#BreakTheBias: Empowering women to succeed and allies to support

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
March 18, 2022

“The role of allies is important in all different shapes and forms.” That’s how CEO and Co-Founder of Ten Thousand Coffees (10KC) Dave Wilkin kicked off the March 2022 office hour event, “#BreakTheBias: Empowering women to succeed and allies to support.” After Jill Garner, Program Director for Academic and Social Impact at 10KC, introduced the webinar to our virtual audience, Wilkin invited the two panelists to join the conversation. In this hour-long discussion, Christine Silva, Senior Lead, Community and Engagement at Shopify, and Emma Mohns, Senior Legal Counsel at Kinaxis discussed how to identify and overcome bias in the workplace, tactics and solutions pertaining to gender inequality, active allyship, and techniques to approach mentoring and networking.

Overcoming barriers and biases

“International Women's Day,” Wilkin said, “is a chance for all of us to educate ourselves and figure out how we can create more networks, more inclusive environments, and ultimately help to grow the careers of people in all different minority groups.” He introduced Silva as “one of my go-to people on anything DEI, talent, mentoring, or innovation.”

He began by asking her: “Can you share some of your research findings into how men and women's experiences differ when entering the world of work?”

Silva’s career started on the research side, she told the audience, with a focus on gender and diversity, before moving to Shopify. She studied the careers of women and men around the world and she shared her most memorable research.

“We followed thousands of women's careers after they finished their MBA,” she said. Women, she discovered, started in lower levels than men and earned less. “We looked at what tactics women and men use to get ahead in their career. They were using all the same ones, but it was benefiting men more.” - Christine Silva

When researchers changed the name on identical resumes — for example, Karen rather than Kevin’s resume — additional “doubt-raising statements” would be asked, Silva said. The interviewers would then ask to see performance evaluations. “People were more likely to want to hire Kevin versus Karen and offer a higher salary. It's a bit depressing spending time in research around bias, but it's an important starting point,” Silva said, before adding one final point. “Women and men both made the same assessments about women's resumes. It's just so pervasive. Women have the same biases.” Wilkin agreed. “It's important to be open to these harder conversations. Bias is prevalent everywhere. We have to be open to talking about some of those issues and not get defensive,” he said. 

Mohns works on the legal side for Kinaxis, a publicly traded supply chain software company. “I have a really broad legal role,” she told the audience. “I negotiate contracts and work in corporate governance,” adding that she is also involved in networking and mentoring within Indigenous communities and sits on the board of directors of the Trans Canada Trail. Lately, she said, a lot of her work in corporate governance deals with increasing diversity on boards. Wilkin then asked: “What barriers have you had to overcome in your career as a woman in these rooms? Have you ever encountered bias or explicit discrimination?”

“Not explicit bias,” Mohns said. “It’s more the barriers I’ve experienced as opposed to explicit bias.” One barrier she noticed that's prevalent in the legal industry, for example, is the common types of networking. “It's easy for a junior male lawyer to go golfing for an afternoon and get to know the older male partners. It's tricky for women — we don't have those same sort of obvious networking opportunities.” When you're working long hours as a junior lawyer, she continued, “you put your head down, and your assumption is your hard work is going to equal success. It’s not true. You have to be creative compared to some of your male counterparts.” - Emma Mohns

Wilkin asked the audience in an online poll — What do you think is the most important thing allies can do to support women's careers? "A lot of similar themes come up around stereotypes, assumptions, and lack of access to networks,” Silva shared. “A big role allies can play is inviting people into spaces — actively inviting them. Create spaces if you have an opportunity to do so, spaces where people feel included.” Advocacy and speaking up were other points she raised. “A lot of women don't feel comfortable. If you see someone who has a hard time talking about how great they are, speak up for them,” Silva said. Make a deal to hype each other up, she added, or tag people on social media. “One very senior male executive where I used to work invited me to speak to the board of directors. That is not a space that many younger women get to go.” That kind of advocacy and vouching, she said, is valuable. “Invite people into every opportunity you have.”

Mohns shared that in meetings, “I can be deferential. I'll sit there and go, ‘Everybody's covered some really good points already.” Having colleagues encourage her to add additional details can feel like a form of advocacy, she said. She in turn encourages people in the workplace to recommend each other for jobs or tasks they’re particularly suited for.

