Men Need Mentors too in the #MeToo Era

Women Mentor Men

Inclusion and diversity took center stage at the Oscars this year–and rightfully so. Hollywood reflects cultural and societal changes in the United States, and gender parity is on everyone’s minds these days. Frances McDormand, the winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress, used her acceptance speech to emphasize the vital need for diversity and inclusion in her industry. On the red carpet, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino promoted the movement towards equality for women worldwide.

But what do diversity and inclusion look like in the workplace today? Women and men alike struggle to define the new normal. “What do women want?” ask men. “How can I show my support to my female colleagues?” These questions come up a lot in my work. In fact, during a recent podcast, I mentioned that women can, and should, mentor men to help them understand the issues at hand. Men need mentors too in the #MeToo era.

There’s a lot of talk right now about women mentoring women and men mentoring women, but I think women need to mentor men. If I were a man who saw a personal, moral, or business reason to support gender diversity in my workplace, I would go to a female colleague and ask her to mentor me.

My comment seems to resonate with both women and men.

According to researchers, Anna Marie Valerio and Katina Sawyer,”…gender inclusiveness means involving both men and women in advancing women’s leadership. Although many organizations have attempted to fight gender bias by focusing on women – offering training programs or networking groups specifically for them — the leaders we interviewed realized that any solutions that involve only 50 percent of the human population are likely to have limited success.

I know this to be true. One of my clients hires me to lead Advancement Strategies for Women workshops. My client had succeeded in raising the number of women in management from 22 percent to 37 percent in four years. But it became clear that without enlisting men’s active support within the company they would only go so far in creating gender balance at the top. That same company is launching workshops for men now, which has been really powerful. After these workshops, men will say things like, “I just realized their KPIs are gender-biased,” or “I never knew that woman on my team wanted a promotion because she was always working so hard.” And the number of women in management continues to grow.

If women and men don’t work together, we won’t achieve equality in the workplace.

Women and men have different communication styles.

Men and women communicate differently, something most of us understand instinctively but don’t always recognize in the moment. Psychology Today notes that while women speak around 250 words a minute on average, men clock in around half of that, at 125.  During the course of a day, women might speak up to 25,000 words while men speak around 12,000.

I teach key differences in communication between the sexes. One of them is status and recognition. The research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as the most important and the one with the most power in the room. Women primarily like to be appreciated for their accomplishments, hard work, and a job well done. For example, thanking men is fine but isn’t necessary, they don’t need it. In fact, sometimes it’s seen as a sign of weakness. By contrast, not thanking a woman could erode a working relationship. Understanding the differences in communication style is a vital part of becoming an ally to women.

Men can become more astute at recognizing non-verbal signals.

Non-verbal signals abound in the workplace. Women tend to go silent when they are talked over, interrupted or criticized. For example, if in a meeting, a man and a woman are talking and that woman suddenly gets quiet, what should that guy do? He should pivot and start re-engaging her by asking questions and listening more. Or, if he’s in a meeting and his female colleague is interrupted, he can speak up, restate the point she was making and ask her to say more on the topic.

And then there’s the big one. Tears, which are most men’s biggest fear: How to handle a woman who is upset or crying. It’s easy. Men need to do three things: Abandon the need to solve her problem for her. She doesn’t need a solution; she needs empathy and understanding. Next, show you care by saying something like, “It seems like you’re having a hard time. Can I do anything to help?” Finally, listen, just listen. Say a few encouraging words like, “That must be hard.” Or “I can understand how you feel.” I guarantee after thirty minutes of listening and just being there for her; you’ll see a change in her demeanor for the better.

And women. Step up and take on the responsibility for mentoring your male colleagues. Men need mentors too in the #MeToo era. You can make a tremendous difference by doing so. Here are three tips to help you get started mentoring your male colleagues:

1. Be direct and clear. According to the research, men hear better if the information is delivered without couching or soft-pedaling.

2. Be specific, especially if you have an ask: Men are hardwired to solve, and they go to solutions quickly. State exactly what you want them to do.

3. Don’t be critical. Reassure your male colleague that this is a learning process and of course it’s going to be awkward. Like learning another language or skill. It’s not about being a bad guy, but about learning how to be more in tune with what women want and how they expect to be communicated with differently.

So, men? Go find a woman who can mentor you and help you learn how to be an ally in the workplace. And if you feel you need additional coaching, contact me.

Finally, take my survey on perceptions of Sexual Harassment. I’ve replicated a study conducted in Europe, and I’d like to compare the answers of American men and women to the answers of Europeans.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.

