Podcasts

When Equal Performance Yields Unequal Opportunities with Ben Waber

By Hillary Essien | Dec 19, 2023

In this episode, Rihanot and Tiaraoluwa delve into conversation with Ben Waber, CEO of Humanyze, who, alongside academic colleagues, conducted extensive research featured in the Harvard Business Review. 

Their study scrutinizes the work habits of thousands of American executives, exposing a disconcerting truth. Despite equal time investments, performance parity, and networking efforts, women still face a promotion gap in the corporate arena. 

Listen and read the full episode below:

Rihanot Ojo-Oba: Hello listeners and welcome back to another enlightening episode of the Counter Narrative Podcast. Today we are delving into a fundamental societal topic; workplace inequalities. I am Rihanot Ojo-Oba and alongside me is the incredible and beautiful Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi.

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi; Thank you Rihanot, it's great to be here again. And our guest today is Ben Weber.  He's a renowned figure in workplace analytics and the president and co-founder of Humanyze. He's also the author of People Analytics, How Social Sensing Technology Will Transform Business and What It Tells Us About the Future of Work

Ben, welcome to the Counter-Narrative Podcast.

 

Ben Waber: Good to meet you both. 

Rihanot Ojo-Oba: Ben, you conducted extensive research into workplace dynamics and one burning question is why women who put in the same effort and time as men often get paid less for the same job.

Can you shed light on the root cause of this persistent wage gap?

 

Ben Waber: Yeah, I mean, I think obviously there's been a lot of research in this area and it's not like the work that we've done is the only voice on the matter. But I think that there is this persistent idea that, I don't know, because we know men get paid more than women. We know men get promoted faster than women.

Like this is known and this is true across basically every country in the world. And there's this persistent argument that, oh, one reason that happens is, you know, men just work differently than women.

You know, men are better. This isn't about bias. It's about something else. And so it's a question that in the past has been hard to quantitatively show, right?

In terms of, you know, not only in terms of hours worked, that's actually more straightforward, but in terms of,  , that the networks we form at work, you know, who talks to who and how people talk to each other. We know that there's a huge impact on not just the performance of the team, like, again, the idea that if your team never talks to other teams, like bad things tend to happen in most organizations.

But also if you tend to have a more entrepreneurial network, right, like you're able to talk to people who are executives or in other social groups of the company, that tends to lead to much better outcomes. And so there's this question was just at a behavioral level. When you look at those things, are there differences between men and women? And the short answer is we actually looked at. We've done this in a number of companies.

But specifically, we looked at a combination⸺looking at data from email, chat, media data, even actually, in this case, sensor data about who talks to who in person to give people these next generation ID badge that doesn't talk more about the price implications of interest.

But, you know, the short version is that we also were able to look at face to face networks. And this is a lot of data. And you can analyze it in many, many different ways, which we did. We tried to look at many, many different features and see, could we come up with sets of features where men and women differ and the reason that would actually be a good thing is that if there was a difference, right, then you could say, oh, well, if, women just do this thing or if men just do this thing, then we'll get to equal outcomes.

Right. And we didn't find any of those. Right. Like essentially what we showed was that men and women across essentially any quantitative dimension you can look at essentially, you know, behave in the same way at work.  . In general and lead to different outcomes. I mean, I will say we're not looking at what people say. We know there's differences, for example, in terms of how people, men and women ask for promotions, longer discussion there.

But in terms of the actual day-to-day work, right, how we spend our time, how we communicate with others. There is there are not systematic differences between men and women, which obviously I think has has a lot of implications.

 

Rihanot Ojo-Oba: Fantastic. Thank you. 

 

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi: So in your article on our men and women. Treated differently at work. You mentioned what had centrality. Could you expand on whether fear of sexual harassment is holding women back from socializing or spending time with the boys club?

 

Ben Waber: Yeah, I mean, part of this is sort of somewhat beyond my area of expertise. So I can I mean, I can say that,  , I think what the data shows pretty clearly in general is that the differences in outcomes are primarily due to things that aren't in an individual's control.