That’s part of the spectrum of allyship, Wilkin added. “The least everybody can do is try to learn about some of these barriers and educate themselves as a starting point.” Call out inequality, he suggested. “Don't try to make people who are underrepresented be the ones fighting in these situations.” Silva said standing up for things that may seem small, or not such a big deal, can go a long way. “It lets people know someone is paying attention, that it’s a safe and inclusive space.”

Mohns added how important active listening can be. When the residential school graves were discovered in 2021, several colleagues reached out to see how she was doing, and it meant a lot. “In a lot of cases, we avoid difficult conversations, but that active listening, just seeking out and asking how people are doing, is very underrated.” Giving credit where credit’s due is another thing Silva suggested can promote allyship. If you see someone else in a meeting getting credit for an idea that you initiated, speak up, she said, and make sure the original person gets recognized.

Tactics and solutions

Wilkin shifted the conversation to tactics that women can use to help overcome barriers. Silva shared that while companies can review HR data, or initiate mentoring and networking programs, platforms such as 10KC are critical in building networks and relationships for employees. One study stood out. “For men, anything they did predicted advancement and compensation growth. For women, only two of the 25 tactics predicted the same career advancement. Those two tactics that predicted getting ahead in your career were networking with influential people and making your achievements known. Why are those two things so important? That's how you go about getting sponsorship.” 

Mentors are the people who talk with you and give you advice, she continued. Sponsors are different. “A sponsor is someone behind the scenes talking about you. They’re actively advocating for you.” She offered some job advice for women. “Apply for jobs where you don't check all the boxes,” and give some extra thought to how you can add more oomph to your resume — that shows you’ve got transferable skills and will set you up for success in the role.

“I recently read about ‘The Missing 33%,’” Mohns shared. She’s since learned to direct her own sponsors to help with personal gaps in her own skill set. Mohns receives plenty of mentorship on soft skills but has had to actively seek coaching on business strategy and finance from sponsors.

“For me, I'm part of that missing 33% in finance. Directing my sponsor to take me exactly where I need to go has helped me,” she said. 

She also suggested expanding your networking beyond the traditional mixer hours and focusing on volunteering. Mohns’ work with the Trans Canada Trail has been beneficial personally and professionally. “I'm passionate about it. You're doing good work, you're enjoying it, and then you're also expanding your network,” she said. Silva added that turning past managers into sponsors can be a unique way to expand and build on your network. A question from the online chat sparked another thought from Silva: ask others what skills they think you're good at — they might see something you don't. 

She added one more tip: follow up with feedback to your mentors. They want to know if you got the job, or if the feedback they provided was useful. Wilkin reminded the 10KC community listening to the webinar that, “As you have those coffees and you're building your networks, follow up with people. Don’t ever think they’re too busy. Share an article that might come across as an interesting follow up. Say thank you. Share a story.” 

When values align

Finally, the conversation shifted to the job market. “From a woman's perspective, what should people look out for as they're entering the workforce or joining a new company? Any red flags or good things that people should look for?” Wilkin asked the panelists.

Mohns recommended “not looking for perfection, but for a company that's moving in the right direction, where you can see that good work is happening.” When they are interviewing you, you also need to be interviewing them. “So you can get a sense of what the culture is like. If you ask about diversity, or promotions for women, and they don't know the answer, that would be a red flag for me.” Look for value alignment — if you see that your values are not aligned, it’s probably not a long-term opportunity for you. Silva recommended doing your homework, and a host of other pertinent ideas — does a company only talk about women’s issues on International Women’s Day, or is it something discussed throughout the year? Do people look like you? If you have a sense of the team you'd be joining, look them up on LinkedIn. Get stories from current employees, or former alumni. Download diversity reports. Find someone who can be candid about the company.

After taking some final questions from the audience regarding how to mentor effectively, how to get back into the workforce after a gap year, or how to follow up with a potential mentor if they don’t respond right away, Wilkin asked the panelists one final question: what do you wish you could tell your younger selves when you were just starting out in the workforce? 

“Don’t try to plan so much,” Silva said. “Your network takes nurturing — stay close to the relationships you’re building.”

Mohns mentioned putting support systems in place early. “Figure out what de-stresses you and how you can take care of yourself when things get busy, especially as you move forward in your career. Burnout is growing at a much faster rate for women than it is for men,” she said. “The best advice I ever got was to do these things proactively. Don't wait until you're on the verge of burnout.”


A final interactive audience slide encouraged everyone to complete a survey, share on social media and connect with others using 10KC’s “Schools” platform. Tune in to hear the panelists discuss their favourite travel destinations, shared dream job (seriously, it’s the same one!), and the one book each of them couldn’t put down. 

