Aug 26 is known as Women Equality Day– which serves as a reminder of the hurdles overcome by the women who’ve faced discrimination and exclusion, and other leadership challenges, thereby creating an awful company culture and workplace experiences.
Why does equality matter?
Well, for starters, when employees don’t feel valued, customers end up feeling it too. They go hand in hand.
On this podcast, you’ll hear from Catherine Sugarbroad, a woman leader and true change agent. I say this not from reading her bio but from first-hand experience, having worked together at Verizon, climbed the corporate ladder, and learned many lessons from traveling bumpy paths throughout our career.
Show Topics Include:
- What does Equality mean, and how does it link to customer experiences?
- Examples of inequality in the workplace.
- Actions taken to improve situations.
- Recommendations for company leaders and people managers to ensure a better workforce experience.
- Advice for the next generation of women and girls for success in work and life.
- Advice for men and boys in the workplace now and in the future.
- One key takeaway to put into action. Don’t delay.
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Leadership Advice and Why Equality Matters For CX
Stacy Sherman: Hello, Catherine Sugarbroad. Welcome to the Doing CX Right show.
[00:01:30] Catherine Sugarbroad: Hey Stacy, thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it.
[00:01:35] Stacy Sherman: I am so excited to talk to you because we do have a history of working together and I’ve gotten to witness you as a woman leader, really making a difference. To begin, who are you, what do you do professionally?
[00:01:51] Catherine Sugarbroad: I’m a business owner now but it was a very windy road getting here.
Catherine Sugarbroad: I actually started out in corporate as you know, Stacy. Lots of different roles. I started out in PR. Then I was in marketing and went to product. Then I carried a bag in sales and then back to product, you know, what can I say? I just, you know, really like learning new things, trying new things. And I kept getting tougher and tougher assignments.
And over the years, eventually I became I think Stacy, when you and I worked together, I was directly managing a $30 billion portfolio at Verizon. And you know, together, we played a big role in introducing digital CX practices to the B2B side of Verizon. So along the way, I think, you know, the focus on transformation was clear.
I became known as a transformational leader and in many of the roles I was actually focused on small business. What I found is that that is where my passion lies. I love small business. And eventually I decided I wanted to be a small business. And so I did leave corporate America and I now have two businesses.
One is a real estate business. The other one is a business where we make mobile applications for small businesses. So we specialize in very affordable applications for any kind of any size small business. And then as you know, Stacy, I also have a pretty unique perspective on what it is to be a woman, especially in tech and my desire to give back and support other women in their journey led me to Girls In Tech, where I’m on the board here in New York.
[00:03:29] Stacy Sherman: Why what’s your reasoning for such passion around this topic?
[00:03:33] Catherine Sugarbroad: When I first started out, I was just, I worked as hard as I could. And my work was high quality and I continue to get promoted. But as you move on in your career, it’s not just about your work. It’s also about your relationships.
It’s about your political capital and how you earn and gain that. And there’s an element to the relationships in the political environment in corporate America that sometimes women don’t really understand. And it wasn’t until much later in my career that I had the mentoring and I had the leadership training to start to understand, oh, okay.
You know, this is a man’s world and things are sort of conducted in a certain way, but I was raised as a woman. So now I have to kind of relearn how to navigate in a man’s world. And I wish I had had that kind of understanding earlier on in my career instead of later on in my career. And I so I really try to help other women earlier in their journey if I can.
[00:04:38] Stacy Sherman: Mm. What’s one fun fact that people may not know about you.
[00:04:43] Catherine Sugarbroad: Well, so I am engaged to be married to a wonderful man. We actually met at Verizon also, and he’s been just not only wonderful for me personally, to have discovered him so late in my life, I never thought I would be getting married at my age.
But he’s also been a wonderful mentor. We met in the sales arena and he is just a phenomenal sales professional. His name is Thomas Martin and I have learned a lot. He’s been incredibly helpful to me as I’ve been launching my new businesses. And hopefully we’re gonna get married in Hawaii later this year.
[00:05:21] Stacy Sherman: Oh, that is fabulous. Such good news. Love that. Well, let’s talk about, first of all, equality. When I say that word, what does it mean to you?
[00:05:33] Catherine Sugarbroad: You know, and I’m not a philosopher, I’m sure that there are people who’ve, you know, done writeups on equality and what that really means. But I think for most people
it means that everyone is given the same opportunities. And I think in order for that to happen, because everybody is different, that everybody’s qualities need to be appreciated. So women are different from men, you know, they’re are people from different ethnic backgrounds, they bring different things to the table and those things aren’t always appreciated or understood.