They're much more around,  systematic bias, both in terms of the organizations, other individuals, companies themselves, as well as just gender norm expectations on how people should act and so from that perspective, yes, you would hypothesize that things like sexual harassment and there's other folks who've done obviously much more work on this than I have, who have shown that, like, there is actually fascinating study, and I can send the exact details afterwards that looked at after male executives, if they were accused, for example, of sexual harassment, what happened to them and the victim afterwards.

And essentially what you saw was that on average, at least this is U.S. data. But on average, there was men basically saw almost no detriment to their career trajectory in terms of future promotions, in terms of even when they go to to other organizations,  , getting other jobs, whereas the victim in those cases, which is the vast majority of the time, women saw pretty significant career impacts in terms of either being fired much more quickly than you would expect in terms of not getting promoted as quickly. And so I think that is certainly a piece of the puzzle.

I guess what I would also say, though, is I don't think that we should believe that eliminating sexual harassment, even though that is obviously a very good thing that will not bring equality or equity. It will not. There are so many other things. And I think this is what at least our study was showing was that everything in terms of behavioral perspective can be equal. And then there are still differences, right?

Because I can say, at least in the organization we studied, luckily, there were not instances of sexual harassment. We were there in terms of being formally documented. I mean, there been something unreported. Sure. But it seems like it's much more about these societal expectations, gender norms. You know, we expect men to be powerful, like men are leaders. Again, these things have to change.

And that is very hard and going to take a lot of time. And I think we should be prepared for that if that's what we want. 

 

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi: Thank you so much for that response. 

Rihanot Ojo-Oba: The underrepresentation of women in leadership roles is a glaring issue and only seven per cent of companies are led by women. And this trend persists across various fields. Does this statistic imply that men are inherently more competent than women at the workplace?

 

Ben Waber:  So obviously not. There's this question around, you know, what? Because we know these statistics, right? We know these things. The question of what drives this.

And there's a there's a whole number. The short answer is there's not one single thing, again, which is really frustrating that drives this. One really interesting study. And again, I can send the link afterwards. It was presented at NBER. This is like National Economics Conference a few weeks ago.

Essentially showed that the rate of large promotions for men and women early in their career are different but that once women pass like childbearing age, then promotions happen at the same rate. And so the implication is that essentially organizations, whether, you know, you probably argue that most of the time unconsciously, but certainly some of the time it is going to be conscious bias, say, “OK, well, we don't know if this women woman is going to have kids and then take care of the kids and then not be as engaged. So we're going to not promote them quite as quickly”.

Again, this also steps to the side the fact that, well, why doesn't the man spend as much time with the kids as women? Again, another discussion in which there's this assumption, right, that women take care of kids. And I think that's another thing that's going to hold this back.

And the reason that's important is that to become a woman, for example, the CEO of a company, right? Not many people become CEO. And so these promotions, especially early on, like if you miss out on them, you're just much, much less likely to become an executive. And again, importantly, that's not just for women. That's for men as well. Right.

Men who are not promoted as quickly earlier on are much, much less likely to become CEO.

Right. And so this is one of the things where, again, there are so many things that happen before you are CEO. Of course, there's also conscious bias when people are actually interviewing people for CEO roles.

So typically,  boards will say, “OK, well, we want someone who's done this before” and this is very common. We're like, “we want someone who's already been an executive”. Well, again, what does that mean? Well, the vast majority of executives right now are men. If all you do is say we're going to select someone who's already done it, you're much more likely to select a man.

Right. And that's what's driving this. Right. Particularly because when you look at business performance results, there aren't discernible differences between men and women led companies. I mean, obviously, the number is very low for women. Right. 

So it really implies, again, that it's just these both at the level of selection, which, again, I'm not saying that doesn't matter. But I would argue we can't just focus on the level of selection of like when someone becomes a CEO. It's so good if we have more, for example, women CEOs and that changes starts to change the societal assumptions we have about who is a CEO. And right now, especially in the US, people think about some old white guy. Right. That's what you think about. But and the exercise is to change that percent.

