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Eliminating Gender Bias, with Andie Kramer

Eliminating Gender Bias, with Andie Kramer

Episode 85: Eliminating Gender Bias, with Andie Kramer

Women are often discouraged from pursuing their dreams due to the many views society has on women’s roles. If you’re like Andie Kramer, you were discouraged from pursuing your dreams a very young age. Andie, an activist, artist and one of the 50 Most Influential Women Lawyers in America named by the National Law Journal, was told at 13 years old that being a “lady lawyer” would be a big mistake. Nevertheless, she persisted. In this episode, Andie shares advice on how to confront gender bias in the workplace and discusses what organizations can do to be more inclusive and help women succeed. She also discusses how we can all be more socially conscious, not just in our careers, but our daily lives.

Episode Transcript

00:00: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations With Women Changing the Face of Business. And now, your hosts, Kristy Wallace and Maricella Herrera.

00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate podcast, and this is your host Kristy Wallace here with Maricella, and we are having so much fun on this lovely fall day in New York City.

00:24 Maricella Herrera: Yes, we are. [chuckle]

00:26 KW: And we're enjoying that very small period of time when it is sunny and cool and lovely before it becomes slush city.

00:37 MH: So I don't know... It's sunny, which is great.

00:43 KW: Your face just fell, you were like, "Uhhh."

00:45 MH: But I do not like the cold. I absolutely do not like the cold, and every time, around this time of year when the weather starts to change and I have a harder time getting out of my bed, and I have to wear boots and sweaters and more stuff, I ask myself, "Why am I here?"

01:08 KW: Because we're here.

01:09 MH: Yeah, I do love New York, and I do love Ellevate. But nonetheless, I will be migrating south for a little bit and going home to El Salvador where it's nice and sunny and warm.

01:20 KW: Yes, you'll be dialing remotely for a bit of time, so we don't wanna see you go, but I totally get it. I always think we should get sun lamps or something like the vitamin D lamps and just put them around the office, 'cause it starts to get...

01:38 MH: That will be nice.

01:38 KW: And daylight savings recently happened and so it's like all these things are the perfect storm to just make you want to stay in bed all day.

01:44 MH: They really are, really.

01:46 KW: But we are not staying in bed all day because we're on a mission and we are on a mission to close the gender gaps in business to help women get ahead and our phenomenal guests of this week, Andie Kramer, has a similar mission and she's just really kicking butt and doing some fantastic things around gender and bias, and just redefining workplace culture and how we can really see that gender parity start to coalesce.

02:16 MH: Yeah, Andie's great. And she's an Ellevate member, pretty active, has done some jam sessions. So if you like her interview and all the stuff you guys talk about in the podcast, you should check her out on the Ellevate website, We have some recordings and other stuff from her there too.

02:36 KW: Yeah. She's one of our experts. We have quite a number of experts in the Ellevate Network community that focus on everything from career to life to business, we love helping to elevate their voices, and the impact that they're having. And so it was great to see Andie. I know we haven't done a poll in a few weeks, but you have a good one for us this week, Maricella.

02:57 MH: We've been stepping away from the polls a little bit, but this week we have the following. Do you feel like you have to act like a man at work? So we asked that to the community. I'm not gonna ask you that because I'm sure the answer will be no. [chuckle] So 59% of our members said, "No. I am just myself." 17% said, "Sometimes, because I don't want to come off as emotional." 12% said, "Yes, because I want to be respected." And 8% said, "No, because then I will be viewed as aggressive." So a lot of unpacking in those answers.

03:36 KW: So much. I was like, "Oh... " Yes, there is a lot to unpack there. And we would love to know, actually, listeners, what do you think about that poll? And what are your thoughts? How would you answer, if you didn't answer, or maybe your answer has changed? So tweet at us, @EllevateNtwk, Ellevate Network on Twitter. We're also on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, all the great places, or you can shoot us an email at Let us know what you think. And also, do you have any questions about that? How do you be authentic and be yourself in the workplace without feeling like you have to adapt to a different social norm? We wanna hear from you, so reach out, say hi, and now let's hear from Andie about gender bias in the workplace.


