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Banking on KC – Rania Anderson of The Way WoMen Work

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC, I'm your host Kelly Scanlon, thank you for joining us. With us on this episode is Rania Anderson, a keynote speaker, author, executive business coach, and angel investor. She's the author of two books, Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies. And her second is WE: Men, Women, and the Decisive Formula for Winning at Work. Rania's passion is to drive economic prosperity through gender parity. Welcome to the show, Rania, it's good to be talking to you again.

Rania Anderson:

It's great to be with you, Kelly.

Kelly Scanlon:

One of the things that strikes me about you is that as our listeners will find out, as they get to know you here today is that your work has taken you all over the world. You've interviewed people from numerous countries, you have global clients, and really you could locate anywhere but you chose to make Kansas City your home. What is it about Kansas City that excites you so much?

Rania Anderson:

There's so much about it but I think at the heart of it is our community and I know a lot of the listeners would say the same thing. We came to Kansas City 20 years ago and I was welcomed with open arms by so many people and those people have become clients and friends and I enjoy and see the interesting things that businesses of all sizes are doing in our community and that's what makes my job easy. And the second thing is that easiness, the ease of living here. We have all the same things that bigger cities have but we can access them effortlessly. Interestingly, you can get to either coast in not very many hours, and it's good for that perspective for travel and getting internationally isn't hard either.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah, I think it's interesting. We don't always recognize that it takes some times people coming in from outside our area to remind us just how wonderful our city is. Now, about what you do, creating economic prosperity through gender parity, that is your passion. It's what underlies all of your work. Talk to us about what you mean specifically on that, and the various levels. It's in the workplace, but it's in the community, talk to us about that.

Rania Anderson:

I think sometimes people think that I'm working on behalf of women, it's all about women. And as you said for me it's really all about what's going to make our companies and our community and our economy and our cities stronger and that is having gender balance and the way we look at things and the way we make decisions in our leadership, in our workforces. The reasons for that are so numerous, there are countless studies I couldn't possibly list all of them that all show that more diverse teams, gender-balanced teams are more innovative, more profitable and make better decisions.

Rania Anderson:

People are just coming at things from a different perspective and the virtue of that and the conversations they have just create for that better decision. We also know that as more women enter the workforce, first we have higher GDP, and when we have higher GDP meaning more money in our economy we can make better decisions and provide healthcare to people and education, it raises our tax spaces, it's all of these things strengthen our economies. When women make money they spend money on healthcare and education and their children and that results in stronger workforce for our companies. I'm often asked to make the business case for gender parity by my clients and I often say to them, "What's the case for the status quo? What is the rationale that you would give, the reason you would tell me that it should stay like this?" And that makes people stop and think.

Kelly Scanlon:

Oh, I'm sure that it does. I've heard you say this before and that is, why would you want to leave half of the talent on the table? Why would you not want to leverage all the talent that's out there instead of just half of it?

Rania Anderson:

Right. And in this economy there's high unemployment but right before the pandemic that was absolutely the reverse. And even though there's high unemployment there are still lots of job openings in Kansas City and elsewhere, and especially for highly-skilled workers. And so if your practices, your hiring practices and your performance management practices and your leadership practices are not inclusive, your company and your city are at a disadvantage because you're not getting the benefit of all of that talent.

Kelly Scanlon:

The book that you wrote on the six success habits of women in emerging economies, you talked to more than 250 women from around the world so that you could better understand how they've achieved success despite the different barriers, cultural, and gender that they face. Since then, in your consulting work there's probably been hundreds of thousands of more that you've talked to and I'm really curious, have you found any universal themes? I mean, I'm sure that there are very specific things because, the various challenges with the political-societal, market conditions in these individual countries and even from individual circumstances that vary. But I suspect that in spite of that you probably find there's more similarities than differences.

Rania Anderson:

You're right, Kelly. The challenges that women face are universal, the degree or the frequency that they might face them varies by market by location. But unfortunately assumptions that are continued to be made about women's level of ambition or what they want or don't want in their career continue to be a big barrier. Work-life integration issues are universally faced by women and sometimes I feel like it's getting harder, not easier. We see that women are not getting promoted at the same rates as men starting at the supervisory level, and we see this globally.

Rania Anderson:

We like to talk a lot about the glass ceiling which I don't believe in that analogy, but we sometimes fail to understand that these challenges are starting way early in women's careers. And so we see these patterns repeated and it's laid to bare that the issues are systemic in societies and that the opportunity to change things isn't squarely on the shoulder of women to fix, but rather on leaders and businesses and organizations and societies to look at how we're doing things and why these barriers continue to exist and what we can do about them more systemically and holistically.