Like the idea should be that we shouldn't have some default demographic when we say CEO. Like maybe the person should be slightly older because in general, like you have to prove yourself. So fine. Right. Beyond that, there probably shouldn't be anything. And I think that's the exercise. But changing that again, just. To be very clear, like, I think we should all be clear-eyed about it.

This is not something that we can change in five years, 10 years, even like 20 years. This is this is multiple generations. You know, we've had sexism in humanity since we started existing and so I think it'd be hubris to say, oh, we're going to solve that in 20 years, like in our lifetimes. Like, that would be great. But I don't think that's likely. I think if we're able to solve it in like 100 years, that would actually be really good.

I think it's very hard. But again, we have to have that perspective. We have to have that perspective that this is not something that short term we have to keep doing things. And the payoff will be in the far future. There'll be some things we can do now that will have an effect.

Right. Like, as you were saying, eliminating sexual harassment, will that have an effect in the short term? Absolutely. And we should do that. There's obviously other reasons we should do that as well.

Right. But there are other things like if you have, for example, if you're a company, you have a new product. And I know we'll get into what companies can do in a bit. But if you're a company, you have a new product and you have a.⸺You know, you might not have many female executives, but if you have one of them announce a new product. Right. That is very important, actually, for the long term goals that we have in terms of equality.

But that's not going to mean that next year all your executives are half women. Right. But you have to keep doing that. Right. And just knowing that you're slowly changing the availability heuristic.

 

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi: So you mentioned something about gender equality, achieving gender equality. And you mentioned that, yes. So I wanted to chip in something about the fact that, you know, the UN. says, I think I think in 2021, it says 121 years to reach gender equality. But now in 2023, because of COVID-19 and because of what we can see happening, that seems to take at least three hundred years for us to reach gender equality.

 

Ben Waber: Yeah. So I guess, OK, if it actually took three hundred years, I actually personally know, to be fair. Right. I am extremely privileged here. Right. Like I'm a white guy. And so for me, this is not existential. Like, it's not. Right. So my opinion on this is not actually that important.

Just honestly, I guess my view, though, is like what I worry about is not that it'll take 300 years. Like, obviously, that's a long time. But I sort of view it from that perspective.

OK, we've had, you know, hundreds of thousands of years of human history leading to this point. If we could actually get rid of it in three hundred years, I wouldn't feel that bad of it. Like, that sounds pretty good. How? Again, to me. And I'm privileged. Again, I just I admit that. However, what I actually worry about is more of like a plateauing effect. Right. 

Is that and we've seen this, especially in the U.S. where there was a period of,  , rapid growth in participation in the labour force for women, for example. You know, you go back to the 70s and 80s and into the early 90s and then it's mostly like plateaued and very, very, very slowly increased but what you worry about is that that will just sort of stay fairly flat. Right. And I do think that that's likely without change.

So that's what I actually worry about is, you know, I think that if we're being honest, even if we do,  , we try more things and we push this up, I still do think it will take. I'm hopeful not 300 years, but I do.

Again, I do think on the order of magnitude of like one hundred years, I think is probably a more reasonable assumption. But again, those kind of, I think, goals are very hard for any organization or individual to set, right? 

Like if the U.N. says we're going to solve this, I mean, the U.N. obviously also has other and companies have other goals where they're trying to galvanize countries to do things now. And so if you actually say it's going to take,  , this goal is for one hundred years in the future, no one's going to care. I mean, I would hope people would care. But if we're being honest, we're being honest. So I do think that's probably. One of the reasons to do this.

But I do think that what I worry about is organizations and countries are not going to make nearly as much progress as is needed to get to anything close to equality from any stretch of the imagination.

I mean, we're talking about changing⸺ like to really get to this⸺the things you have to do are that like your gender actually doesn't matter, which is hard. Like this is very hard. Like, just think about what this means.

That would mean that, okay, let's say a heterosexual couple has a kid, let's say, right? What it would mean to get to equality would mean that who stays home to take (care) of that infant is random. It should be 50-50. Like sometimes it should be the man, sometimes it should be the woman. That would actually be like, it should be unrelated to gender. 

