Culture Moments Podcast: What “Return to Work” Means for Women

LCW is pleased to announce the launch of the Culture Moments podcast’s second season, “Courageous Conversations.” Throughout the season, we will put our own approach into practice as LCW Consultant Larry Baker hosts panel-style discussions with guests from specific communities, so they can share their own perspectives on the last year, their insights on what’s changed, and what needs to change to continue to move towards more equitable outcomes.

Season two begins with a Courageous Conversation discussing what a potencial “return to work” could mean for women. In February 2021, women’s labor force participation hit a 33-year low, proving the pandemic, remote work, and lay-offs have disproportionately impacted women workers. As organizations and workers plan for a “return to the office,” we discuss what this means for the swaths of women cut out of the workforce and what organizations must do to bring them back.

This episode features industry experts Perika Sampson (Global Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Gilead Sciences), Jessica Gilbert (Head, Inclusion, & Collaboration at Cisco Meraki), and Ebony Travis (Director, Global HR & EEO Policy, Programs & Audit at Boston Scientific).

Listen to the conversation below (Run time – 42:38) or scroll down for the full transcript. 

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Show Notes & Highlights

5:54: Ebony highlights the broad range of impacts the pandemic has had on women

21:22: Perika shares a metaphor describing the impacts of the pandemic on women from an intersectional perspective

37:44: Jessica reminds us of how increased use of technology during the pandemic has given voice to people in organizations that were previously neglected or unheard


Show Transcript

Larry Baker: Hello everyone and welcome to the Culture Moments podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I am thrilled to have you join us for our second season called Courageous Conversations with LCW. In these episodes, you’ll hear from a panel of guests from specific communities, offering a range of perspectives on the past year. We’ll hear about their own experiences as well as their insights on what’s changed and, more importantly, what needs to change to move equity forward. And as we all know, so much has shifted and changed over the past year and a half. And for many of us, we’re still in recovery from a very rough 2020.

And today we’re going to be having a brave conversation on what recovery looks like for women. In February of 2021 women’s labor force participation hit a 33 year record low. Proving that the pandemic, remote work, and layoffs have disproportionately impacted women workers. And as organizations and workers plan for a return to office, we discuss what this means for the swath of women that have been cut out of the workforce and what organizations must do to bring them back. Joining us for our conversation today, we have Ebony Travis, Jessica Gilbert, and Perika Sampson.

Welcome to you all. And what I’d like to do is to kick off the program by having you give us a brief introduction before we begin. So I’m going to start with Jessica, if you would please, and thank you.

Jessica Gilbert: Thanks, Larry, and it’s wonderful to be here. So I am Jessica Gilbert and I am responsible for leading diversity and inclusion at Cisco Meraki, which is Cisco’s cloud networking organization. Our mission is really around connecting passionate people to their mission by simplifying the digital workplace and in doing so deliver on Cisco’s purpose of powering an inclusive future for all. And I am just so thrilled to be part of an organization that really lives for its purpose and really makes a difference in the world.

Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much, Jessica, for that and welcome. And now I’m going to move to Perika Sampson, if you would do me that honor to give us your introduction.

Perika Sampson: Sure. Thank you, Larry. It’s great to be here. I’m Perika Sampson, I’m senior regional diversity officer for Morgan Stanley* and its wealth management division. I am based on the west coast and cover the eight states, including Alaska and Hawaii, but I also have a national purview of what’s going on in our company and actually sit on one of our return to the office process committees. So I look forward to discussion.

*Show note: Perika has changed positions since this episode was recorded. Perika now works as the Global Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Gilead Sciences

Larry Baker: Thank you so much Perika and last but never least, Ebony Travis.

Ebony Travis (Tichenor): Hey everyone. Ebony Travis. And I work for Boston Scientific where we advance science for life. We save lives. You know, we help our patients our doctors. It’s a feel good. It’s working for a company where you just really feel good about the work that you do. And I’m currently a director of global HR policy and equal employment opportunity training and programs – recently promoted into this position from my diversity equity and inclusion space, where I now get to put more diversity equity and inclusion in our policies. So I’m really excited to be here with all of you.

Larry Baker: Fantastic. Thank you so much. And welcome, welcome, welcome. And I love the variety that we have represented from the different industries that we’re going to attack. So thank you so much for your participation. So let’s just get right into the heart of the matter.

