Why are women still promoted less than men?

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This is a podcast episode titled, Why are women still promoted less than men?. The summary for this episode is: <p>A few months ago, Steph asked Sam for a promotion. This was no easy task.</p><p>But why was it so difficult as a 23-year-old female to ask for a raise? More broadly Why are women still promoted less than men?</p><p>To figure that out, we talked to Kathy Garfield, CEO of Keller Companies--who rose to the top of a construction company owned by her grandfather who did not believe in female leadership and Lori Sokol, executive director of Women’s eNews, a news outlet devoted to women’s issues globally. The icing on the cake is a deliciously awkward recap of when Steph, our host, asked Sam, our other host, for a promotion.</p>
😐 Two choices: Never work in banking again or find another job.
01:24 MIN
💪🏼 My grandfather didn't believe a woman could do the job. I proved him wrong.
02:22 MIN
📣 Building your brand.
00:38 MIN
🧑🏼 More men in hiring paying industries
00:51 MIN
😟 Lack of confidence in the workforce.
01:13 MIN
💤 I wouldn't sleep Monday nights.
00:58 MIN
🙋🏼‍♀️ You have to advocate for yourself.
00:52 MIN

Stephanie: Asking for a promotion is scary. Asking for a promotion as a woman is even scarier. Asking your 32- year- old male boss, for a promotion as a 23- year- old female working her first corporate job, and then making a podcast episode about it, is terrifying. Hi, I'm Steph and on this week's episode of Talk Data To Me, we're talking about women in the workforce. With all the attention and support The Me Too movement has received since 2006, there's been some real progress made for women in the working world. And yet, in 2021, things like the promotion gap still exist with the ratio of male to female managers at 3: 2, and the ratio of male to female CEOs at 4: 1. So, why is it that this gap is worse in some industries than others? Why is there even a gap in the first place? Why did I, Stephanie, feels such trepidation in doing something that my male colleagues have told me they wouldn't have thought twice about? Who better to answer these questions than Kathy Garfield, CEO of Keller Companies, a construction company previously owned by her grandfather, who did not believe in female leadership. And Lori Sokol, executive director of Women's eNews, a global journalism publication, specifically devoted to women's issues. Oh, and who more awkward to co- host this podcast episode with, than Sam, my boss. The person I asked for promotion from? That and more, on this week's episode of Talk Data To Me. Not only is Kathy Garfield, the CEO of a construction company, she's also a former municipal bond trader. Making her a highly accomplished woman, in not one, but two notoriously male dominated industries. And unfortunately for her, this journey brought on a whole host of challenges, ranging from more overt cases of sexual harassment, to a complete lack of faith in her capabilities solely because of her gender. So, can we start with your name and title?

Kathy Garfield: SO, I am Kathy Garfield, and I am the president of Keller Companies.

Stephanie: Okay. So, walk me through how you end up in the finance world.

Kathy Garfield: Right after college, I was hired by Connecticut National Bank into their professional development program. So, I moved to Hartford, Connecticut and that was an 18- month program. After I finished the management training program, I went into the branch, and I was placed at one of the branches in Hartford, Connecticut. I believe I worked there for about a year. And there was an opportunity presented that there was an opening on the municipal bond desk in Boston. So while I was in retail banking, retail banking was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed everything from working on the teller line and meeting people, and working on the lending money, et cetera. But the gentleman I was working for, was promoted, and they brought in a new branch manager and it left an opening for an assistant branch manager. The boss that I had, interviewed me for the assistant branch manager position. And in the interview, he told me things like, he wanted to run his tongue up my inner thigh, and he wanted to drape me in diamonds, and I did not react to any of what he had to say to me. And a couple of days later, there were a couple of other women that were also working in the branch who had been there longer than I had. And he brought me into his office to tell me that he had made his decision on who he was going to promote to the assistant branch manager position, and it wasn't me, it was another woman in the office. And I congratulated him on making the best decision. And I remember him sitting back in his chair and said," Wow. You have an incredible poker face." And I said," No, I don't really know what you're talking about. I think you made the best decision with the people you had." After having gone through that, I went to human resources, and I let them know, this was in Connecticut at the time. I let them know what happened. The female HR manager said to me," Well, you have two choices. One, you can press charges against him and you will never work in banking again, or two, you can find another job." So I chose two, I found another job. Which ended up being better for me anyway. But, I made the move up to Boston. It was the early'90s and they were having sexual harassment training in Boston. And I went to the meeting, and it was run by two women, and they talked about," This is the early stages of what you can and can't do in the workforce." Like," This is not acceptable, this is not acceptable, this is not acceptable." So I raised my hand and I told what happened. They said," That couldn't have happened." I said," Yeah. It did." And HR told me this, and they were in disbelief. But they said that is not something that should happen. Anyway, I guess my point to all that, is that sometimes being female in the workforce, you're vulnerable and things happen that are uncomfortable. You work through it, but you can't let it destroy you. You can't let it get to you. You got to separate that and move on.

