this now opening and a wind at our back to say it has been broken for so long for so many of us that, honestly, we did not build the workplace. We weren’t at the table when it was built, and therefore, it doesn’t work for so many of us, and it causes so much harm and economic disparities and all the things we know. It feels that, for incredibly tragic reasons that we all know really well, this is the opening that I’ve been waiting for for a really long time. Do you feel that way, too? How would you characterize what the opportunity is in front of us?

Joanne Lipman: Sure, sure. Something that’s really important to think about, which is something I discovered while I was reporting my last book. My previous book is That’s What She Said, which looks at, how do we close the gender gap, particularly by bringing men into the equation?

Jennifer Brown: That’s another podcast conversation.

Joanne Lipman: Yeah. Yeah.

Jennifer Brown: Really good.

Joanne Lipman: One of the things I came across while I was reporting that was the genesis of the modern workplace. The genesis is it was after World War II, it was the guys coming back from the front, and they created, essentially, the modern workplace. Very hierarchical, a lot of face-time onsite, and with an assumption that you do your work, and that’s your focus, and that there’s a wife at home that’s going to take care of everything else. We still use that model, which is-

Jennifer Brown: We do.

Joanne Lipman: … so bizarre when you think about it, that everything since World War II, pretty much everything else in the world has changed and pretty much every other element of the kind of work that we do has changed, and yet, we still abide by this old-fashioned, outdated model. It’s time to rethink. If we were to start from scratch today, would we create a five-day work week? I don’t know. There are now organizations, companies, even entire countries, I believe Spain is trying this, that are experimenting with a four-day work week. Would we do nine-to-five at a time when so many businesses are global and we work with people across time zones? Does nine-to-five really make sense? You could rethink every single element of the workplace, because if we were going to start from scratch today, I don’t think it would resemble what we have now.

Joanne Lipman: We do have this great opportunity. It’s interesting when you talk about the wind against your back. My next book, which I’ve been working on during the pandemic, is on the art and science of reinvention. At the beginning of my reporting, more than a year ago, when I first started noodling this, I really focused on people who had these dramatic reinventions, which is fun, and that’ll be part of the book. And companies that had managed to reinvent themselves. But I very quickly realized that, with the pandemic, this is not a special sauce that belongs to a few outliers. This is all of us. It’s every one of us. We all had this chance during the pandemic to reprioritize our lives, to rethink what is the daily tempo of our day, to think about what we really care about and how we want to live our lives.

Joanne Lipman: I cited some of the figures in my TIME piece about the number of people who are thinking about resigning. The one that really stunned me was this huge percentage of people who said that they are considering switching careers. Not just looking for a new job or quitting the job they have, but rethinking, switch their careers entirely, because they’re reprioritizing their life. “I want work that has meaning to me,” is what they’re saying. “I want work where I feel valued, and I want work where, if I’m going to spend that many hours on it, I feel like I’m contributing something and that I’m being valued for what I’m doing.” I think that’s really fundamental.

Joanne Lipman: And we also see that employees, and particularly, this is going to be true in a tighter labor market, have a lot more power than they did a few years ago, which means employees, the expectations that are inherent in work are so, so much greater than they had been previously. They want their bosses to be tackling climate change, and they want them to be tackling racism and sexism. There’s just a huge expectation of what we want out of our workplaces that is much different than even just a few years ago.

Jennifer Brown: And do you think employers are adequately panicked about this? I still feel there’re so many heads in the sand. I struggle with, do you understand that the ground is not just shifting? It has shifted. The train has left the station, and you’re not even on the train in terms of how responsive people with power and decision-making are being or not being to this. To me, I see it as an emergency for employers, and they’re not really… It’s almost like they just don’t have the language and the tools to even get their heads around it, let alone rebuild in the right way. How do we influence them to really pay attention? But backing up, would you agree that there’s still a lot of apathy about this?