And I think it’s only through embracing that diversity that we will get to a place where we’re somewhat equal.
Yeah. And I want listeners to understand that being equal, feeling equal, feeling valued, absolutely transfers to the customer, to the client. They go hand in hand.
Oh, absolutely without a doubt, and we’re seeing, I mean, you can read articles everywhere where the lack of diversity in the building of technology, especially in AI has created a real bias
that’s actually dangerous and, and definitely creates negative customer and employee experiences everywhere.
[00:06:55] Stacy Sherman: Can you tell me more about that? When you say the new technologies? Is it creating more inequality?
[00:07:02] Catherine Sugarbroad: It is in the way that people are treated, because things are so much of the experience now is being given over to the digital world, right. To digital technologies. And it’s all about the experience is executed in the way that we build it. If we build it with only one perspective in mind, then when they engage with a diverse customer base or diverse employee base, the technology is gonna fail. And that’s what we’ve absolutely seen, especially with artificial intelligence where they’ve seen racist bias in artificial intelligence or they’ve seen just in terms of in a lot of science, even the way that things are measured is measured based on the male body or based on male Clinical trials and things like that. And a lot of times, women are smaller. They don’t need as much medication. Did you know that when they do crash testing for cars that they don’t have to crash test with a female body, with a female size body. They only have to crash test with the male size body.
So basically all the crash testing that has been done and the safety testing that has been done really, and any claims that any auto company can make are only for male body forms. And actually when a woman gets into a car, they have no idea what’s gonna happen to her if that car gets in a crash.
[00:08:38] Stacy Sherman: That’s disturbing.
[00:08:39] Catherine Sugarbroad: Isn’t it? And there’s actually a book that was written on the data that’s out there and the gender biases and all of the data that basically drives science today and technology.
[00:08:52] Stacy Sherman: Fascinating. Well, not even to that sophistication. I remember when I was at my last company workplace and there were very few women technicians who would go and fix and repair elevators. And I remember talking to one of the technicians and she said that she couldn’t wear a ponytail because the hard hat, the way it was designed and even the uniform wasn’t meant for a woman because women aren’t really in that field. And I was like, God, that’s fascinating.
I never really thought about it. Yeah. And how many more jobs are like that where it wasn’t created for a woman.
[00:09:38] Catherine Sugarbroad: No, even simple things like, you know, just helping women when they come back to the workforce after having a child and the different things that they might have to deal with, like pumping milk or, you know, needing a little bit more flex time.
I mean, those are things that are really not necessarily difficult things for companies to offer. It’s just that, because women aren’t necessarily always in positions of power, right, to affect those policies. It just doesn’t it’s, it’s not thought of, so, I mean, it’s a simple thing, but it’s just nobody ever thought of, oh yeah can this hard hat accommodate a ponytail?
[00:10:23] Stacy Sherman: Hm. Yeah. Something so basic. You talked about how you had a lot of different roles and when we worked at Verizon together, you definitely reached a very nice high level. I imagine it wasn’t simple to get your way up there. Can you tell me about that journey and did you ever experience inequality without naming people and organizations but in general, what can we learn from it?
Yeah, I did. It wasn’t anything that you could put your finger on sometimes, right? I think sometimes women hold themselves back in a male dominated world where boys are raised to take risks, to get out there, to ask for things to it’s okay if you don’t look perfect or your shirt’s not perfectly iron and your makeup’s not on perfect. And your hair is not perfectly placed. Right? It’s all about just get out there, do something, you know? It’s okay if you’re not perfect and don’t be afraid to ask for a leg up, right. I think there’s men, boys teach other boys
[00:11:36] Catherine Sugarbroad: this, men teach other boys this, and it is something you learn from a young age. And I think the female generation today is a little bit more fierce than our generation, but when I was raised, it was all about how pretty my dress looked and being perfect and working hard.
But I didn’t value my networks. I think the way men valued their network. I was like, my work’s going to speak for itself. And I would never ask for a job or I would never, you know, ask for a leg up unless I felt like I was a hundred percent ready for it. A hundred percent qualified. And I think that as a result, you know, I missed out probably I know I did. I missed out on opportunities that I maybe could have gotten if I’d been out there earlier saying, Hey, I want that job. And I definitely missed out on getting raises. And I found this out much later on, you know, a little bit before we met Stacy, because I got an opportunity to carry a bag and get a sales job.