Stephanie: We know these things happen, but yet hearing them is still so jarring. Do you think that you would have run into something similar, had you stayed, with another person?

Kathy Garfield: I've never run into that type of harassment in my career. The type of harassment that I've run into, when I was on the municipal bond trading desk, that is a male dominated business. Period. End of story. You have to be able to take crap day in and day out. And they're dishing it at you as fast or faster than you can take it. And you just have to just keep going. They're testing you every step of the way. My manager when I was in Boston. My first manager in Boston. He was ruthless. He would do things to me that were just cruel. And some of the time, some of it, I was naive and I didn't know any better and what I did was I traded for risk for the bank. So my positions I had to sell. And the institutional traders who are selling to the fidelities of the world or the big mutual funds, they're pretty crafty, right? They want to make money so, I got set up on out of trade. I remember this distinctly, and the head trader, because I was trading the position. He started yelling and screaming at me in front of the whole trading floor. And the trading floor was not just munies. It was governments, it was foreign exchange, it was the funding desk. Took me to task and I was just completely dumbfounded. He did that, just to show his dominance. Then at the end, he pulled me into the office to apologize. And I was like," Wow. You're a big enough guy that scream and yell at me in front of everybody and take me to task. But you can't apologize in front of everyone as well." So, that's the kind of the intimidation, some bullying, that definitely went on in the workplace. But remember, this is the early'90s when that's what life was like back then.

Stephanie: How related do you think that treatment was to being female?

Kathy Garfield: I know this particular manager, it was because I was female that he was intimidating, doing what he wanted to do, because I never saw him take a male to task the way he took me to task. If I didn't have the experiences I had, I would have never been able to successfully navigate my grandfather because he was the worst of all.

Stephanie: Okay. So in the situation with the manager you were just talking about, how do you stay even keeled? How do you accept that treatment and play the game and do what you need to do to survive in an environment like that?

Kathy Garfield: If I'm looking, and want to talk to my younger self, it's saying like," Whatever is being thrown at you at that point in time, it's not about you. It's about them." I think that when you're younger, you take everything to heart and say," Oh, they're mad at me. They don't like me." And it really doesn't have anything to do with me or you, it has to do with the person that's the aggressor, I suppose, in that point in time. But I found that the calmer I was, the situations tended to diffuse rapidly versus if I was in a situation where I reacted, and things don't calm down so quickly.

Stephanie: So back to, you mentioned your grandfather? And you said he was the worst of all.

Kathy Garfield: Oh, yeah.

Stephanie: What does that mean?

Kathy Garfield: He's, passed. I love him to death.

Stephanie: Right? Of course.

