Julia Geisman | The Real Glass Ceiling 

Julia Geisman, founder and CEO of CareerAgility, has been fighting that fight her whole life. And, through her business, she studies the dynamics between genders in the workplace and helps women advocate for themselves.

She also shows Corporate America how having executives diverse in gender and race can make a company more innovative – and profitable.

But her advice for career advancement applies to people of any background.

We talk about…

  • How to match personal and professional goals effectively
  • The dangers of group think
  • A strategy for negotiating better compensation packages
  • Why you should think of most job listings as a wish list
  • And more…


David Elmasian: Welcome to the Hub of Success. I’m your host, David Elmasian. Today I’m excited to have Julia Geisman, founder and CEO of CareerAgility. Julia helps people, teams and organizations overcome barriers that stand in the way of their success. Her clients describe her as an innovative thinker who develops practical programs that produce quantifiable results. They will also tell you that Julia will provoke and encourage people to reach beyond their comfort zone in order to stimulate new thinking and elicit fresh perspectives related to performance leadership, and organizational alignment. CareerAgility is changing the conversation about women in the workplace. Its suite of products offers corporate clients a comprehensive approach for attracting, engaging, and retaining high performance women.

Their LEAP scorecard that’s L-E-A-P, evaluates an organization’s success in closing the leadership gender gap, measures organizational alignment around gender equality, and evaluates the ROI or return on investment for women’s initiatives. With a background in academics and sales and corporate consulting, she brings her years of experience to teach students how to communicate their ability and organizations to solve their business problems that many companies face. Well, welcome to the podcast, Julia.

Julia Geisman: Thank you for having me. It’s a great opportunity.

David Elmasian: Oh, great. Let’s get right into it. Why did you start this business?

Julia Geisman: Well, I’ve been in business for a very long time. And as a woman in business, I’ve run up against the glass ceiling multiple times in very subtle ways in some cases. Frankly, when I … early on in my career, I didn’t understand the differences in the dynamics between the genders. I was out on a marketing call with a male colleague, and he’s the one who pointed out the difference, in the way men and women operate, especially he used an example of an hour meeting. He said, “Get men in an hour meeting and the first 45 minutes is around positioning, and the last 15 minutes I get stuff done.”

David Elmasian: I think I’ve been in a few of those.

Julia Geisman: Then he said, but when you put women in the same meeting, the first 15 minutes is finding the commonality, and then the last 45 minutes they get things done, and they get a lot done. That started me realizing that there are differences in the dynamics within the corporate world, within the dynamics between men and women, and so forth, so it’s always been in the back of my head. But the thing that really acted as the trigger for me, or the stimulus was when I was teaching in the MBA program at BU. It just happened to be a convergence of multiple things at once. One of which was observing the women’s in the class and their timidity to engage. But part of it was there were fewer of them. Out of 55 students, two thirds were men and one third were women.

David Elmasian: Really?

Julia Geisman: Yeah. It was interesting to watch that. And then I had been reading articles about the lack of women in leadership roles. I just said, “Really? The conversation hasn’t changed for 40 years, what is going on?” I started saying, “Okay.” I noticed for the women, particularly, every time I would talk about the importance of self-promotion, or letting people know what you do within an organization, it was predictable, the women will raise their hands and say, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that.” I was in a quandary about that. I said, “What?” There was that question in my head. I took that in, and I said, “Well, women need to. It’s important for women to become more comfortable with being able to advocate for themselves.”

There is another persistent problem that really acted as a barrier for women, which was integrating their personal professional goals. Initially, I created a series of eBooks, specifically for women to increase their comfort in advocating for themselves and integrating the two goals. But what I also realized is that one offs, and it’s like all the self-help books. You buy them, you put them on the shelf that’s it. I always had in the background an assessment. And what the LEAP scorecard which is an acronym for Leadership Equality Advancement Program, is a combination with 360 in climate survey. In other words what we do is ask the same set of questions to the entire organization.

The C suite, senior leaders, middle managers, staff level men and women. And now we’re also going to expand it to people of color.

David Elmasian: Okay. Well hold on a second on that. Are there common or typical type questions that are asked?

Julia Geisman: We use the same set of questions, that are based upon best practice.

David Elmasian: Could you give like an example of what some of the questions might be? Not to put you on the spot, but just something that comes to mind?

Julia Geisman: Do women feel respected and supported in the organization?

David Elmasian: Well, all right now, hold on a second. That’s a great question to ask, but that’s kind of like … and again please correct me if you say I’m off base here, but isn’t that saying, “Are you an Axe murderer? Yes or no?

