Women in Tech: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women with Oracle’s Lisa Joy Rosner – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series

This episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – Interview Series is part of our recently launched Women in Tech Series. I’m thrilled to have as my guest today Lisa Joy Rosner, Senior Vice President of Brand and Digital for Oracle. She leads the team that is responsible for all things around the verbal and visual identity of the company. But more than that, and like me, Lisa Joy is living the life of a busy executive while also managing to raise four kids in the process.

Our conversation was intended to tackle a tech-related topic, but once we realized we had so much in common, we decided to quickly pivot and discuss something even more important — women in tech and the impact of COVID-19.

The stark reality of the impact of a global pandemic on women is not pretty. Women have been three times more likely to have their careers impacted in some way by the pandemic compared to men. According to the National Women’s Law Center nearly 2.2 million women left the workforce in 2020. And, despite the positive job market gains in the last few months, women are re-entering the workforce at a slower pace, if at all. Many continue to stay home, because the strain of being an educator, caretaker, and employee has been too much.

Women in Tech and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Lisa Joy and I have both lived lives that have been largely comprised of balancing work and family. We’ve also both witnessed firsthand the impact that the last year has had on our female colleagues, so we thought it was time to have a discussion about what leaders in tech — and other industries too — can do to help ease the strain of the pandemic for everyone, but especially for women.
Our conversation covered:

  • The importance of empathy for ourselves, colleagues, customers, and partners.
  • How understanding and flexibility from leaders can go a long way.
  • The little gestures that make a big difference for employees.
  • The mental and emotional toll the pandemic is having on employees and how we as leaders need to do a better job.

It was a fascinating conversation and an incredibly important one to be had right now. No matter where you are in the workforce hierarchy, this is definitely one episode you don’t want to miss.

Watch my interview with Lisa Joy Rosner here:

Or listen to it on your favorite podcast streaming app here:

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

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Shelly Kramer: Hello and welcome to this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast. It’s part of our Interview Series and is part of our Women in Technology Interview Series. I am so excited today to introduce you to my guests, Lisa Joy Rosner.

She is the Senior Vice President of Brand and Digital for Oracle. And her team is responsible for all things around the verbal and the visual identity of the company, and really infusing the voice of the customer across all of the Oracle channels and Oracle as a company. And that’s very much what I do on a day-to-day basis too, Lisa Joyce.

So it’s great to know that we spend our days in similar manners. A little more background, Lisa joy is a Silicon Valley veteran. She’s worked in data and analytics her entire career across, business intelligence, e-commerce, social analytics, MarTech security, you name it, she’s done it. And so, here’s the thing Lisa joy, you joined Oracle in the middle of a pandemic. Way to go.

Lisa Joy Rosner: Can you believe that?

Shelly Kramer: I think that’s awesome. Well, that had to tell me that had to be exciting, right? Everybody else is hunkering down, you’re starting a new job. All right, there you go.

Lisa Joy Rosner: It’s really been amazing to start this job and meet so many new people and mobilize and motivate a team that I’ve actually never met in person. That’s very unusual, but so far so good. You just learn new tricks and new ways to connect with people.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. It’s funny. My team and I are in a very different position as it relates to pandemic times. I’ve owned a marketing consulting agency for 24 years. And for 20 of those years, I’ve led our teams virtually. And at Futurum Research, all of our team is virtual. All our team of analysts are virtual. They’re all over the country.

And so, we’ve been collaborating and communicating and getting things done for decades virtually. So this shift for us, we’re just like, “Oh yeah, we’re kind of good at this. We know where we’re doing well.”

Lisa Joy Rosner: Right before I started, I was working for an IOT company based in Israel. And so, I was used to communicating through alternate channels, but this was new to the Oracle team. People are very used to packing into a conference room.

And the thing that I have to say I really miss, are the serendipitous moments where you’re walking down the hall and you have a spontaneous conversation, or you have to solve a problem. You just grab five people and take care of it. We don’t that right now, but we just have to find ways to create that spontaneity and other ways.

Shelly Kramer: The other thing that I missed that I never would have thought that I miss is, actually looking good. And not that I don’t look fine in my Lulu lemon top. My husband said the other day, “You know what, honey, it’s really interesting. All of my clothes come from Costco and all of yours come from Lululemon.”

I think that’s really interesting. And I personally, I said that says it should be. So, I don’t really know what the problem is, but anyway, when you go somewhere and you see somebody these days, like if I’m running out to grab a coffee or something like that, and I see somebody dressed in business clothes, it’s like, “Oh my God, you look so great.”