It should be about who wants to do it more, right? Like that's what it is, again, if that's what, so think about how far we are from that and even in countries that people speak, like try to point to, like the Nordic countries, like Sweden, Norway, what have you, women still take way more time with the kids than men. And actually, a lot of the data on lagging  promotions is from Sweden because they release a lot of their data publicly. And so even in countries that have done an awful lot to get to that point, they still haven't touched these societal expectations. 

And it's very hard to do, that's very hard to do and there's a lot of political risk at doing that. For,  , governments, for companies, and I understand that, but I do think that is what, that is what it will eventually be necessary to really get to this point.

 

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi: Thank you very much. This brings me to the next question for you about gender equality. You know, gender equality is a crucial sustainable development goal (SDG 5), but we continue to witness unequal pay and a lack of representation for women, women are not represented at the policymaking level in companies.

What do you think companies can do to achieve this, to achieve gender equality, maybe not like completely, but to bring more to policy making levels in their company?

 

Ben Waber: So I think that there's a lot of different things that can be done. I think probably one of the strongest things that can be done for companies in, let's say the short to medium term is relating gender equality metrics to executive pay. And this is controversial but I think the reason that this is important, I do think there's this obviously social goal here. But I think we don't actually have to⸺what's very nice about organizations is⸺we actually don't have to lean on that. 

There's now, at this point, decades of research that companies that have a more diverse employee base, that have a more gender-balanced executive team perform much better financially, right? If all you care about is making money, like it is your fiduciary duty, if you run a company, to have more women in leadership roles, to actually represent the population, right?

Like that is actually your job. And so to the extent executives aren't doing that, they shouldn't be paid as much. Just, it's very straightforward. 

Now, what that means, though, is, again, it's easy to say from the outside, that's what that should look like. I think what has to happen, though, is companies need to be much more strategic about, okay, where do they recruit new employees? How do they promote people? Right? And what are the gender disparities in terms of promotion rates? Right?

And this idea that, again, if you use quality, if it's just, you know, your boss likes you, are there gender biases there? Like maybe, probably a lot of times there will be,

but sometimes there won't be. But then if there are, we have to change that. In a similar way, if you say, we use quantitative metrics, we use ratings, right? Are there gender biases in that? Well, if there are, again, it's highly likely that's not actually due to differences in performance. It's due to a flaw in that metric. 

It reminds me, there was a study done of a very large retailer that has a very systematic performance rating for frontline workers. They have over a million employees globally. And when you looked at the performance, and potential ratings, they had two sets of ratings for each employee. They had potential and performance, like current performance, right? Potential is like, how good will this person

probably be as an, like, as a manager, as an executive? And what was, what you could see, though, is you could see, well, when, when men and women got promoted, right? 

Because some women still did get promoted, but men were much more likely to be rated as high potential, despite the fact that actually women on average had slightly higher current performance ratings. It was statistically significant, but it was higher.

Right? But men were more likely to be promoted, they were more likely to be rated as high potential. But then what you could see is once they got promoted, what was their performance rating? And essentially, what you saw was women who were just on the cusp of getting promoted, who still got promoted, perform much better than one would expect from their score. And actually, this is on a five point scale. If you added a point to a woman's potential score, that actually was a better predictor of,  , their, their future performance, than just using their normal score, which that's really bad. 

That means you basically⸺there's a 20 per cent in this organization, like a 20 per cent cut of a woman's potential score, right? And so again, these are things that organizations can do, like you can, you can fix that, right? And I think that there, people are going to have to get uncomfortable with, okay, we're going to promote people, or we're going to hire people, we're going to get people from the outside, we're going to hire them into leadership roles, and they're not going to look like people we've hired before. Because if all you do is hire like you hired before, it's going to keep looking like it is today, right? And so people are going to be uncomfortable. 

And so again, the way that I think you get people more comfortable with that is you tie it to how much they're paid, right? Because if people get paid more, when they do this, then they'll probably be okay being a little uncomfortable. 

But I do think that  , to the extent that companies want to perform better, like you should do this and if you're an investor in a company, and to the extent that you invest in a company that is not, is less gender-balanced, they're going to make less money. So it's also your responsibility to make them do this. And I think that's probably the next step that we can do that will have a measurable effect in the short to medium term.