Julia Geisman: No, it’s a matter of rating your agreement with the question on a 10 point scale, so it’s not yes or no. Or another example would be women have the same advancement opportunities as men?

David Elmasian: Do you expect them to be truthful?

Julia Geisman: Well, because it’s anonymous, and because it’s online, and because we retain the data, we get some really interesting feedback.

David Elmasian: I can imagine.

Julia Geisman: Really … But the thing that is really startling-

David Elmasian: I’ve seen some of those people on Facebook.

Julia Geisman: Yeah. Well, but the thing that is really startling is the disparity between the way men and women view the current situation. When we do the LEAP scorecard, we’re really looking at the intersectionality of gender, race, and position. it’s really fascinating. For example, we have one set of questions in the very beginning, that are around individually beliefs pertaining to the importance of an inclusive work environment. Again, we use a 10 point scale, and men and women pretty much rate that very high in the eights. And then we go into the collective, the environment. The first set of questions we ask about is the workplace environment itself. What do you know? How do you rate it? It drops off significantly. It’s fascinating. That type of data is really important.

David Elmasian: Okay, well, let’s step back for a second then. Something has to occur, or why do people bring you in? Are there common reasons? Meaning for example, this is not about me, but in my business, people will reach out to me because one or two reasons, either A, they’re starting a new enterprise, and they’re like, “Hey, we need some organization here, we need help.” Or B, it’s, “Our current provider just isn’t doing it for us, it’s time for us to look for another provider.” Again, I don’t know, and that’s why you’re here, Julia. But, why do people bring you in? Is there a common event that you’ve seen now that you’ve done for so many years? Or is there …

Julia Geisman: Well, I’ll be real honest with you.

David Elmasian: Please.

Julia Geisman: Please, but of course. It’s been difficult until the Me Too movement started.

David Elmasian: Okay.

Julia Geisman: Okay. There also has been a significant shift regarding the importance of diversity, inclusion and belonging within organizations. There are a number of different drivers behind that. One is, there’s a financial driver, because there’s data out there … Research after research after research study continues to demonstrate that when there is more diversity, especially women on either the board, the executive committees, or in the C suite, companies are more profitable. The other thing is …

David Elmasian: Hold on a second. Why in your opinion do you think companies are more profitable when things are more inclusive? And again, in your opinion.

Julia Geisman: Okay. There’s several reasons. One is that when you have diversity of thought, you’re going to see more opportunities. In team dynamics or group dynamics there’s something known as groupthink. Groupthink is everybody is thinking the same thing, regardless of … I mean, there are examples of it. Like George W. Bush’s cabinet looked different. It was very diverse on one level, but they everybody thought the same. So you want to get people from diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences, to really be more innovative. That’s one thing.

The other thing is that women tend to be more relationship oriented, so the organizations are managed differently, which increases employee engagement. When there’s an increase in employee engagement, the company is more productive. In fact, I think it was Deloitte who did a study and said, approximately 35% of the work of the employees are fully engaged in organization, which is stunning, which is stunning. So there’s a big push, of the women are becoming and people of color are becoming more demanding. The workforce is the most diverse workforce that we’ve ever had.

The fact that the war on talent is … getting top performers is extremely competitive right now. Reputation of an organization has now taken on more importance than it ever had before.

David Elmasian: Well, because of availability of information. That stuff can’t be hidden as easily as it used to be right?

Julia Geisman: That’s part of it.

David Elmasian: Yeah.

Julia Geisman: The other part of it is the younger generation. They are very focused on branding, and they want to be associated with the best brand.

David Elmasian: Of course.

Julia Geisman: Yeah, we say of course. But that-

David Elmasian: Yeah.

Julia Geisman: … it defies my thinking. That they want to be affiliated with a good brand. And then there’s the increase in lawsuits. For example, last year the EEOC was involved with a good number, I can’t remember the number off the top of my head, but the number of suits that they were involved with, which means that people brought suits to, it came to a total of about $56 million worth of settlements. Now the other thing that is very interesting is the Weinstein Clause. Do you know what that is?

David Elmasian: No, I don’t.

Julia Geisman: Oh this is fascinating. It’s applicable to mergers and acquisitions. There is now a clause … Not all companies are doing this, but a number of companies are now saying to their acquired company in the contract, there are no lingering cases of sexual harassment or workplace discrimination at all, and in some cases it goes back 10 years.

David Elmasian: Wow.

