#HRTechChat with Pamela Stroko: Empowering Women in the Workplace

In a recent episode of #HRTechChat, host Jennifer Dole and guest Pamela Stroko delved into the crucial topic of supporting women in the workplace and ensuring equitable promotions and opportunities. Pamela, an HCM practitioner and HR tech expert, provided valuable insights on the impact of HR technology in enabling women to access greater opportunities. Listen in as we will explore the key points discussed in the podcast episode and shed light on the importance of HR technology in empowering women in their careers.

The Shift in Women’s Careers:
Pamela highlighted the significant impact the pandemic had on women’s careers. Many women were forced to leave the workforce to fulfill caregiving responsibilities and support their families during challenging times. As a result, a staggering number of women, approximately 2.4 million, have not yet returned to work. Pamela emphasized the various factors that contribute to this trend, such as the lack of affordable childcare and the absence of job opportunities that provide the necessary support and flexibility for women.

The Power of Flexibility and Autonomy:
During the pandemic, remote work and flexible arrangements became the norm for many organizations. Employees, including women, experienced newfound autonomy and flexibility in managing their work and personal lives. This led to increased productivity and job satisfaction. However, Pamela expressed concern over the current shift towards calling employees back to the office, limiting remote work options, and reducing flexibility. This trend disregards the proven benefits of flexible work arrangements for women and threatens to undo the progress made in supporting their career growth.

The Role of HR Technology:
Pamela emphasized that HR technology can play a pivotal role in creating equitable opportunities for women in the workplace. She highlighted the concept of internal talent marketplaces, where skills-driven career planning and transparent job opportunities are made available to all employees. Various vendors, including Oracle, Gloat, and Phenom, offer solutions that facilitate the matching of skills and interests with available opportunities within an organization.

Transparency and Self-Driven Career Growth:
Internal talent marketplaces bring transparency to job opportunities, ensuring that employees are aware of potential roles and projects. Women, and all employees, can now actively raise their hands and express their interests and aspirations within the company. By becoming the architects of their own careers, individuals can explore various roles and gain valuable experience through short-term assignments and gigs. This experimentation and self-driven growth foster career mobility, becoming the new measure of success and growth.

Supporting Women’s Career Growth:
HR technology also facilitates coaching and mentoring connections, providing support and guidance for individuals seeking to advance their careers. It is crucial for companies to acknowledge and nurture the career aspirations of their employees, especially women. By embracing flexible work arrangements, recognizing individuals’ skills and potential, and offering opportunities for growth, companies can create an environment that empowers women to thrive.

The conversation between Jennifer and Pamela sheds light on the importance of HR technology in supporting women’s career growth and creating equitable opportunities in the workplace. Through internal talent marketplaces, transparent job opportunities, and self-driven career growth, HR technology empowers women to explore their potential, gain experience, and actively contribute to their organizations. By embracing flexibility and recognizing the value of each individual, companies can create an inclusive environment where women can thrive and succeed. It is crucial for organizations to leverage HR technology to ensure that women are not only promoted equitably but also have access to fulfilling opportunities that align with their goals and aspirations.

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Jennifer Dole 00:00
Hello, and welcome to another episode of #HRTechChat, the Podcast where we explore the latest trends and innovations in HR technology. I’m your host, Jennifer dole. And today we have a special guest with us. Pamela is a results driven HCM practitioner, HR tech expert, talent management guru, you name it. So brace yourself for some game changing insights. And welcome, Pamela.

Pamela Stroko 00:34
Thanks so much, Jennifer, I’m so thrilled to be with you today. And this is a topic that I have been tracking since before the pandemic, and and hopefully have a lot to share that I think will be relevant for people.

Jennifer Dole 00:49
Great. So today we’re going to discuss an important topic. It’s really about supporting women in the workplace, and ensuring equitable promotions and opportunities. And Pamela, you and I have already talked a lot about this offline and thought this would make a great podcast, it would so let’s start, you know, how do you think that HR technology can help women get access to greater opportunities?