10 Tips for Men to Communicate Better with Female Coworkers

Gender Cooperation Workshops

It may surprise you – as it did me –that there are still times when men have difficulty finding common ground with their female colleagues. There’s always work to talk about, right? But many men feel they can’t connect with women like they can with other guys, by inviting them for an after-work beer or talking about last night’s football game.

Often they’re afraid of their approach being misconstrued or that other colleagues might look askance on them for mentoring emerging female leaders. As a result, some professional relationships suffer and the team doesn’t work quite as efficiently as it could. Men and women both miss out on opportunities to build advantageous new connections in their industries.

If that sounds familiar, here are ten tips to help men connect with female colleagues:

  1. Be authentic in every interaction. Nothing creates “awkward” like a coworker who thinks you’re trying to be something you’re not.
  2. Listen. Ask more questions in conversations, and comment to show you’re engaged and interested.
  3. Identify topics to talk about – like world news, culture and industry trends – rather than relying on typical small talk about work and sports.
  4. Family is always a safe area. Parents love to talk about their kids and this can provide you with common ground to bond over.
  5. Don’t view attractive female colleagues as something to be avoided. Think of them as sisters or girls you grew up with and treat them like anyone else.
  6. Don’t worry about how you’re being perceived by others. Focus on learning from your coworkers and collaborating to create the best possible results.
  7. Come up with networking goals before conferences and events. For instance, decide you’re going to meet three new professionals in your industry and learn three specific facts about their background and current position.
  8. Praise coworkers on their professional abilities or share a technique that’s brought you success. Remember tip 2 – listen more than talk.
  9. Don’t stick to your clique at work. Attend some of the social team-building events to meet new coworkers at all levels and build genuine connections.
  10. Don’t assume your new female contact is less accomplished or educated, or needs your assistance. What you might view as “help” might be perceived as condescension. Get to know her background and treat her as a peer, not a subordinate.

Remember, most of your coworkers want to minimize awkward moments, too. Authentic and positive work relationships benefit everyone – and if you reach out to women in your workplace and industry in a respectful way, that’s exactly what you’ll build.

Gender Cooperation in the Workplace: Let’s Stop Diversity Training and Do Something Productive Instead

Gender Cooperation Workshops

Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In re-ignited the conversation about women in the workplace when it was published last year. Lean In has spread global awareness and significantly progressed the dialogue about women in the workplace. By now, most of us have heard the statistics and we all know there’s a problem – women just aren’t getting to the top of organizations, worldwide.

This has to change – and I am not just saying this because I am a woman. MSCI AC World index found that companies with a gender-diverse board outperformed those with only men by 25% over six years. Women and diversity are important for the growth and success of organizations. Period.

Certainly, men need to work on creating a more equal and inclusive workplace environment, but it won’t work unless women also take an active role. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s book The Confidence Code, addresses the main tool women need to posses: confidence. Yes, the research says men’s and women’s brains work differently and yes, we have been socialized to behave in different ways, but ultimately women need to have confidence in themselves and their abilities. Andeven more importantly, as Kay and Shipman point out, we need to understand that men and women perceive confident behavior differently. In some cases, what we think shows confidence, men see as exhibiting weakness (and vice versa).

Given all of this, I think companies are mostly taking the wrong approach. Networking groups, diversity training, and company events are the standard programs. These are important to support an initiative, but in my experience, none of these actually facilitate needed change in an organization.

What we need is a revolution in our approach to gender relations in the workplace: something that stimulates change, and truly improves communication between men and women,

Here are my suggestions to take action:

1)   Admit it’s an issue. Google and LinkedIn recently came out and publically stated that they had a challenge with regards to Diversity in their workforce. This is an excellent example of companies willing to be vulnerable. Lack of women in leadership is an issue most companies face today (especially in high tech industries) and it’s okay to admit that you don’t have all the answers, yet. However, by making a public statement, Google and LinkedIn are making themselves accountable, an important step in ultimately finding a solution.

2)   Identify and suggest specific changes. Diversity training is not effective. We have tried it for years and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. If you want to see change, ask for it. Chances are, management is not going to magically change their unconscious bias. Go to the highest-ranking executives who will listen and offer specific and actionable changes you want to see made. Among other things, suggest they allocate money for a sponsorship program for women. (Contact us for more information on how sponsorship differs from mentorship.)

Ideally we want everyone to understand the issues, empathize, and then take action. However this is just isn’t practical. Social psychology has proven that by changing behavior – even if its mandatory — will eventually change mindset — one internalizes the attitude and then starts to believe in the new behavior.