Webinar

#BreakTheBias: Empowering women to succeed and allies to support

“The role of allies is important in all different shapes and forms.” That’s how CEO and Co-Founder of Ten Thousand Coffees (10KC) Dave Wilkin kicked off the March 2022 office hour event, “#BreakTheBias: Empowering women to succeed and allies to support.” After Jill Garner, Program Director for Academic and Social Impact at 10KC, introduced the webinar to our virtual audience, Wilkin invited the two panelists to join the conversation. In this hour-long discussion, Christine Silva, Senior Lead, Community and Engagement at Shopify, and Emma Mohns, Senior Legal Counsel at Kinaxis discussed how to identify and overcome bias in the workplace, tactics and solutions pertaining to gender inequality, active allyship, and techniques to approach mentoring and networking.

Overcoming barriers and biases

“International Women's Day,” Wilkin said, “is a chance for all of us to educate ourselves and figure out how we can create more networks, more inclusive environments, and ultimately help to grow the careers of people in all different minority groups.” He introduced Silva as “one of my go-to people on anything DEI, talent, mentoring, or innovation.”

He began by asking her: “Can you share some of your research findings into how men and women's experiences differ when entering the world of work?”

Silva’s career started on the research side, she told the audience, with a focus on gender and diversity, before moving to Shopify. She studied the careers of women and men around the world and she shared her most memorable research.

“We followed thousands of women's careers after they finished their MBA,” she said. Women, she discovered, started in lower levels than men and earned less. “We looked at what tactics women and men use to get ahead in their career. They were using all the same ones, but it was benefiting men more.” - Christine Silva

When researchers changed the name on identical resumes — for example, Karen rather than Kevin’s resume — additional “doubt-raising statements” would be asked, Silva said. The interviewers would then ask to see performance evaluations. “People were more likely to want to hire Kevin versus Karen and offer a higher salary. It's a bit depressing spending time in research around bias, but it's an important starting point,” Silva said, before adding one final point. “Women and men both made the same assessments about women's resumes. It's just so pervasive. Women have the same biases.” Wilkin agreed. “It's important to be open to these harder conversations. Bias is prevalent everywhere. We have to be open to talking about some of those issues and not get defensive,” he said. 

Mohns works on the legal side for Kinaxis, a publicly traded supply chain software company. “I have a really broad legal role,” she told the audience. “I negotiate contracts and work in corporate governance,” adding that she is also involved in networking and mentoring within Indigenous communities and sits on the board of directors of the Trans Canada Trail. Lately, she said, a lot of her work in corporate governance deals with increasing diversity on boards. Wilkin then asked: “What barriers have you had to overcome in your career as a woman in these rooms? Have you ever encountered bias or explicit discrimination?”

“Not explicit bias,” Mohns said. “It’s more the barriers I’ve experienced as opposed to explicit bias.” One barrier she noticed that's prevalent in the legal industry, for example, is the common types of networking. “It's easy for a junior male lawyer to go golfing for an afternoon and get to know the older male partners. It's tricky for women — we don't have those same sort of obvious networking opportunities.” When you're working long hours as a junior lawyer, she continued, “you put your head down, and your assumption is your hard work is going to equal success. It’s not true. You have to be creative compared to some of your male counterparts.” - Emma Mohns

Wilkin asked the audience in an online poll — What do you think is the most important thing allies can do to support women's careers? "A lot of similar themes come up around stereotypes, assumptions, and lack of access to networks,” Silva shared. “A big role allies can play is inviting people into spaces — actively inviting them. Create spaces if you have an opportunity to do so, spaces where people feel included.” Advocacy and speaking up were other points she raised. “A lot of women don't feel comfortable. If you see someone who has a hard time talking about how great they are, speak up for them,” Silva said. Make a deal to hype each other up, she added, or tag people on social media. “One very senior male executive where I used to work invited me to speak to the board of directors. That is not a space that many younger women get to go.” That kind of advocacy and vouching, she said, is valuable. “Invite people into every opportunity you have.”

Mohns shared that in meetings, “I can be deferential. I'll sit there and go, ‘Everybody's covered some really good points already.” Having colleagues encourage her to add additional details can feel like a form of advocacy, she said. She in turn encourages people in the workplace to recommend each other for jobs or tasks they’re particularly suited for.

That’s part of the spectrum of allyship, Wilkin added. “The least everybody can do is try to learn about some of these barriers and educate themselves as a starting point.” Call out inequality, he suggested. “Don't try to make people who are underrepresented be the ones fighting in these situations.” Silva said standing up for things that may seem small, or not such a big deal, can go a long way. “It lets people know someone is paying attention, that it’s a safe and inclusive space.”

