For women in leadership, the challenges of female inclusion and gender diversity are real. On this episode of CxOTalk, we discuss women in tech, barriers to female leadership, and how to promote female leadership. 

Our guests are Michelle Carnahan, Senior Vice Pesident at Sanofi and Joan Kuhl, author of books on career development for millennials and women. 

Michelle Carnahan is the Sr. Vice President, Head of Primary Care and US Country Council Chair for Sanofi. Michelle is responsible for commercial operations in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico) and Canada, which is comprised of Sales, Marketing, Market Access, One Trade, and Innovative Solutions. Michelle also sits on the Board of Directors for Onduo, a joint venture with Verily Life Sciences dedicated to helping people living with diabetes. She also serves as the Chair for Sanofi’s U.S. Country Council.

Joan Kuhl is a champion for girls leadership and advancing women in the workforce. She is the author of Dig Your Heels In (April 2019) and Misunderstood Millennial Talent (2016). She is an international speaker and a consultant on talent management, career, communication and leadership trends. After 14 years in the pharmaceutical industry and as a college campus speaker, she launched Why Millennials Matter, a training, research and consulting company that focuses on raising awareness about the value of investing in the early career workforce and The Kuhl Company focuses on advancing women in the workplace in global corporations and business schools with clients such as Eli Lilly, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Discovery Communications, FINRA, Novo Nordisk, Viacom, the NY Mets, Columbia Business School and University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School. Her expertise has been featured in the NY Times, Harvard Business Review, CNBC, Cosmopolitan and SUCCESS Magazine.

Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Joan Kuhl, tell us about your work?

Joan Kuhl: I wrote three books. The two more recent are: Misunderstood Millennial Talent, that was really based on global research about what early career professionals wanted and what they lacked in their careers; and the most recent is Dig Your Heels In: Navigate Corporate BS and Build the Company You Deserve, is really about empowering and emboldening women. We'll share more about what inspired me to do that.

I'm a champion for advancing women in the workplace and also girls leadership. I have spent decades as a volunteer and serving on boards for organizations in particular that serve girls: Girl Scouts, Girls Hope, Step Up for Women, Girls on the Run, and now I sit on the board of Girls Inc. of New York City. I'm also the mother of two daughters, so this topic of helping women rise and thrive, as well as really increasing the confidence, the opportunities, and the potential for our girls and their future is extremely important to me.

The book itself, I felt like right now, in modern times, there is a lot of glamorizing this message to women that, to get what you want, you have to job hop or you have to quit and do your own thing. While those are amazing pathways and they work for some women, I felt like there was a lack of resources to tell the woman who is working for someone else and really in large corporations that we need you and that you aren't getting everything that you deserve, whether it's pay, opportunity, flexibility, or relationships. Really, not just inspiring her, but arming her with the tools and strategies to start to transform the workplace. That is the goal of the book.

Joan Kuhl: I think that the conversation around women's rights, specifically in the corporate space, can sometimes fall in this category of, this is the nice thing to do; this is the right thing to do. It's the smartest thing to do. This is really important for business, and we have enough research to prove that diversity fuels innovation, employee engagement, and otherwise. That's why I spend a lot of time to help women also know the data. That's why this book is really a playbook to feel grounded in the statistics that back up what we're saying here, and that gives some women confidence, and men too, to be champions of this.

Second is, how do you make it happen? This is a big topic: equality, equity in the workplace. As an individual, really understanding what levers of influence you have, whether you have a title or not, that's also very unique about the time I wanted to spend there.

Finally, the last part of this book is making work worth it, which I love Michelle's stories in the book about this. Women all over the world have written to me saying that her advice has transformed their thinking because we have got to enjoy this ride. This is going to take courage and endurance, and so that's every part of life, professionally and personally, and really helping women have some hacks to thrive.

Michelle Carnahan, how does your experience line with Joan’s analysis?

Michelle Carnahan: I've been in the pharmaceutical world for 26 years, so I guess one could say, after Joan's book, I've really dug my heels in. I've held a variety of roles in sales, marketing, kind of the operations world, HR, finance, you name it. I've kind of been there in the pharma world.

I spent probably the first 25 years of my career at one company and I've been, the last 18 months, here at Sanofi as their U.S. head of primary care and their U.S. country council chair. I am thrilled to be here today and talk with you about this incredibly important topic. Joan and I both look forward to it.

Michael Krigsman: Michelle, you were at a company for 25 years before you shifted over to your current role.

Michelle Carnahan: I was. I was.

Look, I think that my experience lines up really remarkably well to what Joan talks about, but I want to go back a little bit, too, around why I think Joan's book is so needed today and maybe why it lines up so well to the experience. I think Joan's book does four things really well that fit the book to the business world we live in today.

The first is, she sets up the need for women in top companies across the world. Number one, when a board has at least three women directors that make up their board of directors, they do 15% better. They return 15% better. They do 22% better in terms of retention of top female talent and they have a 3 times better engagement level with their employees.

It really does make a difference when you bring women, and not just one. The studies are there now to say at least three to boards. Finally, when you bring women to boards, you have more female CEOs.

First, I think she sets up the business need. This isn't a nice thing to do. It's not doing right. It's a business imperative, and I think she sets that up.

Secondly, I think she gives a playbook. It's one thing to talk about an issue. It's another thing to say, "Here's what you can go do," and so the pieces of, have a plan, have a backup plan, know where you're going. We'll talk more about those as our time with you goes on, Michael, but those are super important and she sets those up in the book.

The third thing that I think is really helpful as you think about these changes is, be ready to disrupt a little bit. I don't think that either of us are going to sit here today and say this is an easy thing, but what makes it fun is the disruption.

Then the thing I think her book touches on a little bit, but maybe this is a second book idea, maybe the fourth thing that it only touches on just a bit is, I think there are lots of paths, but the exciting thing about being part of a big company is really what an impact that you can have when you break through. That's what I really encourage people not only to get into these career paths but to stick it out and to dig your heels in. I think the book really sets out where we are today and how we can master where we want to go moving forward.

What advice do you have for older workers? 

Joan Kuhl: I think that that question was part of the inspiration for the work that I wanted to do in writing this book. What I didn't say earlier is that I launched a company called Why Millennials Matter because of this passion I had for really investing in the next generation and their leadership potential.

What happened was, as I worked with, again, some of the biggest companies, college campuses across the country, and top business schools, I realized what millennials want is what women deserve and still didn't have access to: the flexibility, the meaningful relationships, constant learning and development, and transparency about what their opportunities are.

As I started to interview, lead focus groups, and run these research projects talking to women at every level, early career all the way through the boardroom, I realized that the women that were at the very top, they still had a need to feel fulfilled, to feel appreciated, garner that respect, that trust, and have access to these things. We need her to thrive for the next generation to even find it appealing to walk in the door at these big companies let alone want to stay and make a difference.

That's why it actually is really not about just focusing on the next generation. We need the people right now, women and men at every seat of the table, to care about this issue and to realize it doesn't just benefit women. It benefits everyone.

It's proven to increase not just engagement and retention, but the types of benefits of companies that have gender-diverse leadership. It's friendly to families. It's friendly to humans. I think it's one of those things that we've proven it in research. We just need more people to embrace it and prioritize it.

Michelle Carnahan: I am one of those older working people, I guess I would say I think about this. I think about this every morning in the shower, so you're getting some real feedback here.