Kathy Garfield: Yeah. And what does that mean? Well, he begged me to come work for him. Took him three years for me to say, yes. I uprooted my family, moved to New Hampshire. I'll just tell you, this is him. My first day, Emma was three months old. My first day I walked in and he had his R& D department in his office. And he said," Is there anything I can do for you?" And I said," Well, you could get Emma to sleep through the night." And he said to me," This is a business. We don't discuss our personal lives here." And I was like,"Uh- oh, what am I getting myself into?" And it was a rough transition for probably over the first year, and after working for him for about six months, he told me I would never amount to anything more than a secretary. And I was obviously a little upset about that. As I told you yesterday, my theme song was I get knocked down, but I get up again. And I would just blast that going home. And, I mean, he was tough. He was really tough. He took me to task every day that I worked for him and I worked for him until he passed. So it was, let's see, 15 years. I'll share with you a little bit of his history, where he was completely, and it's probably the timeframe he grew up in, that women were not really valuable in the workforce. And when I found one of his documents that he had written and said that if something happened to him, then he wanted his oldest son. He has four sons, one his oldest son to take over. And if it wasn't that oldest son, was the next oldest, next oldest, next oldest. And then it went to biological male grandchild oldest, then the second oldest, third oldest. And then, if there are no biological grandchildren or male, then it went to a male trust officer at the bank. And if there are no male trust officers then is anybody. And it ended up being that before he passed, about five years before he passed, he turned over, he had the vote of the companies and he turned that over to me. So, obviously, I changed his mind that women can have valuable roles and contribute.

Stephanie: What does the company do?

Kathy Garfield: We are manufacturing. We manufacture what's behind me, which is, that's our flagship product. We naturally daylight buildings. We sell healthy daylight.

Stephanie: Okay. So, how long passed between, when you initially began working for him, and when he decided that you could take over?

Kathy Garfield: I would say it was probably seven or eight years into our working together. And I'll just give you a little, I have a female cousin who worked for him as well, but she would cry when she'd get mad at him. And he was like, that's it. So that was one of the things that, it was just like the kiss of death. And of course, I can be emotional and cry as well, but you never cry in front of them.

Stephanie: Wow. So what happened in between the seven to eight years that you feel prove yourself to him?

Kathy Garfield: I think a lot of it had to do with, as Emma and I talk about building your brand. I guess it's visioning the person that you want to be, and then projecting yourself there. And then, he would give me tasks, and I would do them very well. And he would grill me every way he could. I was given projects, and I had to perform and exceed obviously. And I would exceed what he expected of me.

Stephanie: What do you mean by building your brand?

Kathy Garfield: I've been told my whole life that do as you say, say you should do. If you make a commitment, follow through. Even if you don't want to do it, and it's following through and it's exceeding what you said you would do. And I think that builds your brand. People go, you know what? She can do that. I've seen her do it. And not only can she do it, she'll deliver it on time, and even better than I expected. So that's what I mean by building your brand. And it's taking responsibility for things that you did, taking responsibility for things you didn't do. Owning up to it, diffusing that, making it right, right then and there.

Sam: Do you think hearing Kathy's story makes you less likely to want to go into one of those industries, even though she's been successful in it?

Stephanie: 100%.

Sam: Even though things might have changed a little bit.

Stephanie: Yeah. I mean, in general, even if things have changed, just the idea of going into, not just an industry, but a line of work where there are less females on your level who you'll be working with, is intimidating in and of itself.

Sam: And are there still, has it gotten any better in those industries for Kathy, for construction or for finance since she started out?

Stephanie: To better answer that question and other questions we had around the data, we talked to Lori Sokol, executive director of Women's eNews, which is an award- winning nonprofit news service, that covers issues impacting women and girls around the world. I would like to talk about the promotion gap with you. So ZoomInfo found data that the ratio for men to women in managers is 3: 2. And the ratio for CEOs is 4: 1. Does this surprise you?

Lori Sokol: Yes and no. First of all, I would like to say that in the last few decades, we wouldn't have even had numbers like this, right? That so many women do rise to managerial positions. I know when I started in the workforce in 1980, it was a lot more dire for women in management, but that's not to say that we don't have a long way to go. And I did see those statistics as well. So no, this is not surprising. But we also need to look further and dissect it. And we need to look at these numbers by industry. If we look at the industries where there are more women in that field than men, like healthcare, education, retail, hospitality, which are also the lower paying industries, they take on more managerial. I believe it's 56% of the workforce, is made up of women now, but still only 15% of CEOs are female. But in these lower paying industries, there's more management. So that's why we need States like California for example, that enacted the law requiring all publicly held boards to select women, right? To be on their boards. In dissecting this, we have to look at why is it that women do not fare as well in managerial positions in all industries?