 

Rihanot Ojo-Oba: Thank you so much, Ben. So let's delve into the topic of fatherhood bonus and motherhood penalty. You said something earlier about who stays at home between the man and the woman when we're talking about gender equality.

Now, fathers tend to earn more at work due to being perceived as responsible while mothers face stagnant or reduced pay because they are seen as less committed. What are your insights on this, Ben?

 

Ben Waber: Yeah, I mean, this is sort of the problem. And there's really great studies on this using fake resumes. And it's just, okay. It's fascinating. 

It's also obviously very depressing, because you basically get people who⸺so with these fake resume studies, for those who aren't familiar, essentially, what happens is researchers make a resume, right? It's just the same as one resume. And what they do is they send that resume out to 1000s or 10s of 1000s of job openings. and what they want to see is who gets a callback for an interview. Okay. 

What they do in these studies is typically vary some things about like the name of the applicant or in the cover letter, what they write in the cover letter. And so one of the stories, one of the studies here, actually, out of Stanford was that they varied from the name, whether it was a man or woman, and then in the cover letter, whether they had kids or didn't have kids, and they did a follow-up lab study to delve into that. 

And essentially, what you saw was, again, it was the men with kids who get called back for interviews far more than everyone else. And then single men and single women were actually statistically identical, which was interesting. 

But then women with children were by far the least likely to get called back for an interview, right? And despite, on paper on their actual resume, everything was exactly the same. Again, it's the same resume, right? So this is a big problem. And again, I think that we talked about resume screening, could you develop an algorithm that did it differently and controls that?

Yes, you could, right? And I think that would be positive. I still think the results that you see, again, from countries like Sweden, where yes, even when people are hired, they're still promoted at different rates, that gets a lot harder. Again, I think you can still work on metrics and algorithms that are going to correct for that. 

But I think what's much more important is thinking about, okay, what are policies that can encourage men and women to take more time off. Again, I think changing societal expectations here is very important.

I mean, I'll talk about, sort of my own company, what we've done is we give, you know, men and women equal time off when they have a kid. But also the expectation is that you will take all the time, whether you're a man or woman. We've actually had that. We've had people take off all their time if they're a man, all their time if they're a woman, right? And that is actually, that is the expectation. There's no discussion about you coming back early. There's none of that, right? 

Now, again, it is a little bit different because obviously if a woman physically has the kid, right, then there are some physical recovery that has to happen that a man doesn't have to do, right? But so you do get things like, when a man takes paternity leave, do they take it all off at the beginning or likely they'll sort of stagger it with their spouse. Well, they'll, okay, maybe take off a month at the beginning. And then a couple months later, okay. So I think there were discussions about exactly the timing there, but I do think that you should set the expectation that it's going to be the same, right? 

Like that should be, because again, then that also, if you are a hiring manager, you're looking at hiring someone, your expectation is, well,  if they're going to have a kid, like it doesn't matter if they're a man or woman, they're still going to be taking this time off. And so you have no, shouldn't have any incentive to even subconsciously discriminate, right? 

Again, I don't think, just to be clear, I don't think even fixing this in an organization level, fixing it. I think doing things in an organizational level won't completely solve it.

It will take pretty constant effort. I think this is much more of a societal conversation and this gets into even things like, how do governments structure benefits or support for having children? And is that tied to being a mother? Is it tied to being a parent? Is it tied to being a parent? Is it tied to being a parent? Right. And then again, even in places like Sweden, where men and women can trade time off, right? The woman still gets more time off, right? The woman still takes, gets two years, a man gets one year, right? And that's a lot of time. Like, again, if I got that off, that'd be amazing. We'd love that. 

However, you're still saying that it's the woman's job to take care of the kid. Like that's what you're saying, right? And you have to change that right now. And again, I'm not pretending that if the Swedish government, for example, made it equal tomorrow, would that actually change the percentage of women and men who stay home the next day? No, it wouldn't. It wouldn't. But over time, it would have an effect. It would. Right. And I think, again, we have to have that long-term perspective because these are very long-term problems. 