Pamela Stroko 01:20
Absolutely. But I want to take a step back to work into my answer, and how it can help. And and the reason I want to do that is is I think we have lost sight of what has happened to women in careers over the last three to four years. And so if we could just dial the clock back a little bit to the fall of 2020. So by the time we hit the fall of 2025 point 1 million women have left the workforce in the US. And that was simply because we needed caregivers, we needed homeschooling, we needed somebody to to not only take care of their family and their children, but they were taking care of mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles they were sort of the central point of care for an extended network. And, and so and the other thing that happened is, as people had stepped out of the workplace a number of different ways. Some were furloughed, some decided to take career breaks and things. They started realizing, wow, now that I’m doing more things in my life, I kind of liked this. And I don’t know if I would go back full time again. So fast forward from the fall of 2022 today, so 2.4 million women still have not come back to the workforce. And a lot of that has to do with caregiving has to do with I can’t afford childcare, I can’t afford paid child care. It has to do to your point about equitable jobs, you know, Are there jobs out there that are going to help me support the things I need to support and also support me in my life. And especially by the way in this is, if there was a topic that you could label this is making me crazy, it was this. So you know, during the pandemic, we did things like zoom meetings, we, we did a lot of social networking, we were on Slack, we were talking to everybody, virtually and in person and you know, in connecting wherever we could, and it was wonderful. And they didn’t take time off work to go to the doc, take their children to the doctor because it sort of fit in the flow of their lives. You know, I’ll work this morning, take our break, take my child to the doctor come home work in the afternoon. And they made it work in their lives. They had autonomy. And they also were held accountable city knew that yes, I’ll take this break. But I’ve got to come back and finish this. Yep. So the crazy part is this. So somehow, during the pandemic that seemed to work, and organizations were like, Hey, we actually are seeing Lipson productivity in some areas of our company, and more women were applying for jobs where they offered flexibility and this accountability. And in they were given choices about how they did the work and when they did the work. So here we are today more organizations are calling people back to work. And some Oh yes, and some of them are calling them back in a nasty way. It says if you can’t come back full time, you have to leave the company, if you can’t come back and work in our version of flexible or our version of hybrid work, which is three days in the office two days at home, you know, we don’t have full time remote work anymore. And you have this discrepancy between the fact that nearly half the jobs in the economy could be done remotely in some way. And less and less companies are supporting remote work. So what’s happening to women in those situations? Well, they can’t work at those companies, they don’t want to work in those companies. And I think it’s absolutely a shame that we make progress. We have more women engage, we have women that are really committed to work, but they get the autonomy they need, with the accountability they can deliver. And now we’re seem to be backing off that. And I just, it makes me crazy. And what companies need to learn is more women apply for jobs when there’s a measure of flexibility when there’s a measure of autonomy. And we seem to lost sight of that, and you talk about being equitably promoted. So, you know, there is a role in technology for that. In fact, I think technology may be what saves us in that.

Jennifer Dole 06:28
Okay, so we’re now at the answer of my question.

Pamela Stroko 06:31
I know, I know, I needed a preamble, I needed a preamble. But here’s what it is. So you see companies doing things like internal talent marketplace, we have skills marketplace, we have career marketplace, we have skills driven career planning. And you know, there are lots of vendors that do this, you know, I have to give a plug and came from the Oracle tradition for 12 years. So Oracle has an internal talent marketplace. In fact, they were one of the first gloat does a great job with this. And they’ve got wonderful stories from Schneider Electric. And they have a great one in the UK, as well, with Unilever, where Unilever was working on, how do we get get work done if we can’t fill jobs. So they opened up an internal career marketplace with skill building. And in their first brush with this, they saved $15 million. I mean, that’s a great story. You’ve got phenom who’s out there who’s got a great solution for this as well. But what it does for women, what it does for everyone is the first thing is, is it creates transparency. And so you know, it’s not up to the manager to say, well, I’m going to tap who’s getting promoted. And they know what the opportunities are. Everybody sees the opportunities. Everybody can see, here’s the work. Here are the skills you can all of these systems have some matching that goes on. And you can say, Yes, I’m a fit for this, or I want to be fit for this athlete. I think that’s one of the main points is that people now get to raise their hand and say, This is what I want to do.

