IA Chat: Women in the Workplace

Collaboration | Engagement

In this edition of Interaction Associates Chat, a group of IAers got together on a Microsoft Teams chat to discuss what the workplace looks like as a woman in the modern era, the changes, their personal experiences and viewpoints, and tips and advice for women new to the workplace or entering it in the future. Below is the lightly edited transcript of that discussion.

IA Chat Panel

Katy O'Connor (moderator): Thank you all for joining today and I'm looking forward to this productive conversation. Let's start with our first question: How has the workplace changed from when you started your career until now?

Vivian Power: The workplace has changed so much, in our industry we have so much global and national reach!

Nina Fojaco Reed: Technology has changed the landscape and allows for different ways to work together - I find working remotely much more productive than being in an office.

Since the pandemic, I find there is a little more freedom to take the time you need to attend to family.

I think I just dated myself - because I started in the workforce many years before the internet.

Vivian Power: Yes, and technology has advanced 10-fold. We can communicate with each other remotely, not just over a conference call, but the beauty of seeing one another virtually!

Eve Keller: Early in my career most of the organizations I worked with were male-dominated. There were very little female mentors and leaders.

Kristin Mattison: When I started my career, my daughters were babies. It was a challenge to get everyone ready for the day and out the door (on time). Getting things done (work and non-work related) in a workday was stressful. Repeat that five times a week, and there wasn't much room for a work-life balance.

When the opportunity to work remote became a thing (thanks to technology), the sense of freedom I felt was something all parents should experience. It's incredible to see more and more organizations offering a more balanced work schedule to allow for this.

Nina Fojaco Reed: Yes! The 8-5 workday was brutal to handle in person. I couldn't imagine doing that now.

Working remotely, I can integrate work into my life and not feel guilty for taking time to stop and eat something or take a walk in the middle of the day. My work gets done, and I'm happier.

While remote working has been a relief for me, I also recognize that it's not always the case for others out there and it might not be the best option for them based on their situation.

Vivian Power: The workplace and what was required in terms of meeting and being together has changed so much! Fortunately, today companies are using so many different ways to stay connected! But, sometimes I don't think it is fast enough.

Katy O’Connor (moderator): Those are all really interesting points, and we know that managing life/work balance and childcare can often be some of the biggest challenges facing women in the workplace today. What other challenges do you feel women face in the workplace today?

Nina Fojaco Reed: For many women, pay inequity and being heard are still issues they're facing.

Eve Keller: I agree, Nina, this is still an issue too many women are facing. 

I think women and diverse workers bring a lot of innovative thought to the table.

Kristin Mattison: Flexible work arrangements. Allowing women to take time to bring balance to their mental/physical health and wellness allows for a greater impact back to their organization.

Eve Keller: I agree, Kristin. Women during COVID had to make a choice on what to prioritize, and unfortunately, we lost a lot of them during those few years.

I think Mental Health is the biggest challenge for us now, and women (and companies) don't prioritize that enough for themselves.

Nina Fojaco Reed: Yeah Eve, mental health is a serious issue and maybe goes under the radar with remote workers as there isn't as much interaction in the workplace - so we have to take the time to check on each other.

Vivian Power: Voice is always a very interesting concept...fundamentally, we ALL want to be heard, but I think it has improved, but there are always opportunities to improve. I remember this first time I expressed myself in a group meeting was at Interaction Associates, I was very junior in my role and was so anxious to speak up and out. After that initial anxiety, I cannot stop! You have to challenge yourself and share your voice!

Kristin Mattison: Yes, Viv - Challenge yourself!

Nina Fojaco Reed: Viv, that is so true - that happened to me too!

Katy O'Connor (moderator): I think your point on women having to choose their priorities is very interesting and managing mental/physical well-being can often be more difficult as women are more commonly than not also managing the mental and physical well-being of their children and families as well.

Vivian Power: Balance wasn't a thing when I started my career...but I think all of the research over the last 20 years has been great! We have to remember our priorities and what matters most! I think the pandemic really gave the whole world an opportunity to pause and think. As a woman, mother and professional, I have to make sure I remember those priorities. 

Katy O'Connor (moderator): Given your awareness of these challenges. What practices and tools do you use in your own day to day to help work through them? Additionally, are there any IA practices or tools do you think can help with those challenges?

Eve Keller: I try to stick to my routines/habits to ensure I have balance throughout the day. I know I feel better when I use those as pillars throughout my good and bad days. I think mindfulness, exercise, nature, and my pets really help.

As far as IA practices, Results, Process, Relationship balance is always top of mind.

