By Rohit Lakshman
Pasadena Weekly Staff Writer
Pauline Field has seen her fair share of sexism and harassment.
She recalled being invited to travel for work, but the reasons were less than noble.
“The only reason my supervisor took me was because he thought he could take advantage of me,” Field said. “He came knocking at my hotel door that evening. When I got back to New York, I thought, ‘Well, he’s going to fire me because I wasn’t doing what he wanted, so why don’t I resign before that happens?’”
Field spearheads 50/50 Leadership, an organization that works to create a level playing field for all genders working toward leadership positions.
The 50/50 Leadership programs offers courses in two major areas: leadership, with events such as women’s roundtables and youth leadership programs, and financial literacy, with two free courses on investment and financial management.
“Our main program of financial literacy is so important because we can’t do much without money, and if we don’t have a good relationship with money, and we don’t know how to manage it to our benefit, then we don’t have as much agency in the world,” Field said.
While serving as an executive at International Fieldwork Inc., a management consulting agency, Field was often the only woman at business events, consultations and meetings. One of the few women in leadership positions, Field heard crass jokes and was interrupted. There was no shortage of microaggressions in such a male-dominated space.
“I didn’t necessarily have to wave the banner at work, you know, ‘I’m a woman, I’m a feminist,’” Field said. “When I started 50/50 Leadership, I really wanted to let people know about the problems. It’s one thing to see women portrayed by the media as ‘the first one of this, the first one of that,’ but it doesn’t really say what we had to go through.”
50/50 Leadership took shape after Field passed and funded the city of Glendale Commission on the Status of Women, and served as commissioner on this board. After dealing in politics for a few years following the commission, Field wanted a way to give more back to the community. From her experiences prior at International Fieldwork Inc., it was clear what the next step was: an advocacy group for not just equality, but equity between men and women in leadership positions.
However, simply bringing women into leadership positions in corporations and companies is not enough. Field argued that the values of many corporations must change to benefit all of their employees, including their females.
“I have heard men proudly talk about how they make these multibillion-dollar deals and then wave it off with a ‘then the attorneys get to work it out,’” she said. “There is never a thought about the impact to the employees, to their contractors, to the environment, to the greater community in which they operate. None of that.”
Women often address these problems as they come, Field said. With more women in leadership positions at corporations, men and women can learn how to be more compassionate executives.
As in her bio on 5050leadership.org states, “just as mothers would walk in front of a bus to save their child, so we each can find a similar passion and commitment that pushes us onward, removing fear and doubt so we simply do what we know to be right.”
Field elaborated on that intuitive feeling of “rightness,” which comes with motherhood.
“The last couple of generations have been saying, ‘We can’t just rape and pillage our way through to success,’” she said. “There has to be something for the greater good, so if we’re going to do that, then the vision, the mission, the values of a corporation should shift from ‘let’s just make as much money as we can make for our shareholders.’”
Field said she believes this new generation of workers has made huge strides in gender equality and equity, and that while corporations have a long way to go if they want to be a truly level playing field, that dream of 50/50 leadership that began 16 years ago may not be very far away.
As for the future of 50/50 Leadership, the organization has many plans for 2021. From summits in August to constant updates from the group’s newsletter, there is always more to learn from the leaders at 50/50 Leadership.
Field said she wants women and girls to feel confident about themselves.
“[Women] should know that they are worthy. They have every right to be at whatever table they want to be at.”