Stephanie: We have here that business services, manufacturing and finance offer the worst opportunities for female leadership. And then exactly what you said, organizations and nonprofits, government, education, and healthcare, offer the best. So totally in line with what you're talking about. But yeah. Why do you think it is, that some industries offer better opportunity than others?

Lori Sokol: Well, number one, as you mentioned, finance, manufacturing, I mean, they're the highest paid. Men are in the more higher paying industries and promoted more in the high paying industries, whereas women are not. Men gravitate toward their careers in terms of wanting to make more money whereas women primarily choose careers where they're helping others, like non- profit organizations, healthcare education, which says a lot about the differences between women and men and what they want to do with their lives. Right? And whether it's about helping others primarily, or whether it's about amassing more power and money. Okay. So let's take it a step further. If women are not at the top as CEOs, they're going to be less apt to hire and promote women, if men are running those companies. People tend to hire those who look like them. And then there's a bigger issue. And one that has plagued this country since the dawn of time and still is, even though it makes no sense. And that is the fact that this country is the only developed country, that does not provide federally funded inaudible.

Stephanie: I think something that's important to talk about is that, even if the more overt instances of sexism and stuff on the harassment side has improved in terms of the residue or the scar or that, general impressions left behind. One of them, for me, that comes to mind is lack of confidence.

Kathy Garfield: Yeah, very true.

Stephanie: And hesitancy in thinking that what you have to say is worthwhile enough to offer up. Because I know I find myself, part of this is just being young and new to the workforce as well. But I find myself in many instances where I'm in a room with a bunch of people, and I have a thought that I feel is worth contributing, and that I want to share. And then there's that knee jerk, internal reaction of somebody else knows how to do it better. Somebody else knows something better to say. And I do think part of that is being young, but part of that is also for me being a woman.

Kathy Garfield: Oh yeah. I still have those thoughts today. I sit on an executive board up in New Hampshire, and I find that there'll be something I want to say. And I'm like," Hmm, I don't know. Maybe I don't know enough about that subject to ask that question."

Stephanie: Were there any times in your life that you felt like you had a similar experience where you were second guessing or struggled with a moment of confidence?

Kathy Garfield: Absolutely. And in fact, I remember when I first got invited to our company management meetings, and if I said something in the meeting, didn't matter what I said, I would go home and say," Did I say the right thing?" And I wouldn't sleep. Monday nights I never slept because I was so worried about what I had to say, and how I said it, and how it was perceived. And it took me a really long time to figure out that," Oh, well, what I had to say was appropriate, was necessary, and it was well received." It was years that I did that. Until I finally woke up one day and I go," Oh, for Christ's sake, this is not worth worrying about anymore. You got to say it and move on, and if somebody doesn't like what you have to say, they'll speak up. Or if they have a different perspective, they'll speak up." So I guess it's the more that you put yourself out there. And of course you put yourself out there in a professional way. You're not out there trying to pick a fight. The more confidence you gain. So just keep doing it.

Stephanie: Was there a moment or specific accomplishment that you can remember where it was like a big milestone for you or a building block in gaining that confidence and shifting your perception of yourself?

Kathy Garfield: Probably getting promoted when I was trading at the bank, when I got promoted. I think I got promoted to assistant vice president. And then I think the other time would have been when I was hired, I was recruited and I went to work for another firm and I was like," Oh, I must have something good to offer." Because I landed over here and then somebody wanted me to step up and do more in trading. So I think that those were things I looked at that I said," Okay, yeah. I must be doing something right." I thought," Oh, okay. I've worked hard for this."

Stephanie: I actually recently asked my boss for a promotion. And that was the first time that I had ever done something like that. I wasn't aware that that was something that you do, until my female roommate, who is a bit older than me, we were having some type of conversation one day and it came up and she was like," Stephanie, companies don't just hand out promotions." Okay, let's pause. Normally this would be a casual conversation, woman to woman. The classic story of young, inexperienced girl receiving advice from someone older and wiser, who she admires and respects. And it was all those things except Sam was there. So Sam is just going to sit in on the interview. He's probably going to mute himself, and take the camera off so that it's not distracting, but he is the co- host of the show, and is also producing so.