Kelly Scanlon:

Much of the focus around equality in the workplace is about telling men what they can't do, what not to do. But in your second book, WE: Wen, Women and the Decisive Formula for Winning at Work, your focus is different, you explain what to do. Why? And why is that difference in approach so important?

Rania Anderson:

Yeah. I wrote WE: Men, Women and the Decisive Formula for Winning at Work literally because men around the world asked me and continue to ask me for guidance on what to do. And what they said to me was that we've been telling women for decades, how to work better with men, but never told men how to work better with women and then we get frustrated when they do the wrong things. I'm not talking about sexual harassment or discrimination, but it is much more than that, right? There are actions that one takes to create an inclusive environment and if leaders haven't thought about that and don't know how to implement those things then they fail to do so.

Rania Anderson:

When we shame people or blame them or we tell them what not to do, that makes them retreat. And if we want them to take positive actions then we have to guide them with things like, these are the things that you can do in your interviewing practices like the types of questions you ask. These are words you should or shouldn't put in your ads. This is how you're giving feedback in a way that is not helpful. And they're wanting that specific guidance, this is how you sponsor talent. And so when I wrote We was really with, for all the people and for all of those success-minded leaders here's more of the roadmap or the guidance to do that.

Kelly Scanlon:

You just said the word sponsor. Let's talk about that a minute. Because a lot of times women will seek out mentors at the advice of coaches or consultants like yourself, but you say that it's equally important if not more important for them to have sponsors. That's the word that you used just a few minutes ago. What's the difference between a mentor and a sponsor?

Rania Anderson:

So it's a great question and a huge difference and it's one of the main things that makes the difference in people's careers, both men and women who actually advance. For any listeners to don't have a sponsor or an advocate pay close attention. In a very recent study, Kelly, 71% of leaders globally said they only sponsor people like themselves.

Kelly Scanlon:

Interesting.

Rania Anderson:

We know that most leaders continue to be men that means men are getting more sponsorship than women. And on the mentoring side, I hear that advice all the time and I think mentors are great and we all need them and we need lots of different kinds of mentors, but we half jokingly say women are over-mentored and under-sponsored meaning people keep giving women advice, but they don't advocate for them, which is this role of sponsors. So what am I talking about?

Rania Anderson:

A mentor talks to you in public. Kelly, you might have a mentor that says, "Kelly, you should call so and so." Or, "Don't be upset by that." Or, "Read this book," or, "Try this thing." But a sponsor, an advocate talks about you in public and they enable those opportunities to happen for you. If you have a sponsor or advocate, instead of telling you you should call this person they actually introduce you to that person. Or instead of telling you, you should seek this opportunity they give you that opportunity. And most often the most effective sponsors are within our organization, our industry, or our community, and they're more senior and more influential than we are and they're willing to use their power and influence on our behalf.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah. So it really is someone who believes in you and maybe sees potential in you that you don't even see in yourself.

Rania Anderson:

They absolutely believe in you. They absolutely see the potential in you and they are not altruistic. The mentor is really doing it because they care about you and they're very warm and they want you to succeed. The sponsor is looking more at some goals or objectives that either they or the company is trying to meet and they recognize this talent and they know if I give this person the opportunity they will perform. The sponsor is in some ways out for themselves or out for their objectives.

Kelly Scanlon:

Well, another way you can look at that is that it's win-win.

Rania Anderson:

Yes, totally.

Kelly Scanlon:

And one of the common frustrations that I've heard over the years and I'm sure you and other women who are listening will jump right onto this recognizing it, is sometimes they aren't listened to in meetings. And when you were talking about the sponsor and publicly talking about the person that they're sponsoring or advancing them, it reminded me of this. So what steps can people take to publicly amplify women's voices?

Rania Anderson:

Unfortunately one of the most universal complaints around the globe, this issue of being not listened to or your idea is stolen. And all of us can play a role in changing that and it's frankly, very simple. We want to be armed in a meeting and if someone is interrupted we just say to the interrupter something like, "Oh, I'm still interested in what Kelly is saying, could you hold on for a second, John?" Or, "John, we'd love to hear from you but could we have Kelly finish?" Or if John was so fast and he already interrupted you I could then say, "Could we go back to what Kelly was saying?"

Rania Anderson:

A different strategy is when somebody steals or usurps your idea I could say, "Thanks for bringing Kelly's idea back up, that was what she was talking about a few minutes ago." Lastly, if someone's not participating because they feel shut down or they can't get in edge-wiser, they feel they're not listened to we can just call on them directly. We can say, "Jane or Mary, I haven't heard from you, I'd love to hear from you." And if those people are introverts, both male and female, we should help them pre the meeting and say, "I really want to hear from you in the meeting. I know you don't like to just be put on the spot, could you be prepared to talk about this?" And so these strategies are things as colleagues and allies in business and nonprofits and in the community we can do for each other to bring more diverse voices to the table.