And I remember I had always been in staff positions. And so I didn’t really totally know how comp on the sales side worked. And so I called up a friend of mine. I’m like, okay, I’m getting ready to negotiate my salary. And he’s like, they’re gonna try to cut your base salary because your, your at risk compensation is higher.
He’s like, you’re going to wanna try to justify as much as possible why they shouldn’t cut your base salary. Right. So I’m like, okay. He’s like, but your total comp will be higher. I’m like, great. So I’m all ready to, you know, wrote down all the reasons why they shouldn’t cut my base salary, blah, blah, blah.
Get my offer. And they raised my base salary. And so I’m like, they raised my base salary, but I was all prepared for why they shouldn’t cut it. Right. So I called my friend and I said, I just got my offer and they raised my base salary and he goes, oh, Katherine, you must be really underpaid.
And so I was like, oh my God, I was that underpaid that they actually raised my base salary and they raised my bonuses and so my total comp went up. And so I didn’t really know how bad it was, but I was just happy. I was getting like a 40% increase in total comp or something that was like a crazy bump.
So I said, thank you very much. And then a couple years later, I get a call to come back to products. And now I’m transitioning back from a sales job now into a staff job. And I remember, you know, the guy who was hiring me at the time, he said, what’s it gonna take to get you over here? Right. And I said I know I’m underpaid and I just want you to fix. And they raised my salary again by like another 30%. So in the space of two jobs I think my base salary went up like 70%. So, you know, it just goes to show if you don’t ask for those raises, if you don’t ask for the legs up, if you, the promotions, the, what do I need to do to get that?
You know, I mean, we leave so much money on the table and we leave so much opportunity on the table because we just weren’t trained to ask, so that’s my story.
[00:15:01] Stacy Sherman: That’s such a great. example of speaking up, doing it at the right time, that’s everything. Having confidence and going after what you believe is fair. That’s not easy. And yet you got rewarded because of it.
[00:15:26] Catherine Sugarbroad: Yeah. I think we have to look out for each other too. I mean, one of the things that stacy when you worked with me, we had an engineering team. I don’t know if you remember on the Yahoo small business side and we made a pack, the leadership team that we were gonna pay all the entry level engineers the same, because what we noticed was that we would make an offer. And the offer was always the same for entry level. These are entry level college graduates, right? They’re all getting the same offer, but every boy for some reason he would ask for more money and we would always want them to be happy coming to work with us.
And so we would give them a little more. It might not be exactly what they asked for, but they always got a little more. And what we found is that women would just not ask. And so we literally went back and we made a deliberate decision to adjust all the women’s salaries so that they were the same, so that they were higher.
And we said, we just weren’t gonna allow that to happen. There has to be a deliberate action to counteract that, because it’s just not fair. It’s just not fair. It’s not like you’re not gonna get the same quality work out of the female as the man. Right.
[00:16:42] Stacy Sherman: So the people that you’re on the board of, it’s women or girls
[00:16:48] Catherine Sugarbroad: Girls in tech. Yeah.
[00:16:50] Stacy Sherman: What do you tell them? I mean, they’re a new generation. They don’t have the experience that we do, and that might be good because they have a clean slate. Mm-hmm What advice do you give them?
[00:17:05] Catherine Sugarbroad: So Girls in Tech, to give you a little bit of background, they’ve founded about 15 years ago in San Francisco. A woman named Adriana Gascoigne who was tired of the bro culture in Silicon valley.
And the mission is to eliminate the gender gap in tech through professional development, connections and guidance and through jobs. Right? And so our programming includes like boot camps, hackathons conferences, mentoring programs. We do local get togethers. And we have a job board.. I mean, the idea is just to create an environment that enables our members. And our members sometimes are people that are just starting out, like earlier in their career.
What we found in the New York area is that a lot of our membership are actually people are trying to pivot. So either they weren’t in a tech role before now they wanna be in a tech role. Or what they’re realizing is that tech is everywhere now. You don’t have to be in a tech company anymore to have to be tech savvy. Right. Yeah. Or there are people like you and me, Stacy that are, you know, we’re veterans in the space and we’re looking to give back. And we’re actually in 55 cities now in 37 countries and we have over almost a hundred thousand members, I think. So, what do I tell them? You know, I mean, I think that is usually my biggest advice for women today is just be fearless. Don’t be afraid to be rejected. Don’t worry about appearing too ambitious. You know, don’t worry about looking imperfect. Don’t be afraid to ask for a leg up or that raise or for that promotion.
