Ahead of our Women in Strategy summit in New York, February 27 & 28, we sat down with one of our speakers, Joelle Kaufman.
Joelle Kaufman is the Chief Marketing Officer at Dynamic Signal. She has 20 years of experience in business strategy, marketing and communications and is a trained expert in organizational development. At Dynamic Signal, she is helping redefine the role of internal communication by leveraging technology innovation to show real business impact. Previously, she was the EVP of Strategy and Business for Westfield and was the first CMO for Adify and BloomReach. Kaufman earned an MBA in Management from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan where she was the first student to gain high honors in Organizational Psychology.
Joelle is an expert in organizational development and relentlessly focused on how companies can better understand their employees and customers. The proliferation of workplace communication platforms that has exploded in the last several years highlights the demand that organizations have for products that facilitate effective communication, particularly amidst the growing gig economy and highly mobile workforces. Previously featured in Inc., she brings a solid mix of quantitative and qualitative analysis and expertise to the very real issues facing companies today as they grapple with overloaded employees, mobile-based staff, and demand for more transparency and authenticity.
How did you get started in your career?
In 1989, between my freshman and sophomore year at the University of Michigan, I interned for the CIO of a major New Jersey law firm and recognized the transformational impact technology was having on the firm’s work and its professionals. I immediately realized that leveraging technology to drive organizational change was my path – specifically how technology impacts people at work.
What do you think is behind the lack of women in senior positions? What do you think companies can do to address any imbalance?
Women are the most significant segment of small business founders. I believe that women bring a different perspective to management, leadership and business. The price of leadership in large companies is significant. There can be an incredible price on your family, life balance – and many women may decide it’s not worth it when there are so many pathways to success and personal actualization. Additionally, women face unique challenges ensuring they have champions to advocate for them. There are fewer, informal opportunities to build camaraderie and support among their future senior peers in the traditional, male-dominated way of business – simply because we are not men. Not only do women have to work doubly hard to build those relationships, but they face considerably less tolerance for their mistakes. Addressing the imbalances requires a rethinking of the life balance trade-offs. By the way, I believe that is equally the case for men as it is for women. It also means encouraging opportunities for women to take risks, gain visibility, develop meaningful sponsorship and trust among peers and managers.
Progress has been slow for gender parity in many industries, particularly STEM. Do you see improvements coming anytime soon, or is it likely to be a long journey? Do you think company-wide pay transparency has the potential to help address the issue of gender pay inequality?
There have been a wide range of efforts to promote the exploration of STEM by young people, including Girls Who Code, that are certainly extending the initial opportunity to address gender parity in STEM. Personally, I want to make sure every person can write succinctly and persuasively as well as think critically about multiple solutions to problems. And I don’t think those skills are gender-biased. But they are being under-nurtured in our educational system today. The “American Dream” is based on innovation, risk-taking, problem-solving and, of course, access to opportunity. That access, however, is still not equally distributed. Our challenge is to change that.Company-wide pay transparency shines a light on gender pay inequality. The reality is that there are so many factors in compensation, and it can be hard to isolate gender-specific bias as causality. But looking at the data deeply and honestly is a crucial step to balancing the scale. Then the next step is teaching girls and women to negotiate and ask for what they are worth.
What impact on workplace diversity do you will think will come from changes to the nature of employment? Will more people working remotely in the future help to augment innovation?
The gig economy and the remote workforce make it possible for people to structure their lives around their actual lives and not around their work. This is a significant change and it impacts management as well as employees. For instance, it means ensuring that we evaluate people based on their contribution, not their proximity or familiarity to the manager. The movement toward remote and gig employment must lead to an increased focus on results and less on human biases. Companies have to think differently about facilitating the right level of communication through the most productive channels to align, connect and mobilize a distributed and diverse workforce. Some channels drown people in noise. Other channels are impersonal. But when companies authentically connect with their most valued asset – their people – wherever and whenever they prefer, it’s truly transformative to innovation and performance.
How important is diversity for innovation? How can female leaders drive innovation forward?
Innovation stems from a shared understanding of goals and roles mixed with diverse experiences and perspectives. Diversity brings that variety of perspectives. Female leaders can drive innovation by being a model of discussion management so that all voices are heard – introvert, extrovert, male, female, all races, remote and in-office – and perspectives are challenged. True innovation ensures these breakthroughs can happen between people who may not even work in the same space or time zone.
What will you be discussing in your presentation? Is there anyone else you are particularly looking forward to hearing from?
We will be discussing the role of communication to drive strategy and engage employees. When to communicate. Who should communicate. How much to communicate. And how we should address the explosion of channels where employees consume content in their lives. Additionally, I’m looking forward to hearing Christina Hause and learning more about how Kaiser Permanente built a culture of innovation through inclusion.
Hear more from Joelle at our Women in Strategy summit in New York, February 27 & 28.