Brenda Tackaberry got sick of glass ceilings and constantly being undervalued and underestimated. She is resilient and this is her story.
Learn more about The Global Resilience Project, read the stories of resilience, sign up for newsletter and submit your story here: https://theglobalresilienceproject.com/
Trigger Warning: The Resilience Project provides an open space for people to share their personal experiences. Some content in this podcast may include topics that you may find difficult. The listener’s discretion is advised.
About the Guest:
After 20 years of coming up against the glass ceiling in Engineering, Brenda Tackaberry branched out and started her own business - coaching, educating, and speaking about Gender Bias and all the ways we have been raised to believe it, and how institutions and businesses uphold it. The conversation has often been rooted in blame, shame, anger, and injustice, but Brenda has a unique way of making the conversation approachable and interesting.
Busting Gender Bias (@busting_gender_bias) • Instagram photos and videos
About the Host:
Blair Kaplan Venables is an expert in social media marketing and the president of Blair Kaplan Communications, a British Columbia-based PR agency. She brings fifteen years of experience to her clients, including global wellness, entertainment and lifestyle brands. She is the creator of the Social Media Empowerment Pillars, has helped her customers grow their followers into the tens of thousands in just one month, win integrative marketing awards and more.
USA Today listed Blair as one of the top 10 conscious female leaders in 2022, and Yahoo! listed Blair as a top ten social media expert to watch in 2021. She has spoken on national stages, and her expertise has been featured in media outlets, including Forbes, CBC Radio, Entrepreneur, and Thrive Global. In the summer of 2023, a new show that will be airing on Amazon Prime Video called 'My Story' will showcase Blair's life story. She is the co-host of the Dissecting Success podcast and the Radical Resilience podcast host. Blair is an international bestselling author and has recently published her second book, 'The Global Resilience Project.' In her free time, you can find Blair growing The Global Resilience Project's community, where users share their stories of overcoming life's most challenging moments.
Learn more about Blair: https://www.blairkaplan.ca/
The Global Resilience Project; https://theglobalresilienceproject.com/
Alana Kaplan is a compassionate mental health professional based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She’s a child and family therapist at a Winnipeg-based community agency, and a yoga teacher. Fueled by advocacy, Alana is known for standing up and speaking out for others. Passionate about de-stigmatizing and normalizing mental health, Alana brings her experience to The Global Resilience Project team, navigating the role one’s mental health plays into telling their story.
Engaging in self-care and growth is what keeps her going and her love for reading, travel, and personal relationships helps foster that. When she’s not working, Alana can often be found on walks, at the yoga studio, or playing with any animal that she comes across.
The Global Resilience Project: https://theglobalresilienceproject.com/
Thanks for listening!
Thanks so much for listening to our podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it using the social media buttons on this page.
Do you have some feedback or questions about this episode? Leave a comment in the section below!
Subscribe to the podcast
If you would like to get automatic updates of new podcast episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or on your favorite podcast app.
Leave us an Apple Podcasts review
Ratings and reviews from our listeners are extremely valuable to us and greatly appreciated. They help our podcast rank higher on Apple Podcasts, which exposes our show to more awesome listeners like you. If you have a minute, please leave an honest review.
