Gender equality in the workplace is not a trivial matter, and as businesses add more women at all levels of management, it’s bound to come up more often. In this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn discusses the culture at the company he founded and what it can teach us about equality in business today.
Rob Artigo: Welcome back to another edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Hi Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello Rob. So good to have you again with us today.
Rob Artigo: It’s good to be back. You ran Micrel, a very successful semiconductor company, for the better part of four decades in Silicon Valley. You were particularly proud of the culture at Micrel. Tell us a little bit about the culture. What I want to focus on is, you have a diverse work environment there. You have males and females working together, people of a variety of races. What was the culture like at Micrel?
Ray Zinn: What I try to focus on and to encourage is fairness. Fairness in all respects. So the first culture that we had was honesty. Which means you’re going to tell the truth. The next was integrity, which is doing what’s right when no one’s watching. Comes from the heart. You just know you’re doing right because you feel good about it. The third is dignity of every individual. You know, showing respect and tolerance for all, not based on their gender, their race or any other aspect, but every person has the same rights and the same capabilities to succeed in life as anyone else.
There was no discrimination at Micrel, that I’m aware of anyway. We also had a culture of no swearing, because we feel that using vulgar language or condescending language is not respectful. That’s the other thing that we did, was to focus on the way we treated one another. The last of course, doing whatever it takes and no excuses. Meaning, if you make a mistake, we all understand we make mistakes but let’s correct them.
Rob Artigo: Let’s talk about company culture and the business climate today as it relates to gender equality, or inequality as the case may be, in the work place. I’m not sure if it’s becoming a bigger issue now compared to how it was in the early years of Micrel, or if we’re just starting to see or hear more about it. But looking through the lens of so many decades of experience as a manager, as a business operator, what are you thoughts about women in the modern work place?
Ray Zinn: You know, as I mentioned one culture that we had a Micrel is dignity and respect for everyone, irrespective of their gender, race or beliefs. So it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, it’s really how you do your job. This is the thing that we focused on. It wasn’t one of, well you know, we’ve got make sure we have our share of men, or our share of women, or our share of this particular race. We didn’t look at it that way. We looked at it as a family.
When you have families and you don’t know whether you’re going to have a boy or a girl, that’s something that’s determined by nature. We don’t need to discriminate, even at birth or during life. I was at a event where I was a speaker at San Jose State University. I told them that women are actually better than men. I actually said that, and I believe it.
I’ve been married 56 years to the same person, and I cherish that relationship deeply. I don’t put her in a box and say, “This is your job.” We just work together as a team. She knows what she can do better than I can, and I know what I can do better than she can, and we’re a team. So I don’t try to do her job and she doesn’t try to do my job. We just work together. That’s what a team’s all about, as they say there’s no I in team.
There’s another saying, behind every good man is a better woman, and I believe that. I don’t mean behind, meaning standing behind. I mean supporting. My wife has been very supportive of me because I’ve been very supportive of her. I was counseling someone regarding their marriage, or their upcoming marriage. The young man said, “Well, I’m concerned about what kind of wife she’s going to be.” I said, “You got it all wrong. You should be worrying what kind of husband you’re going to be, opposed to what kind of wife she’s going to be.” If you worry more about them than you do yourself, then you’ll succeed. I had a saying at Micrel that was, “If you worry about you, I won’t.” Meaning, if you’re going to focus on yourself, then I’m not going to worry about you because you’ll take care of yourself. But if you let me worry about you, you’re going to do a whole lot better.
Are women less capable than men? Absolutely not. As I said in my talk last night, I said, “Women are better than men.” The reason I say that is not to degrade men but to elevate women, meaning give them more value and importance, and rather than this be a male dominated world we ought to be this is a co-existing world where we work together. You know, women are in many respects far more capable and they’ll have more abilities than men do. So I don’t look at it that way, as I’ve said I’ve been married for 56 years and I love my wife dearly and I would do anything for her. That’s the way we have to look at it. I’d do anything for my children too, but my wife is my partner and I want her to feel elevated not only in my eyes but in other’s eyes.