Joanne Lipman: I think there’s a lot of confusion about this. We can look at this on two levels. One is basically your mid-level manager, which is your everyday manager, not your CEO, not your Fortune 500 top executive, but your everyday manager. That is, I think, perhaps the biggest unknown and the least prepared, because if you do have a hybrid workforce, which the majority of people say they want, how do you manage that? It’s much more difficult to manage that than it is to manage a fully remote workforce, because you have to be very careful that everyone gets equal opportunity, that people are contributing at an equal level, and that you don’t create some sort of two-class system where perhaps the people who are onsite get all the great projects and the great visibility and the opportunities, whereas the people who are offsite are treated as second-class citizens. That’s particularly dangerous for working moms who would be more likely to be your remote workers if they have the option. There’s a real emergency there to prepare middle managers.

Joanne Lipman: When you look at top managers, you see across the landscape, and this, I think, is really interesting, you are going to see the true power of employees when it comes to their choices about where they want to work. I was absolutely fascinated to see Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan, who came out and said, announced basically, that if you really want to hustle, you have to be onsite. He wants his people back in the office if you care about hustling. The implication is, if you’re going to work remotely, you don’t really care about work. In fact, the CEO of WeWork said exactly that. He said only the least engaged employees, those are the ones who will work at home. They’re both being very dismissive of remote workers, which I think is really damaging.

Joanne Lipman: And by the way, these are both industries, finance and tech, that are the least family-friendly and the least hospitable to women as it is. If they insist on going down that path, it’s only going to double down on the inhospitable approach to women, to people of color, to people who maybe have relatives at home that they have to take care of, or have a long commute. I think that’s really, really damaging. But at the end of the day, it could end up damaging them and their organizations more than it damages even the employees, because if the employees say, “I don’t want to work in an environment like that,” they might go elsewhere.

Joanne Lipman: What was interesting is, in finance… Jamie Dimon comes out and says this. I didn’t really hear of peep of people in shock. It was like, “Oh, okay.” And yet, when the CEO of the Washingtonian Magazine wrote an op-ed essentially saying the same thing, her point was, if people aren’t onsite, they lose opportunities for mentorship and opportunities, because we managers are going to forget about them. She wasn’t saying that they would be less engaged. She was saying that we the managers are just on us. We’re just not going to be paying the right attention to those people, and then it’s easier to fire them. But when she said that, her staff, up in arms, went on strike. They went on a protest strike. You see different industries reacting in different ways.

Jennifer Brown: And that is such a disturbing double-standard story about the latitude, or lack thereof, that female leaders have. Oh my goodness. That could be a whole other tangent that we go on.

Joanne Lipman: It’s very true. It’s very, very true that-

Jennifer Brown: So frustrating.

Joanne Lipman: … women in leadership positions get less respect than men in the same leadership positions.

Jennifer Brown: You know this, and you’ve written books on it. Yes.

Joanne Lipman: I have. I wrote the book on that one. Yes.

Jennifer Brown: You did. I know you did. Coming into the pandemic, women, we were making strides. And then you quantify the rollback, basically, of progress. How do you describe and talk about emergencies? And who knows? In this crazy world where everything is changing so quickly, we could recover a lot of what we lost in a way that I think we can’t even imagine, sitting here, just like we couldn’t have imagined the pandemic. But what was the situation for women, I know that you look at this issue, coming into the workplace? And then what was undone, what has been undone, and what are the implications of that?

Jennifer Brown: And then I guess I might ask, what’s your prediction for recovering from that and then some, and what would be the innovations that would enable us to somehow make up for what we lost and then some? We can’t just look for the solution that gets us back to what was already an unsatisfying level, but we need to do the real work that I think we’ve been avoiding in the workplace for a really long time in terms of how we support all kinds of talent. Hopefully, we can not just recover, but recover through a reinvention, and that will enable some solutions that take us way further than we ever dreamed we could go, and quickly.

Jennifer Brown: I’m just putting that out there. It’s a vision that I have, because we’re living in times where I think, sometimes, the crisis is so intense, but also, there’s these dramatic solutions that were so creative that you never could’ve dreamed of. We’re in this hyper-speed time. I wonder, what did we come in with, what happened, and then what do you think is going to happen over the next year or two, recover, and also to rebuild and reinvent around the problems that have been plaguing us?