And my first question, that I will ask Perika to engage us on first, is… I want you to share with me some of your personal thoughts and reactions to what women workers have experienced during the pandemic.

Perika Sampson: Sure. So, you know, all of the obvious things, right. Moving from office to home, managing typically school-age children, sometimes senior parents.

If you think about, and a lot of people haven’t been, I think, focused on that. But if you think about those in the sandwich generation, you have women who moved back into the home and trying to manage a corporate responsibility while also taking children through homeschooling on Zoom. And a lot of our senior communities those community centers were no longer available because of the pandemic.

And so trying to engage senior parents and keep them healthy while you’re also managing probably for many, a very stressful time, but also high powered careers, many people. And it doesn’t matter if you’re an executive. Or if you are, you know, an executive assistant, your responsibilities are critical to the organization. And many of us work really hard to put our best foot forward. So imagine doing that plus 25% or 30% more stress.

Larry Baker: Absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you for that perspective Perika. Ebony, same question… share some of those personal thoughts.

Ebony Travis (Tichenor): Well, what I love, what Perika shared is, you know, she thought of the broad range of, you know, the people that it’s not necessarily, you know, just executive women, but women at all levels, as someone who started as an admin back in 1997, I can appreciate because it doesn’t matter what level of the organization, these women, were impacted in some form or fashion.

I think another thing that we you know, research has shown us is that. The other thing that is a, that has risen because of all, this is even domestic violence, mental health. You think about those women who you’re isolated in your home with that individual and where do you go? Cause you can’t go anywhere. Right? And the burden of everything that you’re taking on, or if you’re alone and you’re isolated and you have no one. Those things have, have impacted so many of us. And, and I love that she shared about, caregiving. I’m a caregiver to my mom and I’m really fortunate that she’s lived with me for the past 14 years. And so I’ve been able to care for her, but I’ve had to even care for her even more so because of everything that has happened. So it’s taking that time to balance, you know, work, being a wife and heck I’m even gonna throw out being a mother to two fur babies.

Women don’t don’t care for themselves until they cared for everyone else. So by the time we care for ourselves, Sometimes it’s too late. And those are the things that are happening, the experiences that are happening. I’d love to hear what Jessica has to say.

Larry Baker: Absolutely. We’re going to ask Jessica for her response, but it’s something that you just said, Ebony, that has triggered a concern or a question that I have is: women are typically the ones that give to everyone else. So I’d be interested to know from each of you a little bit later, after Jessica responds, how do you put into feeling your voice? How do you get that rest? How do you get that refreshment? Because, you know, I know from experience being married for 31 years to the same woman that, you know, she gives everything to this family and I have to encourage her. I need you to sharpen your ax because I need you to keep doing what you do. So I’m going to be asking that question a little bit later, but I need Jessica to respond. Give me some personal thoughts and your experience.

Jessica Gilbert: Thanks, Larry. And I think, you know, Ebony and Perika, you you’ve hit the nail on the head. We’ve got women who are expected to deliver outstanding results while managing the preponderance of household responsibilities, being the chief medical officers of their family. And then of course, juggling kids, schools, aging as well. And then you layer on top of this, that working from home has also blurred the start and stop times. We are going from sunup to sundown and back to back meetings. And we are not taking that time to reset for ourselves so that we are actually able to give the best in the workplace. And then the other disturbing statistic that I’ve seen is that incidence of sexual harassment have actually been increasing while we’ve been working from home.

And it may seem counterintuitive, but it seems like the boundaries that perhaps have that were in existence in the workplace have been removed. And so that’s become an increasing issue as well. So I won’t belabor the points that, that Ebony and Perika made, but it’s really a question of how are we as organizations really supporting and leading with empathy as we look at, both the situation of our women, but also across the board, especially as we start navigating the return to office.

Larry Baker: Fantastic points, Jessica. And again, it takes me back to that question that I wanted to address, because this is essential. I would, like I said, I want to make sure that our listeners get tools that they can actually use. So in your experience, What have you been doing to refresh yourselves? And I’ll start with Jessica on that particular statement.

Jessica Gilbert: So I’m, in some ways, fortunate because it is me and my fur babies. Ebony, I can relate. So I don’t have the parental responsibilities that many other women have, but for me, it’s about being very disciplined about that self-care.