There are three things I always try to think about. How does this apply when you're working and you have some experience in the field? I think the first thing is, make your experience count and make that experience count in a way that it not only works for the betterment of the company but it works for the betterment of the people at the company.

Really, wear that experience with a badge of honor. That's the first thing. How are you using that experience like a badge of honor every day?

The second thing is, we are never too old, experienced, or even smart to learn. The second thing is, wherever you are, you deserve to learn too. You deserve to be developed too. Take that wherever you are.

The third piece is, I think what a little time and experience give us is just a real appreciation for life; understanding really what the big decisions are, what the big mistakes are, and they're not always what you think they are in the moment. I think having people and helping those who aren't experienced, really knowing where the focus goes and where the commitment goes, no matter how smart you are, there is a piece that only time gives you in that.

Those are the three things that I try to do, but I also try to take. I make sure that my experience is rewarded and I also make sure that I have a company that wants me to learn too. I think those are important things to take, and I think that's a great question. I'm glad you ask it.

How can female leaders find opportunities?

Joan Kuhl: This is really what inspired the movement that I have about having the courage to stay and staying to lead, which is that there is a lot of noise that tells you to go after more money and a bigger title. I could promise you, you probably can get that elsewhere, but there isn't enough time spent on what you're leaving behind.

Who knows that company the best? You do: the politics, the processes, the people, how power is distributed. Literally, the idea of helping women embrace and really evaluate this big decision, "Should I stay or should I go?" I find that women are facing that decision far more often than men because of the bias that's built into a system and a culture that wasn't designed for us hundreds of years ago. That's important and just even some basics.

The number one key here about finding opportunity is relationships – relationships, relationships. That's why, chapter seven, I wrote the entire chapter about them and there isn't even enough space because I think, really, strengthening your peer allies, having those mentors and sponsors, being a mentor yourself, and making sure that you are spending the time, allowing people to know what you really want.

I always say that who you know can open doors, but how well they know you, that gives you the opportunities. They need to understand what it is that you want and some of us aren't even really clear on what that is because we haven't even been in a position to evaluate what we deserve. That's really, I think, the opportunity.

A lot of the steps within the book, when I talk about how she can make the case and make the decision, it's very personal, digging your heels in and staying at your company. I never say that this is universal because, in some situations, women may say, "Enough is enough." In others, they haven't really figured out that they could be a catalyst for change.

Michelle Carnahan: I think Joan had a great answer there. I'll add a couple of nuggets upfront and then I'll add my own personal story because it kind of fits here. My two nuggets upfront, I think, to always remember, the first one is in regard to opportunity.

I would say the biggest learnings I've had over 26 years is, have the courage to ask for the opportunity and then have the courage to embrace it. As we're thinking about the opportunity, I think that's the one thing that we often miss is, are we asking truly for what we want and then, when we get it, do we fully embrace it? that's kind of the first nugget I would give.

The second nugget I would give kind of follows along where Joan has been. There are going to be challenges everywhere. So often, those challenges are worth taking on because of the catalyst you really can be in a company where you have equity.

The one time I will tell people to always leave, and only you know this, is when your company's integrity and ethics don't line up to your own. Those are kind of the two overall pieces of opportunity, when to leave, when to stay, that I would add to what Joan had.

The personal anecdote I'd like to share, Michael, is just my own because I stayed at the same place for 25 years. Some might ask, "Why in the world, after 25 years? A) Why did you stay so long? B) Why did you finally decide to change? What was that about?"

To me, it was more than just the job. I'll start with first why I stayed. It was a company of people I loved and they just kept giving me an interesting job after an interesting job after an interesting job. That's what drove me.

It also had to do with a dual career husband. It had to do with where my extended family was located. So, these things are never in a microcosm of just a job. It had to do with a lot of things.

Then I got to a point where the next job was an interesting job but maybe it wasn't quite as interesting as some of the others had been. Personally, it worked for the right time for my husband's job to move. What I felt like was, I'd lived in the same place for ten years, it was getting a little bit less interesting, and it was personal as well as professional for me.

What's great about the decision and making it is, it wasn't running from something. It was running to something. I have to say, with the exception of one day, and there was this one day, I've always been happy I did it. It's not because I love the place where I am so much more than where I was. It was that, where I was at fit me when I was there. Where I am really is helping to build new skills in me professionally as well as personally.

I'm a big believer that we're not just one big blob personally and one big blob professionally. It all kind of goes together. For me, it's a balance across. I think what I love about building long careers is, you do get to meet people, build a tribe, but what's been fun with me starting over is meeting new people and building that in a new place. It's different, but you get that opportunity again.

I think you know it when it's time. I think you have to have a very good personal barometer to say, "What's the growth I want and where do I want it?"

How can women in leadership roles overcome those obstacles?

Michael Krigsman: Joan, recently I had a similar conversation with the chief marketing officer of SAP. One of the things that Alicia—and that's Alicia Tillman. She's the CMO of SAP—said is exactly what Michelle just said. She said, "Women don't ask for what they want." Other female business leaders have made the same comment to me. Given this common thread, what's going on with that and what can women do? I was going to say, to not fall into that trap or to overcome that obstacle. I'm not even sure what the right terminology is.

Joan Kuhl: When I am really training women, working with women at various levels and various industries, talking to them about the derailers, what can derail her career, what I found in research is, and what I know from her stories and the journey I went on to write this book, there are two things happening. There are barriers that are internal that are self-limiting, that I still don't think they're our fault that are built and influence our confidence, and really our impression of what is possible because of the bias we've experienced. There are barriers that are internal.

Then there are a lot of major barriers that are external. That's why we say this isn't all on her shoulders. We have to actually change the system, the culture, the behaviors around us.

Actually, the data does show that women do negotiate as much as men. It's things like the likability bias, the fact that, as men advance and are more assertive in their leadership, that they're liked more by women and men. When women advance, are assertive, showcase their ambition, they're liked less by both men and women. A lot of that again stems back to how we believe we should see women behaving and be more devoted, communal, and team-oriented versus men being kind of like this bearer of responsibility.

That's why, in the book, chapter four, I spent all this time talking about those internal barriers, overcoming imposter syndrome, things like believing that it should be this meritocratic system where I just put my head down, I do my work, the results, everything is going to pay off, and that's not how things work for women. We need to have relationships. There are those things.

Again, there are external pressures, and that's why looking at your talent management process, your recruitment process, your succession management planning, your benefits, there are real systems and processes that have bias within them but haven't really been disrupted for a long enough time that would benefit women.

Michael Krigsman: Michelle, this is kind of a dumb question because I know the answer. Have you run into these kinds of issues that Alicia Tillman was describing and that Joan was just describing?

Michelle Carnahan: Absolutely. Of course, you know the answer because you talk to a lot of women in podcasts like these. I have and I bet I can guess your next question. "How do you deal with them?" is probably the next question.

Michael Krigsman: How do you deal with them? Exactly.

Michelle Carnahan: [Laughter].

Joan Kuhl: Yes.

Michelle Carnahan: That's what I thought. I think, over the course of my career, a couple of different ways. First of all, I'll start with how did I personally deal with them.

The first way is, I think you have to have a support network. A support network is so important. To me, that comes in three different ways. I encourage everybody to find a partner. I don't care if that partner is your life partner, if it's your best friend, if it's your sister, if it's your mom. Find that partner who is the right partner for you who can help you with all the other stuff.

