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14 Things Women Wish Male Co-Workers Knew

In my experience as a corporate gender strategist, workplaces have a tough time achieving their goals of advancing women and eliminating gender bias without the "good guys" stepping up alongside the women's employee resource groups and influential female trailblazers who are often already doing good work in this space.

To give "good guys" a concrete and positive starting direction, in early 2019, I polled my San Francisco community of ambitious and accomplished women in international corporations, Bay Area tech and mid-size businesses, small business, entrepreneurship, education, healthcare, and the nonprofit world.

What I heard repeatedly - from nearly all sectors - is that it's not enough for men to not harass women in the workplace (though, that's certainly a good start). In one way or another, I kept hearing,

"I wish more of the "good guys" understood that it's not enough to just think of yourself as one because you don't harass women. And that we need guys to take action.

What working women love to see "good guys doing":

  1. Advocating for talented female colleagues to lead (or co-lead with you) juicy or high profile initiatives

  2. Sponsoring junior women (by connecting them with opportunities), don't just mentor them (with advice)

  3. Bringing the conversation back to those who are interrupted

  4. Redirecting conversation about women, sex, or dating to more G-rated topics

  5. Inviting more talented women to upper-level/decision opportunities (like hiring committees)

  6. Stepping up to do the work that will not lead to promotions - so women aren't the only ones taking notes, scheduling the next meeting, party-planning.

Plus, specific tips for thoughtful men:

  1. On listening: "Really tune in." Try to think about what she is saying as though it could be the key to what you're working on. Be open to her having the best idea in the room.

  2. On touch: Don't touch or get physically close in any way that you wouldn't want a male colleague doing to you. "Just don't."

  3. On group dynamics: "I would love for more of my male co-workers to take responsibility for inviting women to have equal airtime." As in: "Janie, I know you have done this before: what do you think?"

  4. On interrupting: "I wish more men would help steer the conversation back to me when another person interrupts." As in: "Good point, Frank - Melissa, can you finish your thought? I still wanted to hear it."

  5. On sports metaphors: Even though any gender can like sports (and hate them), many women suggested switching up your language so you're not creating a too sporty - or Star Wars-y or one-note - culture.

  6. On colleagues who are gay women: "Some [straight] male colleagues, try to bond with me by objectifying other women. Never cool."

  7. On giving advice: Ask first, "Do you want my perspective on X or are you good?" Just check in about her level of knowledge before giving her the Intro version (like you would with a guy), "Wait, before I say more: do you know about X?"

As I tell my clients, take the ones that fit your personal style and your organizational culture - and then challenge yourself to try some of the ones that make you more uncomfortable. This is part of the growth; the discomfort is where the learning happens.

In my experience, women are not expecting you to be immediately flawless at helping to create an inclusive and fair environment, but rather to get in the trenches alongside them and work at it.


Copyright © EMMH, LLC, 2019.

Written by Femily, "Silicon Valley's Gender/ Equity Advisor," founder of the Executive Women's Forum at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco; expert media source/writer/speaker on workplace gender inclusion; and founder of the American Association of Corporate Gender Strategists.

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