Joanne Lipman: Right. Going into last year, at the beginning of 2020, women made up the majority of the workforce, and that was a new thing. Hello?

Jennifer Brown: Yes, I’m still here.

Joanne Lipman: Oh, I’m sorry. Okay.

Jennifer Brown: Oh, are you still here? That’s okay. I put you on mute.

Joanne Lipman: I thought you… Oh, okay.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah.

Joanne Lipman: Yes. All right. Let me try that again.

Jennifer Brown: Okay.

Joanne Lipman: Coming into 2020, women were the majority of the workforce, and that was for the first time. We already know, by the way, women, for 30 years or more, I think more at this point, had been the majority of college graduates. They’ve gotten the majority of law degrees, they’ve gotten the majority of graduate school degrees. Women are highly educated, and finally, actually made up the majority of the workforce. We have, in the course of the pandemic, lost so many women, and so many women have dropped out of the workforce, that we are now back more than 30 years in terms of women’s representation in the workforce. We’re back in 1988, which is just so incredibly-

Jennifer Brown: Unspeakable.

Joanne Lipman: … frustrating. It’s a horror. It’s a horror. That is a national emergency. Going forward, I am an optimist. I will tell you, I was a born optimist, so I believe that this does give us an amazing opportunity for companies to step up, because they’re going to have to step up to bring back women. That means a whole different suite of perks and benefits that make the workplace more equitable for everyone. If you look at the last decade or two, when companies talk about their great benefits, it was the tech companies. “Oh, we’re giving you free food and giving you free-”

Jennifer Brown: Kombucha.

Joanne Lipman: “… dry cleaning onsite.” Well, people have wised up to the fact that all of that was all about making you work longer and not leaving the office. I think that the new kinds of benefits that will be the ones that really appeal are going to be the ones that subsidize childcare, generous parental leaves for men and for women, mental health benefits.

Joanne Lipman: I wrote about this, actually, for The Wall Street Journal in the fall. A lot of these companies are now doing these enforced mental health days. They call them recharge days. I think some companies are even doing a whole week. And the beauty of that is the entire company shuts down. It’s not like, “I’m taking a vacation day, I’m ignoring my email, and I’m getting 10,000 emails I have to deal with tomorrow.” The entire company is shut down, and nobody’s allowed to email. There’s no meetings. You’re not missing anything. It’s for your mental health. I think that that’s healthy, the fact that companies… I think those are the kinds of benefits that employees are looking for, the kind that actually make your life easier, not make it easier to work more hours onsite.

Joanne Lipman: And now, we have an opportunity to structure… If we can structure the hybrid remote workforce, which is probably the best option. If we can structure that in a way that is equitable, then that opens up a whole lot of opportunity for women and for others who have been basically blocked out. Handicapped people, people who have some sort of disability, aren’t able to do the commute or the onsite for endless numbers of hours. It opens up the world in a much more equitable way if we can get this right.

Joanne Lipman: And it’s a big if, because I do think, frankly, having been a manager for many, many years, I can tell you that you want people who are onsite to be able to have that ability to bounce off one another. Many of the best ideas I’ve ever had, I don’t take credit for them myself, because it came from bouncing ideas off of my colleague. Even if you run into somebody in the ladies’ room in a different department and you’re chatting and one of you gets a great idea from just a casual chat, those serendipitous connections are really, really important, and I think that having some of that is important. I also think that you want to have the company culture. You want to be able to know your colleagues. I think all of those things are important in creating a really successful company, but it doesn’t mean that you all need to be there all the time. I would say you want at least some sort of hybrid situation. But hybrid, again, as we were discussing, is very difficult to manage. That’s the opportunity and the challenge.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve asked a lot about virtual inclusion, and we weren’t even terribly great at the middle manager level at inclusive behaviors coming into this. And then now, we have to think about layering that through, or seeing that and practicing that through the lens of doing it virtually, which is really an interesting challenge. I’m getting asked a lot about, what does it look like, what does it sound like, what are the barriers? How do I know what may or may not be working for my team members? I think that there’s a lack of trust, often because of our workplace that hasn’t been optimized for so many of us.