Then I think my second tip is, find both an emotional and an intellectual supporter. I say everybody needs that emotional supporter. I always talk about for me it's my husband. It is that person who, even if you are wrong, will say, "Oh, but, honey, I think you are so right," because sometimes you just need people to make you feel better – emotional support. You need intellectual supporters too who will actually say, "No, you were wrong, but maybe you should think about it this other way," so you need that.

Then the final piece, I would say, is this whole thing about, as women, finding your tribe. I think really having those people around you who not only can support you when it comes to finding a job or looking for the job or thinking about the next promotion but can make the right connections for you and can help you think through things in the right way.

I think about that often as I made this big jump to a new company after 25 years. It was really my tribe.

I had a son who was going into high school and so, as a mom, what did I think? Oh, my gosh. Can I do this to my son in high school? It was people who said, "You know what? He'll survive."

When I was negotiating salary, it was a good friend of mine who understands comp who said, "No, no, Michelle. You have to ask for more here. Here's what you have to look for." It was that tribe that supported me.

Personally, those are the things you have to do. Really think about your support system. Understands how you use that.

Then, as I've moved on further in my career as a woman executive, I think we have to think about what are the three things we start to change in the world of business. The first is, how do we create more line leaders in positions of leadership throughout our companies?

One of the things I talked about was putting women on boards and what a difference that made. If you put women on boards, three or more, you're more likely to have a female CEO. Women in these positions just think about this more often. Whether you're a first-line manager or whether you're the CEO of a company, we have to start thinking about that more broadly.

The second is the talent management piece that Joan talked about. What is bias in our system? Do we really have succession management that works? What does that look like? Are we meeting the needs of our employees? Do we know what the root cause is? That's the second thing we work through.

Then, as we think about the big picture of where we're going over time, how do we create a language that just really thinks about the worker in 2020 is different than the worker employee in 2000 and has our workplace caught up with that? I think women are sometimes on the cutting edge of helping us get there. Are we building that throughout our organization? I've dealt with it personally and now I think a lot about how do I deal with it as a leader within an organization.

Joan Kuhl: I want to just back up a couple of things that Michelle said, which are always brilliant, which is what gives me so much energy. Her stories like those she just shared are in the book. When she talked about women on boards and CEOs, just this past week another female was named CEO in the Fortune 500, which was Heyward Donigan, the CEO of Rite Aid, so that brings us to a record number of 36 women holding the position of CEO at the same at in Fortune 500 companies. That equates to like 6%. It's not enough.

Again, this is happening. We're seeing this rise happen while more Fortune 500, Fortune 1000 boards are having an increase of women representation.

At the same time, you see the IPOs that were announced just in 2019, from January to August, about 100 of them; 40% of them had all-male boards, and so we need to stop and think about, this is why this is a business case. It's not changing as fast as it should, and that's why you have to have business policies and leaders that are championing it and investing in it in big ways. I just wanted to add that. The piece about relationships, I'd love if we went there a little bit more and talk about what women need there.

Michelle Carnahan: Joan, I think, just where VC money is going, right?

Joan Kuhl: Yes.

Michelle Carnahan: That whole piece of Melinda Gates has a big part of it in her book, right?

Joan Kuhl: Yes. Great book.

Michelle Carnahan: Where VC money is going.

Joan Kuhl: Yeah, exactly. What's interesting is, actually, Melinda Gates has a great video out right now that's meant to bring some humor to a topic that is really bringing us a lot of grief. She has comedians talking about gender bias. Google that and check that out.

It's the relationship piece because that's why we stick together and, actually, that is the thing, how lucky I feel to write a book like this and continue to build relationships with women. I often discover that women, either by happenstance or through a crisis, realize that they need more women in their corner. Women need to support each other and we should feel and have permission to ask for help when we need it.

We've been talking about having mentors and sponsors. There's a lot of information and guidance out there, but women need peer allies. You need women that are sounding boards, as Michelle was talking about, to work through those decisions. I love that advice about emotional and intellectual partners.

I have found, when I talk to women in finance and healthcare, even in sports, that it lines up with a study I just read that was said, for 77% of highly successful, high achieving women, women with MBAs, that they had surrounded themselves with a tightknit group of women, about two to three women. These aren't best friends. These aren't the person they get to see very often, but they are women that bring a diverse network to the table and they believe in each other professionally. They know that they can call each other when they need that energy, that endurance, that validation of, "You're not crazy. You're not being emotional. Yeah, you do deserve that," or like Michelle said, maybe they're in that situation, "You could have gone about it differently. Here's your style and here is something that we could work on."

I think the more that we have that transparency with each other in the workplace, even, talking about what our pay is, what our bonus was, interviewing women in wealth management—you can read in my Forbes column—the number of women I've talked to in that space that say women don't talk about money with each other in the way that men do. Maybe they use it in more of like a braggadocios way. But I can tell you that, on college campuses, a lot of the young men I even talked to are posting their job offers on Facebook and women are scared to talk about it.

Yet, right now, I'm seeing, at the top MBA schools, women on average getting higher offers because there are less of them in MBA programs, which we need to increase, but also companies are valuing them. So, we should talk about the fact that this is what we deserve and this is what our income potential is. That helps you have more confidence to negotiate if you aren't there.

Michelle Carnahan: The biggest sponsor in my entire career was a man. It was a man who promoted me to my first few VP positions and this was the same man, a man who got me my first retention bonus. It was the same man who said to me when I took that VP job because I was like, "I don't know. Could I do it? It says it needs these three qualifications, and I only have two."

Joan Kuhl: [Laughter]

Michelle Carnahan: He actually said to me over lunch, like, "Michelle, you're the only person who doesn't think that you can do this job, so get with the rest of us." I think that that's not to say that there isn't a place for men in this. There is 100%. But there are some things that, as you look to build relationships and some of these natural relationships that can happen with women, what I sometimes see even women doing is they get into some of these relationships. As we have more and more executive women, they become even better at then having the compensation relationships with some of the men, et cetera, because they just get better at the conversations, right?

What happens on a golf course on a Saturday afternoon where maybe we, in the past, haven't been invited, but we've created that at our own cocktail party. Then, suddenly, it's not weird for us to be talking about compensation because we've done it in habitats where we are comfortable before.

I think, ultimately, what we don't want to have is, there is the women's conversation and then there is the men's conversation. But what we want to do is, I think we want to build in women the ability to be able to have these conversations anywhere and to really float in and out of them so that we are actively involved in where the conversations happen.

What are the characteristics of companies who are empowering women?

Joan Kuhl: I think how I would approach that question is what I've seen and experienced. On college campuses, let's say the MBA programs, I can tell you that women, and men who are also champions of this cause, they're going to your website. They're going to the About page, and they're seeing if you're walking the walk.

You can say and throw all these amazing things at them and say, "This is a great place. We value you inclusivity, flexibility, and integrating work and personal life," but, when they click that About page and it's an all-male board and they don't see themselves, they don't believe. If it hasn't gotten there in the past 30 to 100 years, it's not going to get there.

That's the first thing is that they're really seeing and judging. Eighty-six percent of millennial women are choosing a company that has gender-diverse leadership or choosing not to go there. They're making big decisions based on that.

When you're inside a company, I think that it's this idea of really reflecting on what's happening around you, what your experiences are, and where you think the hang-ups are. Where are the kinks in the chain here?

