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“Encourage Transparency.” with Taryn Oesch and Amy DuVernet

Our research has found that women tend to receive less effective leadership training than men, especially in those occupations and industries where they could make more if they were better supported. As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the gender wage gap” I had the pleasure of […]

Our research has found that women tend to receive less effective leadership training than men, especially in those occupations and industries where they could make more if they were better supported.

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 Taryn Oesch and Amy DuVernet. Taryn is the managing editor of digital content at Training Industry, where she manages content on TrainingIndustry.com; works on research reports; and co-hosts The Business of Learning, the Training Industry podcast. Her work at Training Industry has resulted in her being awarded an APEX Award of Excellence and a regional bronze Azbee Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). She was also named a 2019 ASBPE Young Leader.

Amy is the director of training manager development at Training Industry, where she oversees all processes related to Training Industry’s continuing professional education programs, including their research, development and evaluation. Prior to joining Training Industry, she worked as a business consultant designing and evaluating organizational interventions in a variety of industries. She holds a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from North Carolina State University and is a Certified Professional in Training Management.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?

Taryn: I studied psychology and K-12 English as a second language (ESL) education in college, but it took some time for me to figure out the right career path for me. I went from teaching to university fundraising to marketing and then to my current role as a member of the editorial team at Training Industry, Inc. Writing and editing in this industry combines my passion and experience in education and psychology with my skills in storytelling and media.

Amy: During grad school, I originally intended to go the academic route. I love research and get a lot of great energy from both mentoring and teaching — key job responsibilities of university faculty. One piece of the puzzle was missing, however. I wanted to make sure the research I did was used in practice. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a position where I can marry all of those passions; at Training Industry, Inc., I’m able to apply my research/science background to the study of learning and development (L&D) processes, careers and impact. I then translate the results of these studies into professional development programs that impart evidence-based best practices to L&D professionals.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

Taryn: What’s been interesting to me as my career has developed is how my interest in supporting women at work has developed. I went from a women’s college to an office of all women to a company that is majority women. Most of the volunteer work I do is centered around inclusion and women’s issues — largely due to opportunities that opened up and seemed interesting rather than any personal branding strategy I developed. My takeaway is that your “personal brand” or career focus should be organic — reflect on your interests, passions and skills and let them guide you, but be open to opportunities that come your way.

Amy: The most interesting thing that’s happened to me since I began this career was having my daughter, who is now three. Having read about the dilemmas of working moms, I felt I understood the pressure, but I had no idea. It is truly impossible to do it all, and becoming comfortable with the trade-offs has been a huge learning for me. Becoming a mom has added so much joy and complexity to my life, and I’ve definitely changed the way I approach work and home life.

Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Taryn: On my way to my first job interview out of college, I was pulled over by a cop for an expired registration. Having to explain to the interviewers why I was late was embarrassing. Lesson learned: Leave even earlierthan you think you should (and, oh yeah … you should probably make sure your tags are always up to date).

Amy: One of the biggest mistakes I made as I transitioned from grad school to practice was assuming that stakeholders, the consumers of my research, wanted to hear nitty gritty information about the statistical analyses and methodological implications of my work. (Picture me explaining hierarchical linear modeling to the COO of my company, passionately exclaiming, “The results are simply fascinating!”) I’ve been very fortunate to have excellent mentors who’ve helped me to learn the art of crafting a data story. Basically, the detailed, advanced statistical analyses are critical as the foundation of any data-driven strategy; however, the sharing of those results must come in as a carefully crafted story that resonates with my audience, allowing them to make well informed decisions.

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?

We see three main factors at work in the wage gap. First is the fact that higher-wage occupations and industries (e.g., technology, engineering, finance) are still largely dominated by men; in fact, a 2016 Glassdoor survey found that men and women of similar age, education and experience have a 19.2% wage gap, while men and women with similar job titles, employers and locations have a 5.4% wage gap. Second is the fact that fewer women than men reach higher-level leadership roles, which naturally pay more.

Third, and affecting both of the first two factors, is the leadership training and development organizations offer women versus men. Our research has found that women tend to receive less effective leadership training than men, especially in those occupations and industries where they could make more if they were better supported.

Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?

Our research and writing in women’s leadership development is aimed at closing the training gap, which can close the leadership and wage gaps. Closing the gender gap will take a range of actions by a range of stakeholders, but learning and development leaders can play a key role by taking a look at the training they provide their leaders and future leaders. Making sure that women in their organizations receive training that’s focused on critical leadership skills (such as strategic thinking and planning, negotiation, and change management) and delivered in ways that meet women’s needs (such as on-the-job and formal coaching as well as in-person and online training) will help close the gap across levels and functions.

Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the gender wage gap. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Improve pay in female-dominated occupations, such as education and nursing. This strategy will create greater incentives for talented people to enter these fields and recognize the important work that teachers and nurses perform. It will also help close the gender wage gap by boosting the income of these workers, the majority of whom are still women.

2. Improve employer support of working parents, including flexible work options, paid maternity and paternity leave, and a culture that looks upon parenthood positively. For example, if a woman is able to take paid time off during her post-partum period, she will be able to maintain her income, return to work better prepared to perform and feel that her employer values her as a whole person rather than just a cog in the machine. If, after having children, she is able to take time off to attend school functions, work from home when her children are sick and otherwise be available as both an employee and a parent, she will be more likely to stay in the workforce and, thus, earn more money. For women who have taken a break from their careers, using programs like returnships can help accelerate their re-entry and earning potential.

3. We’re interested in seeing how next year’s elections shake out in regards to equal pay and family leave legislation. If family leave becomes mandatory, our only concern is whether it’s mandatory for both genders. If employers are required to give maternity leave but not paternity leave, we worry that it will incentivize them not to hire women, particularly young women.

4. Encourage pay transparency. When organizations go public on their wage gap (or lack thereof), it demonstrates their commitment to gender parity and encourages other employers to do the same. It also enables women to make decisions about where to accept jobs based on additional information (“Will I be paid the same as the men in my role and with my experience?”) and improves the company’s appeal to both job candidates and consumers.

5. We know that the wage gap is even worse for women who are members of more than one underrepresented group, including women of color and women with disabilities. Ignoring these intersectionalities is dangerous not only in terms of leaving many women behind but also in terms of the rich benefits that come with a multifaceted approach to organizational diversity and inclusion. An African-American woman with a learning disability has a unique perspective that can be very valuable to the organization she works for — but only if that organization recognizes her worth and addresses the unique challenges she faces.

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. 🙂

Taryn: I have so many movements I’d like to start! The one that immediately comes to mind would be for men and women both to value the unique gifts women can bring to work — and to the world. Researchers have found no differences in the effectiveness of men and women as leaders — but many have found that men and women can bring different, inherent leadership strengths. If we valued some of the more “feminine” strengths — empathy, relationship-building, making connections — as much as we valued the more “masculine” strengths, what a better world we would have!

Amy: If I could inspire any movement, it would be focused on strengthening community engagement. There are so many aspect of modern life that push us to disconnect from each other. If we could reverse this trend and place the responsibility for each member of our communities on the shoulder of each member of our communities, I believe the average mental and physical well-being across our communities would dramatically improve.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Taryn: As a writer and speaker, my favorite “life lesson quote” is from 20th-century German philosopher Edith Stein: “Do not accept anything as truth that lacks love, and do not accept anything as love that lacks truth. One without the other is a destructive lie.” Words have power, and speaking the truth — but doing so kindly and with empathy — is the best way I know how to make a difference.

Amy: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

– Maya Angelou

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. 🙂

Taryn: I read Fran Hauser’s book “The Myth of the Nice Girl” last year and interviewed her for an article. In addition to being a nice girl herself — a really lovely person to talk to — she has interesting insights on what it means to be a woman in the workplace and how to bring your natural gifts to the table. (She also invests in some pretty cool female-led companies!)

Amy: Anne Wojcicki. The practical, medical and ethical implications of her work are profound. I’d like to pick her brain, not just about career and life lessons, but also about the impetus for her company and the future of genetic indexing.

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.

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