Julia Geisman: They are now saying, we’re not going … And if we do uncover it after the acquisition, there’s a claw back. Okay? There is an uptick on the need to be ensure that the organization is safe, and that everybody has equal advancement opportunities and an equal voice. I will also say that there are a lot of companies are going through with this on a perfunctory basis. Let’s just check off the box.

David Elmasian: Of course.

Julia Geisman: As opposed to really authentically saying and being willing to say, “Okay, let’s really take a good look. Rather than doing it subjectively, let’s get data.” Because data is indisputable.

David Elmasian: Yeah. And like you said, it’s available now. One of the things that strikes me as you’re talking about that Julia, and again, it’s certainly not even remotely close to the same thing. But in our business one of the things that we advocate for our clients is, if you follow our program and our process, it gives you a competitive advantage. I can see that in what you do, because like you said, younger people, and not exclusively younger people, they look at that information. I have a 26 year old and a 23 year old that are in the workforce. When I talk to my 26 year old, when he mentions a company, he mentions all or many of the things that you brought up, which is what’s the reputation? He goes to Glassdoor, he looks at salaries, he looks at all that stuff. That stuff that … Again, I can only speak for myself.

I was just thinking when I was that age, “Hey, can I get a job?” And, “How much am I going to make?” I think from a positive standpoint, the companies that adopt this and make it part of their culture, it does give them a competitive advantage, right?

Julia Geisman: There’s no question about it.

David Elmasian: Yeah.

Julia Geisman: The other side to this is that in addition to getting data, and all the questions, by the way, are based upon best practices. As to what are those things that create an inclusive environment, the attributes of a corporate environment? Then we make very specific recommendations based upon the unique needs of the organization. Those are also based upon best practices, so they kind of go hand in hand. But the kicker is that we then say to the organization, “Here’s the evidence, here are the specific recommendations, so that you can create a strategic plan, and be more strategic around allocating resources, being able to identify hyper priority needs, being able to use, leverage it for branding. But so many companies get these types of reports, and they don’t do anything with it.

We say, because I’ve been in the human infrastructure business for years, and I know what companies do with surveys. We hold their feet to the fire in that we follow them through the implementation process. It’s incumbent upon them to develop the strategy because they have to have skin in the game, they have to own it. But we because of the organizational development, the leadership development, change management experience that that I have and members of my team have, are able to look at the strategy and say, “Okay, what about this? What about this?” from a systems perspective.

That’s the other thing that happens with diversity and inclusion now, organizations do one offs. They say, “Oh, we’ll do this, we’ll do this, we’ll do this.” and it’s not integrated, so it’s like whack-a-mole.

David Elmasian: Well, it’s, like you said, it’s checking a box off somewhere, right? Yep. Did this check? Okay, yeah, yeah, yeah. But that’s all we’re doing is checking boxes, we’re not really thinking it through, and really buying in. I think that’s really what you’re trying to say is, you’re looking to get buy in that organizations can see there’s so many benefits of doing these things. Let’s not forget one critical aspect, it’s the right thing to do right?

Julia Geisman: Yeah. But let me tell you-

David Elmasian: I know. I know. I’m not 20-year-olds.

Julia Geisman: That’s not enough. No , it’s not enough.

David Elmasian: I know.

Julia Geisman: It’s not enough to actually get the CEOs.

David Elmasian: I know.

Julia Geisman: It’s the CEOs that have to buy in. If they are not engaged in the process …

David Elmasian: That’s also one of the reasons why I never flourished in corporate America, for many reasons. It was never always about the right thing, it was about what seems to be the right thing, and the whole political infighting and power struggles and all that baloney.

Julia Geisman: Well, it exits all around us.

David Elmasian: Of course.

Julia Geisman: The reality is that nobody changes unless there’s a need to change, because we’re comfortable. The other thing too, is there are three different types of companies that are interested in doing something. One is those companies that actually know it’s the right thing to do. And also, they understand that it’ll increase profitability, their reputation and so forth. There are companies that are being shamed into doing it, because there have been public suits brought against them, like Uber, for example, or CBS. It can go on and on and on. So there’s that group of, and they have to do something because they’re in caca poo poo.

Then the third group are companies that are being financially pressured. There are a number of State Street Global Advisors, they are now requiring that the companies that they invest in have women on the boards. The Massachusetts Pension Plan, which is run actually by the treasurer Deb Goldberg is doing the same thing. There are political activists that are also going in and saying, “You’ve got to do something about it.” BlackRock has now come out and said, “You have to be socially responsible.” This is part of social responsibility by having an inclusive environment.

David Elmasian: We have another client that they’re a trade association, I guess, for lack of a better term that works with responsible investing.