I specifically blocked time on my calendar, where I am committed to my Pilates practice. I’ve maintained my physical and mental health that way. I’m also very disciplined about my start and my stop time. Now between my start and my stop time, I’m back to back and crazed and trying to get work done in between meetings, et cetera. But it’s by building in those breaks that provide that physical and mental recharge, and also making sure that I’m practicing gratitude for the fact that I do work for an organization in Cisco and Cisco Meraki that really truly care deeply about all of their employees.

Larry Baker: That’s fantastic. Jessica, what I loved about your statement was how you said you have to be disciplined with that stop time, because for women, again, that nurturing instinct, it’s always about second guessing. Am I leaving something on the table that I should be addressing? So I definitely appreciate that comment about being disciplined on your stop time, because again, the lines have been blurred so much and that nurturing nature that women have innately, it can really lead them to being exhausted and having all these other issues. So that’s an excellent point.

Jessica Gilbert: You know, not only are we dealing with the pandemic, but as somebody who’s leading diversity and inclusion in an organization and having to help the organization and help our employees and my colleagues really navigate the structural racism conversations and dealing with what’s been going on in society. It takes a mental toll on you. And when you’re passionate about this topic, you want to do everything. And I think it, especially for those of your listeners that are diversity and inclusion practitioners, it’s how are you creating the space for you to heal and process so that you are better able to help your leaders in your organizations across the board?

Larry Baker: Absolutely. Thank you so much for that Jessica. Ebony, same thing. What do you do? I mean, and I, and I follow you on LinkedIn. So I see a lot of the things that you do. I want you to just chime in to that and, maybe even parallel it, how, because now you have the influence on policy within your organization. How are you incorporating or encouraging individuals to do some of those awesome things that you do?

Ebony Travis (Tichenor): So, you know, my motto is be fit, be healthy, be happy. And what does that mean? And how do I apply that is I wake up with purpose every single day. And my family knows that, that is something that I have to have that time for myself, if it means getting up at five and just getting that hour and 45 minutes to just do what I love to do, which is be healthy and be happy. And I take time to really focus on myself, get what I need to get done for me so that I can do what I need to do for my family, my friends, my community. And everyone that I work with at Boston Scientific.

I am very intentional, I’m driven, and I am disciplined in saying that if you have to even make a to-do list, it’s all in my head. But if you have to make a to-do list that says, this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to jump out of bed and I’m going to be happy and I’m going to get all this stuff done for me, and then I’m going to go make sure everybody else is good.

That’s how I make sure that I don’t lose sight because if you don’t take care of you. How are you going to take care of everybody? And that is so important. It’s mentally, it’s physically, it’s emotionally and spiritually, and you just have to, you just have to have purpose. What is your purpose for the day? I jump out of bed, I hear the birds chirp and I’m like, oh, my purpose is to be so happy. It just makes sure I’m, I’m, I’m bringing sunshine to everything and everyone that I do.

And with policies, I love policies, because we have an opportunity to really alter these policies in a way to where they’re less legalistic, they reflect more of what our employees are given us feedback on, they help to guide us and make sure we’re doing all the right things, and it’s showing that we are creating a culture of equity and inclusion. And so that’s why I’m so excited about the work and still very much passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion. So that’s what I do Larry.

Larry Baker: I can attest to that. I, like I said, I’ve known you for gosh, maybe four years now. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a frown on your face ever. Like regardless of the situation, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. So thank you so much for that Ebony.

Perika, I know you have some great things. As a matter of fact, you’re joining us from, you know, a wonderful location, right? So tell us what you do to get that recharge.

Perika Sampson: So interestingly enough, during the midst of the pandemic, I decided to move closer to family. For the first time in three decades, I’m living not only within the same state, but within the same sort of time zone and area code as my family. So that’s pretty cool. But I’ve found a couple of things. One thing that I’ve done and I’ve never been much of a joiner, but I joined a women’s virtual retreat. It’s been going for six months and the title is embody love and it sounds so esoteric. Right? What does that really mean? But it really is all about self-care and self-love.

I feel, you know, I’m a happy person. There’s a whole lot of self love that usually happens around retail therapy for me, but it really helped to kind of helped me help me be more centered and intentional around, you know, what I do for myself. You know, how much of myself I hold back, you know, and not giving everything to family, friends and our corporate lives.

And so that’s been part of it. So that’s been really helpful. 18 women, that I don’t know, and they’re all over the country. So everybody shares freely because there’s no hang-ups there.

Larry Baker: Exactly.

