It stands to reason that, if men are dominating the technical professions, they then have to be part of the solution, too. Today we’ll take a look at specific things men can do to help women in tech careers.
I know my readership is largely women, so I encourage ladies to pass this along. The more that hear the message, the faster things will get better!
Men Need To Become Aware
Almost all change starts with becoming aware of your own mindsets, and it is true here as well.
If a man grows up with a mother who stayed at home, chances are he has many deep-seated gender biases that govern his actions. Or if his wife has a career, he will have a different set of biases about work and women in general.
These show up in the office with comments like “You can’t stay late? Can you have your husband pick up the kids today?” or “Hey, engineer Mary! Can you gather and place the lunch order?”
Sometimes it’s even more subtle.
A nursing mother I talked to said her boss put her on a small, less important project because she would be interrupted twice a day for “mommy duties.” Seriously?!? A man can take 3 or 4 smoking breaks a day, but a woman who wants to feed another human being gets penalized?
But the man probably never thinks too deeply about it. It just isn’t on the radar screen.
So for you men out there, if a woman at work does something unexpected, check your expectations. Asking yourself “why” is probably the biggest self-awareness tool out there.
“Why did I expect engineer Mary to take care of lunch?” If the answer is “Because I used to have a female admin do that for me”, you should rethink your future requests. If the answer is “because we rotate that responsibility around the engineering team”, then you are probably OK.
Men Should Mentor
Women often seek out other women as mentors, but research shows that women who also have male mentors get more promotions and make more money than those who have only female mentors. According to one article,
female mentors appear to be better role models, but male mentors may be better at leading the way to the top of the organization.
In essence, women excel at offering personal support, friendship, acceptance, counseling, and role modeling.
The male advantage? In terms of career development, which involves functions such as sponsorship, protection, providing challenging assignments, exposure, and visibility, both male and female protégés in a Penn State study said they received greater assistance from male mentors.
Men Should Advocate During Meetings
In my post on the work environment STEM women experience, I talked about women’s contributions being overlooked. For example, a woman brings up an idea at a meeting and it’s glossed over but a man brings up the same thought 10 minutes later and it’s pure gold. In order to combat that, men need to combine the self-awareness from above, with their propensity to interrupt.
“Wow! Mary brought that up earlier and now Joe, too! We might be on to something.”
A couple of other meeting tips that show your advocacy:
- Interject and say you’d like to hear them finish if you see a female colleague get interrupted in a meeting
- Openly ask women to contribute to the conversation
Men Should Advocate In General
If you manage a team with women, give them chances to lead, present projects and manage others.
Women are less likely to toot their own horns, so help make sure your colleagues get the credit they deserve. Look for opportunities to acknowledge women when their ideas are implemented, both publicly and to higher ups.
When you introduce female coworkers, emphasize their accomplishments.
When you hear a woman called “bossy” or “shrill,” request a specific example of what the woman did and then ask, “Would you have the same reaction if a man did the same thing?” In many cases, the answer will be no.
When you’re having a negative response to a woman at work, ask yourself the same question and give her the benefit of the doubt. Odds are she’s just doing her job.
When you think a woman is ready for the next step and you’re not in control of the promotion process, tell her manager. Tell her, too, so that she can advocate for herself. And push back when she says she’s “not ready” or “not qualified” for an opportunity—or when others say that about her.
Men Should Share the Office Housework
Women often take on more “office housework”. Things like taking notes at a meeting, organizing the office parties and training new hires. Those tasks steal valuable time away from core responsibilities and can keep a female colleague from participating fully.
Don’t fall into the trap of expecting women to take on stereotypical support roles like note taker. Raise your own hand. You never know, you may find yourself having new opportunities to collaborate with different coworkers and develop new skills.
Above all, understand that your actions can help set the tone for other men in the office. Be aware of your subtle biases when it comes to gender. You may not realize it about yourself – or others who work with you.
Leaving you with this from the lighter side: Both of us can’t look good at the same time…it’s either ME or the HOUSE!