A Woman’s Perspective On How Men Can Join The Conversation
And begin to have a real impact on inclusion, diversity, and equality.
It’s no surprise that this International Women’s Day (IWD) is like no other. Although there will be a number of events to choose from, we won’t have the same opportunity to meet new faces and expand our network by literally rubbing shoulders with others.
Perhaps recognizing IWD in the form of lunch & learns and cocktail hours are a thing of the past. There is no doubt that there is power in celebrating women and their achievements, and that March 8th has been reserved for such an occasion. But in order to see real and lasting change, is it time that we answered one of the most common questions I get asked:
How do we bring men into the conversation?
After all, without their allyship, our efforts have less opportunity to be realized.
In speaking to women, they want men to show up more.
And in speaking to men, they often feel like they don’t know where to start. So I offer you this, a perspective on how we can work together and drive the conversation of equal rights for women forward.
First step: educate yourself.
Don’t rely on women to do all the work. It is expected that you come to the table having made an effort to learn. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch Ted talks — whatever you prefer. In learning you will start to notice a natural curiosity emerge and it’s important that you listen to it and act on it.
Be curious, ask questions, and then listen.
There is a misconception that men will always say the wrong thing when speaking about equality, but the truth is, no one has all the answers. Taking the small step of asking a question or starting a conversation, can in fact have an impact on driving change.
Knowledge is power, after all.
Be courageous. Be vulnerable.
Or in the words of Brene Brown, be both, and Be Brave.
It takes personal courage and professional courage to create the right environment for people to be at their best.
We all require a safe and supportive space to feel as though we can speak up, contribute to the conversation, and show up completely as ourselves.
Regardless of the level of leadership, it is important that men take ownership in leading by example while creating an environment where women’s voices are represented and heard.
This not only includes speaking up for women when they are in the room, but also when they aren’t.
Set the tone.
If you want to be part of the conversation, show up and set the tone.
There is no doubt that leadership plays a critical role in moving the needle, but many women do not feel supported or heard by their managers. It is critical that leaders find a way to communicate that they are open to the conversation, that they won’t tolerate misogyny, and that the door is always open.
Give women space to share their opinion, to raise their hand in a meeting, and to engage in the conversation.
The silence doesn’t always have to be filled; allowing a pause can go a long way in allowing others to contribute.
When it comes time to have the conversation, be open to feedback and listen. Check in on the language you use, the metaphors, and the examples, and challenge yourself on whether or not they are inclusive. Take this one step further and ask yourself the same questions in social situations.
Intervene as an insider
When you are a person in a position of authority and privilege, you become an insider.
You have the opportunity and the ability to support the outsider when they are, and when they aren’t in the room.
Start by asking what tasks they carry on the outside that you’re not aware of, understand what hoops they go through, and what challenges they face on a regular basis. This will allow you to gain insight and provide information to guide you in your actions and create change. Because sometimes you have to intervene on behalf of the outsider.
This is your opportunity to correct people when they say the wrong thing, to speak up on another’s behalf.
If a woman is being talked over, take action In The Moment. (A shout out and thank you to those who have!).
We are all human seeking connection and meaning in our work and our day-to-day lives.
We need diversity so we can better connect with our customers as they see themselves reflected and represented in our organizations.
Bring your experience to the table and then leverage your power in the company to help those without a voice.
Walk the walk
At the end of the day, stand up for what’s right.
Challenge your team, your work culture, your friends and your peers, to do better, to be better. Use inclusive language, speak up for women when they aren’t in the room, and call out biased behaviour.
Stop creating exclusive networking opportunities where women can’t participate (insert your preferred pick-up sport here).
When new opportunities arise that require delegation, consider any and all qualified candidates.
Make yourself available as a sponsor — it is critical to the progression of women in leadership.
Without access, women have become expertly self-reliant but the truth is, we can’t do it alone. We have relied on social sponsorship in the past but it can only take us so far. With so few women in leadership roles, we require our male counterparts to step up and support us.
In order to move the needle, it is important that we are curious about one another and continue to listen and to learn.
IWD and all it celebrates isn’t about us versus them, but rather how we come together to challenge for change.
It recognizes everything we have done, and acknowledges the work we have yet to do.
So, I ask you:
How will you join the conversation and #ChooseToChallenge in support of women’s rights?