Jennifer Brown: I say to leaders, “Your lifeblood is going to rest on, and your success is going to rest on how much people trust you with how they’re feeling at an arm’s length at this virtual distance or in this hybrid scenario.” Do I trust you enough to say I feel spoken over, or I’m not feeling this format of virtual meeting is working for me and my input or my creative process, or that I need a mental health day, but I don’t trust others enough to say what it’s really about, so I make up lies about where I need to be or conflicts? There’s a lack of trust with our truths with each other, and for a very good reason, because those truths, if we really were to share them, have penalized us. And then the risk of being further ostracized in a virtual or hybrid scenario, where we are out of sight, out of mind in a very real way. It feels like extra perilous.

Jennifer Brown: Managers, we talk about empathy, we talk about transparency, we talk about, how are you going to get people to trust you enough so that you know how to support them or what kind of support and resourcing they need to do their best work? That’s going to look different. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how scalable this is, but it’s going to be person by person by person, because we’re, each of us, a mosaic of identities, of needs, of challenges, of preferences, of introversion, extroversion, or times of day when we’re productive or not. I think, literally, the reinvention that’s going on is, how do I lead this team?

Jennifer Brown: I’ve been leading a virtual team for 15 years, so this is the way we work, and I’m so comfortable with a lot of this. I understand that corporate people haven’t really had their feet held to the fire on this, but this is where we need to go. How do I speak about maybe a diversity issue that I’m experiencing? I’m not sure, for example, whether I’m feeling ostracized or left out or marginalized. How do I bring that to my manager, who may not identify like I do? How do I say I’m having this experience? I think this is that new conversation that is so tricky, because there are so many diversity issues arising in this hybrid scenario that I think we’re all coming to terms with.

Jennifer Brown: I think even some of us in underrepresented groups and marginalized groups are also learning about, “Wait a second. Is this happening to me because of this?” The whole awakening of the last year has been partially, to some of us who… Like you mentioned earlier, I poo-pooed things. I just rose above. I didn’t know that that was a thing, and now we know it’s a thing. But I think we’re all having a collective waking up to it.

Jennifer Brown: Making managers’ jobs even harder, particularly if the manager identifies as, and I’ll just say, a straight white male, for example. How do we help managers of certain identities truly cross that bridge of difference to put on somebody else’s lens and say, “Let me view this workplace through somebody else’s lens, and then let me shape the way that I lead and the way that we produce how our output is generated and how we feel about working together. Let me see that through another lens”? I just feel like this is completely a new conversation I am having. Oh my goodness. Hard to know where to start.

Joanne Lipman: Yeah. Actually, the point you bring up about managers is really, really important. There is an entire literature, starting with Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In… She made a great point, right? Women need to lean in more. But there’s an entire literature, an entire movement, that’s been devoted to telling women or telling people of color, telling the underrepresented people it’s on our heads. We’re supposed to fix it. We’re the ones who need to lean in and raise our hands and speak up and call out bias. It’s all on us. And in fact, my point, and the reason I wrote That’s What She Said, actually is that the onus has to be as well on men and on managers in particular, most of whom are men. In fact, most of whom are white men. It needs to be the responsibility of the manager on a Zoom call to say, “Hey.” Or in a meeting, in a live meeting, too. “Who’s the person who’s not speaking up? Who’s the person who’s not being heard? Who’s the person who’s being interrupted?” Women are interrupted three times more than men. “Who’s the person whose idea is being basically-”

Jennifer Brown: Co-opted.

Joanne Lipman: “… co-opted by the guy,” which happens to every woman. Every woman, that happens to. And there’s a lot of research on this that shows you it’s not your imagination. This is real. This is real. It happens. The managers need to be highly, highly aware of it.