I miss that, or going to events and being able to just sort of look like business people from time to time. But that’s the way it is. We’ll be fine. We’ll get through this.

Lisa Joy Rosner: Absolutely. I found that it’s been very sort of just humanizing and democratizing. I was in a meeting actually with a man who was watching his kids for the day. And it was actually someone external. Very, very senior executive. And it was a very important meeting.

And all of a sudden, in the middle of the meeting, from the right and from the left, came to light sabers, crashing him on a stand and he looked mortified and I went into the chat and I texted and I said, “That’s awesome. you’re doing great. Don’t worry.”

Shelly Kramer: Well, I know that you have a little bit of a non-traditional work relationship and we’ll touch on that in a minute, but I will say that I very much agree and I think I’m someone I have two crops of children as I’ve shared with you. And my older daughters literally grew up on the floor of my office.

Their needs took last place when it came to the needs of the clients. And I was a single mom for 16 years. So, work was really important and, keeping a roof over their head was really important. And so, my girls were always sort of at the bottom of the list of things I needed to take care of, which sounds terrible. But that in many ways is a working mother’s reality. And my daughters are my second crop of children.

I have 14 year old twin daughters, and I have no problem now saying, “Lisa Joy, you want to have a meeting with me? You know what? I’ve got to do it before 2:30 CST, because I have to pick up my kids from school, or my kids have a volleyball game that I’m not going to miss.

And I just find myself and I’ve been this way, not just in pandemic times, but I’m much more honest with people about here are my priorities. And today my kid has a volleyball game that I’m not going to miss. And we can have our business conversation at all these other times, but we can’t do it now. But what I’m seeing in my neighborhood that I really love is, you go for a 30 minute walk with your dog for a sanity break.

And I’m seeing so many dads walking kids in strollers, or with kids on bikes and they may be on a call while they’re doing it. But I really I’m seeing so many more men so much more involved in their children’s lives. I too am having conference calls and video conferences where I hear a baby crying and I’ll say, “Do I hear a baby?” And one of the dads will speak up and say, “Yeah, that’s mine.”

And so, I really think that we’ve been hiding our humanness. Especially women have been hiding our humanness and our responsibilities as parents for a long time. So, I think it’s really cool to see this changing. And like I said, I know you have a little bit more of a non-traditional relationship in that… Well, I’ll let you tell your story.

Lisa Joy Rosner: Okay. So first of all, I have one crop and they came very quickly. I gave birth four times over a four year and three month period. And during that period, I launched two different, really cool high-tech companies. So, my kids are all the same age. So they were all in diapers together. And now they’re all going through puberty together.

And behind me are four different classrooms learning simultaneously virtually. But I was listening to your story and it’s interesting. The thing that has kept me going is multitasking. And there’ve been times where I have been literally on a phone interview with The Wall Street Journal and I’m frosting cupcakes that the interview ends, I’m going to go deliver to school and then come right back and do a board meeting. And during that board meeting, I’m sewing a Halloween costume. With Zoom, I can’t do that anymore.

Shelly Kramer: But I think that’s also to me, when somebody has asked about my personal secret to success is, my answer is chaos. I am so wired to operate in the middle of chaos. And it is icing those cupcakes and talking with a reporter or doing all those things. I mean, that’s just the reality of my world.

And I am a very good juggler. And I can juggle work, and I can juggle kids and I’m not perfect. And I drop balls all the time. But I think that I very much believe that you’re wired how you’re wired, and I’m so grateful that I am do well with chaos. And I actually have some earplugs nearby. That my office is at one end of the house and it’s really a big office, but my living room is right next door. And I don’t have a door on my office.

So, sometimes the girls will be home after school or whatever, and they’ll turn on Gilmore Girls. And as I’m sitting here with wax earplugs in my ears, because I write a lot and I really need quiet when I write. So, it’s just kind of finding those tricks and the things that you can do that make it all work, but I very much have lived that same life and I think it’s actually kind of fun in a sick way.

Lisa Joy Rosner: They all kind of. I agree. So, I have a couple of philosophies. One of them, I call it amortizing your bank balance. So, you can’t actually do everything perfectly all the time. But if you can stay above water at work, make sure that you’re at all the really important school related things, or sports related things or whatever activity. And occasionally get that yoga class in.

I don’t amortize my balance by week, sometimes it’s by month or by quarter, but it really it’s about sort of adjusting and figuring out how to prioritize ferociously. And I think that ferocious prioritization on the home front has also really taught me how to do that on the Workfront. Because you talked about the role that I have.