Nina Fojaco Reed: Listening as an Ally - without having the benefit of being able to read someone's body language in person, we need to use our listening skills to ensure we're really connecting with our colleagues in a meaningful way. 

Listening and inquiring to get to a place of understanding so we can work better together.

Vivian Power: The Dimensions of Success is centered around balance - how to balance the Results, Process, and Relationships. When I am managing my day, I use this as a diagnostic framework and see where I should focus. What do I need to get done, what relationships need attention and how can I improve a situation and improve a process.


Kristin Mattison: I practice presence and am learning to recognize when stress creeps in, it's just a sign that I'm not in the present moment. One. Thing. At. A. Time. 

RPR; Results, Process, Relationship is a great IA tool to help with these challenges. It provides a way to measure success and indicates where improvement is needed. Where am I off balance (what area of this project, this conversation, etc.)?

By maintaining balance in these three areas, I feel I create more time in my day to handle pretty much anything that comes up. 

Nina Fojaco Reed: I agree - RPR as a diagnostic tool is really effective for telling me how I'm doing. 

Vivian Power: Celebrating accomplishment is so important...we need to celebrate each other so we can all remember what we are trying to create and achieve! Such great payoff for ALL!

Katy O'Connor: What advice would you give to your daughters, or any young women who are looking to grow and advance in their careers? 

Nina Fojaco Reed: Oh this is so timely! 

Pay attention to your personal brand and set clear goals for your own learning and development. Let yourself be open to learning something you didn't expect to learn.

As you're growing in your career, ask for feedback from trusted colleagues. Accept coaching if it is suggested to you.

Learn the tools you need to guide discussions and run efficient meetings so that you will feel confident and  it will show up in the quality of your work.

Kristin Mattison: Follow your bliss and remain open to opportunities for growth. Take time for yourself to get in alignment with your mind, body and spirit so that you can thrive in all aspects of your life.

Eve Keller: Stay open and curious in all situations. Follow your passions. Ride the roller coaster of your emotions and embrace change.

Vivian Power: Such a great question and I think about what my challenges were as a young woman just starting out and the one thing that I still work on is that I/we need to take a look at where we have come, what we have accomplished, and celebrate, celebrate, celebrate! We all have a different journey and opportunity to make a difference...that aligns with who we/you are.

Nina Fojaco Reed: Yes! we need to stop and make sure we celebrate our successes, learn from our mistakes and move on. 

Eve Keller: Travel and learn about other cultures so you can always have an open heart and mind towards others.

Vivian Power: Also, don't discount any positive feedback...I know I tend to do that today, but as a woman, it is so important to know our worth/impact!

Nina Fojaco Reed: True Viv, positive feedback can be so inspiring and reinforcing. 

Bella Cebrero (moderator): I love these answers and, being a young woman myself, entering both the workforce and adulthood can feel scary and a bit uncertain. Your advice is so good to hear and makes me excited for what's ahead! 


Katy O'Connor (moderator): This is all wonderful advice. Does anyone have any final words they would like to share on this topic or any of the previous questions we talked about? 


Eve Keller: Always be learning and discovering. Know that life is an adventure and you are the director, producer, agent, marketer, and STAR!


Nina Fojaco Reed: It's important to find work that feeds you as a person and that you enjoy. these days there seem to be more options for finding meaningful work and we need to be brave and go for it! 


Vivian Power: As women, I think we naturally add balance in the world! Just being our true selves and connecting to those around us is a gift! 


Nina Fojaco Reed: Also, we need to learn to say no to things that don't help us move forward.


Vivian Power: Find your strengths and build upon them...in your career and in your day-to-day!


Eve Keller: I think women in leadership really showed us some good examples during COVID. Those countries with women leaders did the most and best for their communities. We have the ability to show up and be seen now more than ever. Let's do it!


Katy O'Connor (moderator): I wanted to thank you all for taking a moment out of your busy days to join this short conversation, and for sharing your thoughts and advice with us! I hope it provided value to you in being able to share your own thoughts and learn from others. 


Bella Cebrero: Thank you so so much for your time and thoughtful responses!


Nina Fojaco Reed: This was a great way to start my day! thanks for starting the conversation! 


Eve Keller: Thank you all!


Vivian Power: Thank you Katy and to my fellow women colleagues!! 



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About IA Team

Interaction Associates (IA) helps leaders and teams think more clearly, collaborate more effectively, and focus on what matters most to their customers, employees, and stakeholders. We provide our clients with practical methods for helping people work better together across functions, viewpoints, and geographies. Since IA introduced the concept and practice of group facilitation to the business world in 1969, hundreds of thousands of individuals have learned The Interaction Method™, a facilitated approach for building understanding and agreement so people can take informed, concerted action.