trigger warning, the Resilience Project provides an open space for people to share their personal experiences. Some content in this podcast may include topics that you may find difficult, the listeners discretion is advised.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Hello friends, welcome to radical resilience, a weekly show where I Blair Kaplan Venables have inspirational conversations with people who have survived life's most challenging times. We all have the ability to be resilient and bounce forward from a difficult experience. And these conversations prove just that, get ready to dive into these life changing moments while strengthening your resilience muscle and getting raw and real.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Welcome back to another episode of radical resilience. It's me, Blair Kaplan Venables, and I'm here with you in your ears with a very special guest today, her name is Brenda and I just want to before I like dive into like her bio. It's a really cool story about how I know her. So if you've been following along with me, you'll know that Lululemon is a huge part of my life. I worked for them. I started in 2005. And when I finished school, I moved to Edmonton to be like an internal PR person, community leader. And there I had one of the best managers I've ever had in any job, probably one of the best bosses like I have had another boss that I love, but best boss ever. And her name was Audrey. And lo and behold, that was like 2007, which was not yesterday. And so social media came to be and you know, life moved on. And anyways, Audrey and I stayed in touch. And so the other day, she said, You should connect with my sister, Brenda, she's doing something really special. You know, you guys should connect. And so earlier this week, I connected with Brenda and I was like, Oh my God, you need to come on our podcast. And she is just such a delight. So after 20 years of coming up against glass ceilings and engineering, Brenda Tackleberry, branched out and started her own business coaching, educating and speaking about gender bias, and all the ways we have been raised to believe it and how institutions and businesses uphold it. This is such an important conversation. And the conversation we had I wish we recorded but it was just like, hey, let's chat chat. So we're gonna do it again today. So, you know, Brenda had her own experience, which led to this gender bias business starting, you know, she got sick of glass ceilings and constantly being undervalued and underestimated. And it is so relatable because I have been there too. So Brenda, welcome to the show.Brenda Tackaberry:
Oh, gosh, thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited to be here.Blair Kaplan Venables:
I love this. You know, I want let's, let's talk about your maybe before we talk about your story, like what is gender bias?Brenda Tackaberry:
Hmm. Okay, so, patriarchy is this big umbrella that covers everything we do. It was a system set up by men for men to succeed. Underneath this umbrella. There's a small box for boys and men, and a small box for girls and women. And patriarchy says all boys and men must fit into this box. And all girls and women must fit into this box. And what, what it's doing is it's creating harm. For people that don't necessarily want to be in that box. And it limits it for women, it limits what's available to us in our lives. For men, there's really deep psychological impacts. So I guess I will just start off by saying that gender bias impacts everyone. It's not just men versus women. It is very much a struggle. But it's a struggle for everyone. It impacts adults, it impacts very small children starting from a young age. And it's an old cultural, old cultural norms. It's the way we've been doing things for a long time. And so the whole principle behind busting gender bias is to start to bring awareness to what it is and to start changing the way we act and behave. Wow.Blair Kaplan Venables:
And it's not so important. And you know, with you being an engineer, like that's a, I would say, a male dominated industry. And, you know, I would love for you to share what you can about your story.Brenda Tackaberry:
Yeah, well, I guess I'll kind of take it way back. I want to start by talking about when I was a little girl, I had the privilege of growing up in a family where nothing was unavailable to me. I was not confined to specific roles. I was not told that I could or couldn't do things. So I often played hockey with the boys on the street. I, you know, my dad said what sport do you want to do? And I said, I want to play soccer. So my dad enrolled me in soccer. I was one of three girls in the entire city that was playing soccer and was playing soccer on a boys team with boys. I have no idea to this day what my dad did to get me into soccer, but I just I said I wanted to play soccer. And I showed up and I was playing soccer. I often helped him with projects around the house, he showed me how to use power tools. There was literally nothing that I couldn't do if it if I wanted to everything was available to me. So throughout high school, I was really good at math and science, I loved it, I decided that I would go into engineering as part of like what I wanted to do for work because it was very math and science involved. When I got into engineering, there was a group wise women in science and engineering. And I kind of rolled my eyes at this, I was like, You know what, if you are good at your job, and you're highly capable, you don't need a group for girls, you don't need special privileges, you don't need a shout out, you just need to do a good job. Right? This is my belief, because this has