I have nine different VPs that report to me, and they’re all working on absolutely mission, critical projects. And I have to ferociously prioritize the way I give them attention, the way I help them prioritize. And it’s the same thing at home. Balancing the four different kids.
And there are times where if I have to meet with Larry Ellison, I meet with Larry Ellison, there are times if a kid has to go to the doctor that comes first. So it’s all about really figuring out how to amortize your balance and get it in a long haul and how to ferociously prioritize.

Shelly Kramer: I think back to when my twins were babies and my husband travels 90% of the time. And he traveled 90% of the time before we married. And he traveled 90% of the time when we had twins. And only now does he not quite travel so much. But I was very used to functioning as a single parent.

And I remember when my girls were babies and when you have twins and your situation is not too dissimilar, but my older girls are only 19 months apart. Which is close to having twins. But I remember when one is screaming, that’s the one you have to take care of. And then if the other one starts screaming, like you have to deal with the most urgent problem of the moment at that moment. And if everybody else is screaming, that’s okay, you’ll get to them.

And you just kind of have to take a deep breath and do that. So, was really going to talk a lot more about technology in this conversation, but I think we’re going to throw that out the window. But I’d like to stay focused on is just really for the women in the audience who are listening, I want to talk about what your seeing these sort of pandemic times are impacting women and how kind of…

I’ve seen lots of data on the fact that this is really impacting women in the workforce. And I’m in a situation. And I feel like maybe you are too. My kids are teenagers. My kids are freshman in high school. Working from home, learning from home is nothing for me. I mean, my kids are self-directed, I don’t have to pay any attention.

All I have to do is referee, if they start screaming at each other occasionally. But for women with young children, this is a very, very big thing that happens. That’s disrupting the lives of a lot of women. What are you seeing within your network, within even Oracle? What are you seeing an impact on women in the workplace as it relates to the pandemic?

Lisa Joy Rosner: Well, so first of all, let’s talk about the numbers. Women are 3X more likely right now to have their careers shifted and stunted and changed as a result of the pandemic than men. And then we have to perse it by essential workers versus non-essential workers. Essential workers are really, really struggling.

The thing about women in tech is that we have a little bit more flexibility.

Shelly Kramer: We do.

Lisa Joy Rosner: Right? We can work around certain hours. I think that in the type of jobs that we have, my one advice to everyone is don’t ever apologize. Be who you are. Just like that man who had the kids with the light savers popping in his face. He kind of had to make a choice. Do I show up to this important meeting, or do I take care of my kids?

Well, you know what, I’m going to do a hybrid and just hope that the people on the other end of the meeting have empathy. And I think that is the most important word right now. Empathy and compassion.

We have to have empathy for ourselves. We have to have empathy for our teams. We have to have empathy for our customers and our partners and our colleagues across the board. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be focused. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t deliver. We have to, but we have to be transparent about what our limitations are and then solve problems really creatively.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. And I think that even going back to your comment about democratization across the board, I really think that we are seeing. This is a much needed transition in the workplace that I don’t think really anybody ever expected, but when husbands and wives are both working from home and you factor in kids, learning from home and all the things that we’re all juggling, it’s like our humanity is kind of rising to the surface. And we are seeing things that many of us kept hidden men and women.

Lisa Joy Rosner: Absolutely. And I think as leaders, one of the things that you really have to do is understand where your team is. So, I have people on my team who have babies and I find out what their schedule is. So then I never book a meeting or during the times that I know they have to be with their kids.

And it really is about paying attention to those details and understanding where are and when to include them and when you just make a decision without them and then inform them afterwards. And I think communication is really, really critical.

One of the things that I’ve seen change right now is our dependence on technologies. Like we use Slack. In fact, I think I hear myself saying, “I’m going to Slack you a Zoom.” Five or six or seven times a day.

And it’s funny, but we need to use technology to help us communicate and help us to send the information. And even little things like Amazon has been my incredible partner right now, the retail side, where sometimes I see people getting down and I’ll just send them a little something to cheer them up. And it can get there in a day.

But I think that it’s really important to understand where people are and to listen. And listening applies to both your employees and to your customers. To understand where they are, what they need, what they’re struggling with, how they’re challenged, so that you can address that and help them keep, keep going.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that I have done with our company, and again, we’ve been working virtual for a really long time, and this is not something that we’ve done in recent times, but I think it’s a great example. When I have a team of like six women who work for me in our marketing consulting agency and all of these women had children at some age or another.

And a lot of times in my world, when my girls were littler, I would kind of need to check out from about three o’clock in the afternoon until maybe six or seven o’clock depending on sports or whatever. But, the minute I could put them to bed, my, I picked up my laptop and I was working. A lot of times I was working. Sitting in my bed while my kids were, I was waiting for them to go to sleep.