Julia Geisman: Yes.

David Elmasian: Some of the things that you brought up are some of the things that I’ve overheard in some of the discussions of … again, they have a lot of different areas that they cover. It could be environmental, it could be political, it could be … But yeah, all those things are great, because at the root of it all, it’s always going to boil down to money, right? It always does, inevitably. That money or the lack of money, or the lack of profitability, or the potential liability, we all like to think that it shouldn’t be that way, but unfortunately unless people see those penalties, or punishments, they don’t really want to make those changes or get that full by in, unfortunately.

Julia Geisman: That’s true. If you think of the change process in general, people don’t change unless they need to change. Nor do they change unless there’s a “what’s in it for them”. Nobody does anything unless there’s a “what’s in it for you.” Even it’s the most altruistic activity.

David Elmasian: Of course, yeah, that’s good, bad or indifferent. That’s human nature, right?

Julia Geisman: Yeah, it is, but that’s okay, if you know how to work it.

David Elmasian: How do you overcome the inevitable adversity that you face when you’re working with an organization How do you keep above the fray, so to speak? How do you deal with that? How do you-

Julia Geisman: What do you define is a fray?

David Elmasian: Again, this is just my speculation from the outside looking in, some of the stakeholders maybe are putting up resistance, maybe they’re afraid of like I said, maybe they’ve done something that they really aren’t proud of. It seems like in today’s world many times, it’s more about appearance than reality. I imagine you get some pushback, some resistance, and doesn’t that wear you down sometimes, like it shouldn’t be this way?

Julia Geisman: What wears me down is companies that think they have their bases covered when they really don’t, and that’s a little frustrating. It’s like, how do you … Like, for example, I was talking to the CEO of a bank, who’s very actively involved in diversity and inclusion. He was talking about how they have a lot of women at the senior levels, well, middle levels, and that’s predictable. That’s where women get stuck. We’ve seen it with the data, that’s like the glass ceiling. And then he said, but when he gets into the C suite, everybody looks like him. I said to him, “Well, do you have a succession plan for high potential women?” And he said … And they do a really good job, this bank does a really good job.

He just stood back and he said, “I don’t think we do.” I said, “Well, that’s important to get women in the pipeline,” because that’s what he was complaining about. There are not enough women in the pipeline. Well, without a succession plan for high potential women, getting them in the pipeline will never happen, and you will never change the dynamic in the C suite. Then I mentioned to him that there’s a system, and you have to look at all the parts of the system, if you’re going to have a sustainable change. That surprised him a little bit, because people don’t think systemically, they think individual silos.

David Elmasian: Well, but again, it’s easy to criticize from the outside looking in, but don’t you think that the head of an organization, isn’t that supposed to be their mission, is to look at the big picture so to speak?

Julia Geisman: But it depends upon-

David Elmasian: I said supposed to.

Julia Geisman: No, actually they are strategic in their thinking, but to see the disconnect … For example the data that we use and the questions, there are certain things that the CEOs or the C suite folks should know. Do women and people of color feel respected and supported in the organization? And I can tell you, we get, “don’t knows” from the executive suite, and senior leadership. And you have to ask why. Why don’t they know that? Do they have an equitable performance management system? Don’t know, why don’t they know? Because that’s part of implementing a successful implementation to their strategy.

David Elmasian: From your viewpoint, why don’t they know? Again generally, no absolutes in anything. But from your viewpoint, why don’t they know those things?

Julia Geisman: I think part of it, and I can’t answer this completely.

David Elmasian: Sure.

Julia Geisman: I think part of it has to do with staying at a very strategic level. The other part of it is delegating the responsibility to somebody else. The other may be lip service that they really don’t care. And the other is communication. Is there organizational alignment? What do they need to communicate? In some cases they really don’t know what they need to do. We have two criteria of working with companies, organizations. One is the CEO has to be involved, because any type of change in the culture has to come from the CEO, and this is a cultural change. The other is that they have to be willing to implement on the recommendations, whichever recommendations they choose, they need to take action.

The reason for that, is that employee engagement surveys, climate surveys, all sorts of surveys are administered in organizations, and we will get feedback that all this information goes into black hole, nobody … What happens to it? So, what we say is, “Look, this is a hot topic. The whole notion of inclusion, diversity, equal opportunities equal voice is disrupting the status quo. And if you administer the online survey, the LEAP scorecard and do not do anything with it, You will create cynicism within the organization. Well, Dave, you said that, “Well, yeah, sure.” But you know what? People don’t think that way.