Sam: Well, it's very nice to meet you. I was just here just checking audio quality and things like that. Could you just potentially tell me what you had for breakfast today?

Stephanie: And what's even worse is that Kathy didn't realize that Sam was my boss, which is why when she asked me her next question, my heart stopped beating. You have to advocate for yourself.

Kathy Garfield: Yes, you do.

Stephanie: And I wasn't even aware, that that was something that I had the right to do.

Kathy Garfield: How did you do it?

Stephanie: I think I just sort of sparked, I started the conversation about it.

Kathy Garfield: Okay.

Stephanie: I asked," If I were to theoretically want to advance within this company, what would the next steps be? And what would the timeline be?" So I wanted to just begin a conversation about it. Yeah.

Kathy Garfield: That was a good way to do it. Instead of going in and saying," I want a promotion. I want to raise. What do I need to do, to show you that I'm ready for this promotion, right?" Yeah. That's a good way to do it.

Stephanie: Yeah. And it was interesting because, it was definitely a moment where I was put in a position to have to really assess my level of confidence and assess my own perception of my worth in a way, and assess what do I bring, and what is this worth to other people? And yeah, it was scary.

Kathy Garfield: Yeah, of course it is. Of course it is.

Stephanie: I did neglect to mention that the boss that I asked the promotion for is Sam, the person sitting in on this call.

Kathy Garfield: Oh, okay. So Sam, how did she do?

Sam: Yeah. She did good. I thought so. It was really funny.

Kathy Garfield: I mean, do you have other people that work for you?

Sam: Yeah, yeah. It's a small team. It's a team of three people.

Kathy Garfield: Yeah. So, don't you appreciate when someone approaches you and says," How do I get to the next level versus I want a raise or I want to promotion."

Sam: Yeah, no. Well, Steph, asked like," How do I start a conversation about asking about a raise?"

Kathy Garfield: Yeah. Yeah, right.

Sam: I immediately go," Are you asking for a raise?" And she was like," Yeah." And I was like," Okay. So then we can walk through it."

Kathy Garfield: Yeah, right.

Sam: Because I don't want to bring it up. I don't want to be asking everybody," Do you want a promotion? Because obviously, everybody's answers is yes. No, I was happy about it. No, I'm really well, I think.

Kathy Garfield: Yeah.

Sam: And then we went over, I was like," You need to ask for a number, which was, that was fun too."

Kathy Garfield: Yeah. Right, right, right. Yeah.

Stephanie: In that moment, when he asked me for the number, my heart stopped beating.

Kathy Garfield: Well, see as women. We tend, we low ball it.

Sam: Steph, high balled. When she came back with a number, it was not a low. It was not a low.

Kathy Garfield: Oh, it was not a low? Steph, good for you. crosstalk congratulations.

Sam: Yeah. It was a reasonable number. It was a reasonable number, but it was definitely on the higher end.

Kathy Garfield: Yeah, yeah.

Stephanie: And so, what I think is relevant to note is that, in trying to settle on a number to ask for.

Kathy Garfield: Yeah.

Stephanie: I was advised to ask for the number that I did by several men.

Kathy Garfield: So Steph, are you interviewing more people on this subject?

Stephanie: You are the last one. There was one other person that we spoke to, but yeah, this is pretty much it.

Kathy Garfield: If you want to talk to Mike in finance, right now, because he's the outside recruiter, literally, they're just saying," I need a woman. I need a woman for this job. Period. End of story."

Stephanie: Why?

Kathy Garfield: Why? Because women are underrepresented in finance. In fact, in finance and inaudible. women are underrepresented. So they are specifically recruiting women for jobs that were held by men, which is awesome. Right? Because the more women you get into the funnel, the more women that will rise to the top. So, baby steps and of course, I'm not advocating that you have to have all the women, you got to have a balance, things work better when there's a balance.

