Interview with Jen Herwig, Vice President of Human Resources at Constellation

Interview with Jen Herwig, Vice President of Human Resources at Constellation

Part 1 - Increasing Your Organization's Inclusivity

Part 3 - How to Combat "Bro Culture"

Part 2 - Handling Hot-Button Topics at the workplace

Part 4 - How to Handle Mansplaining

Part 1 - Transcript

Catherine: So I know that you’ve done a lot of great work in the three years that you’ve been here around Diversity and Inclusion. Could you please just break it down from a step-by-step basis and how you did it?

Jen: Sure. I mean, I think the first thing is, I do believe in establishing a baseline and understanding where you stand. So, being able to measure it, and demonstrate improvement over time. I think is valuable. So that’s one. I think the other thing is, involving your employee base, no one wants anything done to them.

Catherine: It’s a good point.

Jen: So getting people engaged, we have a Culture Ambassador Program that was started actually before I got here. It was a D&I Ambassador Program, we turned it into a Cultural Ambassador. And those individuals are representatives from various parts of our organization, each department, each function, each location and then they help shape the agenda and the strategy. They help shape content for our video series, our current event dialogues, all of those kinds of things. It’s the employees that are actually experiencing our culture. 

Catherine: Gives them some ownership. 

Jen: They’re a big part of it. So that’s a huge element of our success. And then I also think top down, you’ve got to have senior leadership support of those kinds of things. And really make sure that when it comes down to behaviors that you might see in the workplace that go against an inclusive culture, that you’ve got leaders that are willing to put themselves behind that and drive accountability. And we have that.

Part 2 - Transcript

Catherine: During the election period, you had something where you all were talking about the election and it was quite polarizing. Can you explain that a little bit more?

Jen: Sure. You know, I think at the end of the day, when politics come into the workplace, the pressure tends to raise a little bit. My advice to people is to be respectful of the other point of view as you’re talking about something. To be able to talk as much as possible from a fact base, and
valuing other points of view. And asking, “Well, tell me more about why you support this or that.” Or, “Why do you see it that way?” Or, “I never thought about it that way.” “Can you explain more?”.

So I think really listening for understanding is one of the techniques that we’re working to have people leverage. Whether it’s about politics or it’s about a tough decision that you’re making in the business. It’s the same kind of skill set. So I think that’s one thing and not being sarcastic, not overshadowing what someone’s trying to say, not talking over someone, and not interrupting. 

I know that those sound like common sense things, but they go out the window when you’re talking about that tough thing that you have such a strong opinion about. So a lot of times it’s pulling back and seeking to understand. But also being willing to walk away with, “We’re coming at this from different angles, and that’s okay.”

Part 3 - Transcript

Catherine: So one thing that I’ve experienced in my career, being in sales and recruitment most of my life, is a bro culture. Do you join it? Do you combat it? Do you ignore it? What do you do?

Jen: I think it’s a little bit of a combination of things. I don’t think you take any one tool to that problem. I think that there’s a little bit of getting in there, and camaraderie, and being a part of, you know. If it means going and understanding what’s going on with the Baltimore Ravens, if you don’t follow sports, just to be able to engage in the conversation, I think that’s a good thing. But if it’s behavior that really goes against inclusion, if it’s disrespectful, I think you’ve to combat it. I think you’ve have to  stand up for what you believe in. 

Most importantly, I think you’ve have to get people who deliver ally behavior, and stop that in their tracks. I think it’s really hard when the one woman in the group has to stand up for herself and combat that.I think you’ve got to get allies around the table who are gonna be a part of that as well. And it’s some of those things like mansplaining. Then the conversation moves on and then someone says it later. We’ve had that happen and a lot of the time it’s an accident. Maybe it’s not always an accident. But I think bringing awareness to that, and we have a lot of really wonderful behaviors that we’ve built in our leadership team, and some of my peers, that they really will stand up and say, “Yes, I think that was a good point that Jen actually made a few minutes ago.”

Part 4 - Transcript

Catherine: Okay, so you’re in a conference room, you have a suggestion, an idea, a thought, and you express it to the group and then you get mansplained, or interrupted, what do you do?

Jen: Yes I mean the interruption thing, I’ll hit that first, you know there’s always people who are just excited to get their conversate, their point of view on the table, and you know for me I’ll just say “Hey, let me finish where I’m going here.” I think just being matter of fact about that and not getting ticked off about it or emotional about it, just, “Let me finish what I’m saying and then I’ll turn it over to you.”

Catherine: Yes, do you want to explain what mansplaining is to anyone in our audience who doesn’t know what it means?

Jen: Well I think what she’s trying to say is that mansplaining is when a guy does just what I did. And you know it really undermines the person who’s speaking in that moment. I always think it’s best when you can just be really matter of fact about that and maybe it’s even saying, “Well let me try to explain further, what I’m saying right now”.

Catherine: Right, and what about when you come up with an idea, a suggestion, a thought, and then someone sort of discounts it within the room
and then five, 10 minutes later it comes up again from a gentleman in a similar fashion, and it’s considered a very good idea, one that they want to
implement, what do you do?

Jen: Yes, you know my favorite in that scenario is if someone else stands up for that, because I think it’s that whole moment where you feel very small and very petty for having to say, “Hey, that was my idea”, but if forced, then I think it’s, “Yes that’s exactly what, the early part of the conversation, that’s what I was suggesting that we do, and so let me build on where you’re going with that,” I think that’ll kind of move you through that and hopefully it changes it for the next time. I think it’s something that happens through experience I think that as you go through your career,and these things happen to you, you know how to handle them better.