 

Rihanot Ojo-Oba: To me, it sounds like women get punished for having children because you have, we have a child, you take more time off. So then what our penalty comes in and we have with so many households, we have so many women as breadwinners, but the person that gets the bigger check is the father. Who is seen as responsible because it's a newborn. 

Forgetting that the person, which is the mom at home, is doing all the work and would mostly need money to do some personal stuff for herself and her child. It's so unfair. And like you said, it's so unfair. It's absolute garbage. 

 

Ben Waber: It's absolute garbage. Absolute garbage. And this is like, again, it was interesting because actually, um, again, even when, um, when my wife and I had our first kid, um, I was actually in the last year of my PhD and she had a real job. Um, so she actually made a bunch more money than me, which is great. 

Um, but what was, you know, I also was naively like, “oh, I can work a day from home and take care of the infant”, which you can't do that. Just heads up for everyone. If you haven't had a kid yet, you can't do that. Um, so I didn't get any work done those days, but, but again, that was like, it was, that was not expected. Right. And, but again, still I got, I got lots of people like, “wow, you're, you're taking care of your kids. Like how responsible are you?”

My wife, when she stayed home, took care, nothing like literally nothing. People be like, “oh, that's just what you're supposed to do”. Right. And yeah. So again, like I get credit and she doesn't, you know, um, that that's, it's garbage, right. It is incredibly unfair. Right. And this, like, again, for, for everyone's sense of fairness, I, again, I don't understand. I mean, I guess I understand that people generally like things to stay the way they are. And like, that's one of the reasons for this, but that's a pretty bad reason for keeping this demonstrably unfair state of affairs. Like it's a bad reason. 

Um, anyway and again, also just, just to be clear, not that this is my area of expertise, but I've read a bunch of the papers on this and people should feel free to read papers on this. 

There is no data that for example, having the father stay home more with the kid leads to differential outcomes for the child. Right. So just to be clear for people like, oh, like the mothers are better at taking care of kids. Like that's actually just not true. Um, so people shouldn't use that argument. I know. Oh, no. So, this is, so this is the thing, right? 

We understand these things, but I think most people, they just don't want to hear them. Right. Because then it means like, especially if you're a man, it means like, okay, if you're not taking care of the kid, you're shirking responsibility, right? 

You're using the unpaid labor of the mother of your kids to basically support whatever it is you're doing. Right. And again, also the women, like the extent that a woman is taking care of the kids and then performing well at work, like that's insane. Like the amount of effort that takes, like that's impressive. Right. But again, no, they're not gettingnot getting that as, because again, it might be that they're working hard and working well, but maybe they're less likely. 

I don't have data on this specifically, but just as an, you know, maybe a thought exercise,

imagine that um, men who have kids are just as likely to respond to emails from

their boss at night, right? As they were when they didn't have kids. But imagine a woman who is also taking care of kids is exhausted and actually like tries to get some

sleep and is less likely to respond to emails like at that time. 

Right. Now that will, again, that will create a differential perspective in their boss say, oh, wow. Well, like “yeah, she's good, but she's not responding. You know, she's not really responsive. Like these men are, right?”. Again, and not that there's necessarily saying that consciously, but there will at least happen unconsciously. Right. Which again is like, it's ridiculous, right? Like that doesn't actually matter for outcomes. 

And so again, I think we really have to, to do some work to start to change these things. And there is, again, I don't think there's easy answers, which sucks. Like I wish there was something where we could just change it. And then like in five years, things would be equal. But I really think, yes, there are some very bad things we can fix over the next decade, but then there's going to be some, there's a lot of long-term work that we've got. 

 

Rihanot Ojo-Oba: I agree. There are no easy answers in a place here, like in Nigeria, when it comes to the question of who stays home, you've had, it's always by default, people will tell you, do you expect your husband to quit his job and stay home with the baby? So you're looking at yourself like, okay, you have to, because what choice do you have?  

Even if you're hurting more than your partner, even if you earn wages, your husband has to help and take care of the baby, and should be out there working. It's really unfair. 