Sam: What were you most nervous about? What was the worst case scenario in your mind? What would I be like," Are you kidding me, Steph?" What is the worst scenario you imagined would happen?

Stephanie: Well, I think the biggest thing was just me not realizing that that was an okay question for me to ask. I didn't even feel like I deserved to ask that question. Which is what this whole episode is about. Because, that's sort of what she taught me was like, just by way of working someplace, and applying yourself, and bringing value to an organization, you have the right to ask," What does my path here look like?" And that's not necessarily a given, that every young female entering the workforce, knows that right away.

Sam: Yeah. I know. I'm trying to remember, the first time I asked for a promotion or for more money. I think it was a little bit easier because I had experience doing sales. I don't know. inaudible when to hearing you talk about it, is like hearing that like," Oh, I didn't necessarily know that I could do this or that I deserved this money or a promotion or something along those lines. Whereas for me, I just felt like I had to do it. Like I just had to do it. There wasn't as much of a feeling of whether or not my work actually warranted getting a promotion, or getting more money. I didn't really consider that aspect of it very much.

Stephanie: I definitely 100% think that that does have to do with gender. That would make sense to me. Just the idea of having a knee jerk reaction as a young female being like," Do I deserve this? Like maybe I don't deserve this." You know what I mean?

Sam: No, I didn't really think about that very much. I just assumed, basically at that point, I had just assumed to myself," I've been working here for a while. You should give me more money. End of story."

Stephanie: Did making this podcast episode on the topic work, for me or against me?

Sam: No, it doesn't have a huge effect. I mean, it works for you, because it keeps it top of mind for me, which is a good thing. So that's one part there. The other is-

Stephanie: There's no way that you can not think about it now?

Sam: Yeah, there's no way I could be like," Oh, I totally forgot. Or like, forgot to follow up on that." Because we're literally talking about it and recording it. I'm going to have to live with these words. But no, I think part of it is just like inaudible in a hard part with promotions, is there's just machinations of the company. The company just sort of operates on a certain schedule, of when you can get a promotion.

Stephanie: Can you imagine, if we made this episode and then you came back and you were like," I'm sorry, Steph. It's not happening."

Sam: Yeah. That would suck for you. That'd be terrible. That'd be terrible for both of us. I would look like an ass too on this show. Yeah. I'm definitely going to, I really hope everything works out, otherwise it's all recorded, so that's not great. Yeah, perfect.

Stephanie: Good. I think I have taken you through enough torture.

Sam: Yeah, how has this been for you. Is this maximum awkward.

Stephanie: It's like super funny and super weird. And you tell anybody that in two sentences, that this is something we did and it sounds so bizarre. It's a great story to tell. But at the end of the day, we have a good relationship and we're talking about things in an honest way, so it's all good.

Sam: I'm glad that's the case. So hopefully, it all works out soon.

Stephanie: Hopefully This episode concludes the first season of Talk Data to Me to see what comes next. Make sure you subscribe on Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you definitely want a second season, let us know by leaving a review. This episode was produced by me, Stephanie Tonneson, with help from Sam Balter and Casted Productions Thank you to both Lori and Kathy, for providing your knowledge, wisdom, and expertise. And thank you to Sam, in advance for the promotion you've now been trapped into giving me. Thanks for joining us on this first season. It's been so much fun, and we'll see you next time on Talk Data to Me.


A few months ago, Steph asked Sam for a promotion. This was no easy task.

But why was it so difficult as a 23-year-old female to ask for a raise? More broadly Why are women still promoted less than men?

To figure that out, we talked to Kathy Garfield, CEO of Keller Companies--who rose to the top of a construction company owned by her grandfather who did not believe in female leadership and Lori Sokol, executive director of Women’s eNews, a news outlet devoted to women’s issues globally. The icing on the cake is a deliciously awkward recap of when Steph, our host, asked Sam, our other host, for a promotion.

Today's Guests

Guest Thumbnail

Lori Sokol

|Executive Director at Women's eNews
Guest Thumbnail

Kathy Garfield

|President at Keller Companies