David Elmasian: I know. No, I’m agreeing with you, and yes I do agree that not everybody’s going to see it that way and it’s not that simple. Because again, even with my own little small company, change can be difficult and challenging, communication can be difficult and challenging. As a business owner, sometimes you don’t want to ask questions, because you’re more afraid of what the answer may or may not be.

Julia Geisman: And you do not want to be held accountable.

David Elmasian: Ignorance is bliss right?

Julia Geisman: Right.

David Elmasian: Yeah.

Julia Geisman: You do not want to be held accountable.

David Elmasian: Of course yeah.

Julia Geisman: One client we worked with, and we’re continuing to work with through the implementation process. There are a couple of things about it. One is when we got all the data back, because we asked quantitative and qualitative data. And they were just chomping at the bit, they wanted something. And I said, “Well, we haven’t really analyzed data yet.” Our policy is to always give our clients the raw comments, unless there’s something in there that will reveal the person saying it okay? I said to him, “Okay, we’ll give you the comments, even though we haven’t-

David Elmasian: Yeah haven’t had time to …

Julia Geisman: … we haven’t categorize them accordingly.” I said, “But, there will be things in here that you may not like.”

David Elmasian: May not like?

Julia Geisman: Yeah, that he may not like.

David Elmasian: Will not like.

Julia Geisman: He said, “That’s why we hired you, we need to know this.”

David Elmasian: Okay.

Julia Geisman: Okay?

David Elmasian: Good.

Julia Geisman: That’s the level of reset, that’s the level of authenticity is important. And continuing with this client, one of the things we kept saying, and we hound him about is, you have got to have a robust communication strategy, about what you’re doing in this space. Because if you don’t, people will think you’re not doing anything. It doesn’t matter what you communicate as much as even if it’s saying, “Well, we’re still working on this. This is what … we’re in the process.” Because it’s like that communicating the message helps change the culture. And it’s the culture that actually impedes the progress of people who are not in the majority position.

David Elmasian: Let’s bring things down to a more personal level, not about you, but more personal for people that are listening. Not to say this stuff isn’t, it certainly is, but at the end of the day people always want to know “what’s in it for me”, right?

Julia Geisman: Absolutely.

David Elmasian: One of the things when I was stalking you on the internet in a good way, was I know you did a workshop for I believe the city of Boston, wasn’t it? Where you-

Julia Geisman: Oh, I was part of the-

David Elmasian: Yeah. And so one of the things that you were tasked to do, or you volunteered to do was to show women in particular, how to negotiate better pay raises or pay packages. Is that correct?

Julia Geisman: Yes.

David Elmasian: So share, if you don’t mind, could you share some of those tips? Because, I’m just going to guess that no matter man, woman, whatever, who doesn’t want to make more money, right?

Julia Geisman: Again, let me just … Well, first of all, the City of Boston has a commitment to put 8,000 women … I think it’s 8,000. All the women in Boston, live and work in Boston through a salary negotiation workshop. They’ve worked in concert with the American University … Oh god.

David Elmasian: That’s okay.

Julia Geisman: AAU, the American Association of Universities of Women who developed the curriculum, and then they have volunteers facilitating two-hour sessions. One thing that we know is, and I’m going to go back to what I observed in the classroom. Women tend to … they’re uncomfortable in verbalizing their value. Women are more collaborative. Men tend, okay, this is a big word generalization.

David Elmasian: Of course. Yeah I know.

Julia Geisman: You negotiate your life all the time. It’s like, where am I in the pecking order? Women don’t do that.

David Elmasian: I’m laughing because the things that you’re saying are so true, from my standpoint, from my viewpoint. Yeah, absolutely. So go ahead.

Julia Geisman: Yeah. What we end up doing, saying to the women is, number one, it’s important to know the value that you bring. What are your strengths? And how can you put that into terminology that’s business oriented? That it’s very objective, measurable. It’s like there’s the behavioral interviewing process, will say, “Tell me what you did?” “Tell me about a situation? Tell me what you did. Tell me what the results are.”

David Elmasian: Not what you would do.

Julia Geisman: Yeah.

David Elmasian: Right.

Julia Geisman: Forget it.

David Elmasian: Yeah.

Julia Geisman: That’s all smoke and mirrors. That was one thing, the other thing within the-

David Elmasian: Workshop.

Julia Geisman: … workshop. Thank you. I lost that word.