3)   Consider hiring a true expert. This person shouldn’t just be a Diversity trainer, but a strategic consultant who understands gender relations and can take a hard look at your hiring policies, internal promotion, salary breakdown and team communication to give you the hard truth about the source of your challenges. In addition, consider hiring an executive coach to do some leadership development training with the women in your organization. A true expert will understand how a push and pull strategy in the organization will truly foster change, quickly.

4)   Look beyond the workplace. Sheryl Sandberg makes several points in her book, but one of the most important (in my opinion) that we often ignore is how we need to look at our relationship with our partner. If men were expected to do as much as women, we might not even be having this discussion. Women often feel guilty about not being the perfect wife and mother, and that ultimately affects our careers. It is important to leave the guilt behind and have an open dialog with your partner about how to share the other responsibilities in your life.

It may not be easy and it may not be comfortable, but at the end of the day women need to take a more active role and ask for what they want. At the same time, men need to recognize that they have unconscious biases and be open to being vulnerable and taking action. If we make actionable changes in our organizations, our minds will be soon to follow.

 

 

Women in Leadership, Women in Business: What Glass Ceiling?

Women in Leadership, Women in Business
Interview by Melissa Lamson
Interviewer: Hana Al-Abadi

Q: Why are women in business such a hot topic right now?

A: I think that we have thought – at least in the US and Europe – that we fought the battle for equality in the past but when we looked around a couple of years ago and saw that positions, money, and treatment still wasn’t always equal, the subject came up again. Women finally see ourselves as equal business partners and we want careers equally to men. Because of that there’s a lot of pressure on individuals to find flexible solutions to create that equality in the workplace as well as at home. The topic of women in the workplace is big because of that pressure and that evolution. Women tend to be really spectacular working globally because they are good at developing relationships. I don’t think it is a coincidence that we are going global successfully because we are good at it.

Q: Do you believe women still bump into the glass ceiling?

A: Yes I do. I would say there are two challenges. The first challenge is that women are trained to not focus much on self-promotion because we will be seen as a threat, an opportunist, or simply not a “nice girl”. Different from men who are admired for self-promotion; its expected from men. So we’ll sabotage ourselves and not promote our accomplishments enough to be seen for that promotion or next project. The other challenge is that as women we are very focused on performance, mostly because we are socialized to be perfectionists. So we have a perfectionism issue, we need to be more conscious of not being too much of a perfectionist but to pull ourselves out of the weeds, look up, and develop those key relationships, particularly with men.

Q: What are the top 3 keys to women being successful in the workforce? Anything special they need to consider when working globally?

A: 1. Don’t be a perfectionist. 2. Self Promote. 3. Build targeted relationships. (Don’t just socialize with those people you like.)

Q: As a successful business woman, author, and consultant who travels all over the world, would you say women are more or less successful in business outside of the US/in other countries?

A: I wouldn’t say more or less successful. In the US, women have been at a disadvantage in the last 20 years because many believed the whole issue of equality in business was fixed and no longer an issue. But there is still inequality we need to think about consciously, proactively and collaboratively with men. Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most well-known people who recently came out and said “it’s still not equal and we need to be conscious of this”. She also was the first women to admit publicly that a major success factor in a woman’s career is determined by the support of their partner.

Globally, it’s interesting to see the gender roles in parts of Asia and the Middle-east. They are very distinct between women and men. Men don’t try to do what women do and vice versa. It becomes an advantage because when we see the male and female roles, people just tend to leave each other alone in their roles. It doesn’t get messy because men get a little nervous when you’re in their territory and it’s in their nature to be more competitive. So if you don’t have people stepping on each other’s toes then it’s easier to get things done so I think women have more opportunities in some other countries because of that. Having said that, women all over the world are speaking up, getting an education, and want to use that education to launch their careers. It’s economically driven, in many cases, young couples or families need or want more money and material possessions and a more luxurious lifestyle than their parents had. Its also emotionally-driven, where women want to use their brain, invent, create and shape the world.

Q: What is your advice to women wanting to start their own business?

A: Find  people who have done something similar and who are successful at it and either go meet them, work for them, and/or model yourself after them. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Also, it’s helpful if those role models are women so you know how to overcome specific challenges. Further, I would find men who are successful and ask them to be formal mentors to you because they will always give the male perspective. When you’re interacting with clients who are male, they will be able to help you. Particularly when negotiating money or asking for the sale, men tend to do that differently from women and its good to learn both styles.

For more information about women in business, contact info@lamsonconsulting.com