Build flexibility into the workplace. With the advent of technology and platforms like Skype, Zoom, Go-To Meeting, etc. there is no reason high-level jobs must require 24/7 travel commitments. We can easily run large global businesses online and these innovative tools help offer flexibility and increased productivity.
As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the gender wage gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristin S. Kaufman. Kristin is the founder of Alignment, Inc. ® a unique consultancy formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, board of directors and other similar groups find alignment within themselves and their organizations. She’s brought this expertise to hundreds of people since establishing Alignment, Inc®. Some of her clients include Baylor Healthcare System, Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, Smith & Nephew, Frito-Lay, IDEA Public Schools, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Mercy Health, and many others. Kristin brings over 25 years of corporate experience to bear, including executive positions at Hewlett-Packard, Vignette Corporation, and United Health Group. At HP, Kristin was the General Manager of the channels and partner program that supported Hewlett-Packard’s largest corporate accounts. This business represented a $3 billion revenue stream for Hewlett-Packard. Serving as Worldwide Channels Vice-President on the Executive Committee of Vignette Corporation, a $250 million publicly traded software company, her team built the global infrastructure for multi-channels of distribution for their software solution. In her first departure from traditional ‘corporate America’, Kristin was asked to join the NYC Leadership Academy effort, which was the centerpiece of the New York City Children First reform agenda. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein sponsored this agenda, lead by CEO Robert E. Knowling, Jr. The goal of this reform was to create a system of outstanding schools where every child and teacher has access to effective teaching and learning. Kristin was chosen as one of two private sector business executives, to teach, train, and coach the 1,200 principals of the NYC public school system and the top 100 executives on the Chancellor’s staff. This three-year experience was the initial catalyst for Kristin forming Alignment, Inc. ® Her last executive position in corporate America was as Group Vice President ofUnited Health Group. This appointment leveraged her strong knowledge of the technology business and how to leverage multiple channels to market in the increasingly complicated world of healthcare and healthcare insurance. Kristin provided expertise for its go-to-market strategies, defined and created alternative channels to improve organic growth, and implemented sales effectiveness methodologies across all segments within United Health Group. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken? Random Encounters That Change Your Life, was released on 11/1/11 to national acclaim, and endorsed by Stephen Covey and John Maxwell, among others. Her second book in the series, entitled Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat was released in January, 2015. It has been endorsed by notables such as Marshall Goldsmith, Sean Covey, and Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines. This book shines the light on late in life reinvention and encore ‘second half’s’ of diverse individuals. The individuals are in some cases widely known and others are somewhat anonymous to the mass public. The common thread is their ‘post-50’ resurgence in life and in some cases their ‘fork in the road’ is quite serendipitous. Kristin’s third book, in the ‘Is This Seat Taken?’ trilogy was released October 8, 2019.
Thank you so much for joining us, Kristin! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?
Myadulthood journey and professional career had been centered primarily in the corporate arena. Until about 15 years ago, my life had been a series of accomplishments, achievements, awards, and rewards. I had experienced success on pretty much every level. Then, I made the choice to ‘jump off the hamster wheel’ and devote my energies to becoming truly integrated and aligned to my purpose. I realized I had ‘lost the plot’ of my then current corporate executive role — and desired to learn, grow, transcend and include all parts of who I am. I sought true alignment — which by my definition is loving what I do, being good at, and most importantly — having it tied to something much greater then myself. Working with global leaders, their teams, and boards of directors is fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding — and without question is my calling toward alignment.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
When we work with corporate leaders, the stories are varied, interesting, and surprising. No one engagement is more interesting than another — as they are all challenging and test one’s intuition, judgment, wisdom, and counsel.
One of the most compelling — and this story has been repeated more than once — is the realization of a senior level executive that the quest for big income packages, large spans of control, and a heady title does NOT equate to fulfillment or ‘success’. Despite the trappings of a huge, powerful position — this executive was miserable.
What has been fascinating to experience is the epiphany an executive has that true success is defined by his/her own parameters….not by society, the ‘powers that be’, conventional rules, or discriminating ‘head hunters’. Success is defined on their terms…and it changes as we mature, evolve, and how we make meaning in our lives.
Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. Even in 2019, women still earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Can you explain three of the main factors that are causing the wage gap?