So I always talk about, “I couldn’t get to where I am or have done what I’ve done without my wife, because she was the one that really has helped me accomplish the task that I have.” And I think that I’ve helped her accomplish what she’s been able to do. This is the way I look at it. No I in team and I want all the women out there who listen to me make this podcast, that you guys are better than we are. I have no doubt about that. My mother is really who I am. She built my moral character and I owe everything to my mother. She labored with me three days, 72 hours in childbirth. What men could even think of tolerating that?
Rob Artigo: Let’s finish up by saying, or just asking the question, put yourself back in your CEO shoes, as you’re top level manager. Let’s say that somebody has violated that culture that you had at Micrel for so long, and you have a female employee, a women who believes that either she’s been wronged or mistreated in … So, discriminated against, or somehow or another disadvantaged because she’s working with somebody who has a problem with her gender. What would you recommend to anybody out there listening who might be in that situation? Should they go to their boss? Come to you and say, “This is my situation. Can you help me work it out?”
Ray Zinn: My door is always open, so that meant that anyone could come to me and you don’t have to got to your immediate supervisor or to their supervisor. They were perfectly flexible and able to come and see me directly. Some issues where they feel disenfranchised in some way, they should come to the top and feel that they have that flexibility and that ability to do it, and not with the fear of being terminated.
So, are there when women do this just out of spite? Yes, I’ve had that happen. I’ve had dozens of employee work for me over the years and sure, there are times that I’ve had women come and inappropriately cause us to take action against a man for something that they alleged was done to them. But we looked into it and we gave it thorough investigation, even though it looked like on the surface anyway that there was some kind of game going on here.
But by and large, when women have come to me with an issue of some level of discrimination, we’ve taken it seriously and we’ve take action. Men have been fired over the actions that they did that were inappropriate. So yes, absolutely I feel in my company anyway, and I would urge those who have leadership positions in their company allow your employees to come to you directly if they have an issue with someone.
Rob Artigo: Because it’s a lot easier than going out and making it public or something before you’ve actually asked, “Hey, can you fix this?” When I was in the military many years ago, and I spent many years in the military and I can tell you from personal experience that male and female soldiers alike can do that thing where they just out of spite or something go up and make a complaint about somebody and raise a stink, so to speak, around something that really is just a personal matter.
Where there was a conflict in the relationship and as a way of getting back at somebody, somebody says and suggests something. I know when you were describing, you’ve had women that have come in and were doing something that ultimately were … Or was complaining about something that ultimately was unfounded, that that can go both ways. That can be the male half coming in and saying, “Hey, I have a problem with this women,” because of the issue, right?
Ray Zinn: I have an example. I have a friend of mine who was a dentist in the military, in the army. I think we was the level of captain, I believe. He was a good dentist and was in the military for many, many, many years, served well in foreign lands as a dentist. He had two assistants, two female assistants, military. He had often referred to them as gals, “Hey gals, let’s get going on this.” They took that offensively. He didn’t think that was offensive, obviously he wouldn’t have done it if he thought it was offensive.
But anyway, they took it up the line to his boss, that he had been calling them gals. He of course apologized, I mean once he found that calling them gals was offensive to them. He immediately stopped. But that still tarnished his record and it caused him to have to leave the military early because that stopped his ability to raise his rank in the army. So sometimes you may be offending someone, you may not even know it because everybody has a different view of how certain words or actions are perceived. Here’s an example of this poor guy, he was forced to leave the military just because two of his assistants turned him in for calling them gals.
Rob Artigo: Well, we can certainly continue this conversation for a long time. We can also plan ahead and do another podcast on this. Perhaps there’s a listener out there who’s thinking, “Wow, the two guys are talking about women in the work place and they don’t have a representation of female there.” I think that this is a good time to say, if you’re in the business world and you’re a woman who wants to talk about this sort of thing, you can be on the show.
But what you have to do is reach out to us at toughthingsfirst.com and ask. Just propose that you’d like to talk a little bit more about this. Ray would be happy to talk to you, and of course anybody else out there who wants to take a shot at being a guest host here on The Tough Things First Podcast can do so again by reaching out to us at toughthingsfirst.com. Of course find us on Facebook. Ray of course is out there on social media all over the place, Twitter. You can read his book, Tough Things First, available at major book retailers and Amazon. Thanks a lot Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks again Rob. It’s always good to be with you.