WHRT 2019: Why parenting shapes the workforce

A panel discussion during the Women in HR Tech Summit–held the opening morning of the HR Technology Conference and Exposition–highlighted the ways in which traditional gender norms, especially regarding parenting, have shaped the workplace, and how those expectations are rapidly evolving.

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The session featured remarks from Kyle Lagunas, director of strategy at Beamery; Jess von Bank, head of marketing at Leapgen; and Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources. Here are three takeaways:

Ditch the Work/Life Divide

Kyle Lagunas

All three panelists agreed that trying to separate one’s work and home lives–including all of the challenges of being parents–impedes both personal and professional growth.

“Bringing my relationships with my family [to work] helps me build much deeper and more meaningful relationships with the people I work with,” Lagunas said. “We’ve got to have a foundation that goes beyond the fact that we all work in HR tech–who cares? We spend too much time working together to not be our complete selves.”

Be Intentional

Jess von Bank of Leapgen. (Photo by Isaac Brekken for Human Resource Executive)

Von Bank said she strives to avoid gendered expectations in raising her three girls–that extends, for instance, to ensuring her daughter who prefers blue over pink is validated and eliminating gendered words like “cute,” “pretty,” “fat” and “skinny.”

“If we don’t use intention, things don’t change,” she said. “You have to participate actively in what you’re modeling and what you’re shaping.”

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Flexibility of Gender Roles

Tim Sackett

Sackett, who was raised by a single mother who launched her own business, argued that “women might have more traits innately that make them better leaders in a modern workplace than men.” Particularly, he noted, the women in his life have largely been more skilled at bringing compassion and empathy to the workplace, especially around the need for work/life balance.

“My sons are in Gen Z and they’re going into the workforce and would much rather work for somebody who has compassion and who understands that work is just a part of real life–and for traditional male leaders, it was always more of ‘Come to work, do your work’ and you have these two lives.”

Lagunas noted that, traditionally, those traits have been fostered by gender divides–a trend that he sees is shifting. Also evolving, he added, is the recognition that resilience is one of the driving forces–both for men and women–that lead to success in the workplace, and which needs to be instilled by parents when children are young.

“None of us would get here if we weren’t resilient,” he said.

Bravery is also a trait parents can foster in their children to help them overcome gender bias in the workforce, von Bank said. “If we all entered the workforce with that–confidence in ourselves, in the decisions we’re making and we all respected one another for that–then we don’t need to have gender conversations,” she said.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.