 

Ben Waber: Well, and this is the thing is, especially for, you know, at least from my outside perspective, if I look at places  like Nigeria and like Lagos as, you know, a burgeoning tech hub, right. That has a lot of potential. You know, it clearly is growing very quickly, but then you look at things like what you're just saying, that is absolutely going to be a cap on that growth, right? I mean, like a 100 per cent, right? If you're competing, if you're competing with companies, right.

If you have folks like Flutterwave who are going to, start trying to take on global tech companies. Well, again, if you've got an American tech company who not that they're great, right? But who do a better job supporting their female employees and have higher participation, they will perform better. Like you will not be able to compete. And so I think that  I am hopeful that even in places like Nigeria and other places, there can be this conversation that whatever you morally think, just, just put that to the side for a second, right. 

Do you want to make more money and actually grow the economy? 

Right. Like, yes. And if you do, then this is something you should do. Right. You know, if you don't, you get, and again, just for some context, I have lived in Japan for a while. I'm not, not right now. I live in Boston now, but I studied abroad in Japan, lived in Japan for a while. And, you know, Japan has this real problem. It's sort of the opposite of Nigeria where the population is shrinking. Right. And one of the problems they have is that, it's very similar in terms of once a woman in Japan has a kid, they are expected to quit. That is the expectation. 

The government is desperately trying to change that. Right. But they're at this point where it's already really bad, right? Like this is a very bad thing that's already happening. And so what you hope is that in a place like Nigeria, that has not reached that point and probably won't for a very long time, you can at least see what's happening in some of these countries that have reached a point where this is a really big problem and that we have to fix it. 

So yeah, I mean, again, I think these are hard things, but I do think that hopefully maybe a competitive spirit can help grease the wheels a little bit in terms of moving some of this.

 

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi: 

Thank you. Thank you so much. You know, this conversation about tech, about Lagos and Nigeria becoming a tech hub, there was a conversation recently about how there's a gender gap in tech they're raising, especially in Nigeria. 

So there are women, young girls sharing their experiences about how a lot of times when they want to learn something tech-related, but then they are living with their parents who also have other children, maybe male, but then they have to clean, they have to cook, they have to wash.

There was a particular girl that talked about how our parents even didn't give her the laptop, they gave somebody else in the house who didn't even need it because they felt “oh yeah girl you don't need it you just finished school and then you go and marry a man and all of that” so it's really crazy but we're hoping that these conversations we are having will um enlighten people and make them see they make them see that there's a better way to do things.

I also like the point you made about how if companies want to make more money they need to work towards gender, you know yes that's going to really work for them like though they want to make more money so let me bring more women on so thank you so much for the points you made.  

 

Rihanot Ojo-Oba:

Speaking of policy, if so many policies are put in place for women, women would really exceed at work. I think women are exceptional at the homefront and they would also exceed at work if there are policies in place, for example, no T imagine I just had a baby and I'm supposed to resume  after 90 days and maybe my company there's somewhere in the building that has a creche, there's a daycare so it means that at three after the 90 days I can resume with my help and maybe in the company's creche, there are people that would help with your child so that way you're able to focus at work.

You're able to be productive because if you are at work and the baby is home you're constantly thinking “what's happening, what's the nanny doing?” you are afraid and you cannot be as productive because you can't concentrate but if there's a daycare downstairs, maybe at your break time, almost all company has an hour break you can just go downstairs, see your baby, breastfeed your baby

It helps you work better because you feel safe just knowing your baby is just down the office and when it's closing time everybody goes home together. 

So if we have so many policies in place women will thrive everywhere I would not be having conversations of oh you have to quit because it's only the man that brings home the bread.  Now we have so many female breadwinners

in almost all households everywhere

 

Ben Waber: Exactly and then the other thing of course is even if you're the company right?  not only is then your employee able to focus more but then  you're much more your employees are much more likely to stay at the company. It's like it is the logical thing to do. 

I think again the challenge is always a different way of doing things. right like most companies because they've also been run by men, don't think about “oh like hey we should have like child care and the first floor of the headquarter”, like I don't—that's not something that comes into their mind but again, one reason why having  people from different   different demographic groups whether this is women whether this is  

LGBTQ+ folks like whatever having people from different perspectives leads to better outcomes because they know things like I would not know as an example right and so I think it's a very important right and so I think that  again i would just argue even for people who like if all you care about is making more money, you should still do this. 

