How to be a Good Ally to Women at Work
As the #MeToo movement grows in strength, it seems there just might be a silver lining to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. We have a chance to change workplace culture. And one of the places to start is for men to understand the need to be a good ally to women.
The list of women who say they were harassed by film studio exec Harvey Weinstein is astonishing long–and growing by the day. And sadly, much-admired men, like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Russell Crowe, are being criticized for standing by and allowing–or even aiding in–Weinstein’s cover-up.
This has precipitated an important discussion on just how many women in the workplace (and life) suffer in silence. And, I believe this discussion of these atrocities has a silver lining.
Through awareness and speaking out, we–men and women–now have an opportunity to change society and workplace culture for the better radically. Men, specifically, can be allies to women.
Men? Here are seven ways you can help.
1. Listen. Listen. LISTEN.
Have you ever been in a conversation where it seems like the other person isn’t getting the message you’re sending? They are on their phone or going completely off topic. It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
We all need to work on our active listening skills–that is, those skills that help you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words a person is saying but try to understand the complete message being sent.
Repeat what’s being said. Ask clarifying questions. And, be patient even if the person could get to the point faster.
2. Learn how the other sex communicates.
Yes, it’s true. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus–at least in how we communicate. The sexes do it quite differently. For example, men have been socialized to take risks quicker. Many women need to formulate a plan and talk through their decisions to feel reassured before they leap.
If a female colleague is feeling uncertain about a decision or task, hear her out and reassure her. (You can download a handy chart of the top five ways women and men communicate differently here).
3. Tell them a job well done.
It always feels good to hear when you’ve done something well, but this is especially true when you may feel subpar as compared to your male colleagues.
Call out your female team members’ good qualities. Tell them when they made a good point in a meeting or aced a presentation.
But, stay away from commenting on appearance or dress. That can be taken the wrong way!
4. Don’t underestimate.
A 2015 study found that one in three women have been sexually harassed. Now with allegations coming to light from scandals like Bill Cosby or Roger Ailes, this statistic is becoming more believable.
Don’t underestimate what women have gone through to get where they are. There’s a good chance they’ve been treated poorly just because of their sex.
Take them seriously and treat them as equals. And, understand that women may be suspicious of your behavior because of past treatment. Be aware of how you act and how it may be received.
5. Be inclusive.
Here’s a news flash. Not everyone likes to play golf.
Women might prefer to bond doing something else–a wine tasting or a 10k run, for instance. When planning an outing, think about if everyone will feel comfortable and included, but don’t assume. If you are going to play golf or any sport, be sure to invite your female counterparts, too.
6. Think before you ask.
There’s a salient point made in The Confidence Code about the difference in the way men and women ask for things–in that, many men see asking as being weak and instead make demands. But women view asking as a way to foster goodwill.
Men, bear this in mind. Use collaborative speak. Don’t forgo niceties. If you do, you’ll be seen as selfish and pompous–and far from being an ally.
7. Speak up.
Should you observe a woman being treated poorly, demeaned, or harassed in any way shape or form, support her. Encourage her to go to human resources.Offer to go with her and share what you’ve seen. Don’t be afraid to speak up and make your work environment one that is welcoming and inclusive. Be a good ally to women in your workplace.
If there is any positive to the atrocities that have come to light from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and all the others, it is that they are now in the open. We–men and women–are on the precipice to change what’s gone on for way too long.
If you need help with understanding how to be an ally for women, or if you are a woman who is interested in advancing her career, contact me.
A version of this post was first published on Inc.