Joanne Lipman: I will tell that, when I was actually writing the book, I changed the way I manage. I was chief content officer at Gannett and editor-in-chief as well of USA Today. I was overseeing 110 newspapers, and specifically in the newsroom, overseeing USA Today. It really changed the way I manage, because it made me hyper, hyper-aware of whose voice was not being heard. More often than not, it was a woman, it was a person of color whose voice was either not being heard, or maybe the person was intimidated and not speaking up in a meeting, and I made it my business. Or they weren’t putting their hand up for a promotion. I made it my business to go and seek out those people specifically to let them know they’d be in the pool. If they wanted to raise their hand, they’d be a good candidate for a job, or I was interested in hearing their ideas about coverage on a particular issue. I made an effort. I think I had always made an effort, but I made a much more conscious effort, and I think all managers need to do that on a regular basis to really be attuned to the people who are being overlooked.

Jennifer Brown: That’s right. We need to really shift the way we lead and listen and seek out feedback and build relationships and watch out-

Joanne Lipman: And give opportunities. Give opportunities. I think one of the big frustrations I hear from senior managers, from CEOs, when I go and work with companies or talk to companies, the number one issue I hear is, “Oh, we want to promote more women and people of color into our senior leadership, but we can’t find them.” I always say to them, “Go look at your entry level.” A lot of companies are hiring fairly equitably at the entry level, at least more equitably at the entry level. But they’re losing people. They’re losing women and they’re losing people of color as they go up the ladder. And the guys, the senior executives, will always say, “Oh, but women, they want to quit when they have babies.” I’m like, “You know what? Actually, if you support them and give them what they need, they don’t want to quit.”

Jennifer Brown: That’s not what they want.

Joanne Lipman: That’s not what they want at all. And actually, in surveys and research that’s been done, women will tell you that’s not what they want. That’s not why they’re quitting. In fact, when my kids were babies, I almost quit, and my bosses said, “Wait, wait, no, no. We’re going to help you.” And they did.

Jennifer Brown: Oh, fabulous.

Joanne Lipman: They allowed me to work remotely. They made accommodations so that I could fully participate in my job without having to quit or even go part-time, which allowed me to have the rest of my career. It can be done.

Jennifer Brown: It can be done.

Joanne Lipman: It’s not impossible.

Jennifer Brown: No, it’s not. Please. And if you need some data to support this argument, I always look at McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace study. I’m sure you’re familiar with it, too. They do it every two years with Lean In, actually. What I find really compelling is, speaking of intersectionality, Joanne, is the differences between different identities of women in terms of also what they envision in terms of their career path, the way they look at ambition, which is fascinating. I won’t spoil it, but I really recommend. if you don’t know what I’m talking about. When we’re understanding women of all identities, we need to be very specific identity by identity, because there are big differences.

Jennifer Brown: As an aspiring ally, and I can say this as a LGBTQ+ white-identified cisgender woman, there’s much allyship that I try to practice with women who don’t identify as I do. It’s incumbent on all of us to raise those nuances and be armed and equipped to share statistics and data that has been shown year over year about how to differentially support the person sitting across from you, the person that you’re trying to pull up, the peer. This also, by the way, doesn’t have to do… I know you know this. It doesn’t have to do with positional power, necessarily. I think we can all be championing laterally as well, and we can even champion upwards.

Jennifer Brown: And women as allies. We talk about men as allies, but women as allies to each other, taking into account and really centering an intersectional approach means that sometimes, I’m trying to educate the white guys as a fellow white-identified person to say, “Here are the things we need to know about the differences and the nuances.” It’s really fascinating. And then I take the other position and say… Now, I’m going to speak as a cis female and a LGBTQ person and tell you, “Here’s what you need to know about us.” It’s really neat to inhabit this place. I think it’s fascinating to, and very important to, every moment we have the chance to bring up the intersectional conversation. Otherwise, we’re in danger of treating women as a monolith, and that’s not going to be a helpful strategy, because different women of different socioeconomic backgrounds, in addition to ethnicities, are having, like you brought up at the beginning of this call, a radically different experience in this workplace crisis that we’re in. Different strategies for different women. I’m sure you’ve learned that, too, and probably practice it, Joanne.