04:29 KW: Andie, I am so happy to have you on the Ellevate podcast. You really are an inspiration and I don't know how you do it all. And actually, I shouldn't even say that, I hate the term "doing it all," but you certainly wear a lot of hats. I know you're an artist, an activist, and one of the most influential women lawyers in America. So what inspired this? And I know that's a huge question, so maybe let's just start with law.

05:07 Andie Kramer: Well, first of all, I'm very happy to be here today to talk with you. And I thought that I wanted to be a lawyer the very first time I went to court when I was in grade school. We went to the Criminal Court's building in Chicago and saw the defendant's position in a trial, and I was sure that I needed to save the world and that was my... And that was really my... The turning point for me, the decision that I wanted to be a lawyer and to do something that would be helpful to other people. So that was how I decided to be a lawyer. My first gender bias situation came right out of that, because my parents knew one man who was a lawyer and asked him if he would have lunch with me, to talk to me about my career aspirations, and he spent the entire hour telling me why I did not want to be a lawyer. That as a woman, no one would ever love me, I would never have a family, I would never have any friends, no one would ever like me. I would be lonely and being a lady lawyer would be a big mistake. And he said...

06:27 KW: How old were you at this time?

06:29 AK: I was probably about 13.

06:31 KW: Oh, my goodness.

06:32 AK: So unfortunately it hasn't changed very much since then. Getting both your vocation and your avocation and both to try to change the world and to help it for women happened at about the same time, about 13 years old.

06:48 KW: Have you run into this...

06:51 AK: Guy?

06:51 KW: Guy.

06:52 AK: Man.

06:52 KW: Since that conversation? And been like, "Look, I am amazing, and I've done so much."

07:00 AK: Actually, it's pretty funny because if I tell this story the first thing people think is, "Well, gee, did she ever get married, did ever have a family, did she ever had any children?" And yes, I'm married, and I have a daughter. And so the world did not turn out the way this man had predicted.

07:19 KW: I mean, but that's the reality. How many of those conversations have happened and continue to happen, where starting at such a young age, girls are told that they can't be what they wanna be and oftentimes the impact is much harsher, because it really does squash those dreams.

07:40 AK: One of the things I've found is that when we're told things like this, we feel that it's something about us, that there's something that we don't do right, or... It's personal. And the reality is that people have these stereotypes and biases, fairly hard-wired since they're three, four years old, and they're not gonna change for us, we have to figure out how to navigate around them and how to reach for our dreams without letting them step in the way and hold us back.

08:16 KW: That is so true. Yeah, you could also say that that conversation set you up for some of the other hardships that you would face going into a career in law, which traditionally hasn't been the kindest industry or the most diverse industry when it came to gender equality. And I know a lot has been changing in recent years but I'm sure along the way, you have some battle wounds to show for your experiences.


08:46 AK: Yeah. Absolutely, 30 years of the trenches is... I've got lots of... I've got lots of battle scars. In fact, one of the things is that I'm thinking about how to deal with awkward or uncomfortable situations, one of the things that I've found is that if we don't take it... If we don't let the other person know how it's affecting us and we treated it as if it's either a joke or a misunderstanding, that allows the other person, typically a man, but not always, but it allows the other person to save face and very often that's more important to them than either helping or hurting us. And so if we can laugh it off or act as if it was obviously a joke or a misunderstanding, very often we can overcome things that otherwise could feel crippling.

09:47 KW: Do you think that by laughing it off, though, we're missing the opportunity to have that conversation about what's hurtful, that's being said or what is wrong or biased?