Jennifer Dole 08:21
And then find those opportunities within their company. Because before they are saying this is what I want to do and going to job boards outside your company.

Pamela Stroko 08:32
Exactly, exactly. And we know that if it’s easier to find a job outside your company, people will take it in for as much as being sad about the economy right now. There are still 3.9 million people every month that leave a job looking for something better. And so when you can open up an internal talent marketplace, when you can see opportunities that are projects that are short term assignments that are work rotations, and you can see what’s required, you can raise your hand and most of these systems have a mentoring connection. All the vendors I mentioned, they have a mentoring and coaching connection as well. And you can you now are the architect of your career. And women want that. I mean, I think first of all, I think everybody wants it. But it particularly applies to women because they then get to make choices about when I work where I work, how I work, how I want to deliver the work. And I think that’s just so critical.

Jennifer Dole 09:45
The other piece about these internal talent marketplaces is the short term assignments or the gigs. It lets you experiment with a different type of role before you commit to it fully. And I think we’ve all seen In the research that says, you know, women have to match 80% of the job description to apply to it, but men match like 60%. So that’s what I love about the short term assignments and the gigs because you can experiment.

Pamela Stroko 10:15
You can and, and let’s face it, the experimentation is the career growth pathway. I saw this great quote that Jean Meister had posted. Probably right. At the end of last week, I read this, where she said, career mobility is the new college degree. Isn’t that great? I love that. Yeah. And because it’s to your point, that’s where the experimentation comes from. And you have so many organizations out there that are saying we’re interested in people that can grow but don’t necessarily have the degree, they don’t have the paper because you have tear the paper ceiling, you have business roundtable, you have star, the star Alliance, and you have all these places, where they’re looking at how people can develop and grow. And it’s through alternative means. And so I just love the fact that, um, you know, jeans quote about it’s the new college degree, I think it is actually.

Jennifer Dole 11:24
Yeah, it’s like, the master’s program. Right? You could you go and do a little bit in each area and learn the business by working in the business.

Pamela Stroko 11:37
You do. And and, um, you know, what we know about that experience is that the more people have a positive experience, the more they tell people about your company, and they become like a self referral program. Yes. And what we see is, is that it’s kind of a self fulfilling prophecy for the company and the person. And I met last month, I did a presentation at Quartz HR, and I met Cassie Lee, who is from AT and T She’s the head of audit for a TMT. And, um, you know, I’ve had, I’ve had interaction with finance, over my career actually do a lot of work for a CFO and one of the companies I work for helping him build his strategy and his organization. But I have to say, Cassie has built the coolest financial organization on the planet. And she built it by talking about what the work is giving people opportunities to experiment and grow, and giving people opportunity for flexibility, you know, yes, we have, you know, you can work remotely when it’s appropriate, you have to come in, you know, when it makes sense to come in. And she asked everybody, you know, what their goal was, how they wanted to grow their career. And, you know, as they went through this transition, all the right, people ended up showing up. And she has the only organization I have ever heard of in finance, that does not need a recruiter, people are so energized about working on this team, and about working with her and working with each other, and building the capabilities of the team and the individuals that she does not use your recruiter, they recruit themselves, they recruit for themselves. It’s word of mouth. People want to work there, I’m sure there’s a lineup. For every role. I’m sure there’s a long list of people that want to be considered. And you know, when you think about how do women grow their career, you know, it’s a lot like that it’s experimentation. It’s being supported by a team, it is making sure that you have access to coaching and mentoring, that you have flexibility when you need it, that people are interested in you. And and I have to say, when you could be doing the best work over but if no one takes notice, and they’re not interested. And they don’t understand what you need to be fulfilled. Women are less, I think, willing to put up with that today than they used to be.