I think the successful formula is having leaders that are inclusive, obviously, but they're resonant and resonant means that they really spend time helping people understand that they're not replaceable, that they have true alignment and there's some meaning to their contribution to the bottom line of the business. That's being a resonate leader.

The third is a courageous leader. Courageous leader, nobody gets this type of topic right and perfect, but courageous leaders ask the questions and they allow these conversations to happen.

One of my favorite moments this year since launching Dig Your Heels In, I was leading a workshop at Major League Baseball for men and women. It was a really hands-on workshop where I wanted to talk to them about the lay of the land, the data and what it shows. I actually wanted them to work on specific scenarios where bias exists.

Let's say one team was working on the fact that men interrupt women three times more often than other men, and women can't get in a word edgewise. Another situation where they're working on the fact that, from a talent management or looking at promotions, women are judged on their behaviors and their communication style versus their real business impact and results.

By giving them the data, telling them why it happens, telling them why that it matters, and then letting them feel safe to talk about it and telling them up front, "Hey, you can ask whatever question you want. This is a safe environment. You didn't cause this. This started hundreds of years ago. But you are the problem if you don't change it moving forward."

I got such tremendous response from the men emailing me afterward, talking about it afterward, that they felt like, "Okay, I heard that thing about interrupting," manterruption or mansplaining, when men explain or say an idea—after a woman said—ten minutes later and get the credit. They're like, "I heard of that, but I didn't understand, so that happened once; this happened to me."

For women, it's like 10,000 papercuts. It's happening over and over again and the consequences are graver. That's the thing, I think, is helping everyone understand that there are things that you can do each and every day to improve the day-to-day experience that start to move the needle in these bigger ways.

Michael Krigsman: Michelle, let me ask you something quickly because we're going to soon run out of time and there's a whole bunch of things I want to ask you about. Again, I'm holding up Joan's book, which is titled Dig Your Heels In, and the subtitle is Navigate Corporate BS and Build the Company You Deserve. Michelle, I think this applies to men as well, but how can women identify the corporate BS so that they do not fall prey to it? I think Joan alluded to it a bit, but yeah. Mm-hmm.

Michelle Carnahan: I think it's pretty easy to identify.

Joan Kuhl: [Laughter]

Michelle Carnahan: [Laughter] That's what's unfortunate. I think it's all around you and you can identify it. I think one of the hard things is, like, am I dreaming this? No, people do repeat each other a lot. They do speak over each other. All of those things are real.

The hard part is, what do you do about it? I would take that to say, the answer really is in courage, I believe. It's having the courage to speak up, it's having the courage to behave differently, and it's having the courage to stick with it when it's hard.

Michael, you and I have talked before. You talk a lot about business turnarounds. I don't know that I see a business turnaround and career work really different. Anything really tough in life requires two things, I think: courage and grit.

You have to have the courage to say, "This is going to be tough. I'm going to fall down. I'm going to have to get back up. Some people are not going to want to associate with me after I do it. It's going to be a much more difficult path than walking the straight line, but I want to do it because I can make it better on the other side.

Some of the corporate games and some of the other pieces in organizations, that's the kind of commitment they require, but you can really leave a mark on an organization. I think people want to get to the great things that organizations really do.

In the case of what I do, we make medicines. That's why we came here. In the case of what tech companies do, they make great technology. I think, having the courage and grit to change those things is why I stay. I think it's the reason to dig your heels in.

Joan Kuhl: Two things: The first thing about politics is that it is always going to be there. It's probably not going to go away because it is a result of working in a dynamic, complex environment with different people making decisions and having to influence one another.

I tell women because this is the thing that ekes them out, it disgusts them, it's why sometimes they look up to the next level and they say, "Ugh. I don't want to be up there. I don't want to behave like that. I'm fine right here." The problem is, number one, you have to be aware of it but you don't have to lower your standards or your values or play into it.

I've been teaching women how to become cultural anthropologists. You need to study how power is distributed in your company. You need to be aware of how decisions are made, and you can do that by observing meetings. You can observe that by watching how different leaders respond and what they recognize, what they reward.

Being educated on it and also sharing that education with others around you but talking about it openly helps everybody have more transparency. I think that's the first thing because I think that really, really gets in the way of women going after more influential and more visible positions.

The other thing is that navigating conflict and tension. I believe that women sometimes struggle with this because we weren't given the permission, the skills, or the knowledge growing up to really handle conflict because of the stereotypes around good girls and how we were supposed to behave. Be nice, but not too nice, or we're a pushover. Be devoted. Put everything including our company before ourselves and don't get too emotional; we should let things go.

Being a good girl at work means taking on the office housework, taking the notes, doing all the things that you don't actually get rewarded for in performance management at the end of the day. You may be good at it, and it may fall on your plate, but it shouldn't be your responsibility.

It's being in a room. A client enters and he addresses the man at the table when you're the one in charge. Or it's just the fact that you feel like you have to shrink yourself or not assert yourself in the way that you want to because someone in the room is speaking louder than you or being more aggressive towards you.

I study all these things not only in women at all ages in the workforce but in girls too. These seeds are planted very early about how, again, girls and women can navigate situations that give us tension.

Here is the issue. As a leader, you cannot avoid tension. You have to handle conflict. Twenty percent of managers deal with the conflict every day within their job. What I found is that 64% of women are facing these microaggressions.

You were saying, "When do we identify corporate BS?" It's happening every day. It's being talked to in a condescending way. It's the fact that women are twice as likely to be seen as somebody at a junior level than men. It's all these things.

The idea of, asMichelle said, having courage and grit to speak up when it's happening. First, it takes women to know that, again, you're not alone in this. One in five women is alone, the only woman in a room, on a team. There's still not enough of us representation wise.

Two, these things are happening and somebody may not be a bad person. They may just be completely unaware. That's why I think the unconscious bias training is pretty rampant in corporate right now. That's just the thing that I think is important is for women to really study and understand the culture and look at it a little bit more in an objectionable way so that they don't take themselves out of the game.

Michelle Carnahan: I think the one piece of advice I would give, whether it's dealing with corporate BS or whether it's staying or it's how to choose a company, choose a company, choose to stay if you can be 100% your because any minute you try to do something else that isn't yourself, you don't bring your best to work. If you're not bringing your best, then why stay?

To me, the biggest piece of advice is, if you've made it this far. I know it sounds like kindergarten advice, but maybe everything we did need to know we learned there.

Joan Kuhl: Yes.

Michelle Carnahan: Be yourself, 100%. If it doesn't work someplace, it will work someplace else. If you're managing people, find a way to let everyone bring 100% themselves because any minute they're not doing that, it's minutes that aren't going into your business.

What advice do you have for men?

Joan Kuhl: For men, it's to be an ally. What I've learned from men since, actually, they're three times more uncomfortable mentoring women since #MeToo and #TimesUp—and that's bad news. We need men. We need you to be our partner. We need you to be our ally. We need you to be our mentor and our sponsor—is to feel comfortable talking about these things.

If you don't feel comfortable taking a woman to the same place you take a man that you're mentoring—a sporting event, a bar—don't do it with the male either. Find a place where you feel comfortable for both.

I think, for men, it's like, recognize that this benefits you, this doesn't work against you, and that we really want you to talk to us about what you don't understand about our experiences.

Michelle Carnahan: I'll go back to where I was earlier. Be yourself and find ways to create opportunities for others in your organizations to be yourself. If a basketball game is where you get great work done, believe it or not, some women love basketball too. I think that the more that we can bring our full selves to work, the more that I think we can all accomplish for our customers.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. It was a great show. We've been speaking with Joan Kuhl, who is the author of Dig Your Heels In. It's a very insightful and very interesting book, as was this conversation. We've also been speaking with Michelle Carnahan, who is a senior executive at Sanofi, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Thank you both very, very much for taking your time and sharing your insight and wisdom with us today.

Joan Kuhl: Thanks for having us.

Michelle Carnahan: Thank you.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching. Before you go, subscribe on YouTube and hit the Subscribe button at the top of our website and subscribe to our mailing list. We have incredible shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com and keep joining us. Thanks so much, everybody. Have a great day. Bye-bye.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Joan Kuhl, tell us about your work?

Joan Kuhl: I wrote three books. The two more recent are: Misunderstood Millennial Talent, that was really based on global research about what early career professionals wanted and what they lacked in their careers; and the most recent is Dig Your Heels In: Navigate Corporate BS and Build the Company You Deserve, is really about empowering and emboldening women. We'll share more about what inspired me to do that.

I'm a champion for advancing women in the workplace and also girls leadership. I have spent decades as a volunteer and serving on boards for organizations in particular that serve girls: Girl Scouts, Girls Hope, Step Up for Women, Girls on the Run, and now I sit on the board of Girls Inc. of New York City. I'm also the mother of two daughters, so this topic of helping women rise and thrive, as well as really increasing the confidence, the opportunities, and the potential for our girls and their future is extremely important to me.

The book itself, I felt like right now, in modern times, there is a lot of glamorizing this message to women that, to get what you want, you have to job hop or you have to quit and do your own thing. While those are amazing pathways and they work for some women, I felt like there was a lack of resources to tell the woman who is working for someone else and really in large corporations that we need you and that you aren't getting everything that you deserve, whether it's pay, opportunity, flexibility, or relationships. Really, not just inspiring her, but arming her with the tools and strategies to start to transform the workplace. That is the goal of the book.

Joan Kuhl: I think that the conversation around women's rights, specifically in the corporate space, can sometimes fall in this category of, this is the nice thing to do; this is the right thing to do. It's the smartest thing to do. This is really important for business, and we have enough research to prove that diversity fuels innovation, employee engagement, and otherwise. That's why I spend a lot of time to help women also know the data. That's why this book is really a playbook to feel grounded in the statistics that back up what we're saying here, and that gives some women confidence, and men too, to be champions of this.

Second is, how do you make it happen? This is a big topic: equality, equity in the workplace. As an individual, really understanding what levers of influence you have, whether you have a title or not, that's also very unique about the time I wanted to spend there.

Finally, the last part of this book is making work worth it, which I love Michelle's stories in the book about this. Women all over the world have written to me saying that her advice has transformed their thinking because we have got to enjoy this ride. This is going to take courage and endurance, and so that's every part of life, professionally and personally, and really helping women have some hacks to thrive.

Michelle Carnahan, how does your experience line with Joan’s analysis?

Michelle Carnahan: I've been in the pharmaceutical world for 26 years, so I guess one could say, after Joan's book, I've really dug my heels in. I've held a variety of roles in sales, marketing, kind of the operations world, HR, finance, you name it. I've kind of been there in the pharma world.

I spent probably the first 25 years of my career at one company and I've been, the last 18 months, here at Sanofi as their U.S. head of primary care and their U.S. country council chair. I am thrilled to be here today and talk with you about this incredibly important topic. Joan and I both look forward to it.

Michael Krigsman: Michelle, you were at a company for 25 years before you shifted over to your current role.

Michelle Carnahan: I was. I was.

Look, I think that my experience lines up really remarkably well to what Joan talks about, but I want to go back a little bit, too, around why I think Joan's book is so needed today and maybe why it lines up so well to the experience. I think Joan's book does four things really well that fit the book to the business world we live in today.

The first is, she sets up the need for women in top companies across the world. Number one, when a board has at least three women directors that make up their board of directors, they do 15% better. They return 15% better. They do 22% better in terms of retention of top female talent and they have a 3 times better engagement level with their employees.

It really does make a difference when you bring women, and not just one. The studies are there now to say at least three to boards. Finally, when you bring women to boards, you have more female CEOs.

First, I think she sets up the business need. This isn't a nice thing to do. It's not doing right. It's a business imperative, and I think she sets that up.

Secondly, I think she gives a playbook. It's one thing to talk about an issue. It's another thing to say, "Here's what you can go do," and so the pieces of, have a plan, have a backup plan, know where you're going. We'll talk more about those as our time with you goes on, Michael, but those are super important and she sets those up in the book.

The third thing that I think is really helpful as you think about these changes is, be ready to disrupt a little bit. I don't think that either of us are going to sit here today and say this is an easy thing, but what makes it fun is the disruption.

Then the thing I think her book touches on a little bit, but maybe this is a second book idea, maybe the fourth thing that it only touches on just a bit is, I think there are lots of paths, but the exciting thing about being part of a big company is really what an impact that you can have when you break through. That's what I really encourage people not only to get into these career paths but to stick it out and to dig your heels in. I think the book really sets out where we are today and how we can master where we want to go moving forward.

What advice do you have for older workers? 

Joan Kuhl: I think that that question was part of the inspiration for the work that I wanted to do in writing this book. What I didn't say earlier is that I launched a company called Why Millennials Matter because of this passion I had for really investing in the next generation and their leadership potential.

What happened was, as I worked with, again, some of the biggest companies, college campuses across the country, and top business schools, I realized what millennials want is what women deserve and still didn't have access to: the flexibility, the meaningful relationships, constant learning and development, and transparency about what their opportunities are.

As I started to interview, lead focus groups, and run these research projects talking to women at every level, early career all the way through the boardroom, I realized that the women that were at the very top, they still had a need to feel fulfilled, to feel appreciated, garner that respect, that trust, and have access to these things. We need her to thrive for the next generation to even find it appealing to walk in the door at these big companies let alone want to stay and make a difference.

That's why it actually is really not about just focusing on the next generation. We need the people right now, women and men at every seat of the table, to care about this issue and to realize it doesn't just benefit women. It benefits everyone.

It's proven to increase not just engagement and retention, but the types of benefits of companies that have gender-diverse leadership. It's friendly to families. It's friendly to humans. I think it's one of those things that we've proven it in research. We just need more people to embrace it and prioritize it.

Michelle Carnahan: I am one of those older working people, I guess I would say I think about this. I think about this every morning in the shower, so you're getting some real feedback here.

There are three things I always try to think about. How does this apply when you're working and you have some experience in the field? I think the first thing is, make your experience count and make that experience count in a way that it not only works for the betterment of the company but it works for the betterment of the people at the company.

Really, wear that experience with a badge of honor. That's the first thing. How are you using that experience like a badge of honor every day?

The second thing is, we are never too old, experienced, or even smart to learn. The second thing is, wherever you are, you deserve to learn too. You deserve to be developed too. Take that wherever you are.

The third piece is, I think what a little time and experience give us is just a real appreciation for life; understanding really what the big decisions are, what the big mistakes are, and they're not always what you think they are in the moment. I think having people and helping those who aren't experienced, really knowing where the focus goes and where the commitment goes, no matter how smart you are, there is a piece that only time gives you in that.