10:02 AK: You're making a very important point, and I don't wanna suggest that when there's something that needs to be corrected, that we don't correct it. I'm not suggesting that at all, but what I am saying is that sometimes in the moment people open up their mouth and insert their foot and they don't mean it. And in those situations, we can diffuse a negative reaction, rather than throw gasoline on the fire, but one of the things that is recommended in that situation would be afterwards, when it's just you could go find that man or go find that woman and say, "I was really disappointed that you said X or Y, or I was puzzled or I didn't understand why you would have said that," so that you can have a discussion one-on-one. It's just that in groups when somebody is criticized, particularly men because of the way that they grow up, then they're looking to hurt you. And so if you can laugh it off for the moment that doesn't mean you don't go find them later and have a serious conversation.

11:17 KW: So Andie, I know you've done some incredible work around bias, and breaking through bias. You have a book, you've done lots of thought leadership around this. If you were to give three tips for a woman, in a situation, a professional situation with perceived bias, what would those be? And then I actually wanna talk to you from the flip side as an employer or a manager. Because I think the thing about bias is oftentimes it's unconscious. And what are the ways that we can become more conscious of that?

11:57 AK: Okay, well... Well, first of all, when we confront bias. First thing we need to do is identify it and so that's why in our book Breaking Through Bias, what we've done is the first couple of chapters is really about what the stereotypes are and what the biases are, the general ones, because very often women... We don't put a name to it, we know that there's something that's not quite right, but we can't quite place it. And so information is power. So that's the first thing that I would say. The second thing then is to understand what it is we want to accomplish if we're negotiating a contract, if we're interviewing a candidate, or interviewing for a job position. If we want to encourage our kids to put their socks on, it doesn't really matter. In any situation that involves negotiation, what we need to do is we need to know what we wanna get out of it, so that we don't get confused by the background noise of bias stereotypes, whatever. So that if I want you to hire me, I need to remember that that's my goal, and if I keep focusing on the goal, it can help me overcome and work around uncomfortable things.

13:20 AK: And then the third thing is that people truly don't mean to be biased in most situations. I'd say maybe 70% of the people really want to do the right thing, but they need a little help with it. Maybe there's 20% that wanted to do the right thing, they're educable, but they really need some remedial help, and there's probably 10% that just don't care, and they are who they are and they're proud of it. And so, most people we can give the benefit of the doubt to, and so that's a key part of what from an employee standpoint from what a woman can do. And then if we look at from what an employer needs to do, one of the important things is that bias training... To eliminate bias, training is not successful. Unfortunately, what happens is the men get their backs up, they get pissed off, they start to feel like they're being criticized and it actually can make things worse. So that does not mean that we don't do that kind of training, but we need to acknowledge the fact that if you feel a particular way about broccoli, I'm not gonna be able to change your views that broccoli is really a wonderful vegetable to eat.

14:42 AK: Why should I try? It's not gonna matter, but what I can do is I could put policies in place to make sure that you're not gonna impose your anti-broccoli views on other people. And so what we need to do is we need to have organizations think about our policies and procedures so that we can prevent bias from creeping in to hold our talented women back.

15:11 KW: Having policies and procedures in place, does that lead to fewer uber situations and fewer sexual harassment? So much of this has been in the news lately around incidences that are happening in the workplace that could be prevented if measures had been taken beforehand.

15:31 AK: Yep, absolutely. And so, for example, what I've worked at... In my law firm, it became clear that the young women were not getting the same opportunities as the young male lawyers. And so what we did is we implemented a training program, which was... If you're a first year lawyer you need to have done the following things. If you're a second year lawyer you need to have done the following things, and it would vary depending on what your specialty was. So that five, six, seven, eight, 10 years out, the senior people could not say, "Oh, well, she doesn't have what it take. She just did X and it was really not important enough work." Well, she would have done whatever they gave her to do, but nobody gave it to her.

16:20 AK: And so, by putting in place policies that... If you're gonna keep somebody... At a third-year level, fourth-year level, then you have to give them work that's commensurate with that. And that really made a dramatic change, because what happened is then the women were getting the same opportunities to do the same sorts of projects, and then they're in line for promotion, and so, that's one example. Another thing is that, in doing self-evaluations, women tend to be very modest. We're modest because the stereotypes tell us that we're supposed to be. So, if you're a little girl and I tell you that you're a great ballerina, you're gonna immediately deflect that, and say, "Oh, but you're a better gymnast." Or some such thing. We don't... We're not trained to say, "Thank you very much."