Kelly Scanlon:

We're still navigating our way through the coronavirus pandemic and some of the early research that's coming out of it is showing that women have been more negatively impacted from the work-from-home situation and the other daily changes that have become necessary because of the pandemic. Do you think that COVID has undone some of the progress that women have made in the workplace and if so, can we recapture it pretty quickly? Or what are some of the tips that you can give women as they continue to work from home?

Rania Anderson:

Kelly, I'm really sad to say this but the short answer to your question is yes, and this has been a very difficult time for women and we have lost a lot of progress. Here's some stats. 1.6 million fewer working mothers are in the workforce today than prior to the pandemic and the share of women working or looking for work is down to the levels we haven't seen since 1988. And, well, there was a study just released this morning that showed that 77% of women who are not caregivers, so they're not parents, feel that they have had to work harder than their coworkers who are caregivers.

Rania Anderson:

The working mothers are leaving the workforce, the people who are not caregivers are picking up the slack and people are just working these extreme hours because they don't have childcare and school is not in session, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And so this pandemic has laid to bare some huge structural issues around the lack of childcare, the lack of maternity and paternity leave. I think the opportunity to recharge the economy is there's a huge opportunity if we can figure out how we bring these women who are now on the sidelines back into the workforce. And that takes us back to one of our very early questions about GDP and the business case for engaging women in the workplace.

Kelly Scanlon:

Another place that women have been making a lot of strides, especially in the last 10 years is in entrepreneurship. There are still barriers, of course, and there's long ways to go. But the reason I bring that up is because you're a co-founder of the Women's Capital Connection which is a Kansas City-based network of accredited angel investors who invest in women-led businesses. Tying that into your goal of achieving gender parity at all levels, what has the existence of an investor pool like the WCC done to advance gender parity and entrepreneurship?

Rania Anderson:

I think that's a big, bright spot and this is, is women-owned businesses are continuing to be founded, they are getting more funding. What's been significant about having a group like the Women's Capital Connection, and I'm not intimately involved there or closely involved anymore, but is that this group of women angel investors, there have been over 100 women who have participated and are still participating as angel investors, have made deep investments in women-led businesses both in Kansas City and in the broader region. And these are companies that in the past may have not gotten funded because the data just shows us that women-led businesses have been less funded by venture capitalists and angel investors in the past.

Rania Anderson:

As this group has formed and had this specific focus and made these investments, it's allowed those businesses to grow and make money and hire more people. Some of those angel investors in Women's Capital Connection have also become investors and in a local VC fund, the KCRise Fund that Darcy Howe manages. It's all part of the cycle. As women investors invest in businesses they also learn more about investing and have success in that and like we always say success breeds success.

Kelly Scanlon:

As the pandemic comes to a close we have vaccines on the horizon here and hopefully it's just matter of months before things get relatively back to normal. What do you see as the opportunities for both men and women working together to raise up our communities, to raise up our businesses, what do you see on the horizon?

Rania Anderson:

Yeah. I think the economic engine won't... We don't turn a switch and everything starts back up. I think it will layer in, and we have an opportunity to not go back to the way things were, to create a new system. And that new system can be much more equal and diverse and robust when men and women work together to solve those problems, when banks and investors and business leaders and political leaders work together and when the private sector and the public sector come together. For me it is really about we, it's about how we collectively come together to look at where we are now and say, "Let's create something even better than we had." And in these months that we have coming up with these vaccines into next year I think this is a great opportunity to take advantage of that.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah, we don't get those kinds of opportunities very often to basically rebuild and to jettison the things that weren't working. As I mentioned, you've written two books, where can we get copies of those?

Rania Anderson:

Both on Amazon or on my website which is thewaywomenwork.com

Kelly Scanlon:

Thewaywomenwork.com, you can go out and get the two books and read more about it. Rania, thank you so much for all that you are doing to try to bridge these gaps so that our communities, our businesses, and our individual lives can be so much better, we appreciate it.

Rania Anderson:

Thanks, Kelly. Thanks for having me on.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, President of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Rania Anderson for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC. Businesses and communities that embrace inclusion flourish, they benefit from the diversity of ideas, perspectives, and backgrounds. Employees and residents are more engaged and they are more invested in their workplaces, neighborhoods, and cities. We all gain when all voices are amplified and included, rather than leaving potential contributions and talent on the table.

Joe Close:

As we rebuild the economy post-COVID, we have a unique opportunity to come together to collectively leap forward and build something even better. Let's commit to doing just that. Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.