How men can support women in the workplace
There are endless tips and advice to support women to do any number of things to enhance their prospects of career advancement. We should stop apologising, sit big, stand tall, use powerful language, look good in a power suit and walk purposefully in killer heels. The list is endless.
But as we now know, organic gender balance will not be achieved until 2133 if things are left to run their natural evolutionary devices.
Are you prepared to wait?
However, what I am seeing is a new generation of men and their partners who have different expectations. Men no longer want to have the stress of being the sole revenue generator, and as net disposable incomes fall, most couples need dual incomes to maintain living standards. The increase in divorce rate has also changed the professional landscape, with an increasing number of men being responsible for child care every second week. We are also seeing men simply wanting to play a greater role in family life.
So I share the growing feeling out there, that believes that the shift towards gender balance will not be a result of altruism, but economic necessity, and men will play a driving role.
5 ways men can support women in the workplace
1. Be aware of your own unconscious biases
We all have biases which impact our perceptions and decision making processes. If you are a male decision maker, understand that and arrange training to identify and manage the unconscious bias in your organisation. They will be legion. They can never be eradicated, only handled. I was at a meeting when the Head of Diversity said “Women talk a lot.” This was followed by an understanding and knowing indulgent smiles in the group. This belief is in fact turning into possibly an oft recounted urban myth. I’ve done it myself. Research is emerging that women and men of equal power status talk the same number of words.
So he should have said:
Men and women communicate differently and have different communication expectations
That one throwaway remark perpetuated a fallacious stereotype.
It’s important that men don’t fall into the main gender stereotype traps. Not all women want kids. Not all women are emotional and cry. Men and women can serve coffee and take notes equally ably. There is no need for women to do the office housework. Actively support women by giving them a chance to speak in meetings and encourage an environment where they can assert themselves without being considered bitches. Invite them to the energy position at the table. If you are a leader and see instances of negative behaviour based on stereotyping – educating the life out of it is more lasting than a pre-emptive stamping out.
Another client, a VP. of Marketing had a situation where one of her junior staff members had been absorbing 900 hours a year of admin duties of two men in another department. That is equivalent of permanent part-time job. Why? Because admin support was seen within that organisation as a female function.
2. Take your paternity leave
I have long felt that the sign of gender balance success will be when all men are able to take paternity leave without fear of repercussions. It is a critical benchmark. Parental leave and childcare aren’t female issues, they are working parents issues. Hillary Clinton called them family issues in her opening campaign speech. Children have to stop being a corporate inconvenience. If women are free to earn salaries commensurate with their skills, couples will thrive and so will organisations as a result. Offering the same conditions to men and women equally and detoxifying the stigma of flex-working, will create an environment of acceptance. Corporate culture will change.
3. Don’t apply the Mummy Penalty
Currently while men of a certain age occupy positions of dominance in most organisations, their thinking prevails. With a new generation, eventually in two-parent households, parenting will shift to being more of a partnership. We should therefore expect to see more organisations taking an open-minded view about hiring women who are pregnant, or intend to become pregnant and accommodating, what is a very short timeframe, in an overall career. I am hearing increased anecdotal evidence about organisations hiring women who are already pregnant and being willing to wait until their maternity leave was completed.
I had one client who told her boss:
“I love my job and I want to stay in this organisation. But I’m telling you now, I would like to get pregnant this year which means I will be on maternity leave in Q2 or Q3 of 2017. How are we going to deal with this?”
They are working it out.
Contact 3Plus if your company needs training on unconscious bias in your organisation
4. Become a joint Domestic COO
In Belgium women spend 245 minutes a day on unpaid work. In the US women will spend 130 minutes doing housework, while men spend 77 minutes. Data from ATUS and Pew Research Center showed that working fathers spend an average of 7.3 hours a week with their children, while working moms log an average of 13.5 hours a week. Some of the toughest negotiations women have to make are not with their bosses as they think, but within their own relationships.
Ironing is no fun for any of us. But it maybe useful to outsource low value work for long term benefit.
5. Educate your children
A girl’s destiny is chosen way before she dons her first business suit. Girls can’t be what they don’t see and hear. So expose both your sons and daughters to the whole spectrum of activities and choices and don’t focus on gender based stereotyping activities.
What else would you add?
Adapted from a post originally published on LinkedIn Pulse