Jennifer Brown: Back to that point. How can we make an inclusive reinvention? What would you advise to not cater to the most privileged, or that we are being inclusive in terms of how we look at the economy of those of us who are getting blocked out? I guess the question might be the discipline of ensuring that what is next speaks to all of our needs much better than it used to. Women’s efforts benefited white women for years, and I think that was not even a conversation. It wasn’t even on our radar screen to view efforts of the last decade critically in that way. But looking back, it’s horrifying, for me anyway, to think that we had this huge missing understanding and that we sailed forward and patted ourselves on the back and said, “Look at all the progress we’re making,” and we weren’t. Yeah. What would you say to that challenge?

Joanne Lipman: Yeah. Look, I think change needs to come from two levels. First is at the senior level. One of the most important criteria for an organization is to have the head of that organization, the CEO, and by the way, the CFO, the chief financial officer, both champion, live, model, and value the diversity and inclusion. I see it in big organizations when… When organizations invite me to come speak or do a book talk, if it comes only from the HR department, it doesn’t have the same resonance. Basically, somebody’s checking a box. When you go to an organization, and I’ve been to many, where you got the CEO of a major organization sitting in the front row, they’re saying, “I care about this. I’m the one who is leading this effort.” They have to live it, work it, and value it, and it has to be their responsibility. Frankly, I would like to see boards of directors hold their executive teams responsible for diversity. They track absolutely other metric. Track diversity. See how you’re doing. See what’s going on at your junior levels and who’s not getting promoted. If you’re not promoting equitably, it’s not the problem of the people you’re hiring. It’s your problem as a manager, that you’re not giving these people the training, mentoring, and opportunities that they need. That’s one.

Joanne Lipman: The second is, when we’re thinking about how do we reinvent the workplace, be inclusive in how you’re thinking about it. Make sure that you have people from throughout your organization who are not necessarily the most senior people, but who represent a diverse slice of your employees, different levels. Obviously, you want to have diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity and sexual orientation, everything. You want to have that kind of diversity, but also diversity of the levels. Not just all senior people, but across the organization, so that you have a much clearer picture of what are the needs of employees and what are the priorities of employees to make it a more equitable workplace for all of them.

Jennifer Brown: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I would say functional diversity, too. The conversation about in the call center or the manufacturing facility and then the corporate environment. Very different. That’s a kind of diversity that can lead to repeating exclusionary policies that don’t work in certain environments.

Joanne Lipman: Absolutely.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah. I would add that.

Joanne Lipman: Absolutely. There’s another kind of diversity that I didn’t really think about until more recent years, which is economic-geographic diversity. You may have diversity in terms of race and gender, but if everybody came from a nice upper-middle-class suburb and went to some good college, you’re still missing something. If you don’t have people who come from geographically diverse areas, socioeconomically diverse backgrounds, that too is really important in understanding how to really create a useful and supportive culture in your workplace.

Jennifer Brown: That’s right. That’s right. It’s useful to think about. And maybe employ or pilot removing names from resumes when you’re in the hiring process. Names from resumes, education backgrounds. I know the community with disabilities, we talk a lot about gaps in resumes and the addiction that we have to evaluating people based on the continuity of their positions. The bias creeps in absolutely everywhere. I feel sometimes like it’s a weed. It has strangled our workforce processes and is blocking out so many people. Even when we are best intended, I don’t think intention is enough to shortcut our biases, because they’re so deep and they’re so baked into how we’re raised and how we’re socialized and what is rewarded in the workplace, too.

Jennifer Brown: I love tools in the tech world. AI is tackling bias in job descriptions. I don’t know if you know about this, but the AI goes through and looks for gendered words and suggests an alternative in a job description so that female candidates won’t feel repelled. The data has shown that certain words make us feel… Words like rockstar, ninja.

Joanne Lipman: Yep. Yeah, I’ve seen that research. Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Brown: It’s fascinating.

Joanne Lipman: It’s exclusionary. It’s exclusionary. Yep.

Jennifer Brown: Right, right.

Joanne Lipman: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jennifer Brown: We need to really have a discipline. I think tech can actually help us become more disciplined. I think this is one of those cases where… We complain about AI a lot, because bias is coded into AI and that’s an emergency, but on the flip side, I think tech can help us build a human muscle in a really interesting way. But everything needs to be looked at and re-looked at and rethought. I think that persistent and courageous role of managers and leaders to look under every rock and to say, “Let’s just come from this place of assuming that everything is probably broken.” I hate to say it, and I don’t want to overwhelm anyone, but hey, we’re in an overwhelming year, and it’s time to ask the deep questions, which is, who built this? Who does it benefit? Who does it not attend to or respect or include or block intentionally, but often, most of the time, unintentionally? Okay, it’s nobody’s fault.