I think that’s where women always wanna have all their ducks in a row because that’s what we were taught, right, before they tackle something whereas boys were taught from an early age, just jump, just dive in, just go.
And so, we have to be self aware about that and encourage each other to jump in, go, go start that business. Or, you know, go ask for that. Who do you know in your network that could maybe help you get that job you want? You know, it’s like that, that’s the kind of thinking that a lot of women aren’t used to that. That’s the kind of thinking that they, they need to do more of. Right. And so that’s what I try to do, in addition to obviously all the programming that we have and trying to connect them with other role models and women who’ve been successful in technology so that they can share their stories and help give that person some confidence.
[00:19:35] Stacy Sherman: Confidence is huge. And as I have a daughter who’s gonna enter the work world when she graduates in the new year, I continue to instill in her and remind her of she’s petite like me, yet so powerful and I feel bigger than I am. And I try to remind her, like she is just so incredibly powerful.
My question for you, because I have a son who’s in his twenties and they have also a huge impact they do as supporters.
[00:20:16] Catherine Sugarbroad: Yes. And actually that’s been in the last year or so, that has been a bigger part of my personal focus for girls in tech is getting more guys involved because they don’t understand why women don’t ask for the raise. They don’t understand why women don’t ask for the job or why they don’t leverage their networks because that’s not how they think. And so helping them understand that women sometimes just need a little extra push. Once you get them going, the quality of the output you’re going to get from them is going to be incredible, right? Because of all the things that women bring to the table, but just understanding that they can encourage women in a way that sometimes other women can’t encourage I think is important. And they’re also, like you said, they’re often in ranking positions. And so they’re, you know, you can’t just ignore men, right?
I mean, women and men have to learn to work together and women need to learn how to ask men for that leg up too, right? So yes. Yeah. So I think, I think it’s incredibly, the allyship with men is critical.
[00:21:41] Stacy Sherman: One short story that stands out to me for the men listening. I hope they’re listening. And that is when it comes to equality and conversation. I remember several times I’d be in a room and women and men, and one of the men had cursed a few times in their storytelling and he says, oh, sorry, sorry. Excuse me. And I said, you know your story is awesome. It’s the fact that you’re apologizing for cursing, cuz I’m in the room, your locker room talk, right? That you’re apologizing is what’s really making me mad. So that’s what I mean like to people, men, women, anyone. You know, be you and don’t apologize or don’t say it because that makes it worse.
[00:22:31] Catherine Sugarbroad: It does make it worse. I agree. Men have to give women their due. I mean, they’ve earned the right to be there. Right? They wouldn’t be there unless they could handle a little locker talk and we’re not like these prissy girls that, you know, stereotypes anymore. That’s one of the things that blows my mind. I mean, I think about your daughter and congratulations on your son and your daughter, and going to college and graduating and that’s super exciting and I’m sure your son is gonna be a wonderful man. I look at this next generation of men and women and they don’t have some of the same hangups that we have.
I mean, women today, they don’t have the same limitations and they’ve been raised differently. They have different role models. They have a lot more role models and men see those same role models and they’re like, yeah, women are just like, guys, you know, they’re out in the workforce and they, you know, they can be candidates for President of the United States and I think that’s making a difference to the next generation and how men will treat women and how women will think of themselves in a man’s world.
[00:23:45] Stacy Sherman: Agree and gosh, so much more, but we’re coming to the end here. So let me ask you final questions. First of all, what’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received or given?
[00:23:58] Catherine Sugarbroad: There are two books that I always go back to and I’ve used them with my teams. One is Carla Harris. She wrote a book called Strategize To Win.
She also has a Ted talk, which is out there if you’ve never seen. She wears these pearls and she she’s sharing Carla’s pearls, her pearls of wisdom. And even for men or for women, I think she shares some great advice on how to get to where you want to be in your career. How to strategize to win. And one of the things that I remember that she said when I saw her speak that really resonated with me was she said, You know, a lot of women think, oh, my work will speak for me. Right. And she says, guess what?
Your work does not speak. And so she talks about some of the things that we talked about, which is, making sure you’re out there. You’re talking about your work, that you’re talking about yourself with people and that people know what you want next and that they’re giving you advice and they’re becoming a part of your career and things like that.
I think that that book is a great book. I’ve shared it with my teams before and I highly recommend it. The other one, which is really great for transformation, especially in a lot of CX journeys are about transformation as you know, Stacy. So another book that I bring in with more transformational type of audiences and CX audiences is a book called Switch.