David Elmasian: That’s okay. I’ve lost plenty, trust me, so…

Julia Geisman: Is to do research, go on salary.com, find out what you’re worth. The other thing you don’t necessarily go to the high part, the highest end of the bell curve, because you have no negotiation ability. The compensation is actually more than just salary. Compensation is the entire ball of wax. It’s your paid leave, it’s your health insurance, it’s your vacation time, it’s salary, it’s workplace flexibility. There are all these elements that go into compensation.

David Elmasian: And value.

Julia Geisman: And value. The other thing that we say to women is there’s a game to negotiating people. What has happened recently, you may be aware of this, is that it is now illegal for organizations to ask about salary history in the Commonwealth. But the challenge has been is that women have traditionally been under compensated. What happens then is if you look the salary history-

David Elmasian: Yeah, IT perpetuates a forward.

Julia Geisman: Bingo.

David Elmasian: Quite honestly I’m surprised that you actually have the right to ask that question.

Julia Geisman: Well, but that’s what has been. I can tell you of a young … Well she’s kind of … my niece had that problem when she went into a large corporation, and they said, “We really want to give you more money for what you’re doing, but this is where you came from.”

David Elmasian: Doesn’t all that sound crazy in today’s world, though? I mean, really, doesn’t it?

Julia Geisman: It does, but people don’t like to change. Again, that goes back to the whole system’s approach to-

David Elmasian: But Julia, what I’m saying with this is, and trust me when I’m saying, in other words … I guess if we could swap words, that at least from my standpoint, I think it’s crazy to begin with, but if we would swap words and fill in another word, people would be outraged. Like, for example, if you said, women make less money than men on average, blah, blah, blah. And you swapped out women for a minority group, or a race or whatever, people will be like, “Oh, my god, that’s insane.” But why is it that when it’s women or anything like that people are like, “Oh, yeah, that’s the way it’s been.” That’s kind of an attitude. To me that just seems crazy.

Julia Geisman: Well there’s an existing dynamic, and there are unconscious biases that come into play, which are really significant. If you don’t know you have an unconscious bias-

David Elmasian: Yeah of course.

Julia Geisman: And everybody has bias, absolutely.

David Elmasian: Yeah. I know, I get that.

Julia Geisman: To you and me perhaps it’s a no brainer. It’s like, “What?” That’s why I am really passionate about changing the conversation. This conversation has been going on for, especially around women and now around people of color, has been ongoing for more than 40 years. People of color will tell you it’s been ongoing for centuries, hundreds of years.

David Elmasian: Right. Or your ethnic group, same thing.

Julia Geisman: The same thing, ethnic groups. That there is this lack of opportunity, and frankly, I think it’s getting worse. That there’s more blatant biased behavior.

David Elmasian: I mentioned the work that you did with the city of Boston, and then again while I was talking on the internet, I came across … It was an article about technology companies being one of the worst offenders of an inequality for pay, and advancement, and-

Julia Geisman: Toxic environment.

David Elmasian: … hostile, toxic environment. Tell us a little bit about that.

Julia Geisman: Well, listen, there are three that really have a spotlight on them, one is tech. One is science, bio, pharma. And the other are financial services. These have been traditionally male dominated. And when you think about the tech companies, they’re renegades. They start in more of a renegade-

David Elmasian: Right, started in my garage.

Julia Geisman: Yeah, exactly. A lot of the tech companies have yet to get out of the frat boy mentality. If you go back and look at the educational process, women are less encouraged to do science and technology than men. But that’s changing, because there’s a lot of focus on STEM for women. That has been the dynamic. One of our companies definitely had a frat boy environment, and that was a problem. If you have a toxic environment like that, you’re not going to be able to attract high performing women. Going back to what you were saying about the City of Boston. The other thing that’s really interesting now, is that people are looking at job descriptions, and they’re very gendered. They can be very gendered.

There’s certain words that women tend to be attracted to when describing a work environment. Whereas the other terms that men tend to be attracted to. There’s a lot of push on de-neutralizing job descriptions. The other thing going back to Boston, is the fact that a lot of people think that a job description or job posting has to be … is what exactly the organization’s looking for. So women tend to look at a job posting and say, “Gee, I’m not 100% qualified for this, so I’m not going to apply.” But the trend is that men will apply when they’re 65 or 75% qualified.

David Elmasian: Yeah, or lower.

Julia Geisman: Or lower.

David Elmasian: I’ve seen a lot of resumes, trust me, or lower.

Julia Geisman: Okay. Yeah, exactly. What I have said to women is, “Look, most of the job postings are a wish list that a lot of the people who are … a lot of companies don’t expect people to have that 100%.” And I said, “Anyway, if you’re 100% qualified, how are you going to grow?”