Jennifer Brown: People personalize this stuff. I’m like, “Can we just agree on the facts that the workplace was not built by and for a diverse group of people? We were not at the table weighing in.” If we had been at the table, I’m not sure we would have felt comfortable weighing in. I think that’s the other piece, which gets to the inclusion, the I in D&I, right? The I is really, to me… Well, you might’ve been at the table, and you might have been even asked your opinion, but did you feel the psychological safety to really speak the truth? To me, you have to go through this whole 360-degree process to analyze where was… It reminds me a bit of that PepsiCo ad with the Kardashians and the Black Lives Matter protest. Do you remember that, Joanne?

Joanne Lipman: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Brown: It was just a nightmare on so many levels. They pulled it after 24 hours, because it was just… My question was, who was at the table? Who was listened to? Who was truthful about that ad and why it would torpedo? What a missed opportunity and a black eye on the company to release something like that, that was so clearly offensive and missed the mark.

Jennifer Brown: Anyway, I do think a lot about… It’s getting the diversity to the table of all kinds that you described. But then the inclusion of those voices and the creation of psychological safety to enable true contributions, like the honest truth, from people, from their lived experience and not just their technical knowledge, that’s what we have to get to. I love that we focus so much on this episode on middle manager skillsets in this area, which need to be developed, and quickly. Otherwise, we’re going to lose an entire generation, because that manager role is the number one factor that causes people to quit. It’s not the company, it’s not the job. It’s your manager. If our managers don’t do this well, we are going to lose a lot of really critical talent at that moment when, you keep talking about, they need to be pulled up. We don’t need to be losing people at the middle. We need to be actually retaining them and increasing the velocity with which they move up the chain.

Jennifer Brown: But that pulling action needs to happen intentionally. I love that you described what I call sponsorship earlier, which is that, “I’m going to look out for our talent, I’m going to join my capital with them, and I’m going to raise up,” like you described you started to do as a leader. “I’m going to raise up this talent, and I’m going to use that platform and that power and that influence that I have to do that all day long.” If we did nothing else, I feel like that would leave an incredible legacy and a changed workforce.

Jennifer Brown: Oh my goodness. I could talk to you forever, Joanne. It’s so great. Anyway, I don’t even need to ask you. Where can people find you? You are everywhere, and you’re very findable, because you’re so prominent. Is there a way that we can get involved more in your thought leadership? And also cheering you on for this next book about reinvention of all kinds, art and science of reinvention. When is it coming out? What can we do to get involved in your world?

Joanne Lipman: Oh, sure. Thanks. I’m very findable at I do have a regular newsletter. I will send out articles and thoughts. The book on reinvention won’t be out for a while, but I’m actually on social media, on Twitter and Instagram and on my author page on Facebook. I’m @joannelipman. Pretty easy to find me. I’ve been documenting some of my findings as I go.

Jennifer Brown: Oh, good.

Joanne Lipman: That’s a great way. And I also love to hear from people and love to hear their stories.

Jennifer Brown: Oh, wonderful.

Joanne Lipman: Feel free to reach out on any of those channels and share what you’re up to or questions that you have that you would like to see answered.

Jennifer Brown: Fabulous. What a generous offer. Thank you, Joanne, for the work you’re doing, the light you’re shining, the path you’re charting. We really appreciate you. May you continue to create a ton of helpful things for all of us so that we can feel inspired for the journey ahead.

Joanne Lipman: Well, thanks. Thanks for having me, and thanks for this conversation. I think it’s a really, really important conversation to have. Thank you.

Jennifer Brown: Thank you. Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website, over at You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and the future of work, and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.

Doug Foresta: You’ve been listening to The Will to Change: Uncovering True Stories of Diversity and Inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit Thank you for listening, and we’ll be back next time with a new episode.