17:15 AK: And so, we don't support and advocate for ourselves the way we need to. And so the men are very happy to talk about how they're rock stars and superheroes, and the women talk about the team we're on. So, we need to understand what the ground rules are for being recognized for the contributions that we do provide. And then the senior people who evaluate women and men, you need to take some of the discretion and subjectiveness out of what they're evaluating, so that they can't say, "Well, I don't really like... I don't really like Christie or she's really too this or too that." Instead, they have to say, "How does she meet the core competencies that we set out for somebody in her position?" And so there's all sorts of things that organizations can do to try to prevent a lot of the bias that does hold women back in our careers.

18:23 KW: Is this a matter of it's going to take time, and we need to keep advocating for ourselves and we need to keep trying to overcome bias, we need to keep doing these things and we will see that change happen? Or is there something else that we can do to accelerate this?

18:43 AK: Well, you've touched on a really important point, which is that in much of the training that I do, the workshops and the keynotes and the writing, the blogs and things, are focusing on what women can do today. And the reason for that is that if we have to wait for men to figure out that there's a problem and for organizations to change, we're gonna be long out of our careers. So we have to do something today. But that does not mean that men and organizations are off the hook. And that's where you're going, which is there's different trains that should be leaving the station at the same time. Women today in today's gender biased workplaces, here are some things that we can do to advance in our careers.

19:34 AK: Is it fair that we have to worry about this stuff and guys don't? No, it's not fair, but let's just do what we can today in our world to help ourselves. It's sort of a separate issue from men need to understand how much harder it is for women to succeed and they don't get it. Only 50% of men even think that there's a problem. And if you look at the newest blog that we have on our website about how gender equality and gender achievement has become a partisan issue, you'll see that, very shockingly, that Democratic men and women think that we have a long way to go and the people who self-identified as Republicans said that they think that it's gone too far, that in fact women have more rights and basically are holding the men back. So if we have these different perspectives on how the world works, it's gonna take a long time to change organizations and the behaviors of men. So today, in a gender biased workplace, you and I and all the women who are listening to this and and care about this are gonna have to say, "I'm gonna take responsibility for my career today. And this is the things that I can do to help myself."

21:09 KW: So Andie, who's Al?

21:10 AK: Al is my husband. So I wrote the book Breaking Through Bias with my husband Al Harris, and we have been collaborating on professional speeches and articles and things for decades and the last 10 years have been really working together on eliminating gender bias. And so he is a very unique in many ways kind of a guy because he gets it. And one of the interesting things in working together with Al is that women can see that there's actually men who do get it, who do understand this, and it makes a big difference to know that we're not alone, we need men and we need organizations to change and help us succeed.

22:11 KW: Sallie Krawcheck, who is the Chair of Ellevate Network, posted a blog recently about sexual harassment in the workplace. And the synopsis is that she had been harassed in her career, and didn't bring that home with her. She didn't talk to her husband about it or her son, her family. It was just something that happened that she moved past. And in light of the news, she kind of made a comment to her husband and he was like, "What? What are you talking about?" And she's like, "Oh, here's what happened." And sort of the crux of that is that we as women have an opportunity to create allies in the home by having these conversations with our husbands, our sons, our partners, the men in our lives, around cultivating those allies. And so with Al, and I applaud him and you for the work that you're doing, was he an ally out of the gate? Was it baked into his DNA? Or is it really just having a strong amazing wife or the courageous conversations in the home? How did this come about for him?

23:32 AK: I would say it's a combination action, but the reality is when we started having these conversations, I would come home and I would say, "Let me tell you what happened at work today." And I would go through this litany of this sort of sexual harassment, gender bias, being excluded, being treated like a second-class citizen, and Al's reaction would be, "And what did you do?" And I would say to him, "Oh, I did X," and he'd say, "Well, you should have done X squared or whatever." And I'm like, I'd look at him and I'd say, "You're kidding me." Because as a woman, if I did this they would have ground me into the ground in a heartbeat, and they would have swept me out of the room. I can't do that. And it took a while for him to come around to saying, "You're right. I understand now why it is, a woman can't go in with both guns blazing."

