It is an extraordinary time for women’s impact, self-expression and action as a community.
As the #metoo and #timesup movements gather momentum, it’s vital that men and women work together to insist on new standards of diversity and inclusion in work, in leadership and in life. Only then we will we create a truly enriched future that honours men and women, majorities and minorities, as equals.
Many men are asking how to support these movements without unintentionally contributing to the problem, and many feel that the steps they take should be as big as the problem they’re addressing.
Change doesn’t have to be hard. Just as some of the most pervasive forms of inequality and discrimination are cumulative small acts, seemingly too small to mention, lasting change is effected by small steps taken again and again.
So to all you men who are curious how best to support a more inclusive world, thank you. Here are a few ways you can help.
Three actions for life and work
Join the inclusive networks at your workplace, and listen. Listen when women speak. Listen when old habits raise their heads again. The more you listen, the more you will understand how others in your workplace feel, the more you’ll engage and the more you’ll find ways of supporting.
2. Speak up
If you identify unconscious bias or unacceptable behaviour, speak up. When you notice men talking over women in meetings, hear women referred to using loaded language (e.g. bossy, feisty) or you’re in a meeting where it’s assumed that only women will take notes or fetch coffee, speak up.
And if you hear sexist jokes, are witness to misogyny or see anyone intimidate a female colleague: speak up.
More and more, women are speaking up themselves. Your support when this happens makes a huge difference, and your refusal to stay silent when women are undermined – whether we are present or not – cements this change and gives a clear signal to other men that it is time for change.
3. Start with the future in mind
Raise your kids with a new paradigm in mind. Mentor your sons and daughters and teach them all what feminism means. Avoid gender-based stereotypes and teach your kids to challenge them too. Is there a difference in the way you speak to your daughters and sons? Address them with the same positive language, praise both for behaviour, not looks, and encourage them to dream big.
This means showing rather than telling. How you behave as a partner or husband has far more impact than your words. How your kids see you interact with each other, the decisions you make about child and senior care, home-making and career-building have a huge impact on the values they inherit from you.
Three actions for leaders and men in business
1. Refuse to be in an all-male panel or non-diverse line-up
When asked to be a speaker or panellist, make sure there are women and ethnic minorities in the line-up. If not, refuse to speak unless that changes. Go the extra mile: inform yourself of the women and people from ethnic minorities who are experts in your field and suggest them in your place. Don’t support events that refuse to diversify. This approach really works.
2. Attend diversity events, and encourage other men to join you.
Attend panels and talks about women in business. Women speaking to women is just preaching to the choir. Your attendance is vital to creating deep-rooted equality and inclusivity. As you understand how others in your workplace feel, you’ll enrich your perspective and find new ways to support. Already attending? Great! Go one step further and bring more men with you.
3. Take responsibility
You may not be to blame for everything that happens on your watch, but as a great leaders, we take responsibility for ensuring that inclusivity and respect become pillars of our workplace.
Sexual harassment, improper innuendos, sexual assault and abuse in the workplace are no longer acceptable. All voices must be heard, even when this is uncomfortable. The time for ‘letting it slide’ has passed.
Owning the problem and committing to responsible, transparent action takes courage but it must be done. Your support and leadership here will help make this change stick.
Three actions for organisations
1. Build an inclusive culture
Build a culture that rewards performance, not preference; a culture where results are more important than the loudest voice; a culture where managers are expected to encourage, develop and mentor team members equally; and a culture where all employees are encouraged to challenge unacceptable behaviour at all levels of the organisation.
2. Make diversity a priority
If you want to make a stand for supporting women and minorities, insist on making diversity a strategic KPI. With businesses that support diversity delivering 15% higher returns than their industry average (McKinsey), it shouldn’t be hard to convince your board that inclusion is the key to success.
There’s often a yawning #confidencegap that what we need to close, so women’s capabilities are valued as much as those of their male colleagues, and people who look and think differently from the ‘norm’ have their voices heard.
3. Include the human aspect
Tech companies often overlook the human aspect, and many women’s mission focuses on helping people and solving real problems. By promoting human-centric values, and communicating that technology is a catalyst for achieving your mission and showing how your company contributes to a better society and world, you may attract more women to your workplace.
These are practical ideas you can apply today, whether you’re leading a team or company or paving the way for future generations.
#Timesup: the time for action is now.
Want to know more? There are many books available on this subject, people to follow who regularly speak about the topic and there are trainings on unconscious bias. Ask the men and women around you what books they recommend and who to follow. Some ideas.
Read: Reset by Ellen Pao, Brotopia by Emily Chang, A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Follow: @inspiringfifty, @projectinclude, @karaswisher, @tracychou, @aimafidon, @mjamme, @Marthalanefox, @accelerateher, @leaninorg, @sherylsandberg, @melindagates
Donate: Donate or raise awareness for not-for-profits working on diversity issues. Iamthecode, Techmums, Stemettes, Codefirstgirls, InspiringFifty, Geekettes, Girls in Tech and many many more.
There is so much more we can do. What would you add? What other ways have you contributed to a more diverse workplace? Please share your ideas via #timesup #myaction
With input of: Wendy Tan White, Sarah Wood, Anne-Marie Imafidon, Barones Joanna Shields, Isabelle Ringnes, Janneke Niessen