Mohns added how important active listening can be. When the residential school graves were discovered in 2021, several colleagues reached out to see how she was doing, and it meant a lot. “In a lot of cases, we avoid difficult conversations, but that active listening, just seeking out and asking how people are doing, is very underrated.” Giving credit where credit’s due is another thing Silva suggested can promote allyship. If you see someone else in a meeting getting credit for an idea that you initiated, speak up, she said, and make sure the original person gets recognized.

Tactics and solutions

Wilkin shifted the conversation to tactics that women can use to help overcome barriers. Silva shared that while companies can review HR data, or initiate mentoring and networking programs, platforms such as 10KC are critical in building networks and relationships for employees. One study stood out. “For men, anything they did predicted advancement and compensation growth. For women, only two of the 25 tactics predicted the same career advancement. Those two tactics that predicted getting ahead in your career were networking with influential people and making your achievements known. Why are those two things so important? That's how you go about getting sponsorship.” 

Mentors are the people who talk with you and give you advice, she continued. Sponsors are different. “A sponsor is someone behind the scenes talking about you. They’re actively advocating for you.” She offered some job advice for women. “Apply for jobs where you don't check all the boxes,” and give some extra thought to how you can add more oomph to your resume — that shows you’ve got transferable skills and will set you up for success in the role.

“I recently read about ‘The Missing 33%,’” Mohns shared. She’s since learned to direct her own sponsors to help with personal gaps in her own skill set. Mohns receives plenty of mentorship on soft skills but has had to actively seek coaching on business strategy and finance from sponsors.

“For me, I'm part of that missing 33% in finance. Directing my sponsor to take me exactly where I need to go has helped me,” she said. 

She also suggested expanding your networking beyond the traditional mixer hours and focusing on volunteering. Mohns’ work with the Trans Canada Trail has been beneficial personally and professionally. “I'm passionate about it. You're doing good work, you're enjoying it, and then you're also expanding your network,” she said. Silva added that turning past managers into sponsors can be a unique way to expand and build on your network. A question from the online chat sparked another thought from Silva: ask others what skills they think you're good at — they might see something you don't. 

She added one more tip: follow up with feedback to your mentors. They want to know if you got the job, or if the feedback they provided was useful. Wilkin reminded the 10KC community listening to the webinar that, “As you have those coffees and you're building your networks, follow up with people. Don’t ever think they’re too busy. Share an article that might come across as an interesting follow up. Say thank you. Share a story.” 

When values align

Finally, the conversation shifted to the job market. “From a woman's perspective, what should people look out for as they're entering the workforce or joining a new company? Any red flags or good things that people should look for?” Wilkin asked the panelists.

Mohns recommended “not looking for perfection, but for a company that's moving in the right direction, where you can see that good work is happening.” When they are interviewing you, you also need to be interviewing them. “So you can get a sense of what the culture is like. If you ask about diversity, or promotions for women, and they don't know the answer, that would be a red flag for me.” Look for value alignment — if you see that your values are not aligned, it’s probably not a long-term opportunity for you. Silva recommended doing your homework, and a host of other pertinent ideas — does a company only talk about women’s issues on International Women’s Day, or is it something discussed throughout the year? Do people look like you? If you have a sense of the team you'd be joining, look them up on LinkedIn. Get stories from current employees, or former alumni. Download diversity reports. Find someone who can be candid about the company.

After taking some final questions from the audience regarding how to mentor effectively, how to get back into the workforce after a gap year, or how to follow up with a potential mentor if they don’t respond right away, Wilkin asked the panelists one final question: what do you wish you could tell your younger selves when you were just starting out in the workforce? 

“Don’t try to plan so much,” Silva said. “Your network takes nurturing — stay close to the relationships you’re building.”

Mohns mentioned putting support systems in place early. “Figure out what de-stresses you and how you can take care of yourself when things get busy, especially as you move forward in your career. Burnout is growing at a much faster rate for women than it is for men,” she said. “The best advice I ever got was to do these things proactively. Don't wait until you're on the verge of burnout.”


A final interactive audience slide encouraged everyone to complete a survey, share on social media and connect with others using 10KC’s “Schools” platform. Tune in to hear the panelists discuss their favourite travel destinations, shared dream job (seriously, it’s the same one!), and the one book each of them couldn’t put down. 

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