Perika Sampson: So, that’s been really, that’s been really cool. And the other thing is I’m really excited about working out and I keep buying all this equipment and saving videos, hasn’t happened. But I have, I picked up gardening when I moved to Southern California and I am the crazy garden lady. I’m out talking to my plants every day, harvesting tomatoes and peppers and things that I don’t necessarily eat, but I love the process of growing. So it’s been really cool to spend time. Outdoors, enjoying the butterflies and hummingbirds and all these things that we miss when we’re in our corporate structure for 8, 10, 12 hours a day.

Larry Baker: What I love about the theme of all of your answers is that you are letting other women know that it is vitally important to take care of yourself first. And there’s no shame in putting your needs before the needs of others. I appreciate that theme within all of your answers

Perika Sampson: I just want to tack onto something that Jessica mentioned, because I am, you know, obviously a DE&I professional, and we have dealt with everything from the onset of the pandemic to social and cultural unrest and it keeps coming. And our goal of course, is to hear our employees, to help our managers help them help their teams. And then also just addressing, you know, from our client’s perspective, making sure that our clients are aware of our commitment and our commitment, isn’t new. But it’s important to voice that that commitment.

And the other thing I think it was Ebony who mentioned, the mental stress, right? So that stress is on adults and children. And at our firm, we actually made a specific commitment to mental health support for children. And then there has been a special carve out for children of color because of all of the challenges that are happening, but for our employees as well, there are two additional benefits that were introduced last year, all around mental health that they can either use for themselves and then there’s one offering that can be leveraged for their families. Just making it okay to not be okay until someone that’s really the, that has been most helpful for everyone, I think.

Larry Baker: Yeah. That’s such a wonderful segue that you were talking about in regards to, the impacts on those communities of color. When you think about those impacts of the pandemic on women from an intersectional perspective, if you will, what do you think companies should keep in mind in terms of the disparate impact on women of color? I’m going to have Ebony kick us off with that question.

Ebony Travis (Tichenor): What I’m recognizing is it’s always the result of obvious discrimination, that’s typically what it is. And, you know, even if it’s unintentional, you know, it happens, especially in our hiring practices. Right? And so it’s important for us to understand as an organization, you know, are we doing all the right things when it comes to unintentional, disparate treatment. Are we making sure that the biases is left out when we’re, looking at these diverse and qualified applicants? Cause like you all said earlier, the current events have shown that obviously we’re still far from achieving equality. And so, behaving differently with different job candidates such as our, let’s just say our Black female candidates, it leaves room open for discrimination.

I’ll share an example that I was told of when two Black women were interviewed. And this was a friend of a friend who told me this at another company. And she came to me to ask for advice because she said, when she met with the hiring manager, he had said, yeah, you know, they were both great. They were very articulate, very well spoken. And I told her, did you, did you say anything to him?

Did you kind of go back and give him feedback? And she’s like, well, that’s what I’m coming to you for. So, you know, obviously, you know, we as organizations all around we’ve got to do a better job of how we are interviewing how we’re giving feedback to these candidates that is causing all of these not so great hiring practices for our, you know, again, Black women I’ll use as an example. So, you know, that’s a little bit of my, of how I, you know, I I’m looking at it, but truly welcome other thoughts.

Larry Baker: Perika, if you would, I’d like for you to hop in on that question as well.

Perika Sampson: Yeah. So, when we start in the game, we’re all at the starting block and I’m horrible at sports analogy. So I’ll do my best. So we’re on the track, right. And we’re all just starting block and men are there too. Right. And we think we’re at the same starting block and we are not. So, in general, women that stay take a couple steps back just as women, right? And then when you’re Black and Brown and there’re other levels of diversity, you take a couple more steps back. And when you think about that from an economic standpoint, that means salary wise, you’re not as well compensated clearly as male or others. And especially if you are you know, dealing with the intersection of race and gender.

And so when the pandemic hit, you had people who yes, they had childcare covered. Generally public, right, through their public schools or some other form that was maybe not as financially onerous as it could be. And so now you say, well, perhaps I don’t have a nanny or a shared situation. How do I do this?

You don’t have those same resources, right? So all of those things shutting down adds the additional pressure for women, generally women who have suffered some other challenges, right? Pay equity and some of those other things. So that’s the perspective that, that I took on it. And I think we also have to remember, we’re lucky enough to have maintained employment during this period. And there are a number of women who have been able to maintain employment, but if you’re a two income household and one party has lost income, sometimes you’re looking at relocation.

