• January 11, 2018
HCMx Radio 74: Women in Action


Tara O’Sullivan, Chief Creative Officer, Skillsoft 


Rachel Cooke, Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Hall Group

In this episode of HCMx Radio, we interview Tara O’Sullivan, Chief Creative Officer at Skillsoft. Tara has more than 23 years of experience in B2B technology marketing, including leadership positions in Oracle, IONA Technologies, SAS and TES Global. She is regularly featured in the news, including The Huffington Post, Training Magazine and We are the City.

We discuss the successful initiative Skillsoft launched on Women in Action.

Tara offers advice on the changes that need to be made and talks about what women need to do, and some things other people – including men – need to do.

Tara begins with what women need to do:

  • Where we sit – Stop sitting at the edge of the room. Sit in the middle of the conference table, which conveys status, and raise your hand. Take part and help drive the conversations.
  • We need to own our success – Women often credit anything good that happens to the team, or to good timing, while men attribute theirs to innate qualities and skills. They own their success, and we undermine ours.
  • Just, not, sorry – This language choice is such an issue that there is a Gmail plug-in for it. The plug-in analyzes your emails to make sure you are not using diminishing words like “sorry,” “just,” or “I think.” We need to stop qualifying our message and diminishing our voice.
  • Ban bossy – Stop calling women bossy – it’s called leadership skills. When a woman speaks in a direct style or pushes her ideas, she is often called “aggressive” and “ambitious.” When a man does the same, he is seen as “confident” and “strong.” When women are being talked about negatively because their behavior is perceived as too aggressive, we need to pause and challenge it.
  • Step up – Men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the criteria; women wait until they have 100%. We need to help boost other women’s confidence and encourage them to reach for all opportunities they’re interested in applying for.

She wraps up with how men can play an instrumental role with these simple take-aways:

  • Stop mansplaining – Women get less airtime in group discussions. We are interrupted more — by both men and women — and given less credit for our ideas. When a woman is interrupted, interject and say you’d like to hear her finish.
  • Sponsor (not mentor) today — Mentorship and sponsorship are key drivers of success, but unfortunately women often miss out. Men tend to gravitate toward mentoring other men because they have shared interests. Commit the time and energy to sponsor a woman today.
  • Feedback on style – 66% of women receive negative feedback on their personal style, such as “You can sometimes be abrasive,” compared to less than 1% of men. Men are expected to be assertive and confident, so co-workers welcome their leadership. In contrast, women are expected to be nurturing and collaborative, so when we lead, we go against expectations—and often face pushback from men and women.

To listen to the interview, you can download or stream the podcast anytime at the HCMx Radio site.


Rachel Cooke, Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Hall Group


Rachel Cooke

Chief Operating Officer Rachel Cooke Rachel is responsible for business operations including overseeing client services, research events and project management. Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Rachel was the Chief Operating Officer Co-founder of AC Growth. Rachel has over 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, business development, and sales performance management. Prior to AC Growth, she held several senior management roles and was on the leadership team at Bersin & Associates, a pioneer analyst firm in e-learning and now industry leading HR and talent Research Company. In her Senior Director role, Rachel developed the strategy and led the commercial execution of the solution provider vertical, and grew the vertical into the company’s largest market segment. In her role as Director of Sales, Rachel developed and led a team of senior account executives focused on acquiring global strategic accounts. Rachel was solely responsible for developing key business relationships with over ninety companies including industry icons, such as: Adidas, Hewlett-Packard, Toyota, Oracle, Starbucks, Avnet, Boeing, Kaiser Permanente, Safeway Inc., Wells Fargo, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Clorox and Affiliated Computer Services. Rachel began her career in the banking, media and hospitality industries. In these industries, Rachel held several key senior management and executive sales positions. Rachel received a BA in social science and interdisciplinary studies with honors from Florida Atlantic University. Rachel continued her postgraduate education by completing a series of executive management education courses from American Management Association.

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