David Elmasian: Yeah, sure.

Julia Geisman: So why not?

David Elmasian: What does the future hold? Not just for you and what you do, but in general?

Julia Geisman: Oh you mean I have to get my crystal ball out.

David Elmasian: Well if you could. I noticed you had it in your pocketbook with you-

Julia Geisman: I did.

David Elmasian: … so we might as well take it out.

Julia Geisman: No. The World Economic Forum, every year talks about gender equality, and how long it will take for the world globally to achieve gender equality, and it has increased. It went from 185 years to 202 years. Can I tell you it’s going to happen overnight? Absolutely not. Can I tell you there has been some progress? Minuscule, but it’s progress. It’s the hundredth monkey theory or the tipping point. But it’s incumbent upon all of us individually, to be open and embracive of differences, and to come from a place of curiosity when somebody is not like you. Or if you have a question, like I’ve been having some pretty interesting conversations with women of color.

Because when the Women’s March, two years ago started, there was this brouhaha over women of color talking about white women’s privilege. I’m sitting there saying, “What privilege? I don’t feel as if I have any privilege whatsoever.”

David Elmasian: Sure.

Julia Geisman: For a lot of different reasons. And so I started asking women of color from a place of curiosity, and what I discovered is, yeah, I have a privilege that they don’t. In that I walk into a store and nobody bothers to look at me. But a woman who was a successful professional, who happens to be of color, have black or brown skin, the sales people will follow them. That’s a privilege. There’s a whole other saying that privilege is invisible to those who have it.

David Elmasian: Yeah, sure. That makes sense.

Julia Geisman: Unless we have authentic conversations to understand those privileges, to understand our biases, to understand even the microaggressions that happen, it could just be an offhand to joke, which is honestly, aggressive.

David Elmasian: Sure.

Julia Geisman: It takes a lot for people to do that. But the other thing I will say is I do teach, I teach a class at Wentworth, an undergraduate class in Managing Leading Organizations. I have 25 students. That group, the younger generation is perhaps the most diverse that we have, the most inclusive, and they argue with me. Oh no, there are no differences we don’t eh eh eh. And I said, “Well actually, there are. You haven’t hit them yet.” But they are more egalitarian, and more inclusive. Every generation that comes into an organization changes the dynamic. It has happened from the traditionalist to the boomers to the X-ers, to the millennials now to the Z-ers. That will also-

David Elmasian: Don’t keep going, I’m feeling older and older.

Julia Geisman: I know, I feel that same way. As new generations come into corporate America … I was thinking about this on the way down, corporations are slow in changing. Let me give you an example. Do you remember way back when VCRs came out?

David Elmasian: I do.

Julia Geisman: In the consumer market?

David Elmasian: I certainly do.

Julia Geisman: Well, guess what?

David Elmasian: What?

Julia Geisman: They were not widely used in organizations?

David Elmasian: Really?

Julia Geisman: Nope. Not until the consumers started really using them in their homes, and then … Well part of it is drop the price of VCRs, the other part of it is that people were demanding. We used to do industrial videos for organizations way back, so organizations started embracing that. The same thing with CD-ROM. I’m dating myself. But CD-ROMs, they did not have CD-ROM players in computers within corporations. And then people at home, started using CDs, which was driving again, the price of the equipment down, but also increasing in need and an expectation within organizations.

Same thing with internet, AOL, people started using AOL. You start seeing that. So when you’re talking about diversity and inclusion, you’re talking about the fact that the consumer market is demanding that, which will drive change within the organization.

David Elmasian: You hit upon something that brought a memory to me. My first tech job, my first formal tech job was we did telephone support for Microsoft Word. It was technology, right? We weren’t allowed to use the internet. Because it was like, “Hey, you guys are going to be … Who knows what you’re going to be doing?” But it wasn’t until many years later that it would be like, “Huh, you can’t do your job without the internet.” But yeah, so like you said, that was very slow to adopt, even though we were quote un quote a technology. We were not allowed to use technology being a technology company helping people with technology.

Julia Geisman: Yeah, it’s nuts. Let me give you … build on that. We had a client, a global client, who wanted to do a library of leadership oriented articles, programs, et cetera, and roll it out globally. I was talking to the project lead, and … Well, somebody’s working with him. And I said … We were talking about what was going on. She said to me, “Even though my job is to help create this online resource, I feel guilty about using the internet, because there is an unspoken understanding here, that you only use the programs that are needed for your function.” And that was maybe, that was probably more like 20, 25 years ago, but there was that feeling. of course. And so I said to her, “Well, if you’re creating an online repository, and there’s that tacit understanding, how much use do you think people are going to have without feeling guilty?”

