Episode 105: The Assistant

You need to have serious ambition but on behalf of the person you’re supporting, not on behalf of yourself.
— Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams

I want to be so much better at what I do...I’m very content to support a person who’s in charge, and having them trust me and know that I’ve got their back.
— Janel Wallace
Janel Wallace

Janel Wallace

A few years ago I found out the most popular job for women in America is the same as it was in the 1950s - administrative assistant, or secretary. I was shocked. How could this be, in an era where women are more educated than men? Why are so many of us still working to support other people - mostly men - rather than pursuing something for ourselves?

I set out to tackle those questions in this show, and take a look at the assistant role as it exists now. Typing and dictation are largely out, while managing executives' lives and company projects are in. But traditional aspects of the job remain. This is a role women still flock to, and are sought for, while men are largely absent. 

My guests are Jessica Williams, who heads the recruitment firm Sidekicks in London, and Janel Wallace, an executive assistant at a global company based in the US. 

Further reading: Jessica Williams wrote this piece for the Guardian on tackling 'acceptable sexism' in her industry. 

This is an interview with Lynn Peril who wrote a book about the history of the profession called Swimming in the Steno Pool

You can also read a transcript of the show

Episode 104: Starting Over

As I started to gain more success, I started to gain more confidence. That made me feel more comfortable drawing boundaries or saying, ‘This is what I need...’ Our relationship was just fully unprepared for that kind of equality.
— Brooke Lark
Brooke Lark

Brooke Lark

Brooke in the middle with her boyfriend Jordan (r) and three of her kids

Brooke in the middle with her boyfriend Jordan (r) and three of her kids

Brooke Lark was raised to think having a career was selfish and motherhood was sacred. She had four children by the age of 29 and never expected to work outside the home. But as she began to have more contact with the outside world, the certainties of her religion began to crumble. At 35 she was faced with a whole new prospect - not only working, but being the main breadwinner for her family.  

In this show we hear Brooke's story of being raised Mormon, losing her religion, and joining a workplace she had no idea how to navigate.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

Episode 103: Conservative State of Mind

One of the male representatives from a very conservative area stood up and said, ‘We don’t need more childcare, we need to do away with the need for childcare!’
— Patricia Jones
Patricia Jones (photo by Andrea smardon)

Patricia Jones (photo by Andrea smardon)

I always made it a point to sit next to Republican men. Of course most of them were so it wasn’t difficult. But I made it a point not to just sit with women, because you build relationships in that way.

Patricia Jones was born and raised in Utah, a state with a conservative bent and one of the highest wage gaps in the US. 60% of the population is Mormon. But belonging to a conservative faith never stopped Pat from having a family and a career, first running a business, then as a politician.

In her latest role at the Women's Leadership Institute she's on a mission to raise the status of women at work and in public life in Utah. And that means persuading a lot of pale males that it's a good idea. 

You can also read a transcript of the show

Thanks to Andrea Smardon for taping Pat's side of the conversation in Salt Lake City.

Further reading: 

Gender Equality Isn't Political - See Utah for Proof by Patricia Jones, published in Fast Company.

Facts about Women in Utah - from the Utah Department of Workforce Services

Since When is Being a Woman a Liberal Cause? by Susan Chira, the New York Times.

Episode 102: When Women Work For Free (re-release)

A closed mouth don’t get fed.
— Adrienne Graham's dad
There is an expectation in some ways that women are going to give, that we’re going to be supportive. It’s how we’re raised, and the messages we get.
— Kathy Caprino

This week we're re-visiting an episode I first put out in 2014. I still feel strongly about this topic. Too often women are asked to give their services for nothing, and too often we comply. The rest of the time we tend to undervalue ourselves and charge less for our work than we should. I should know, I've done it a lot. This show with Adrienne Graham and Kathy Caprino went a long way to getting me comfortable charging for my time and expertise. I hope it does the same for others.

You can get more links on this topic at the original episode page.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

Episode 101: Your Work, Your Private Life

I’ve always been quite guarded with revealing details about my personal life as I wouldn’t really want that information to be out there, out of my control.
— Marie, UK listener
I don’t want to go out of my way to play mental games and think, how can I do my part to make sure this person is comfortable by my constructing a false reality?
— Dorie Clark
dorie clark

dorie clark

The boundaries between work and home are fraying all the time. We spend work time doing personal stuff, and time at home working. We talk about our personal lives at work too, and vice versa. But some of us aren't comfortable sharing much about our home lives with colleagues - we like our boundaries. Yet not sharing can put us at odds with a world where everyone's connected on social media. My first guest Marie guards her privacy, but wonders if she's hurting her career by being circumspect. My second guest, Dorie Clark, has similar experiences, but a different take on openness at work.  

You can also read a transcript of the show

I want to hear from you after you've heard this one - as she says in the show, Marie is keen to get other people's takes on her situation. Please post below if you have any experiences to share.

Further reading:

Human Rights Watch issued a report last year on LGBT rights in Kazakhstan.

Here's a BBC report on the latest poll on Nigerian attitudes to same-sex relationships. 

And here's more information and a photo of that sign at the airport in Accra, Ghana. 

Episode 100: Owning It - an Interview with Sallie Krawcheck

I could have dressed him down. What would have happened then? He would have been embarrassed. But so would everybody else have been. And you know who would have gotten the blame for it, right? Because he was their bud. So it would have been me.
— Sallie Krawcheck

For years Sallie Krawcheck was one of the few famous women on Wall Street. She earned millions of dollars, had a huge office, and the use of a private jet. A few years ago all that changed when she made the switch to entrepreneurship.

Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck

In this interview we talk about the relationship between her gender and her firing from Citibank, why she won't shut up about diversity, stodgy company cultures, and handling sexism at work.

Sallie is the author of a new book called Own It, and the co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, and investment platform for women. 

You can also read a transcript of the show.