Closing the Leadership Gap for Women In Business – with Laura Khalil

If you want to hear a fiercely passionate advocate for women in the workplace, then look no further than today’s show. My guest shares nuggets of wisdom about the roles of empathy and confrontation in helping women bridge the corporate gender gap, and so much more.

Laura Khalil is the #1 transformational speaker helping Fortune 500 companies close the leadership and wage gap for women in business. She’s an executive coach who shares courageous leadership skills to help women succeed inside and outside the corporate world. Facing many of the challenges that confident, assertive, and driven women deal with in the workplace, Laura launched her marketing consultancy in 2013. Determined to thrive, she quickly learned that the traits that penalized her as an employee were her greatest assets as a leader, and she went on to work on global initiatives with name brands like Twitter, GE, Intel, and more. In this episode, Laura shares how her early years as an outlier influenced the work she does today, how women can create male allies, and how to develop the habit and muscle of courage to achieve your dreams. 

How to deal with triggers

Most women in the workplace have been told that they should smile more. It’s a specific statement that we can readily admit becomes a trigger. The truth is that every man and woman has both masculine and feminine energy, but women are ridiculed if their masculine energy is dominant. Every woman knows what it feels like to be triggered and feel the freeze. Laura says that instead of trying to respond to triggering statements, we should redirect that energy back at the person by asking them a question about what they said. Simply asking them what they mean flips the spotlight on them and forces them to be self – reflective about what they said to you.

Being judged by other women

Your perceptions of what you see in the outer world is a reflection of your inner world. For instance, when someone asks a woman why they are so emotional, they are simply manifesting their own emotions. Laura says to imagine their face like a giant mirror, and they are really asking themselves the question. When we disconnect from that energy, we can see their judgment as their way of getting love and attention because they never learned more resourceful ways to do it. 

The gifts in being an outlier

Laura’s story proves that she was an outlier during her time in Silicon Valley. She says that being an outlier accelerates the neural pathways to empathy. The truth is that we’re all doing our best. We are too focused on what others think of us, and they don’t think of us as much as we assume they do, so we should focus on ourselves and being a better person. Sometimes we find recurring situations because we need to work on skills to help us reach our highest potential. Laura learned through her time in Silicon Valley to ask what was going on with herself with her fears and limiting beliefs. 

Becoming the #1 transformational speaker

Laura admits that this title is aspirational, but her work goes far beyond inspiring others. She gives people tangible takeaways that her clients can use to experience immediate and prolonged improvement. She says that everything you do has to have a level of certainty and that your greatest gift to the world is how you serve others. With an intentional focus on authenticity, Laura readily admits her failures rather than trying to portray a picture-perfect world that isn’t real. 

Why you have to practice

When Laura first began doing public speaking engagements, she learned the value of practicing in a low – stakes environment where mistakes don’t matter as much before delivering quality information where it does matter. She says that nothing is in your way, but every experience is a step on the way to where you need to be. Her advice is to learn to see the divine design for your life. Every person is here on this earth for a reason and needs to share their gifts with the world.  

Employee engagement

Why do employees disengage? Laura says it’s because they don’t feel safe in the work environment, or they feel disenfranchised. Psychological safety is important in every organization, and when it doesn’t happen, then people look at their role as just a job. Studies have proven that people will run through walls when they feel validated, seen, and heard, but when they don’t feel valued in these ways, they will fly under the radar and just get by until they find something else. Organizations need to learn that empathy has to be a priority because it improves employee engagement, innovation, and profitability. 

Dealing with workplace harassment

Workplace harassment is a trauma that must be healed. Women are more likely to leave the company due to harassment. The bottom line, Laura says, is that HR isn’t there to protect employees, but to keep the company from getting sued. Women leave because they feel that no one is on their side. They feel ignored, retaliated against, or pushed out. The solution is for women to learn to train people in how we want to be treated, and we do this by confronting them with questions. Speaking up for ourselves will help us learn to empower ourselves. Laura calls this situation a call to courage. 

What we suppress

Depending on how we were raised, we may have learned to minimize our accomplishments. This occurs because we weren’t taught to acknowledge our achievements. The result is that we minimize accomplishments in others. When you are taught that praise is a burden, then you are quick to suppress that in others. Even though this results from our childhood experiences, we can learn to make better choices to have a better future by breaking the cycle. Mastering your destiny means staying grounded and planting your legacy in how you serve people in the future. 

The inclusive workforce

A double standard exists for women in the workplace. Performance reviews are biased. Women are evaluated more on personality traits, and men are evaluated on the work they do. Surprisingly, this bias also occurs from women to other women. Laura says that women need specific feedback on their work that they can use to move forward. Every woman in the corporate world should find a male mentor or sponsor in their organization. The truth is that most men want to help women in the workplace and be an ally for them, but they don’t know what to do.  

Highlights of this episode:

  • 17:56 – Being triggered by being told to smile
  • 24:04 – When the judgment comes from other women
  • 28:05 – The gifts of being an outlier
  • 35:50 – Becoming #1
  • 41:25 – Why you have to practice
  • 44:33 – Employee engagement and empathy
  • 54:11 – Workplace harassment for women
  • 1:02:00 – What we suppress
  • 1:10:32 – The inclusive workplace
  • 1:16:03 – Fem Five

Resources mentioned:  Find Laura’s podcast and how to join her free weekly Facebook training

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success by Maria Ross

Fem Five:

1. Favorite book to recommend for women?

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.”

2. Favorite self-care hack?

“Self-pleasure. I get into my body with a daily dance party.”

3. Best piece of advice and who gave it to you?

“A therapist once told me that I have to learn to take care of myself first.”

4. Female CEO or thought leader you’re into right now?

Cindy Eckert of The Pink Ceiling

5. One piece of advice you’d give your five years younger self?

“Be kinder to yourself.”

Last Time on The NextFem Podcast

Leverage Wellbeing for Success with Megan McNealy

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