They’re looking for other jobs. So then you become again a trailing spouse and it doesn’t matter what level, cause we’ve seen that too. You know, very talented managers. Who’ve had to step back and become a trailing spouse again, which you know, can put a hiccup in your career.

Larry Baker: Thank you so much for that Perika. Jessica definitely want to hear your insights in regards to, you know, what do you think companies should be keeping in mind when it comes to those impacts?

Jessica Gilbert: So one of the things I love about this as I’m listening to Ebony and Perika is that we’ve, all come at this question from a little bit of a different perspective. As a, as a tech company, if you will, when I’m looking at what Cisco, what Meraki, what we’ve been really doing is thinking about how our purpose of powering an inclusive future for all can help address some of the disparate impacts that have been happening, because we know that so much of our frontline workforce in, a variety of industries are really women of color. And how are we as organizations investing in ways that are providing opportunity for women in terms of building skills and becoming part of the tech economy?

Cisco has our biggest CSR effort is our net academy, which is really around providing technical education to individuals. And when you think about that 18% of computer science degrees go to students who are female. Our CSR efforts around the net academy, 26% of the students that participate in those courses are female, and this is bringing them into a new industry, into a new level of economic prosperity, if you will.

And so how are we then also thinking about who makes up our workforce and how can we challenge the status quo where we look for talent? Because talent isn’t specific to a certain school. It isn’t specific to a certain zip code. And as we, as organizations now especially in a more remote or a hybrid work environment, we can get to talent in different geographies in different locations, such an opportunity to challenge the status quo.

Larry Baker: This is perfect. As a moderator, I always try to figure out how do we transition into the next question, but Jessica, you gave me a fantastic transition statement because of so much emphasis on the last question about what your organization is doing. So that’s going to take me into this next question.

As we begin this return to office, if you will, and our economy, it starts to recover. Do you think that companies are doing enough to ensure that women have a place at their organization? Jessica, you’ve already gone down that road. So I’m going to ask you to keep that momentum to kick us off with that question.

Jessica Gilbert: Absolutely. And this is something that’s so intriguing and I actually want to challenge a little bit of how you ask that question, because you’re talking about it from a return to office. Like we are going back to business as usual what we were pre pandemic, and that is not the case. The reality is that the future of work is hybrid. It is hybrid, and that is a different challenge than managing a workforce or the culture that we created pre-pandemic. As well as different from the culture that we’ve created during the pandemic, when everybody was remote. We are going to require different skill sets, but I think what we, we need to ensure in order to make sure that women have their place in the organization and we’re building an organization that works for everybody is to remember some of the lessons that we’ve learned from the pandemic, where the importance of leading with empathy providing mental health support because we can’t go back to the way things used to be. We have got this amazing opportunity to rethink. What work is like, what our culture is, because we’ve learned that culture is not about the office. Culture is created by our daily interactions, no matter whether they are virtual or not.

Larry Baker: I definitely appreciate that because I agree with that statement a hundred percent. I always felt that once we’ve gone down this road, or once we’ve opened, Pandora’s box is going to be hard to close it and go back. So I agree with that statement 100%. And I appreciate you redirecting that because that’s something that I always preach. We need to get to a new sense of normal because all of that in the past was exactly that it’s the past. If you cannot create business models that include some form of this hybrid lifestyle, then you’re behind the eight ball, right. Because we’ve shown that we can be productive in that type of environment. So thank you for keeping me honest. Perika. I want to have you jump in and talk about, you know, do you think that companies are doing enough?

Perika Sampson: I mean, obviously we’re in an interesting time and I think corporate leaders get it right. This has been an enormous impact on the entire workforce. And it’s easy for us to sit in our seats as corporate executive women and talk about returning to the office. It may be a little easier for us to do that, but when you think about those who are more dependent upon being in the office nine to five, you know, our assistants, our client service associates, those people who have been tethered to a computer, even during the pandemic, how do we bring them back? How do we allow them some level of a hybrid in a role that traditionally doesn’t offer that level of flexibility. And so I think that’s, the empathy piece is really, really important. Helping people to understand you have to see it from their, their perspective, but then there’s also the grace piece. Right? So we’re all. For lack of a better phrase flying by the seat of our pants here, right. Where, you know, we’re trying to make it happen. And I think where we ask employees to show corporate leaders, some grace, we ask corporate leaders to ask their employees what they want. Right. And what they need, and then let’s be more creative about those solutions. And that’s, I think that’s more critical than anything. And I’m familiar with some of Cisco’s work. I sit on an advisory committee for entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship and innovation, and a state, another state. And I know those programs are being offered.