That’s the whole thing about systems thinking too.

David Elmasian: Sure. Well, we need to wrap things up, Julia. We could talk about this for many, many hours, but as we know in today’s world, the attention span isn’t quite what it used to be.

Julia Geisman: You mean like nanoseconds?

David Elmasian: We passed that, but that’s okay. I admitted to you earlier, I used to be a geek, I used to be a nerd, and I am involved in technology, so I’m going to throw a little tech in here. It’s going to be a quiz. I promise no right or wrong answers. You don’t have to study for it. It’s called check your tech. Are you a Mac or a PC person?

Julia Geisman: PC?

David Elmasian: All right. iPhone or Android?

Julia Geisman: Android.

David Elmasian: Okay. I was little surprised. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn, or none of the above?

Julia Geisman: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. What else?

David Elmasian: Instagram?

Julia Geisman: No.

David Elmasian: Pinterest?

Julia Geisman: No. Okay. Here’s the reason why. I do not use those sites, social media, I have channels for personal use. I use it for business oriented activities. And then I also think about who is the target audience? My target audience for business is more likely to go to LinkedIn. Maybe Twitter, they follow people Twitter or tweets. Probably not Facebook, even though I post on Facebook. On LinkedIn I have two accounts. One is personal and the other is for the business. Same thing with Twitter. The reason is, branding. As an individual I have to have a certain brand in order to drive people to the business.

David Elmasian: Of course. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Julia Geisman: That’s the answer. What else?

David Elmasian: Netflix or Hulu streaming services? Either one?

Julia Geisman: Netflix.

David Elmasian: I’m still pulling for Hulu. I don’t know why, but I am. Nobody’s ever said Hulu. I don’t know why I feel bad for Hulu, I probably shouldn’t. Gmail or Outlook?

Julia Geisman: Outlook. You know what I found out about Gmail and the Google Docs and such? Anything you post there, they can take. No I just found about that from my students.

David Elmasian: I’m laughing at the tech guy because there’s a lot more than that, but we won’t get into that. That’s a whole other discussion.

Julia Geisman: Right.

David Elmasian: New York or Boston?

Julia Geisman: For what?

David Elmasian: Anything.

Julia Geisman: Oh, come on.

David Elmasian: Come on.

Julia Geisman: They’re two entirely different …

David Elmasian: Pick the topic. You tell me. It could be sports, it could be food, it could be people, it could be whatever.

Julia Geisman: I’m not going to do that.

David Elmasian: I knew …

Julia Geisman: And the reason is that they both offer a really wonderful thing.

David Elmasian: Okay, how about this then? All right, I’ll make it easier for you. Let’s talk types of chairs, slipper chair or club chair?

Julia Geisman: Oh isn’t that an interesting question? Because when I was growing up, I remember my mother bought a slipper chair from my bedroom.

David Elmasian: Okay, so-

Julia Geisman: No, I’m agnostic. So long as it can support my butt, that’s all I care about.

David Elmasian: It’s amazing what’s out there on the internet there. See what I’m saying? Okay, so you pass the test.

Julia Geisman: I did.

David Elmasian: You-

Julia Geisman: What does that mean?

David Elmasian: You got 100% on your check your tech quiz.

Julia Geisman: Okay, but what about the chairs?

David Elmasian: Well, that was optional.

Julia Geisman: What about cities?

David Elmasian: I won’t hold that against you.

Julia Geisman: Thank you.

David Elmasian: That’s an ongoing … Nobody’s ever going to answer that question right? About who’s right or who’s wrong, because nobody’s right or wrong. It is what it is.

Julia Geisman: Correct.

David Elmasian: All right.

Julia Geisman: See, you were right.

David Elmasian: It happens every once in a great while, not often. Well Julia we could talk for hours, let’s wrap things up. For people that want to learn more about you or your business, how do they reach you?

Julia Geisman: The website is career-agility.com, for more information about the business. People can get in touch with me at Julia J-U-L-I-A julia.G-E-I-S-M-A-N Geisman @career-agility.com. Or they can look me up on LinkedIn. Or they can look me up on Twitter. I actually have a personal account, which is Julia Geisman, or Your Career Agility for the business.

David Elmasian: Great, okay.

Julia Geisman: Okay.

David Elmasian: Well, Julia, thanks again for joining us here on the Hub of Success and sharing your story.

Julia Geisman: Well, thank you for having me, it’s really been a pleasure, Dave.