been my experience. What I found in engineering was that, you know, been I think 19% of my engineering student body was female. And in mechanical engineering, it was even less it was like 4%. So I did experience bias that was kind of like my introduction to bias behavior, in terms of we would get put into groups, and I would be tasked with writing the report. People would say, we want the girl in our group, right? She's the, the token female, I was called. And I was like, Okay, this is just a bunch of nerds, like who have no social skills from high school, like, I'm gonna let it slide still didn't really think gender bias was the thing. And then I got into the working world. And I got my first job. And I was asked to make coffee. Right, like a fully educated, decent GPA. I had someone my cubicle was in the back of the office, I had someone go out of their way to come back to my cubicle to tell me that there was no coffee. And I was like, Oh my God,Blair Kaplan Venables:
how did you respond? How did you respond?Brenda Tackaberry:
I was like, oh, no, I'm good. I don't actually drink coffee. And they were like, well, actually, I was just letting you know, that that we were out. So you could make more. And I was like, You know what, if you don't know how to make coffee, I will show you one time. And then I made him follow me to the lunchroom and prompted him on how to run the coffee machine, which was, you know, kind of a kind of a move on my part. Right. But really itBlair Kaplan Venables:
moved because you know what? That's that? Yeah, anyways, that was.Brenda Tackaberry:
So my entry into engineering was not a smooth one, I would say, you know, when I did, I did have a lot of really great work experiences as well. I am highly capable. My customers always loved me. I'm really good at my job. I'm super smart. And my superpower in the role is taking really complex concepts and breaking them down into simple, palatable, easy to understand concepts to communicate, right. And so some of the some of the challenges that I faced in the working world. Were, you know, I received comments, you are too bold, you're too direct. You're too bossy. You're too outspoken, your face looks very serious. And I find it intimidating. I was once told that when I'm asked my opinion, I don't always have to provide it. I can say things like, I'm not sure, let me get back to you, I need to think on that. Because when I share my opinion, it comes across as direct. And to me, I was like you literally hired me to provide my opinion, I am a technical expert. Right? You hired me to do this and to be here. And so I will not be not sharing my opinion when asked. There was a lot of challenges around just respect in general, being cut off being undervalued. And and it was not a lot of allies. Right. And and what happened Blair was I was like, Okay, I'm going through these challenges. There are other women watching me go through these challenges. So how I'm behaving and how I'm acting is impacting other women, whether they decide to rise in their careers, whether they decide to take on elevated roles, or whether they want to, like stay in the profession. The average timeline for women in engineering is five to seven years.Blair Kaplan Venables:
What like meaning, like they leave the industry,Brenda Tackaberry:
they leave the industry after five to seven years on average. Why? Well, I think that there's less opportunity for women. And I also think that there is an aspect of raising families. So they're there is a lot at play with that. A pega, who's the governing body and Alberta just did a five year study on the barriers to women in the workplace. And I will just say that this statistic is incredibly shocking to me. 83% of men surveyed do not believe that gender plays a substantial role in how people are treated in the workplace, compared to 76% of women who believe it strongly plays a role in how people are treated in the workplace. And that is the gap that needs fixing. So I guess to wrap my story up, my decision was that my skill set and my superpowers were better used in helping educate people on on the challenges and how to fix them. Because at the end of the day, does it create harm for women and gender diverse people? Yes, 100%. But it also impacts team cultures. And it impacts a business's bottom line. So people don't know it, but they're actually losing money because of gender bias in the workplace. Yeah,Blair Kaplan Venables:
well, first of all, wow, thank you so much for sharing your story. I can't imagine what it's like to go to school for all those years for engineering, which seems extremely hard. And then having such a short time in that industry. And mainly, like, with a big part of it being the gender bias, like, I can't imagine that but, you know, this path that you're on is important work. Because if you're not doing it, who's advocating? Who is teaching? And, you know, there's this thing where, like, you know, you don't know what you don't know, and some stuff is so built into society that we don't know, it's gender bias. Hmm. And I think like, you know, you know, when I said, read your bio, but you know, it's so rooted in certain things. Like, maybe we should talk about some of those things that you see that like, it's happening, that's gender bias that we don't even know. Mm hmm.Brenda Tackaberry:
Yeah, well, a really good place to start, actually, is TV and film. The Gina Davis Institute did a massive study on TV and film for small children. And what they found was that by the age of six young girls were learning to self sexualize, which means that we see ourselves through the eyes of men by the age of six.Blair Kaplan Venables:
So what year is this like now?Brenda Tackaberry:
Like, yes, that I think the study was done in like, the early 2000s. SixBlair Kaplan Venables:
is so young, that's bananas. It's, it'sBrenda Tackaberry:
heartbreaking, is what it is, right. And so you in movies and television, you see less jobs available for women. So if you talk to little kids before, they are six, there's not a lot of difference in career aspirations. I want to be an astronaut, I want to be a scientist, I want to be a doctor, I want to be you know, whatever it is. And then after six, that substantially changes because of what young kids are seen in TV and film. And a lot of these roles in these movies and TVs are, the majority of the characters speaking are male. And the storyline revolves around the male characters. So they did a study on the percentage of dialogue that women have in movies, that doesn't focus on men, and it is so small, is so alarmingly small. And this is, I mean, just just the issue, I think only like 2% of directors are female. So again, all of the stuff that we are modeling our behavior after and modeling how we perform our genders after or through the eyes of men. Which is like a systemic issue.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Yeah. So it's like, there's so much work that has to get done, like, where do you begin? Where do we begin? Like, what can like, I don't even know where to start? Like, what can we do as women? Like, I know what you were what you're saying about the you know, how you were asked to make coffee, like I shared with you offline, that there's been situations where I've been in meetings, and I'm the youngest one there and a female and immediately, where you're gonna take the notes. It's like, no, not. Yeah. You're not asking me you're telling me? Yeah, if you don't work well that way. But also, I've often I am the youngest one in the room and a female. So some of those tasks immediately fall to me. And, you know, it's like having these conversations with it's the system, right? It's a systemic problem. And like, it's like an old get someone who is maybe double my age, you know, white male, who thinks he's superior to me. And I always call it out when it happens to me and I like to educate and correct, but like, what can we do? Like what do we do if it happens to us as women, or what do we do if we see it happening?Brenda Tackaberry:
So this is really challenging because Another part of growing up as a young girl is that we are taught that we need to be polite, we need to be supportive, we need to not be inconvenient, don't make waves, right. So it is ingrained in us from a very young age to be quiet and pleasant. And so a lot of women in general have a really hard time speaking up and speaking out and standing up for themselves. And I would say that the work here begins in women learning to refine their voice, right and never went anywhere, it's always been there, learning to find your voice and effectively set boundaries. Because what that does is the call to action for people to respect you and treat you with respect. They're like Blair respects herself, because she is not taking notes, because she's actively participating in this meeting instead. And they ultimately will respect you more. And I guess the one thing that I also have to say is unconscious bias, like, it can feel very, like men versus women, you know, and, and it, it's sometimes it definitely is, but I just want to like preface everything by saying that the biases are created because of what is modeled for us in our culture, right, it's what's our parents modeled for us what our parents parents modeled for them. And so in the majority of cases, acts of asking a woman to take notes are non malicious, they're just non aware, right? It doesn't mean that that person is a bad person, he probably doesn't even recognize that he is participating in bias behavior. So the best point of action is not always to say like, Hey, Johnny, that's super bias behavior. Because what happens is it causes people to shut down, when they get defensive, your listening efficacy goes from like, 13, to 18%, down to zero, you're no longer able to receive information that's coming from that person. And until we can have the conversation with regulated nervous systems and make it more normal and more approachable. That's when we're really going to start to turn the tables, and that's my whole aim with busting gender bias is to make the conversation super normal, super safe for everyone involved. And, and to make the conversation so comfortable that we're able to start having it, right, having it with our spouses, having it with their children, having it with our co workers, having it with our customers, right, and learning what the tools are, and how to work around those. So you don't always have to call out gender bias. Yeah. But, you know, if you have your voice and you start using it, and you say, I'm actually here to participate in the meeting, so I'm not available to take notes. Yeah, right. That's a really good workaround.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Ooh, I like that. What are some of the, I guess challenges in your work that you've come across? Because you went from experiencing it to becoming like an advocate and an educator on it, you know, getting brought into corporate organizations or, you know, speaking or you have your own podcast? Like, what are some some challenges you've come across when it comes to your work?Brenda Tackaberry:
I would say the biggest challenge is receptivity. We've all been through really bad bias training, right? Like raise your hand if you've sat through some really boring training on Dei. And so there's already this kind of preconception, Oh, here's another speaker come to talk to us about like gender equity in the workplace. But I kind of, you see a lot of body language where people are really closed off. And so my first job walking in is to one, create safety and to create interest, right? Because it actually benefits everybody benefits men. It benefits women, it benefits workplaces. And so if we can get everyone like on board, it's low hanging fruit, right? We don't have to invest a lot of money. We're not developing a new product. We're not reinventing the wheel. We just have to learn and educate ourselves more about it, so that we can see substantial improvements in our problem solving or innovation, our merging creation and our business growth, right. So I make it a business conversation, and just really make sure that everyone knows that it's not persecution, right. You're not being persecuted for being us white man. Right? Yeah.Blair Kaplan Venables:
So because like So gender bias is like it's not malicious, right. It's most of the time most of the time. Okay, so give us an example of something that would be like malicious versus non malicious, right. Like, where's that fine line for us out there experiencing it? Like, how do I like, can you walk me through that?Brenda Tackaberry:
Yeah, so some types of gender bias that you might see in the workplace are assuming that a woman gets her job or her elevated role because of an inappropriate relationship with a male coworker or a male customer I mean, that's kind of like borderline sexism. But that's automatically discrediting the woman for her skills and her attributes. Yeah, and it and it is rampant. And it happens. I just had a really great podcast episode with Alison Forsyth, she educated me and my community on the culture of harm that's created. So she, she experienced sexual abuse in sport. And now she does a really excellent job of educating and campaigning for safe sport. And what she taught me was the progression of harm. So if you imagine the progression of harm as a triangle, and at the peak of the triangle is things like murder, dropping down a little bit, you have like sexual abuse, and dropping down a little more, you have micro aggressions, and below that on the base of the triangle is attitudes and beliefs, right. So that's where your gender bias sits, that's where your racism sits. And you can't build a culture where sexual assault and sexual harassment is happening if you have a positive culture of attitudes and beliefs, so it really does can progress into more severe forms of harm.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Yeah, like, this is such an important conversation. So I mean, large organizations who maybe someone's listening to this, and they work for a company, and there's never been any, like gender bias training, like what what's your message to those companies about? Like, what they can do? Like, is it? Do they build out a program? Do they have a consultant? Do they have you come in and talk like, what can what can we do to be better at?Brenda Tackaberry:
The first step is 100% education, and the second is accountability. So first, you need to be educated on what gender biases and how it's impacting your business and your business culture and your bottom line. And then we need to talk about opportunities to improve that. So how are you going to improve it? If you're not measuring it? Right? Are you doing inclusion surveys where you're getting an understanding of how safe people feel to contribute in meetings, how safe people feel to come to work, how purpose driven their work is, right? And then you have to look at things like hiring and promotion practices are the people that are hiring and promoted trained and gender diversity, right, or gender bias. And really, every company is different. So every company might need a different level of support. But there's certainly like a full audit that can go on within the company to discover gaps, and definitely implement accountability programs. So accountability means are we measuring it? And are we holding our managers accountable to reaching our goals? Yeah, right. So the tipping point, for more powerful teams is having 30% gender equality. So on a management team of 10 people having three women is where you start to see drastic improvements. And so it's, it's not that hard. It's, you know, it's not yes. And it's not 70%. It's actually only 30%. Right, so,Blair Kaplan Venables:
okay, so one last little, I have a couple more questions as we wrap up, but I just I, there's so much to dive into here. And luckily, your world is full of this so people can connect with you and, and follow you on social media. What do I do? If I'm experiencing this over and over again, in an organization? And I'm going to HR or management and no one's listening to me, what do I do?Brenda Tackaberry:
Well, first of all, my heart goes out to you because you are not alone. And I would say the experience can be very isolating. So the first thing that I want anyone to do, who's experiencing any type of bias behavior or being held back because of their gender, is to find an ally. So maybe that is your partner, maybe that is your mom, maybe that is a friend, right? In the workplace, I guarantee you if you're experiencing it, so are other people. If you're going to your manager, or your managers manager, and they're not, they're not listening to you, they're not making changes. If you go to HR, and they're not helping you, that's a really challenging situation. And it's happened. And I would say always put yourself first, right? So I do a lot of work with women on learning how to promote your skill sets and understanding what your worth is because the whole experience of it, bias behavior can erode your self confidence can erode your self worth, right. So we do a lot of work on understand understanding what it is that you bring to the table and knowing that you don't have to stay in an environment where you're being treated that way because you do bring you do bring a lot to the table. Right? Right. So yeah, like if we're gonna circle back to like resiliency, there's a missing rung on the mentorship ladder. A lot of women in here Who are in industry who have made it to the top rounds, who've been doing it for a while, their their version of resiliency is girl, you stick it out, you tough it out, this is what you have to go through to get the job, right, it might take you three times as long as a man to get to where you need to go. But my version of resiliency is quite different. And it is really stepping into your worth and rediscovering what that is. And knowing that you don't need to tolerate or put up with that behavior. And you can try the workarounds. And you can try and change it. But ultimately, at the end of the day, you will succeed in other places and other places of businesses. You don't need to tolerate that type of behavior. If it's unfixable. Yeah.Blair Kaplan Venables:
That's really important advice.Brenda Tackaberry:
Thank you. Yeah,Blair Kaplan Venables:
I think I think that's great. You don't you do not have to tolerate it. You don't have to suck it up. Yes. Yeah. You don't have to push through like we're gone are the days. Yes, we have a void in store. Yeah. Like we have a voice. I'm like you I've been told, like, you know, you don't have to be so loud. Or, you know, I've even had like, I've even like intimidated other women who have made these comments. Like, I actually had a manager once tell me like, every time I spoke to her, she's like, You need to ask me may I speak first? Because I have. Yeah, and I was like, Is this a kitchen?Brenda Tackaberry:
I also tell her to go pound salt.Blair Kaplan Venables:
I'll tell you what happened offline? Yeah, anyways, um, okay, so what advice do you have for someone who is going through something similar to what you went through? Like, what advice do you have for that woman who's listening? Who sees themselves in you?Brenda Tackaberry:
Yeah, great question, I would just say, to really take care of yourself, you are the most valuable relationship that you will ever have is the one that you have with yourself. And, you know, don't let any outside factors influence you believing in yourself, because you are highly capable, you're highly intelligent, and you're highly valuable, and the world needs you. You're needed. So don't, don't stop, don't give up continue to be great. And definitely, if you're if you're experiencing oppressive bias behavior in the workplace, look for help, you need to talk to someone, you need to talk to a psychologist, you need to talk to friends, you need to look for resources, what you will find is everyone's experiencing it, not a lot of people are talking about it. So it is hard to find, it can be hard to find really good resources, but I am that resource. My goal was to become that resource. So you can reach out to me and I will point you in the right direction and get you the help that you need. Because women definitely need to succeed. We need more women succeeding and excelling. And I'm here for it.Blair Kaplan Venables:
So yeah. Okay, so what's your Instagram handle?Brenda Tackaberry:
It's at busting gender bias. And there's an underscore between each word. So busting underscore, gender underscore bias.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Yeah, amazing. The links are the links gonna go in the show notes. your website's under construction. But yeah, I'm sure the, you know, go to her Instagram, when the websites ready, she'll direct you there. But she's a wealth of information. She has a podcast, what's it called?Brenda Tackaberry:
The podcast is called busting gender bias. Well, and yeah, I know, a lot of you can find us on Apple, Google I Heart Radio, Spotify, anywhere, you're listening to podcasts. And I am learning so much from having experts on the podcast as well. So it's a really great resource to find other resources also.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Oh, you know, we're on this constant learning journey. And I learned a lot, even today. And I think you're doing such important actually, I know you're doing such important work. And so thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your experience with me and with the global resilience projects community. I really appreciate you. So thank you for coming on.Brenda Tackaberry:
Yes, thank you. And thank you so much for having me and giving me an opportunity and a platform to talk about something that I'm deeply passionate about. And I love the work that you're doing with the global resiliency project because we see ourselves and other people and, and it's mirrored right. And so when you see other people working through things and being resilient, it is inspiring, and it's what the world needs. So thank you for what you're doing.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Oh, thanks, Brenda. Yeah, and thank you for everyone who tuned into another episode. We do this every week. Every Friday a new episode drops. We land in your ears, we share inspirational stories and ways to be more resilient. Just know it's okay to not be okay. Life is full of ups and downs. Let us be the lighthouse in the storm or the light at the end of the tunnel. You know, when it's hard, it's hard, but you're gonna get through it. You are resilient. Thank you.