Like so because i think that's probably the hardest group, for people who understand the moral um reason to do this right then they don't need to know they make more money like it doesn't matter like it's just this is about fairness about equality but I think there's this other which is a large group of people who doesn't care about that which is really unfortunate but who probably still cares about making money and so like let's at least try to get those folks over and then there'll be some people over but those people left over— this is the good thing,  because we know the companies that are more diverse, that are more successful than we actually know that in not even that long, a couple decades, the companies that are actively discriminatory against women will just cease to exist right and so it will sort of eventually work itself out.

Now again ideally it goes faster than that but I do think we just need more companies to start getting in this area and I think that is starting to happen but yes I think there's some places where there's more work.

 

Rihanot Ojo-Oba 

And hopefully more companies hire am more women because at interview stages or you hear women say that “oh my god, that interview I made it to the third stage or the final stage” and you're being asked “when do you want to get married?” because when they think do you have children, when they think my life is not going to be the same as when I didn't have a kid. 

When you're married they think of maternity leave, they think you're leaving for three months or four months and it puts us at a disadvantage and we're saying that… 

 

Ben Waber: Oh yeah they're not they're not asking the man “when are you gonna get married?” 

 

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi: They know that you can't get pregnant, women are lying actually now apparently they're lying when they ask them that—

 

Ben Waber 

Yes, 100 per cent lie, right like they have no business asking you that question anyway and then how to get married and how to get free is the same thing

And so, OK, like if that's what they're going to do, then it's not like, please, please. 

But again, that puts the person in a very bad position because then let's say they hire you. Right.  Then you have your wedding ring on or something like that. Right. So this is the challenge, right? 

Is that like, yeah, you like you do whatever you got to do. Right.

But there is going to be like, again, that doesn't just say, oh, if women lie, that's going to solve everything. Like, no, it won't, because then they'll still be discriminated against even if they are hired. Right.

And what you have to what you know, and it's challenging because if, you know, you're a woman in that position. if a company asks you that, you probably don't want to work there. But you might not have much of a choice. Right.

Like if you want to break into tech and this is the one place that interviewed you. Right. Like that's a hard decision to make. It's very hard. Right. And that's just it's so unfair. It is so unfair. And so this gets to where, you know, again, if you're an executive at a company and your goal is to have higher performance, it is your responsibility to fix this. Like, and if you fix this thing, these things, you will perform better. Like, period. It is indisputable. Right. So, like, that's all we've got. You know, again, if at that point you just I'm still not doing it.

Well, it's not that I can't help you. 

 

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for the insightful answers to all the questions.

We've had a wonderful interview with you and thank you for the work you're doing with your articles, your book about enlightening people, about the fact that, you know, people always think that women are inferior and less intelligent than men.

But then you're out there as a man, as a white man, as a privileged white man, trying to change the narrative and trying to enlighten people.

So well done and thank you so much for all your time. 

 

Ben Waber: Thank you so much for having me. I really, really enjoyed the discussion.

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi: Workplace inequalities are deeply rooted, but conversations like this are vital to paving the way for change. 

 

Rihanot Ojo-Oba: 

Absolutely, Tiara. As we reflect on this discussion, let's turn a spotlight to you, our listeners.

Do you have any questions about Ben Weber or personal experiences with workplace inequalities? Connect with us on social media and let's continue this vital conversation 

 

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi: and that's a wrap for the central part of today's episode.

We've explored critical issues in workplace inequality and it's evident that change is long overdue. 

 

Rihanot Ojo-Oba:, Tiara, but change starts with awareness and these conversations are instrumental in sparking that awareness.

 

Tiaraoluwa Fadeyi: Thank you, listeners, for joining us on another episode of the Counter-Narrative Podcast. Until next time, remember to keep questioning, challenging and amplifying your voices.

Stay curious, stay informed and remember your perspective matters. We'll see you next time.