And particularly we know that women, generally, are the ones who are creating more businesses. And so we have to make opportunities available for them. We have to make space for people to be more creative. I chuckle at this whole return to the office and hybrid, like, you know, we were doing this back in 1998. And so the fact that we’re scratching our head about it now it’s a little tickling to me. It was like, this works, it’s been working. What is wrong with you? So we still have to figure out a way to make it, make it work, but, you know, empathy certainly for our employees, especially those who may not have as many options around the creative workspace. And then a little bit of grace from the employees because you know, your leaders are doing a, I think an amazing job. We are hearing some of the well we’re going back to normal. Normal doesn’t exist anymore. I think that’s why the universe brought us to where we are today to break the normal and create something new.

Larry Baker: I agree. I agree. 100%. Thank you so much for that Perika. Okay, Ebony.

Ebony Travis (Tichenor): Oh, yes, I’m excited. Yes. There’s a lot of great information that really, you know, made me proud of why I’ve been with Boston Scientific for 24 years. During everything that happened in 2020, that as you all said, it really kind of shifted us, right.

Our mindset, the way we work, the way we. Go about our day, every day. Right. And so with Boston scientific, you know, it, it’s kind of like Brita said, you know, it’s, it’s asking your employees and they did just that. They asked the employees, you know, what, what do you think 2021 is going to look like? What can we do to make sure that we support you?

And we got that feedback back. And from that feedback, you know, teams were put together to enhance and update our benefits. Our life work, flexibility policy, creating a global workplace policy that has those hybrids in remote workers to show. And we even categorize it inside of our systems so that when we hire people on, we put, if they’re hybrid remote or they’re onsite, and we updated our systems like our calendar management, so that you can choose the option.

To work elsewhere, work home, or be on site so that when you’re scheduling meetings with individuals that may be. Onsite our hybrid or, you know, just remote, I’m a remote employee because I’ve never worked in the office. And so you can see those options when you’re scheduling meetings. And we even reached out to our nine ERG, you know, our global chief diversity officer.

She. When really wide and far with this and listening to all of our nine ERG is to ensure that we didn’t forget anyone. We didn’t forget our veterans, our disability, you know, our Black and Brown communities are women, you know, making sure that everyone had a voice so that we could put together a methodical and holistic approach.

And then, you know, also with our policies again, you know, we made sure that we updated them to reflect. This new normalcy, right? This new norm that we’re living in because it’s not the old norm, it’s a new one. Right. And you know, it just makes me proud. And we provided tools and resources constantly emailing, you know, even with the mental health that was mentioned earlier, we did the same thing, extending and expanding our business.

And providing these resources, not just to the employees, but to the families as well. And you know, when we went through everything we went through last year, we did listen to our employees. We had listening sessions. I let a lot of them. And I got to tell you. Yeah, I love what you know, previous said about, you know, just the grace and, you know, really having to have empathy.

No, those, those are all the things that we as an organization really truly try to make sure we remind our employees about. And we live through our core values, right. And diversity being one of them. And so I feel like, you know, we are doing everything we need to do to make sure that we help our women, but at the end of the day, we’re trying to help everyone because that’s what inclusion is all about.

Larry Baker: So. Absolutely. So thank you so much for that Ebony and, and one of the things that I want to do, and as we get closer to wrapping up our time today is I’m going to give each of you an opportunity to give some words of encouragement and advice to organizations as they move to this new, normal and welcoming individuals back to work, whether it’s, you know, remote or hybrid or physically back in the workspace, but really focus it around women. Right. Because I really want us to have those last words to give women that encouragement, that empowerment, and then a piece of advice for the organization as they welcomed them back.

Because what I really love about this panel that we have today, if you think about the pandemic, the three areas that we have come into very close contact with is technology, our finances and health. Right. And I see that parallel with this panel. So it’s going to be excellent for this last piece of advice that you can give from your organization’s perspective, but first and foremost, being women so I’m going to have Ebony, I want you to kick us off. Think about that piece of advice that you want to give to your organization or to any organization about coming back.

