By David Steenson
When women are challenging their treatment or how they are perceived, getting backing from male colleagues can go a long way to making change happen. Now I know this isn’t necessarily what some women in particular want to hear. But the stark truth is that ANY change is easier to implement when EVERYONE is on the same team. If you are a man-hating feminist or sensitive broflake then you probably should stop reading. Because sadly it is you who is exacerbating inequality in the workplace by your unwillingness to get everyone on the same page. Here are 5 Ways that men can be better allies to women in the workplace.
I’ve been in many a meeting where the most silent participants have been women. There are many reasons for this but the evidence is there that women regularly get ignored in the workplace. Less assertive women can often also get interrupted and have their ideas dismissed. This is where you come in. Having the backing from male colleague can give your female colleague confidence and make others listen. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. The more opportunities that a woman has to speak, the more chance that the culture will change. We want female viewpoints to be actively sought and given as much credence as male ones.
Similarly as a man you can step in when a women is interrupted and say something like “Hey I don’t think Laura had finished what she was saying there, what were you saying Laura”. It’s not an overly confrontational tactic and you’ll might only have to do it a few times for the message to sink in.
If you hear some mansplaining, step in and stop it. Maybe you could mansplain to your fellow man that the women he is talking to isn’t an idiot. Just a thought.
Pretty obvious you would think but it’s the act of letting overt (and not so obvious) sexism go that makes it become acceptable in a companies culture. Extreme forms of sexism should be an HR issue to send a warning shot that the behaviour won’t be tolerated. If a female colleague is slated as being overly aggressive you should be pointing out that she is just being assertive. Even is she is a complete unbearable asshole that you would rather not be working with (I’ve done this, she was utterly horrible).
Microaggressions add up to erode confidence and put a woman at a disadvantage. Pay attention to them and speak up. Often the perpetrator doesn’t even realise what they are doing isn’t acceptable and embarrassing them can give them food for thought. Pick your battles though – no one wants to listen to a snowflake whine all day and the ‘politically correct virtue signaler’ label won’t help anyone.
In addition, If it is the women in your office who are expected to get the tea and coffee maybe you should speak up and ask why you have been transported to the 1970s.
Not my strongest trait personally, many of us have work to do here in general. Us men spend an awful lot of time trying to get attention after all. From an early age girls are praised for being quiet and little boys are expected to be noisy wrecking machines which is one of the reasons why we find ourselves with a gender imbalance in the workplace. Challenging these roles can be difficult but its worth doing. The only experts on a womans experience are women themselves – allow them to express it if they feel the need. And don’t be so defensive, practice empathy (it’s in there somewhere) – if you are called out on behaviour, listen and take measures to ensure you don’t repeat it.
You are only human, you can make a mistake it’s allowed. But if you repeat the behaviour daily then I’m sorry buddy but you are a total dickhead.
Take womens concerns seriously and support them when they are challenging sexism. You can even simply ask the women in your workplace how you can become a better ally. They might have some great ideas and it will open up the debate. The fact that you are revealing yourself to be willing to listen and support gender specific issues can be the first major step in a fundamental change in the workplace.
ADVOCATE FAIR WORKING POLICIES
Keep an eye out for practices that can cause bias. I’ve been there myself- and shamefully I was the cause. I was interviewing for new positions and I chose an experienced male colleague as my co-interviewer. It was only after the second interview I realised what we were doing was off the scale unethical so replaced my co-interviewer with a less experienced female team member. No harm done in the long run. But it shows how easy it can be to fail even if you actually believe in equality.
If you are in management ensure that you are providing equal pay for equal work. Not only is it the right thing to do but having to declare wage levels (in the UK) can cause your company embarrassment and destroy morale.
UNDERSTAND AND ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PRIVILEGE
What? You don’t think you are privileged? Reeeaaaallly? Ok here is a list of a 100 to get you started.
Recognising these is the first step to showing empathy to women. And everyone else who isn’t a white able bodied straight man. If you are one of those guys who doesn’t even think that the gender pay gap is real, that women ‘play the victim’ and men are somehow under attack by feminism then you need to read this list. You need to have a hard look at how ridiculous you sound. Your incessant whine about the fight for equality impinging on your life is embarrassing.
In summary its really just about being aware and working at recognising gender inequality in all its forms. If men can be better allies to women the workplace can become fairer for all of us.