24:32 AK: And so that's how we started our conversation. But it is... Calling it courageous, I think, is really something we need to think about. We all need to be courageous. I'm sure that Sallie was reluctant 'cause she didn't want her husband to get all upset and to go off and do the, "Well, I'm not... I'm gonna go take care of it for you." When she probably figured that that would have made it worse, instead of better. And so it's hard to have those kind of conversations, but men are educable. We ought to start at home, because in fact, that is where people who love us or care about us are going to be our allies, and they need to understand how different it is for us than it is for them.

25:22 KW: Thank you for that. And I know you also use art as an extension for your activism as well. And you have a jewelry line. Where did that come from? It's amazing, but my goodness, you are so multi-talented, you're writing, you're making jewelry, you're a lawyer, a highly celebrated lawyer.

25:43 AK: Well, it's nice of you to say that. What happened is I was doing some teaching in Africa and Asia on some contract negotiation and what I found was that these women would have the most amazing clothes and jewelry. So what I did is I started to buy beads in the markets and I would come home and I was making napkin rings. And I have... Everybody who knows me probably has about 40 sets of napkin rings. And one day Al, my husband, said to me, "You cannot make another napkin ring." And I said to him, "What do you care?" And he said, "That bead is too beautiful, it is way, way, way too beautiful to go into a napkin ring. You have to figure out how to do something else with them." And I said, "Well, what am I gonna do? I'm gonna make jewelry? I mean, look, it's not gonna change my day job." And then he said, "Well, yeah, so you make jewelry and you give it away." And then I thought, "Well, that's what I would like to do. I make jewelry and whatever sales proceeds or profits go right to organizations to help women and children." So I try to source beads that are made by women or women entrepreneurs who are selling them and then I use the proceeds to benefit charitable efforts to help women and children.

27:15 KW: That's amazing. Andie, we hear from the women in our community quite often about a desire to have a social impact. And many of the women, they work really hard for typically another company, someone else for many years. And then so you want meaning, and purpose, you wanna have an impact, and I think that the mindset is often you need to leave where you are today in order to devote yourself full-time to something else that has that impact, that meaning and purpose. But you're really showing that you can stick with your day job, particularly with something that you're passionate about, but then create other avenues for impact and for change. Do you have any advice for the women in our community that are at this inflection point where they're trying to figure out what's next, or what are the ways for them to have a greater social impact on the world?

28:16 AK: Well, what I would say to that is that it's much harder to throw everything up and go move on to do something else. And I think that a lot of us have the sense that somehow the only way we can have a social impact is if we have a broad impact. And what I would suggest is that, one, if you could save one life a day, you're doing something amazing. And so start saving one life a day and start finding a way to have an impact in a little way, and over time, every day it grows. And so every one of the women in the Ellevate Network can be more socially conscious or give something back to their community, and they don't have to change their day job. They just have to think about what opportunities and expertise that they might have that they could contribute. And that's sort of been my view about philanthropy and have been... I've been involved in some of the charities and I'm still involved, and I've been on the board for 20, almost 30 years for one of them. And you can make a lot of... You can have a lot of impact in a small way. Think about just biting off one thing at a time.

29:49 KW: That's great advice. Well, thank you so much, Andie, really appreciate you joining us today. It was so much fun talking to you and hearing your story as well as all of your insights on some very important topics.

30:01 AK: Well, thank you so much.I very much appreciate the opportunity to have talked with you today.

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Community Discussion
Kari Franz, MBA

Hello, Andie was a great presenter. She was very knowledgable and lived the principle of overcoming bias. Moreover, she gave helpful tips to follow to chip away at changing how men unknowingly discriminate against women. She is an inspiring, accomplished female leader and I will be buying her book, "Breaking Though Bias."

April 2, 2019