Ebony Travis (Tichenor): Well, you know, I love it. Thank you for starting me off because I just get really energized. So if I’m going to give this positive message, you know, first for women is never forget who you are. Never forget that you are fabulous. Okay? And you got this. And what I would say is that, you know, for our organizations that we just, I still think about what Perika said. It’s like that grace, like we have to be able to be okay. With not being okay. If you want a high-performing team, then you have to be able to have that flexibility. You know, you have to be able to allow that room, that grace, for people to be able to work the way they’re working, because if it’s been working so far for the last year, I don’t see how we could change.

Was there something wrong? Was there something broken? Cause you, we have time to fix it, but it’s been working. So why change that? Allow women to be able to feel like they can still be all in who they are without feeling like the extra pressure of them having to physically go all the way back to work and still trying to manage everything else on the personal side. You know, there’s that work, that life work, right. And again, if we did it all last year, then what’s wrong? So let’s be okay with it. So that’s, that’s what I have to say.

Larry Baker: That’s great. I love it. Thank you. I definitely appreciate that, Jessica. I want you to chime in there again, that piece of advice for organizations generally, but women specifically. So Jessica, go ahead.

Jessica Gilbert: Thanks, Larry and Ebony. I don’t know that I can say it much better than you, but I mean, it is don’t let your fear dictate your possibilities. We have to really be willing to be ourselves and know that we’ve got this. If we survived the past year we’re going to be able, to flourish, and do anything, we set our minds to do it. But, for organizations what I will say to, to build on what you were saying, Ebony, we’ve literally been able to see ,everybody in the same size box. And this is something that our chief people policy and purpose officer says all the time. So everybody’s been, you know, in the same size box, we’ve been able to see everybody.

And now that we are moving into whatever the future holds, how do we continue to see everybody and hear everybody? And listen to everybody and learn from everybody because that is what is going to create the possibilities for the future. And what an amazing future it can be. So use this as an opportunity. Don’t forget to continue that habit of listening of empathy, and really using technology as a way to foster connection. But keep the humanity in it. And, you know, WebEx is coming out with some amazing partnerships and technologies. We just announced some work with thrive, gold global, where we’re building in some of those mental resets into the technology that will help us create connection, but also that, that mental space so that we can bring our best to the workforce.

Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much, Jessica. And last but not least Perika, your comments in regards to that. Thank you.

Perika Sampson: Sure. Thank you. So I’ll start with our leaders, cause you know, we can talk about the organizations, but let’s call them who they are. Let’s talk about our leaders. And so certainly this is a perfect opportunity and has been a perfect opportunity for our leaders to really practice what they learned and what we expose and that is that, you know, diversity and inclusion is one of our core values as it is for many of our organizations. And so this is the opportunity to be that inclusive leader, here people out, again, lean on your internal partners, be they diversity or HR to manage some of the challenges that people will have.

And then for the women this is, you know, my final word, remember to leverage the resources in your internal networks. So if you’re having a challenge reach out to your manager. If you need a little more assistance, reach out to your, you know, your D&I partners or your HR partners, but you know, express yourself and help them help you. Allow them to help you.

We talked a little bit earlier about trailing spouses and hearing that someone’s leaving the company. It’s like, wait a minute. We have offices everywhere. Have you leveraged all of the resources? Don’t leave without leveraging those resources. Don’t close the door without speaking to the people who valued your engagement and service all along. We want to see people come back. We want to see them be able to perform at a very high level and we want to see them excel. The pandemic should not stop your career. It should be, you know, a great opportunity for everyone to hit the refresh button and move on to that next level. But leverage those internal resources, mentors, advisors, and managers.

Larry Baker: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all so very much. I am super excited that we decided to start our second season of the podcast focusing in on women’s needs, because I think that far too often, you sacrifice so much and you need to have these messages that encourage you that it’s okay to take time to focus on you. So I thank you so much, Ebony and Jessica and Perika for your engagement and the wealth of knowledge that you share with individuals that will be listening in, on this podcast.

And to all of you that are listening, we want to know from you, what were some of your biggest takeaways from this conversation? And if you are willing to please share them with us on LinkedIn and Facebook, and then of course share this episode. with a friend, a colleague or a family member who might need it. So once again, thank you. Thank you so much on behalf of LCW to Ebony Perika and Jessica, this was a fantastic conversation and dialogue and it was much needed. So thank you for your time.