As of last month, only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs. UC Hastings law professor Joan Williams and her daughter Rachel Dempsey decided to take a closer look at why so few women are at the top, and what successful women do to master office politics. They interviewed more than 120 working women, over half of them women of color. In their new book “What Works for Women at Work,” they offer tips and strategies on how women can skillfully navigate challenges such as gender bias.

Joan Williams, law professor and founding director of the Center for Work Life Law at UC Hastings College of the Law and author of "What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know"
Rachel Dempsey, Yale law student and co-author of "What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know"

  • Guest

    It seems to me that the “culture fit” requirement that potential new employees have to meet that is used in high tech is used to keep out not only women, but also blacks, liberals, older workers, Americans, gays, atheists…
    The domination of immigrants from backward countries where women are second-class citizens and atheism is unknown is potentially a bigger threat to diversity than the parallel rise of American frat boy culture in tech.
    Overall, while high tech companies claim they want to push technology itself ever higher, and they present an image of progressiveness, the truth is the workplace itself is tilting toward the 19th century.
    If women merely resolve to emulate aggressive men to get ahead, that will never change.

  • Bruce4

    I don’t like to brag, but I want it to be known that I successfully predicted today’s Forum topic. I jokingly said, “Hmm, today is Presidents Day; what will KQED’s take on the holiday be? I know, ‘Women Presidents’, or maybe ‘Minority Presidents'”
    OK, it was a lucky guess, but it does point up the lack of diversity in public broadcasting’s outlook.
    I remember the short-lived sports show that NPR put on several years ago. It featured a woman broadcaster talking about the Negro Leagues, Jackie Robinson, Asian-American baseball teams in the internment camps, and famous woman athletes, all worthy, if well-explored topics.

  • lalameda

    From personal experience with my own biases, I believe people tend to hire people perceived to be most like themselves — appearance, gender, educational background, regional dialect, hobbies, family structure, mannerisms, religion. That results in not only missing outstanding hires, but also redundancy and homogeneity that limits problem solving approaches. This is a problem from the boardroom on down throughout organizations.

    As a manager, one of my main evaluative tools was attendance. And in my early work years as an employee, I resented having to pick up the slack of those who often missed work.

  • Storm

    There’s no question for me that women face the vast majority of gender biased disadvantages in the workforce – at the same time – it seems to me that if you can show men that gender bias affects men, they may be more likely to give attention to the issue – are there issues of gender bias that cut against men in the workplace?

  • Jon Gold

    I’m a guy and I’ve had a couple of women as bosses and I had a lot of tension in simply having a comfortable rapport. One woman boss always seemed to bond more easily and gather her fellow women together. Us, guys, felt diminutive, and on our best behavior at work, which was probably good.

  • The annual retreat for women entrepreneurs that was mentioned is here: http://womenentrepreneurshipretreat.com

  • anon

    I’m listening online, and hoping that this comment might be addressed by the guests:
    I am a grad student in a department with a very low (~15%) number of women. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on how best to approach the leaders of the department (or in general a boss or supervisor) about taking action to attract and retain more women in the department. I think that they recognize the problem – the department has been supportive of the recent formation of a women’s group, but I don’t think they see it as something they have any responsibility or power to do anything – leaving action entirely to the students, with professors taking only a passive role.

  • Mackenzie Cooley

    What do you Williams and Dempsey make of “Lean In”? Is this book a response to Sheryl Sandberg and what do you think this work’s primary intervention is?

  • Felicity Dashwood

    There is a revolution going on right now and I see it in my business. The men I work with (coworkers and clients) over the age of ~40 are more likely to be dinosaurs. Men closer to my age, 20s and 30s, tend to notice gender less. There are exception of course. I can’t believe some of the things I hear and see on a weekly basis, it blows my mind, and all of it is men that are a generation or more older than I am. The changes that have happened in our workplaces and homes will take a generation to take hold as children are raised in households with working moms, more involved fathers, female bosses and male admin assistants. It is hard being patient and putting up with the misogynistic, clueless fogies, but I have hope for the future.

  • Felicity Dashwood

    On another note, Forum needs to have a show on parental bias. As more
    women work and more fathers become more involved in child raising, we
    need to address the way companies view workers with children.

  • VERY interesting interview. Sure to cause discussion on all sides of
    the issue. I applaud them bringing up perspectives that have been kept
    under the table, thank you, tho’ I feel they still soft sold some of the

    I started my first business in the 70’s and have encountered all of the generational stages of women against women the authors brought out. I wish I could say these issues are improving, but I don’t see it. As more women enter work they are leaving the secretarial pool behind, but instead of moving up, they are just moving over to the HR pool, bringing all their old gender biases against women with them, including not supporting other women’s upward mobility, peer pressure to enforce old female stereotypes and what I call the great shunning if women don’t “know their place.” if this persists, this will not get women where they need to go, just continue to keep them second place.

  • That’s great job and lots of women need strategies.I think woman is more emotional than Man,but as long as woman can control.Then woman can easily handle something which man feel difficult.

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