Again it was just me, my husband was gone and I’d work until midnight or something like that. And not necessarily proud of it. But what I did was, I shifted my Workday to accommodate the realities of my life. And our whole team, each woman had something. Maybe not the exact same circumstances, but for us, wasn’t unusual to get a message from somebody at 09:30 at night, or to have somebody ask a question at 11 o’clock at night.

And, one of the things that I built into, the way that I manage teams is, I make sure that if I’m messaging somebody, if I’m emailing somebody on a Sunday or whatever, like, “Do not read this until Monday.”

Lisa Joy Rosner: That’s what I was thinking. Because I too, I’m a night owl. So, the kids go down and I can work as late as 2 o’clock in the morning. But I think it’s really important to lead by example. And I lead by with my drive and my passion and my energy and my commitment.

But, it can also backfire. I actually had someone say to me, “When people see you sending emails at one o’clock in the morning, they think lead by example, that you expect that of them.” That’s a really big insight. And I realized, “Oh, I better stop doing that.”

And so, I moved some things around in my schedule so that I deal with some of my personal emails at one o’clock in the morning. And stop doing things to stream because I don’t want to burn people out. And people are working much, much longer days than they would normally, because to some extent, our commute time, now meeting time, and our lunchtime is now meeting time and that is what’s happening to people.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. It’s very challenging. And one of the things that we do here on a regular basis is, we might have a Monday morning project meeting call, and we might spend the whole hour just talking about what’s going on in our communities, or weird things that are happening, or are you turning into a prepper? Do you have a go bag? Silly conversations like that.

And sometimes at the end of an hour, we haven’t talked about any status and it’s okay. Because people will say, “You know what, that was kind of the brain break that I needed.” So I think that really understanding, keeping your finger on the pulse of what your people are feeling, and the stresses and the challenges.

And like you said, a little gift here and there, or I discovered farm girl flowers this year. And so, out of the blue, I’ll send somebody some flowers and it’s just like, “Oh my gosh, this just changed everything about my day.” And so, as leaders and as managers, I think that really understanding how deeply all of us and our teams are impacted by uncertain times, I think could go a long way.

Lisa Joy Rosner: So I tell you some of the funny gifts stories.

Shelly Kramer: Oh yeah.

Lisa Joy Rosner: So, I’m here at Oracle to lead, just to complete changing of the complexion of our brand. Right. Oracle’s been around for 43 years. When I say Oracle, people say a lot of different things. When I say Oracle, what pops into your head?

Shelly Kramer: I’ll put you in there Larry Ellison.

Lisa Joy Rosner: Right? People think Larry Ellison. They think databases, they think been around forever. But Oracle is in the middle of completely reinventing itself. And when I first started, when the first thing I worked on was a launch of this incredible technology. It has a very unsexy name. It’s called you ready, ready, Dedicated Regions Cloud at Customer.

We market to people who are very, very little. And this is a really incredible technology. We worked really, really hard on a lot. I was brand new. I was kind of behind the scenes and checking it all out. And so, Dan launch comes, Larry Ellison delivers this speech.

And the most persnickety, most well-respected, most difficult to win over. Gartner analyst writes an article and calls Oracle. It’s another, are you ready? A Sparkly Pink Unicorn. So, one thing interesting about me and my relationship with Oracle is that I’m a Boomerang.

I started my high tech career at Oracle in 1992. And so, I feel in some ways, like I never left, and I know the company really well. And Oracle is many, many things. But words like sparkly and pink and unicorn don’t really come to mind. So, she wrote this article and I went to the social media team and I said, “Make me a sparkly pink unicorn.”

And they looked at me like I had seven heads. I’m just like this sparkly pinky and we don’t do that in Oracle. This is what we do now. And they said, “Wait a minute, we need written permission that it’s okay to do this because we are normally so serious.” You have to have fun with this. This is amazing.

So, they made me this really cool, elegant, like not cheesy, a unicorn built out of data. And we put it out on social media with a headline, “McLeod you’ve always dreamed of.” And a link to Lydia LA Leon’s article. And I held my breath for a second. And literally Lydia Leon from Gardner took the sparkly pink unicorn and put it on all her social channels and said, “Look at Oracle made for me.” And copied all the gardener analysts. And the thing went viral.

There were a couple people that had to trust me and take a leap of faith by doing something that we’d never do before. And I went on and I found these. Not like a little stuffy and not necessarily cheesy. I found this beautiful sparkly, pink unicorn figurine. It was really, really cute.
And I sent it to all the people who were part of it and they were beside themselves. And it was this watershed moment because I’m here to challenge people and get them to think differently, and find new ways of communicating.

