When women succeed in the workplace, we all win. The World Economic Forum found that closing the gender gap could increase our GDP by an average of 35%, improve efficiencies and productivity and even result in higher wages for men.
I’ve been fortunate to have the support of a few incredible men throughout my career. Here are five things they did for me that all men should do to help women succeed:
Mention our names behind closed doors
In every room you’re in, bring us up. Talk about our work, our skills, our ability. Showcase our successes. Brag on our wins. And ask if you can bring us along. We need you to advocate for us in the rooms we haven’t gotten into yet.
At a prior agency, a male VP fought for me to attend a pitch with one of my dream clients—a pitch I helped create. He knew I was passionate about the brand and wanted me to be in the room to represent my discipline. Even when others pushed back, he stood his ground. His support made the pitch—which we won—one of my favorite pieces of business to date.
Invest time in us
You can start small by investing time in the women around you, and I promise you’ll see them flourish.
After starting my career as a social strategist, I passionately wanted to be a brand planner but didn’t see a clear path. Our male head of brand strategy listened to my desire and answered my questions. When he needed assistance on a project, he let me take the lead and worked alongside. His investment paid off and started me on the path to my current role.
Try to see things from our perspective
When you hear female coworkers or friends complaining about how they’ve been treated, you may not recognize the cumulative effect these experiences have had on them. But they are looking to you to understand where they are coming from and have empathy.
Recently, after a co-worker’s inappropriate behavior made me feel uncomfortable, I shared what happened with a mutual friend. Instead of downplaying the incident, he was angry at what had happened and asked me how I wanted to handle it. His validation of my experience and his willingness to follow my lead were what I needed to feel heard and seen.
Stand up for us when we’re mistreated
I’ve been spoken over, ignored and harassed by men throughout my career. My words have been stolen, my thoughts downplayed, my voice drowned out and my body analyzed. And I’m not alone. Zoe Scaman’s piece – a perfect read for Women’s History Month—highlights just how prevalent this is in our industry and beyond.
But I’ve also had men fight back on my behalf. A small but significant example is a client I used to work with. Every time I was in a room or on a call with his team, if a man repeated what I said or spoke over me, he would interrupt them and explain that I had already said that or ask me to finish my thought. He never allowed them the satisfaction of speaking over or for me. He made sure my voice was heard.
Promote us and pay us what we’re worth
Words of affirmation are nice, but the way to truly recognize women’s contributions to your organization is to pay them what they’re worth—on par with men in similar roles—and to ensure their title matches their contribution. The organizations that do this will win in the long run, and those that don’t will fall behind, losing valuable talent along the way.
We’re not looking for you to be our knights in shining armor. Trust me, most women can—and want—to take care of and stand up for themselves. But we do want you to call out blatant inequity when you see it. When men lead by example in this way, they make it clear that including, supporting and defending women is encouraged in their organization.
We’re simply asking you to be part of the solution. Instead of celebrating women this month, make history with us in the rooms we share. We’ll do it with or without you, but we sure as hell would like it to be with you.
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