How Men Can Be Great Allies For Women
A critical step in women achieving greater equity and equality at work is building alliances with the good men who are at the top and on the path to get there. We want to be your partners and work together for the benefits that everyone receives from a more diverse workplace. We know you want that too. Here's how you can help:
- Understand women want to be seen as capable PEOPLE, not labeled as "others." Yes, we have different challenges and we need your awareness of those to help remove barriers. And we want our chance to shine and show all we can contribute. When we are the only, or one of the only, women in the room/meeting/at the table, it is a heavy burden to represent all women. See us for ourselves as individuals first.
Little things go a long way. We need you to speak up for us in the moment about the small assumptions AND the overt discrimination - when we are with you AND when we are not. We need you to advocate for us so the burden is not solely on us to push back, particularly when we risk upsetting more senior people who have control over our career paths.
- Don't protect us from risks, give us opportunities. While a fatherly or brotherly approach may seem like it would be helpful, thoughtful and/or comforting, in reality this ends up "protecting" us from opportunities that we need in order to develop new skills and grow as leaders. Yes, please step in if someone is being a jerk, but don't hold us back from a work opportunity because you assume we cannot handle it.
- Beware the slippery slope that becomes victim-blaming. Responding to a woman telling a story about someone who crossed the line with "why didn't you say something?" immediately inflicts judgement and shame on her, plus an expectation that she should be ready to defend herself at any moment. The person crossing the line is the wrong-doer, not the recipient of the bad behavior. Help us by working with us to figure out how to handle the situation. Don't ignore it or assume it will blow over or work itself out. It won't.
- Be proactive in making things right. Women tend to look to those ahead of us to see how hard it will be for us to get there. Too often companies wait until there is an issue causing a woman to leave before addressing a problem, particularly when it involves career and lifestyle paths. Working with us to anticipate what may be a potential barrier ahead of time makes us feel valued and sends a terrific message that you are willing to partner with us to make things work for us.