How to change when change is hard. And it tells you not just how to drive transformation, but also potentially changing yourself. And the key is all about getting your rational brain and your emotional brain in sync. Those are the two books that I highly recommend to anybody who’s like in our line of business, or just looking for great leadership advice.
[00:25:56] Stacy Sherman: I wrote those down. I’m going look those up. So thank you for that. Fabulous. And if I had CEOs leaders, entrepreneurs In my room right now, what’s the one takeaway you want them to remember?
[00:26:09] Catherine Sugarbroad: Focusing on diversity and inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do. I would remind them that it’s good for business too.
Right. It increases the talent pool. And we all know there’s a big talent shortage out there. It improves employee satisfaction and strengthens the customer orientation. You know, we talked about how diversity is critical to ensuring that our technology is not biased, like artificial intelligence and also McKinsey did some research that showed that there was a high correlation between financial out performance for companies that were gender diverse and those that were less gender diverse. And so there’s clear research that shows that a focus on diversity is good for business. And I think, unfortunately I wish I could say that where we’ve gotten to today is because it was the right thing.
I think it’s clearly because it was good for business. Nothing in this space happens without intention. And so if you need help on what to do next, there are lots of organizations that you can team up with that would be happy to team up with you. Girls In Tech obviously is one. If you reach out to me anytime.
There’s women in technology, international girls who code, black girls who code, built by girls, breakthrough tech. I mean, depending on what you’re trying to achieve I can recommend an organization, so there’s lots of us out there. And we can help you.
[00:27:42] Stacy Sherman: Love that. Thank you for the great advice.
And last speaking of advice, if you could go back in time to your younger 20 year old self based on what you know now that you didn’t know, then what would you tell younger catherine?
[00:27:57] Catherine Sugarbroad: I would say don’t worry about being perfect and don’t be afraid to ask for that leg up. Absolutely.
[00:28:04] Stacy Sherman: I am so grateful that I get to share the gift of you with my audience, and where’s the best way to connect with you?
[00:28:12] Catherine Sugarbroad: On LinkedIn. I’m pretty active as you know, Stacy. So feel free to reach out to me with a direct message. You can comment on one of my posts. Would love to hear from you.
[00:28:25] Stacy Sherman: Wonderful. Well, thank you. And may the next generation have it easier than we did and we’re part of the movement. So it’s all good.
[00:28:36] Catherine Sugarbroad: Thank you, Stacy.
About Catherine Sugarbroad
Catherine is the Chief Revenue Officer and Founder of sWorks.io, a New York based technology start up committed to solving the small business app-building puzzle. Using their disruptive low-code App Builder platform, sWorks.io delivers high-quality, beautiful apps at unbelievable prices and speed. Catherine’s deep expertise in the small business market was instrumental in helping sWorks.io establish rapid customer and revenue growth in their first year.
Prior to starting up her own company, Catherine was a driving force for the development of innovative solutions for Small & Medium Business at Verizon, a portfolio generating over $30B annually. Catherine’s leadership career spans 20 years across significant leadership positions overseeing Sales, Operations, Marketing, and Product Management in the tech and communications.
She’s passionate about giving back to the industry through executive mentoring and as an Advisory Board Member for Silicon Valley startup, Adentro (formerly Zenreach). She is also a Board Member of Girls in Tech NY, a nonprofit organization committed to building the diverse and inclusive tech workforce the world needs.
Catherine is also a charismatic key note speaker who enjoys connecting with her audiences on a number of topics including understanding the small business mindset and the power of human connection in customer interactions.
A native of Canada, and a US Citizen, Catherine speaks French and English. She earned a Bachelor’s degree with Honors in Psychology from The University of London, Goldsmith’s College and a double Master’s degree in Management & Administrative Science as well as Business Administration (MBA) from The University of Texas at Dallas.
Connect on LinkedIn.
About Stacy Sherman: Founder of Doing CX Right®
An award-winning certified marketing and customer experience (CX) corporate executive, speaker, author, and podcaster, known for DoingCXRight®. She created a Heart & Science™ framework that accelerates customer loyalty, referrals, and revenue, fueled by engaged employees and customer service representatives. Stacy’s been in the trenches improving experiences as a brand differentiator for 20+ years, working at companies of all sizes and industries, like Liveops, Schindler elevator, Verizon, Martha Steward Craft, AT&T++. Stacy is on a mission to help people DOING, not just TALKING about CX, so real human connections & happiness exist. Continue reading bio >here.