International Men’s Day is an opportunity to highlight issues such as men’s health (particularly mental health), as well as men’s crucial role in promoting gender equality, and their position as role models and allies.
There are a plethora of ways in which men can support us in our day to day lives, including challenging stereotypes, addressing bias, and giving us a helping hand. I am personally very grateful for my own male allies, and in this article I want to highlight and acknowledge the different ways in which men support a woman’s climb to the top.
They give credit.
Many women are regularly denounced at work, experience snide, belittling comments, and are often talked over or have their ideas stolen. But with supportive colleagues, undermined women stand a chance for getting due credit for their contributions. Colleagues can engage in what is popularly called amplification — a concept originated by the women of the Obama White House, and a powerful strategy for addressing unconscious bias. The male allies who make use of this strategy help give credit where it’s due, and tactfully interject on behalf their colleague by pulling them into conversations and giving them opportunity to weigh in, acting as micro sponsors.
They listen to women… and don’t make assumptions.
Supportive male allies allow themselves to be educated on the issues their female colleagues face in the workplace and, most importantly, they believe them. They do not dismiss or get defensive if a woman calls them out on something. Most men want to help — they just don’t know how. Creating awareness through dialogue and open communication allows for male allies to give actionable support in the workplace.
One of the survey respondents for my book Her Way To The Top disclosed how her new boss did not consider her for a role, as he assumed it might not suit her. Instead of sulking, Alicia chose to confront the issue by addressing it thoughtfully with her boss, allowing him to realize how certain incorrect assumptions and inappropriate questions need to be avoided. That valuable exchange was eye-opening for him, and the next time he had an open position and a qualified employee who happened to be pregnant, he asked her if she wanted the role instead of assuming that she wouldn’t.
They call out inequality.
Supportive men are no longer oblivious to the challenges women face in their career, and increasingly we see them participating in gender equality discussions. When these men witness their colleagues experience every day sexism or being a victim of micro-aggressions, instead of being apathetic bystanders, these men call it out. This is achieved by challenging and counteracting perpetuators’ negative labels, jokes or stereotyped perceptions.
Some men actively show support by sharing articles, videos and tweeting hashtags of popular movements that support the gender equality theme — this too is a way to show support and is much appreciated. After all, even small acts of resistance can make a difference.
They respect women’s space and avoid using diminutives.
Men who offer women an appropriate physical distance are regarded as being respectful. Recent pictures of Keanu Reeves with his fans showing him employing the famous “hover hand” took the internet by storm. There was an outpouring of support and appreciation which clearly evidenced how respect for personal space is universally acknowledged, and not just in some cultures.
Most men acknowledge a woman’s need for physical autonomy and understand that it can be inappropriate to hug or touch women without their permission. Studies show that women need an especially large personal space when approached by men. For those who are survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence, an infringement of personal space can be especially terrifying.
Male allies also know better than to address colleagues as “love,” “dear,” or “hon.” Admittedly, nicknames are usually unintentional, but sometimes are used to water down a woman’s authority. Calling women by apparently endearing names can be found offensive, and men who are aware of that wisely refrain.
They share parenting duties and take parental leave.
Women across the world are suffering from “time poverty.” A large majority of women, irrespective of where they lived, confessed that managing time was the primary challenge holding them back in their careers. Supportive men lighten their partners’ workload by sharing household chores. They also actively participate in their children’s lives so that doctor appointments, parent teachers meetings, homework, exam prep and entertainment does not end up being the mother’s responsibility alone. Supportive men also take parenting leave to support their partners and divide responsibilities that have traditionally been single handily fulfilled by women.
They share office “housework.”
Women often end up taking notes in meetings, getting coffee, making photocopies, or get party planning assigned to them. Thankfully, many male colleagues are well aware that by allowing a woman to do this all by herself, they are only perpetuating the stereotype that it’s a woman’s role to nurture. They therefore help distribute the office “housework” equally and pick some tasks themselves. By doing so they alleviate some of the pressure women face owing to these additional responsibilities at work.
They advocate for women at work.
Still today, despite the many strides women have made in the workplace, men hold the majority of the decision making positions. Male allies often play a significant role in championing pro-women policy recommendations. A favorable infrastructure for women ensures future economies will be dynamic and inclusive – offering equal opportunity to everyone. I have seen men being an active part of women’s networks and are often found lobbying for equality.
Originally published on Ellevate.
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