Those are the three things that I try to do, but I also try to take. I make sure that my experience is rewarded and I also make sure that I have a company that wants me to learn too. I think those are important things to take, and I think that's a great question. I'm glad you ask it.

How can female leaders find opportunities?

Joan Kuhl: This is really what inspired the movement that I have about having the courage to stay and staying to lead, which is that there is a lot of noise that tells you to go after more money and a bigger title. I could promise you, you probably can get that elsewhere, but there isn't enough time spent on what you're leaving behind.

Who knows that company the best? You do: the politics, the processes, the people, how power is distributed. Literally, the idea of helping women embrace and really evaluate this big decision, "Should I stay or should I go?" I find that women are facing that decision far more often than men because of the bias that's built into a system and a culture that wasn't designed for us hundreds of years ago. That's important and just even some basics.

The number one key here about finding opportunity is relationships – relationships, relationships. That's why, chapter seven, I wrote the entire chapter about them and there isn't even enough space because I think, really, strengthening your peer allies, having those mentors and sponsors, being a mentor yourself, and making sure that you are spending the time, allowing people to know what you really want.

I always say that who you know can open doors, but how well they know you, that gives you the opportunities. They need to understand what it is that you want and some of us aren't even really clear on what that is because we haven't even been in a position to evaluate what we deserve. That's really, I think, the opportunity.

A lot of the steps within the book, when I talk about how she can make the case and make the decision, it's very personal, digging your heels in and staying at your company. I never say that this is universal because, in some situations, women may say, "Enough is enough." In others, they haven't really figured out that they could be a catalyst for change.

Michelle Carnahan: I think Joan had a great answer there. I'll add a couple of nuggets upfront and then I'll add my own personal story because it kind of fits here. My two nuggets upfront, I think, to always remember, the first one is in regard to opportunity.

I would say the biggest learnings I've had over 26 years is, have the courage to ask for the opportunity and then have the courage to embrace it. As we're thinking about the opportunity, I think that's the one thing that we often miss is, are we asking truly for what we want and then, when we get it, do we fully embrace it? that's kind of the first nugget I would give.

The second nugget I would give kind of follows along where Joan has been. There are going to be challenges everywhere. So often, those challenges are worth taking on because of the catalyst you really can be in a company where you have equity.

The one time I will tell people to always leave, and only you know this, is when your company's integrity and ethics don't line up to your own. Those are kind of the two overall pieces of opportunity, when to leave, when to stay, that I would add to what Joan had.

The personal anecdote I'd like to share, Michael, is just my own because I stayed at the same place for 25 years. Some might ask, "Why in the world, after 25 years? A) Why did you stay so long? B) Why did you finally decide to change? What was that about?"

To me, it was more than just the job. I'll start with first why I stayed. It was a company of people I loved and they just kept giving me an interesting job after an interesting job after an interesting job. That's what drove me.

It also had to do with a dual career husband. It had to do with where my extended family was located. So, these things are never in a microcosm of just a job. It had to do with a lot of things.

Then I got to a point where the next job was an interesting job but maybe it wasn't quite as interesting as some of the others had been. Personally, it worked for the right time for my husband's job to move. What I felt like was, I'd lived in the same place for ten years, it was getting a little bit less interesting, and it was personal as well as professional for me.

What's great about the decision and making it is, it wasn't running from something. It was running to something. I have to say, with the exception of one day, and there was this one day, I've always been happy I did it. It's not because I love the place where I am so much more than where I was. It was that, where I was at fit me when I was there. Where I am really is helping to build new skills in me professionally as well as personally.

I'm a big believer that we're not just one big blob personally and one big blob professionally. It all kind of goes together. For me, it's a balance across. I think what I love about building long careers is, you do get to meet people, build a tribe, but what's been fun with me starting over is meeting new people and building that in a new place. It's different, but you get that opportunity again.

I think you know it when it's time. I think you have to have a very good personal barometer to say, "What's the growth I want and where do I want it?"

How can women in leadership roles overcome those obstacles?

Michael Krigsman: Joan, recently I had a similar conversation with the chief marketing officer of SAP. One of the things that Alicia—and that's Alicia Tillman. She's the CMO of SAP—said is exactly what Michelle just said. She said, "Women don't ask for what they want." Other female business leaders have made the same comment to me. Given this common thread, what's going on with that and what can women do? I was going to say, to not fall into that trap or to overcome that obstacle. I'm not even sure what the right terminology is.

Joan Kuhl: When I am really training women, working with women at various levels and various industries, talking to them about the derailers, what can derail her career, what I found in research is, and what I know from her stories and the journey I went on to write this book, there are two things happening. There are barriers that are internal that are self-limiting, that I still don't think they're our fault that are built and influence our confidence, and really our impression of what is possible because of the bias we've experienced. There are barriers that are internal.

Then there are a lot of major barriers that are external. That's why we say this isn't all on her shoulders. We have to actually change the system, the culture, the behaviors around us.

Actually, the data does show that women do negotiate as much as men. It's things like the likability bias, the fact that, as men advance and are more assertive in their leadership, that they're liked more by women and men. When women advance, are assertive, showcase their ambition, they're liked less by both men and women. A lot of that again stems back to how we believe we should see women behaving and be more devoted, communal, and team-oriented versus men being kind of like this bearer of responsibility.

That's why, in the book, chapter four, I spent all this time talking about those internal barriers, overcoming imposter syndrome, things like believing that it should be this meritocratic system where I just put my head down, I do my work, the results, everything is going to pay off, and that's not how things work for women. We need to have relationships. There are those things.

Again, there are external pressures, and that's why looking at your talent management process, your recruitment process, your succession management planning, your benefits, there are real systems and processes that have bias within them but haven't really been disrupted for a long enough time that would benefit women.

Michael Krigsman: Michelle, this is kind of a dumb question because I know the answer. Have you run into these kinds of issues that Alicia Tillman was describing and that Joan was just describing?

Michelle Carnahan: Absolutely. Of course, you know the answer because you talk to a lot of women in podcasts like these. I have and I bet I can guess your next question. "How do you deal with them?" is probably the next question.

Michael Krigsman: How do you deal with them? Exactly.

Michelle Carnahan: [Laughter].

Joan Kuhl: Yes.

Michelle Carnahan: That's what I thought. I think, over the course of my career, a couple of different ways. First of all, I'll start with how did I personally deal with them.

The first way is, I think you have to have a support network. A support network is so important. To me, that comes in three different ways. I encourage everybody to find a partner. I don't care if that partner is your life partner, if it's your best friend, if it's your sister, if it's your mom. Find that partner who is the right partner for you who can help you with all the other stuff.

Then I think my second tip is, find both an emotional and an intellectual supporter. I say everybody needs that emotional supporter. I always talk about for me it's my husband. It is that person who, even if you are wrong, will say, "Oh, but, honey, I think you are so right," because sometimes you just need people to make you feel better – emotional support. You need intellectual supporters too who will actually say, "No, you were wrong, but maybe you should think about it this other way," so you need that.

Then the final piece, I would say, is this whole thing about, as women, finding your tribe. I think really having those people around you who not only can support you when it comes to finding a job or looking for the job or thinking about the next promotion but can make the right connections for you and can help you think through things in the right way.

I think about that often as I made this big jump to a new company after 25 years. It was really my tribe.