Jennifer Dole 14:33
I fully agree with you. And I think it’s going to be really interesting to see promotion levels of people that are working remote or are working hybrid versus are in the office. Because that proximity bias, if you will, I think may still be there.

Pamela Stroko 14:55
I think it is and you know, that’s the big fear still. Is that am I again to be noticed, what do I have to do to get noticed? And somehow I, by the way, I think this is another fascinating thing, somehow we have made this the issue of the individual, instead of the issue of the leader or the company, you know, it’s like, if you want to be noticed, and is to see and be seen culture, then you’ve got to come into the office. What if we flipped that, and said, we have a way to understand, acknowledge and support people in whatever situation they work? Yeah. And when there’s an opportunity, again, it’s transparent, it’s open to everyone, you want to raise your hand great. If you’re maybe not a fit for this, the least that we owe you is a conversation, the least that we owe you is a moment to say, what are you really interested in doing? How can we help? And if you weren’t a fit for this? How can we help you be a fit for the next thing? How do we help you grow? And, you know, years ago, in my career, this is when I worked for gapping. And we were looking at career building? How do we do this? And we talked about the career value proposition. And I made something up, that became a thing you know, because you can create a thing when no one’s created it before you can create a thing. And so I said, the career value proposition is 5149 51% is like is the company, the company has to have the tools to your point, the technology? Do we have ways for people to understand the work? Can they bid on projects? Is there an internal talent marketplace? Do we have tools that support them in the role? Do we have ways for them to connect? Can they do work together? Can they do asynchronous work all of that. So the company has to have a way to do that. But the 49% is the individual like nobody, that so many companies have this people have this idea that someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder for my next promotion? And I’m like, no they’re not.

Jennifer Dole 17:12
No they’re not, say that again.

Pamela Stroko 17:14
Like, they’re no going to tap you on the shoulder. Yeah, you know, that’s not going to happen, you have to engage. And so you have to go and find out what’s open in the internal marketplace. You have to look at the projects and say, If I’m doing this now, how can I do that? How do I migrate to that? How do I have that experience, and I was reading about a company the other day, that has created a category of worker that we hire you and you’re not, it’s not exactly the same, like you’re on our full time payroll, but we have some benefits allowance, because we want you to be in our internal talent marketplace, even though you’re an external person. So you’re in our internal talent marketplace for projects or short term assignments for specialized work. And so we’re going to give you some access to benefits, we’re going to give you some access to some of these other services. That would be a benefit for a full time employee. But we’re gonna help you we want to we want to pick create a connection to you. Yeah. And and attractive. I think, by the way, that is really innovative. And, and kudos because quite honestly, that’s how you’re going to win in the in the marketplace that’s now being dubbed the Forever talent shortage.

Jennifer Dole 18:38
Absolutely. The companies have got to flex and come up with these innovative ideas. And technology is helping.

Pamela Stroko 18:49
I think it is I think it is and i i also want to say back to my 5149 I also think you need the right technology, because you are hosting companies that have a technology strategy that is resemble something like throwing spaghetti at the wall. And by the way, I tried that once to see if it sticks. It does.

Jennifer Dole 19:13
Thank you. I don’t have to do that now.