The gender wage gap is complex with many interrelated factors coming into play. A few thoughts:
- Women’s’ competencies, skills, and contributions have been traditionally under recognized and undervalued. Even when women are in the same position, gender stereotypes tend to categorize women differently — which hinders promo ability, salary ranges, among other factors. Women have been historically inappropriately — and unjustifiably — categorized as not as committed due to their being mothers, or being perceived as less competent — simply due to their being female. In several studies, this has been validated, when mock applications were sent using ‘female-sounding’ names, the ‘male-sounding’ names were viewed more favorably AND offered jobs with higher-paying salaries. And to add to this reality, there are historically –and currently — more men in senior level roles than women — thus, this fact adds credence to men being ‘paid more’ just by the nature of them holding higher level positions. One last piece of this equation is the factor that women historically have chosen lower-paying roles (think women choosing nursing over becoming doctors, or women choosing teaching versus men choosing engineering). This trend is clearly changing; yet the historic figures do not lie. Net: all of these observations are clearly ‘wrong’ and changes are coming, yet very slowly.
- Historically, legislation has not supported equal pay or equal opportunity for women. Forty years after the first equal pay legislation was put into effect (the Equal Pay Act of 1970), women can still expect to be paid less. The law has made a big difference, however, often women don’t know they are underpaid. People (men and women) are often secretive about how much they are paid — and if a person wants to bring a case against an employer — that is an expensive proposition. The employer has deeper coffers to defend their actions than the individual employee…..not to mention the potential stain on the employee of filing a suit.
- Finally, and this may not be what female reader will want to hear; however, often women lack the confidence to demand equal pay for equal work. Women need to stand tall, know their worth, and demand equal pay. A mentor of mine once told me that the market (internal and external) will assign the value on you which you assign to yourself. This nugget has served me well throughout my career. Coupled with this, women need to help other women. It is appalling for me to still observe high-ranking women NOT reaching down to help other women. This is unacceptable; yet, it still is a reality in corporate America.
Net: I believe in equal opportunity and equal pay for equal work. I am NOT a believer in giving women — or men — unfair advantage based on their gender. That is simply obsolete thinking. Also, we must caution against reverse discrimination; that over-rotation will undermine the pure intention of equal opportunity for all.
Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?
My work focuses on helping individuals reach their potential. With my clients — male and female — I focus on helping them gain confidence, learn strong negotiating skills, how to strategically plot their career, and build plans to optimize their career progression. I also hold the mirror for both genders (male and female) to become aware of discriminating behaviors and help them to grow beyond the learned conventional behaviors which are stagnating their evolution as a leader in the 21st century.
Can you recommend 4 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the gender wage gap.
A few thoughts:
- Be transparent about pay. It is appalling to me, from the studies I have read, that the average full-time working woman earns just .75 to .79 cents for every dollar man earns. We need to have transparency about wages AND merit increases. There is nothing to lose and so much to gain to level the playing field and pay based on skill, competency, met deliverables, contribution to the bottom line — and to the over-arching corporate culture — 100% independent of gender.
- Invest in men and women equally. Ongoing investments in the high-potential employees helps the person and the organization for which they work. These individuals will become the leaders of the organization going forward. These investments can take the form of ongoing education, mentoring and networking programs (internally and externally), and training about the ‘elephant in the room’ aka: unconscious bias training, etc.
- Build diversity and inclusion into the organizational values — and this is not the ‘old fashioned playbook’ of how to do this. This means treating diversity as an asset which needs to be built, honed, and enhanced over time. This creates a culture that accepts and rewards all employees — regardless of race, gender, or background. This is our sacred responsibility in our professional lives.
- Build flexibility into the workplace. With the advent of technology and platforms like Skype, Zoom, Go-To Meeting, etc. there is no reason high-level jobs must require 24/7 travel commitments. We can easily run large global businesses online and these innovative tools help offer flexibility and increased productivity.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My work focuses on three main points:
First, we live in the present moment — that is really all we have. We have to pay attention — to the spoken and the unspoken — to learn, teach, and serve at our highest capacity. Secondly, we are all part of an integral and collective experience. Thousands of individuals unknowingly help to create our life’s journey — personally and professionally. Thus, we are not in competition with one another — we are here to collaborate, teach, learn, serve, and love through our actions, behaviors, contributions, and authentic presence.
Finally, we create the lives we desire to live. We define success on our terms. It is simply never too late — net: we own it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are many quotes which have steered my choices — and my favorite quote changes as I change.
The one which resonates with me now is from James Hollis,
“Our lives find our purpose — not in answers but in living large questions that are worthy of the soul’s magnitude”.
Thus, I encourage individuals which whom I work (as well as myself) to live in question. Nestle into ambiguity. We own the quest for the answers, if we have the courage to dig deep and face the paradoxes of life.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I have watched Brene Brown’s contributions over the past number of years with admiration and gratitude. She has de-stigmatized shame and done so with humor. She has anchored her perspectives with research and data, which is a powerful grounding. Her work is seminal and is changing lives.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.