I had a son who was going into high school and so, as a mom, what did I think? Oh, my gosh. Can I do this to my son in high school? It was people who said, "You know what? He'll survive."

When I was negotiating salary, it was a good friend of mine who understands comp who said, "No, no, Michelle. You have to ask for more here. Here's what you have to look for." It was that tribe that supported me.

Personally, those are the things you have to do. Really think about your support system. Understands how you use that.

Then, as I've moved on further in my career as a woman executive, I think we have to think about what are the three things we start to change in the world of business. The first is, how do we create more line leaders in positions of leadership throughout our companies?

One of the things I talked about was putting women on boards and what a difference that made. If you put women on boards, three or more, you're more likely to have a female CEO. Women in these positions just think about this more often. Whether you're a first-line manager or whether you're the CEO of a company, we have to start thinking about that more broadly.

The second is the talent management piece that Joan talked about. What is bias in our system? Do we really have succession management that works? What does that look like? Are we meeting the needs of our employees? Do we know what the root cause is? That's the second thing we work through.

Then, as we think about the big picture of where we're going over time, how do we create a language that just really thinks about the worker in 2020 is different than the worker employee in 2000 and has our workplace caught up with that? I think women are sometimes on the cutting edge of helping us get there. Are we building that throughout our organization? I've dealt with it personally and now I think a lot about how do I deal with it as a leader within an organization.

Joan Kuhl: I want to just back up a couple of things that Michelle said, which are always brilliant, which is what gives me so much energy. Her stories like those she just shared are in the book. When she talked about women on boards and CEOs, just this past week another female was named CEO in the Fortune 500, which was Heyward Donigan, the CEO of Rite Aid, so that brings us to a record number of 36 women holding the position of CEO at the same at in Fortune 500 companies. That equates to like 6%. It's not enough.

Again, this is happening. We're seeing this rise happen while more Fortune 500, Fortune 1000 boards are having an increase of women representation.

At the same time, you see the IPOs that were announced just in 2019, from January to August, about 100 of them; 40% of them had all-male boards, and so we need to stop and think about, this is why this is a business case. It's not changing as fast as it should, and that's why you have to have business policies and leaders that are championing it and investing in it in big ways. I just wanted to add that. The piece about relationships, I'd love if we went there a little bit more and talk about what women need there.

Michelle Carnahan: Joan, I think, just where VC money is going, right?

Joan Kuhl: Yes.

Michelle Carnahan: That whole piece of Melinda Gates has a big part of it in her book, right?

Joan Kuhl: Yes. Great book.

Michelle Carnahan: Where VC money is going.

Joan Kuhl: Yeah, exactly. What's interesting is, actually, Melinda Gates has a great video out right now that's meant to bring some humor to a topic that is really bringing us a lot of grief. She has comedians talking about gender bias. Google that and check that out.

It's the relationship piece because that's why we stick together and, actually, that is the thing, how lucky I feel to write a book like this and continue to build relationships with women. I often discover that women, either by happenstance or through a crisis, realize that they need more women in their corner. Women need to support each other and we should feel and have permission to ask for help when we need it.

We've been talking about having mentors and sponsors. There's a lot of information and guidance out there, but women need peer allies. You need women that are sounding boards, as Michelle was talking about, to work through those decisions. I love that advice about emotional and intellectual partners.

I have found, when I talk to women in finance and healthcare, even in sports, that it lines up with a study I just read that was said, for 77% of highly successful, high achieving women, women with MBAs, that they had surrounded themselves with a tightknit group of women, about two to three women. These aren't best friends. These aren't the person they get to see very often, but they are women that bring a diverse network to the table and they believe in each other professionally. They know that they can call each other when they need that energy, that endurance, that validation of, "You're not crazy. You're not being emotional. Yeah, you do deserve that," or like Michelle said, maybe they're in that situation, "You could have gone about it differently. Here's your style and here is something that we could work on."

I think the more that we have that transparency with each other in the workplace, even, talking about what our pay is, what our bonus was, interviewing women in wealth management—you can read in my Forbes column—the number of women I've talked to in that space that say women don't talk about money with each other in the way that men do. Maybe they use it in more of like a braggadocios way. But I can tell you that, on college campuses, a lot of the young men I even talked to are posting their job offers on Facebook and women are scared to talk about it.

Yet, right now, I'm seeing, at the top MBA schools, women on average getting higher offers because there are less of them in MBA programs, which we need to increase, but also companies are valuing them. So, we should talk about the fact that this is what we deserve and this is what our income potential is. That helps you have more confidence to negotiate if you aren't there.

Michelle Carnahan: The biggest sponsor in my entire career was a man. It was a man who promoted me to my first few VP positions and this was the same man, a man who got me my first retention bonus. It was the same man who said to me when I took that VP job because I was like, "I don't know. Could I do it? It says it needs these three qualifications, and I only have two."

Joan Kuhl: [Laughter]

Michelle Carnahan: He actually said to me over lunch, like, "Michelle, you're the only person who doesn't think that you can do this job, so get with the rest of us." I think that that's not to say that there isn't a place for men in this. There is 100%. But there are some things that, as you look to build relationships and some of these natural relationships that can happen with women, what I sometimes see even women doing is they get into some of these relationships. As we have more and more executive women, they become even better at then having the compensation relationships with some of the men, et cetera, because they just get better at the conversations, right?

What happens on a golf course on a Saturday afternoon where maybe we, in the past, haven't been invited, but we've created that at our own cocktail party. Then, suddenly, it's not weird for us to be talking about compensation because we've done it in habitats where we are comfortable before.

I think, ultimately, what we don't want to have is, there is the women's conversation and then there is the men's conversation. But what we want to do is, I think we want to build in women the ability to be able to have these conversations anywhere and to really float in and out of them so that we are actively involved in where the conversations happen.

What are the characteristics of companies who are empowering women?

Joan Kuhl: I think how I would approach that question is what I've seen and experienced. On college campuses, let's say the MBA programs, I can tell you that women, and men who are also champions of this cause, they're going to your website. They're going to the About page, and they're seeing if you're walking the walk.

You can say and throw all these amazing things at them and say, "This is a great place. We value you inclusivity, flexibility, and integrating work and personal life," but, when they click that About page and it's an all-male board and they don't see themselves, they don't believe. If it hasn't gotten there in the past 30 to 100 years, it's not going to get there.

That's the first thing is that they're really seeing and judging. Eighty-six percent of millennial women are choosing a company that has gender-diverse leadership or choosing not to go there. They're making big decisions based on that.

When you're inside a company, I think that it's this idea of really reflecting on what's happening around you, what your experiences are, and where you think the hang-ups are. Where are the kinks in the chain here?

I think the successful formula is having leaders that are inclusive, obviously, but they're resonant and resonant means that they really spend time helping people understand that they're not replaceable, that they have true alignment and there's some meaning to their contribution to the bottom line of the business. That's being a resonate leader.

The third is a courageous leader. Courageous leader, nobody gets this type of topic right and perfect, but courageous leaders ask the questions and they allow these conversations to happen.

One of my favorite moments this year since launching Dig Your Heels In, I was leading a workshop at Major League Baseball for men and women. It was a really hands-on workshop where I wanted to talk to them about the lay of the land, the data and what it shows. I actually wanted them to work on specific scenarios where bias exists.

Let's say one team was working on the fact that men interrupt women three times more often than other men, and women can't get in a word edgewise. Another situation where they're working on the fact that, from a talent management or looking at promotions, women are judged on their behaviors and their communication style versus their real business impact and results.