Pamela Stroko 19:17
So one time I cooked spaghetti and I threw it at the wall it does stick. Anyway, but But um, but to that to that very point, um, you need technology, you have to say like, what do we want to accomplish here and that you need, the technology is going to support that and drive that. There are a lot of things people could buy. There are a lot of things that are out there, but you have to get really clear on what are we trying to accomplish and what’s going to help us get there. And I agree it needs to be a strategic implementation of technology. You can’t throw everything out there, right. You’ve got to really consider the experience Observe the employees and consider the experience of the managers that aren’t so much. Exactly. And, you know, one, and I still don’t think even in the pandemic, we did a great job with this. I think one lingering issue. And I think it’s a big issue is what is the manager job now, to your to your point of you need lots of different ways to create a way to work to be a structure for work, managers have to figure out how do I manage hybrid tea? How do I manage people that are going to be always remote? Because some companies will have always remote? How do I manage the people that will come into the office three days a week, four days a week, five days a week, if necessary? If you’re in a frontline retail job, or if you’re in a frontline job, where you don’t have low flexibility for remote or hybrid? How do I manage that and the expectations of those people that might need the same flexibility as someone that’s like a hybrid worker, remote worker? But how do I make remote real for them? How do we make hybrid real for them? Because there are ways to do it, and give them some flexibility. But leaders, you know, we we have to I think Coach leaders develop leaders in every aspect of what we saw coming out of the pandemic, like, we still probably don’t spend enough time talking to leaders about empathy, right? What empathy looks like? It’s like, how do you how do you coach someone to be more empathic, and I was at this dinner last night, and I was talking to a gentleman, his name’s Tim Bristow, Tim’s a CEO of a company called Pro habits. And he was talking about how they support leaders with empathy, like how do you coach a leader? And he said, it’s simple nudges. Like, as you go in and start your meeting, check in with everyone in the meeting and see how they’re doing. Yes. Now, everybody can do that. You don’t have to be an empathy genius to do that. To build the habit of doing it. You do. You do. And and and so everyone feels like, Oh, my God, I hadn’t really thought about that. It’s that simple. But I do think we have to get back to leadership and and support leaders. And particularly, make sure that when choices are being made about promotions, about opportunities, about new assignments, that you you really have to make an effort to include everybody in that, that decision making and not bias against people that you just don’t see every day, right? Because those could be your best workers. Yeah, I mean, so kind of wrapping up this amazing conversation, visibility, transparency, and a collaborative approach. We mean, employees and managers that 51 49% You’re talking about. And that’s where HR Tech really comes in to help. It does. It does. And, you know, if you want people that are fulfilled at work, use technology as a way to support that fulfillment. People are more fulfilled when they’re more connected. You have we have the technology in HR tech today to connect everybody to everybody. And so let’s look at how we use those connections to support people in the work and make sure that there’s always someone to reach out to, and that you can get coaching and mentoring and guidance, and you can get career advice as you want to grow. And to your point, experiment with these new things with new opportunities. And, you know, HR tech, the other side of HR tech, because I spent 12 years, nearly 12 years at Oracle in the tech space. Before that I was with Twilio is the technology really should be the gateway to opening up to experience. People want better experiences. And I think technology is the gateway. And you have to be really conscious about what gates you want to go through.

Jennifer Dole 24:23
Exactly. And you have to have those multiple gates that meet the needs of the person. Some people are going to be more comfortable with a digital experience. Some people want to have that in person experience.

Pamela Stroko 24:38
Absolutely possible. It is it is so so I think technology is just offering us so many more options today. And I’m thrilled with the tech futures that we’re looking at. And the choices people will have to grow careers going forward.

Jennifer Dole 24:55
Yeah, it’s really exciting. Pamela Thank you so much for being here today and sharing your experience with us.

Pamela Stroko 25:05
Thanks so much for having me.

Jennifer Dole 25:07
I just adore talking to you. There’s it’s always like a good time. And I always learned something like, you know, you really threw spaghetti against the wall. So nobody needs to try that anymore.

Pamela Stroko 25:22
I used to try and it works.

Jennifer Dole 25:26
But thank you so much really appreciate being here.

Pamela Stroko 25:29
You’re welcome was my pleasure.

Jennifer Dole 25:31
A wonderful addition of #HRTechChat, and we have definitely covered some of the trends and innovations that make a difference in promoting equity in organizations

Pamela Stroko 25:41
Excellent. Thanks so much.

Jennifer Dole 25:44
Thank you

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