Men, ask any woman, and they will tell you stories of how their thoughts have been ignored during meetings in favor of male colleagues. Sometimes it is as blatant as men talking over a woman or as subtle as the boss giving more consideration to the opinion of men. Now that most of our meetings have moved to virtual formats, there is an even greater risk that these behaviors will worsen. It’s an “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon..
I have a wife and a daughter who are smart and have many talents. Yet, they both have stories about they have been treated as second class citizens in the workplace. Their experiences made me angry until I realized that it is up to me and all men to stop this behavior. I can’t expect other men to do this unless I make it a priority in my life.
Here is what I pledge to do:
In meetings, I will make sure that my female colleagues get the same chance to speak. If I sense that a woman is not being heard, I will ask for her thoughts. If I hear or see a male staff member interrupt a woman, I will say something like, ”Hey Bill; I don’t think Mary finished her point. Can we let her continue?”
I want to sponsor and promote female colleagues. If I see someone deserving of recognition for their work, I will make sure that happens. I want to be a mentor for women who have an interest in moving up in our organization. Researchers who issued the report, “Sponsoring Women to Success,” said that a woman who has a sponsor can put their career on a fast-track. The report was prepared for Catalyst. Ilene Lanf, the President and CEO, said, “Good sponsors can supercharge a woman’s career by providing her with access to essential networks, bringing her achievements to the attention of senior-level executives, and recommending her for key assignments.”
Tasks should be assigned on a gender-neutral basis. Men should not always lead high profile projects. After a meeting, I won’t presume that the women in the session will clean up.
I will speak up when I see sexism. Women should be paid the same salary as men who do the same work. They should be promoted on the same basis. Secretaries don’t have to be female, and not all lead executives are men.
I will also need to listen more to the women I work with. I need to learn from them, be empathetic to their experiences, and validate them. While it might feel like an odd conversation, I will also ask women I work with how I can help them.
All organizations that I am associated with will proactively hire women who can fill available roles. Then, I will ensure that our organization has an environment where they feel welcome and feel appreciated. Otherwise, all of our recruitment efforts will be for naught.
This is what I am going to do.
But before we leave the topic, I want to make one other point. I’ve addressed what I will do to help women advance in organizations that I am associated with. But all of this applies to all persons of color and sexual orientation too. They are also invisible to many companies. If we want to be fair but benefit from the talents of a truly diverse workforce, there can be no other alternative.