By giving them the data, telling them why it happens, telling them why that it matters, and then letting them feel safe to talk about it and telling them up front, "Hey, you can ask whatever question you want. This is a safe environment. You didn't cause this. This started hundreds of years ago. But you are the problem if you don't change it moving forward."

I got such tremendous response from the men emailing me afterward, talking about it afterward, that they felt like, "Okay, I heard that thing about interrupting," manterruption or mansplaining, when men explain or say an idea—after a woman said—ten minutes later and get the credit. They're like, "I heard of that, but I didn't understand, so that happened once; this happened to me."

For women, it's like 10,000 papercuts. It's happening over and over again and the consequences are graver. That's the thing, I think, is helping everyone understand that there are things that you can do each and every day to improve the day-to-day experience that start to move the needle in these bigger ways.

Michael Krigsman: Michelle, let me ask you something quickly because we're going to soon run out of time and there's a whole bunch of things I want to ask you about. Again, I'm holding up Joan's book, which is titled Dig Your Heels In, and the subtitle is Navigate Corporate BS and Build the Company You Deserve. Michelle, I think this applies to men as well, but how can women identify the corporate BS so that they do not fall prey to it? I think Joan alluded to it a bit, but yeah. Mm-hmm.

Michelle Carnahan: I think it's pretty easy to identify.

Joan Kuhl: [Laughter]

Michelle Carnahan: [Laughter] That's what's unfortunate. I think it's all around you and you can identify it. I think one of the hard things is, like, am I dreaming this? No, people do repeat each other a lot. They do speak over each other. All of those things are real.

The hard part is, what do you do about it? I would take that to say, the answer really is in courage, I believe. It's having the courage to speak up, it's having the courage to behave differently, and it's having the courage to stick with it when it's hard.

Michael, you and I have talked before. You talk a lot about business turnarounds. I don't know that I see a business turnaround and career work really different. Anything really tough in life requires two things, I think: courage and grit.

You have to have the courage to say, "This is going to be tough. I'm going to fall down. I'm going to have to get back up. Some people are not going to want to associate with me after I do it. It's going to be a much more difficult path than walking the straight line, but I want to do it because I can make it better on the other side.

Some of the corporate games and some of the other pieces in organizations, that's the kind of commitment they require, but you can really leave a mark on an organization. I think people want to get to the great things that organizations really do.

In the case of what I do, we make medicines. That's why we came here. In the case of what tech companies do, they make great technology. I think, having the courage and grit to change those things is why I stay. I think it's the reason to dig your heels in.

Joan Kuhl: Two things: The first thing about politics is that it is always going to be there. It's probably not going to go away because it is a result of working in a dynamic, complex environment with different people making decisions and having to influence one another.

I tell women because this is the thing that ekes them out, it disgusts them, it's why sometimes they look up to the next level and they say, "Ugh. I don't want to be up there. I don't want to behave like that. I'm fine right here." The problem is, number one, you have to be aware of it but you don't have to lower your standards or your values or play into it.

I've been teaching women how to become cultural anthropologists. You need to study how power is distributed in your company. You need to be aware of how decisions are made, and you can do that by observing meetings. You can observe that by watching how different leaders respond and what they recognize, what they reward.

Being educated on it and also sharing that education with others around you but talking about it openly helps everybody have more transparency. I think that's the first thing because I think that really, really gets in the way of women going after more influential and more visible positions.

The other thing is that navigating conflict and tension. I believe that women sometimes struggle with this because we weren't given the permission, the skills, or the knowledge growing up to really handle conflict because of the stereotypes around good girls and how we were supposed to behave. Be nice, but not too nice, or we're a pushover. Be devoted. Put everything including our company before ourselves and don't get too emotional; we should let things go.

Being a good girl at work means taking on the office housework, taking the notes, doing all the things that you don't actually get rewarded for in performance management at the end of the day. You may be good at it, and it may fall on your plate, but it shouldn't be your responsibility.

It's being in a room. A client enters and he addresses the man at the table when you're the one in charge. Or it's just the fact that you feel like you have to shrink yourself or not assert yourself in the way that you want to because someone in the room is speaking louder than you or being more aggressive towards you.

I study all these things not only in women at all ages in the workforce but in girls too. These seeds are planted very early about how, again, girls and women can navigate situations that give us tension.

Here is the issue. As a leader, you cannot avoid tension. You have to handle conflict. Twenty percent of managers deal with the conflict every day within their job. What I found is that 64% of women are facing these microaggressions.

You were saying, "When do we identify corporate BS?" It's happening every day. It's being talked to in a condescending way. It's the fact that women are twice as likely to be seen as somebody at a junior level than men. It's all these things.

The idea of, asMichelle said, having courage and grit to speak up when it's happening. First, it takes women to know that, again, you're not alone in this. One in five women is alone, the only woman in a room, on a team. There's still not enough of us representation wise.

Two, these things are happening and somebody may not be a bad person. They may just be completely unaware. That's why I think the unconscious bias training is pretty rampant in corporate right now. That's just the thing that I think is important is for women to really study and understand the culture and look at it a little bit more in an objectionable way so that they don't take themselves out of the game.

Michelle Carnahan: I think the one piece of advice I would give, whether it's dealing with corporate BS or whether it's staying or it's how to choose a company, choose a company, choose to stay if you can be 100% your because any minute you try to do something else that isn't yourself, you don't bring your best to work. If you're not bringing your best, then why stay?

To me, the biggest piece of advice is, if you've made it this far. I know it sounds like kindergarten advice, but maybe everything we did need to know we learned there.

Joan Kuhl: Yes.

Michelle Carnahan: Be yourself, 100%. If it doesn't work someplace, it will work someplace else. If you're managing people, find a way to let everyone bring 100% themselves because any minute they're not doing that, it's minutes that aren't going into your business.

What advice do you have for men?

Joan Kuhl: For men, it's to be an ally. What I've learned from men since, actually, they're three times more uncomfortable mentoring women since #MeToo and #TimesUp—and that's bad news. We need men. We need you to be our partner. We need you to be our ally. We need you to be our mentor and our sponsor—is to feel comfortable talking about these things.

If you don't feel comfortable taking a woman to the same place you take a man that you're mentoring—a sporting event, a bar—don't do it with the male either. Find a place where you feel comfortable for both.

I think, for men, it's like, recognize that this benefits you, this doesn't work against you, and that we really want you to talk to us about what you don't understand about our experiences.

Michelle Carnahan: I'll go back to where I was earlier. Be yourself and find ways to create opportunities for others in your organizations to be yourself. If a basketball game is where you get great work done, believe it or not, some women love basketball too. I think that the more that we can bring our full selves to work, the more that I think we can all accomplish for our customers.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. It was a great show. We've been speaking with Joan Kuhl, who is the author of Dig Your Heels In. It's a very insightful and very interesting book, as was this conversation. We've also been speaking with Michelle Carnahan, who is a senior executive at Sanofi, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Thank you both very, very much for taking your time and sharing your insight and wisdom with us today.

Joan Kuhl: Thanks for having us.

Michelle Carnahan: Thank you.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching. Before you go, subscribe on YouTube and hit the Subscribe button at the top of our website and subscribe to our mailing list. We have incredible shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com and keep joining us. Thanks so much, everybody. Have a great day. Bye-bye.