And like you said at the beginning, “Infuse the voice of the customer into all of our storytelling.”

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. I think that’s awesome.

Lisa Joy Rosner: The other one is, we’re here to also demonstrate that Oracle’s cloud technology is the most advanced and unparalleled. And I was in a meeting and I said, “Guys, we have got to put our cloud glasses on.”

Shelly Kramer: Are you going to put them on for a second?

Lisa Joy Rosner: And then two days later in the mail, this is so funny. Someone sent these to me.

Shelly Kramer: I love them.

Lisa Joy Rosner: My cloud sunglasses. And so now, when someone does something really different or really exceptional, or has a really big win, they get the cloud sunglasses. And it’s little things like this, they’re so little and they’re maybe a quirky, but in times like these, those little gestures make such a big difference.

And when I do them and decide to do them, they’re kind of spontaneous. And I just go with it. And we’re just challenging the status quo right now across the board. To be leading this kind of effort in the middle of the global pandemic. And I’m here in the Bay area, we were also on fire for two months. It is extraordinary. And let’s go back to that word of having compassion and having empathy. It’s just important now more than it’s ever been.

Shelly Kramer: Well. And I think to remember that sometimes is those little touches. That bouquet of flowers, that shiny pink unicorn that special thank you, that handwritten note, and quite honestly, and not intending at all to malign my male counterparts and my colleagues, but generally speaking, it is the women on the team who are thinking along those lines. That it sometimes just takes one little piece of something and bonus checks are great, but these kinds of things are different. And they impact people in a way beyond just getting a check.

Lisa Joy Rosner: And on that, one of the things about being on something like Zoom, or actually, I’m not familiar with the technology around on here, but there’s the chat box. And so there are times where in meetings where I will go to yes, a male counterpart and say, “Hey, can you please say thank you right now to this person who really need to hear it.” And then I kind of noticed them sort of out of the corner of their eye, reading the chat, like, “Oh God, he’s reading it.” And then he’ll say it. And then I’ll get a text. “Oh my God, blah, blah, blah. I just said, thank you to me.”

Shelly Kramer: It’s just those little things. You know what? I do the same thing in chats. I lead a team of largely comprised of male analysts, male tech analysts. And we’ll be on a conference with a client and I’ll hear, “I this”. And, “I think this”, and, “I this”, and, “I this” and, “I this,” and I’m the one messaging and chat like, “Hey, you know what, could you try to remember that this is a, we.”

This is our team, has all worked on this and then the, “Oh yeah, I just forgot.” So, I’m constantly doing those little messages too. And, sometimes it just makes… Or the other thing that I’m doing is, I’ll send messages to people on our team.

A lot of time everybody wants what they want done right now, “Well, you know what, so-and-so’s father just died. Or so-and-so just got a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, or somebody’s kid just had to go into rehab.” And so, I find that I tend to be the conduit by which this kind of information gets very strategically shared so that people will step back and say, “You know what? It is really important that I get this done, but it can wait because what you’ve got going on right now is really more important.”

Lisa Joy Rosner: So, you just said something that made me think of something that we just did very recently at Oracle. We have an extremely rich, robust and diverse portfolio of products. One of which is of course has an acronym it’s HCM, which is Human Capital Management or HR solutions.

And one of the things that we’ve been doing for several years now is doing a study of mental health in the workplace. Through marketing to human resource leaders, and we want to bring them insights that will help them in their jobs. And we just released this report. It’s called AI at work.

And I’m going to share with you the most, I don’t even know what to say about this insight, but the biggest insight was that right now, people would rather talk to a robot than talk to their boss about their mental health issues. They are suffering, their emotional suffering during the pandemic. And there was a lot of other really, really interesting insight, but that one just blew me away. And it just tells me that we as leaders have to do a better job.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Absolutely. Okay. I want to be mindful of the fact that you told me that you needed to dash off to something at the top of the hour. And we are at the top of the hour. Lisa Joy, this has been such a great conversation. And what we’re going to have to do is we’ll book another session of this interview series. And we’ll talk about all things, Oracle cloud.

So that we can talk a little bit about some of the interesting things that you all have going on, and you can show up with your cloud glasses. You’re going to send me a pair of cloud glasses. We can broadcast. It’ll be great. But thank you so much for hanging out with me today. This has been a great conversation, and I look forward to following it up with yet another one.

Lisa Joy Rosner: Thank you so much for having me. I’m looking forward. I have some amazing customer stories that I would love to share with you. So, I look forward to doing that next time, and it just means so much to me that you included me in this session today. It was really fun. And I learned a lot.


Author Information

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”


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