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On the Brink with Andi Simon

Apr 27, 2020

Learn how today's crisis affects women and gender roles

We have a serious concern about the impact of the pandemic on women in the workplace. So, we invited Andie Kramer and Al Harris back to share with us their perspectives. On April 1st, Andie had a new article published in Forbes entitled, "Why Stay-At-Home Orders Might Be Good For Gender Equality."  Or, if China is a leading indicator, it might be good for divorces. While we have been called futurists, this is not a time for us to offer anything that sounds like “certainty.” But we do know that these times are changing, fast, and we will have to as well. In this podcast, Andie, Al and I talk about how people change, or resist change. Especially now, please listen in.

Andrea Kramer and Alton Harris Image-1Humans are habit-driven animals

We prefer to fall into old habits and repeat well-honed patterns of behavior which we believe to be “the way we do it.” For years, we at SAMC have preached, "If you want to change, have a crisis or create one." The COVID-19 has created that crisis. Now we need to help you change.

Your new ways of doing things...temporary or long-lasting?

When it comes to the new normal, working at home, often with your kids and your spouse or partner right alongside, the old habits are rather irrelevant. But how do you create new habits, and quickly, and how will these impact gender relationships?

Whether you are a man or a woman, you should pause and think about what each of you likes to do and what you do best. Then begin to talk about how to navigate the new realities of living, working and raising kids at home. Whether this is a short-term or a longer-term transformation, you might as well get used to this new way of life, at least until it changes into something else. Even as the world opens up again, you might want to re-think all the things you did in the past that you are changing now. And in doing so, you might discover that you don't want to return to the way you did things before.

Even before the pandemic, remote workers were becoming more common

Employers already were looking for a more flexible, often global, workforce that didn't need office space and benefit packages. And the technology to enable companies to operate remotely has been available, even if it wasn't being used to the fullest.

Moreover, as women have become the bread winners in over one-third of American families, they have been figuring out how to raise a family and financially support the household. With women owning over 40% of the businesses in the U.S. before the pandemic hit us, they were creating new revenue streams, new second careers, and opening many businesses out of necessity. Working at home is what many women have done for decades. Now in the midst of this crisis,  they can help their partners learn how to balance home, work and family.

Yes, the future is unclear, but also full of possibilities

We know that people can find innovative ways to adapt to change. They always have, throughout human history. Now, we just have to let those creative juices flow and re-invent our lives to thrive. We can do it! You're probably already doing it. Let us hear your stories so we can share them. And hang in there, a new day is coming.

Listen to my Dec 2019 interview with Andie and Al

In my first interview with Andie and Al, we talk at length about their detailed social science research with women and men across the country. Surprisingly, what they found is that women’s unique conflicts with other women and with men are not caused by gender or different styles or the way they were raised and socialized. Rather, it's the result of pervasive gender bias in their workplaces. Fascinating stuff. Listen here.

More about Andie and Al

Gender bias expert and a partner at an international law firm, Andie Kramer has become a well-known advocate for women’s advancement, mentoring thousands of women. She co-founded the Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Alliance and leads workshops across the country to help women—and men—overcome gender-based hurdles and build healthier, more productive workplaces. Andie is the recipient of a long list of accolades and awards for her achievements in her legal career and her advocacy of women, and is also a contributing writer for

Al Harris, also a gender bias expert, was a founding partner of the Chicago law firm Ungaretti & Harris (now part of Nixon Peabody) where Andie started her legal career. At Ungaretti & Harris, Al served for many years as managing partner and then as a member of its Executive and Compensation Committees, giving him extensive experience watching and evaluating women as they moved up the career ladder. Over the course of his career, Al has grown increasingly concerned about the barriers and biases women face in traditionally male career environments and subsequently he has mentored and advised numerous women in many career fields. 

Co-authors of the popular books, "Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work" and "It’s Not You, It’s the Workplace: Women’s Conflict at Work and the Bias That Built It," Andie and Al are frequent keynote speakers and conduct workshops for all types of organizations so they can better understand the world of gender bias.

For more on gender bias in the workplace, check out these blogs and podcasts: