3 Ways Men Can Become Compelling Allies to Gender Diversity Efforts

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Men are powerful allies to Gender Diversity and equality goals. That is, when they choose to be or when the organisation has well laid out strategies to involve them.

That's one reason I keep writing about how men can help gender equality goals.

Men helping to improve the poor representation of women and minorities in leadership roles makes organisational and financial sense as proven by many research studies.

Your contribution can make a significant difference to the careers of women and minorities around you. That in itself can be a very satisfying outcome. Moreover, your involvement with gender diversity can help enhance your leadership influence. It firmly establishes you not only as a successful leader, but as someone who cares about fairness and equality, and actively works to strengthen the organisation's future. 

Needless to say, it is in men and women's professional interest to be Inclusive Leaders and promote diversity at all levels of leadership.

It's not a question of if we need to work together to progress socially and economically, it's about how quickly can we create that reality for all of us. Everyone wins when we progress together instead of at the expense of one of us.

Yet, the well established benefits of having more women to balance out the men in leadership positions stands in stark contrast to the data for 2017 across the largest corporations globally.

The latest finding of the Chief Executive Women (CEW) ASX 200 Senior Executive Census 2017confirms that men still hold the majority (79%) of roles in ASX 200 executive leadership. This is important to think about because it means Australia has just 11 female CEOs on the ASX 200 or 5.2% of women CEOs. More startlingly, 41 of the nation's largest companies don't even have a woman on their executive leadership. Which means, we won't have more women CEOs anytime soon.

Female CEOs in the Fortune 500 aren’t quite the norm yet either, but they have been making strides. As of 2017, there are 32 female CEOs on the list, meaning that 6.4% of the U.S.’s biggest companies (by revenue) are run by women. This small number is the highest proportion of female CEOs in the 63-year history of the Fortune 500.

Has there been a dearth of gender diversity programs and strategies over the last three decades, one might ask?

Not really. Literally billions of dollars have been invested in these efforts. Among many complex reasons for why a lot of them leave us wanting, a crucial reason for their failure is perhaps, not involving men who continue to be decision makers.

A Gender Diversity initiative that does not consider the crucial ingredient of men as advocates and allies is likely to fail and not have long-term positive shifts.

Here's a shout out to men who might want to contribute to seeing their wives, sisters, daughters and female co-workers have a fair go at work, but don't know how they can make a difference.

#1 Seek out sponsoring opportunities

Men might need to go out of their way to find opportunities for women and minority leaders. This is because women and minorities are pushed so far behind that it's time to bend over backwards to try and level the playing field for them. Sponsorship is a great way to push a deserving leader's career ahead. This does not have to arise out of formal organisational programs. “Often times organisations haven’t factored men into the equation upfront,” says Eleanor Haller-Jorden, General Manager, Catalyst Europe. Who can you see around you that you know has the potential, but lacks the advocacy they need? As a leader you have all the freedom to say I'll sponsor a leader who I know most likely won't have a fair go at a senior leadership position.

#2 Role model flexibility at work

Men are really far behind in helping organisations become more flexible. Most of the responsibility and career backlash of flexibility falls upon women and minorities. Men are also fathers, husbands and sons. They have equal responsibility in being a crucial part of their households. Yet, women bear the brunt of most such responsibilities and the consequences this has for their leadership careers. While there are deep-seated reasons for this imbalance, we have to begin somewhere. As a senior male leader, how about setting an example of working flexibly, so everyone around you feels the permission to do the same. Unless more men leaders step away from their daily grind to do school runs or relieve their partner of a few responsibilities, so she can get ahead in her career, flexibility will stay a women's or people with disabilities issue.

#3 Support women in their absence

Behind closed doors, it's fairly easy and common to dismiss what women and minorities can accomplish and the opportunities they deserve. Sadly, the people being spoken about are generally not present in the room, so that they can be represented fairly or speak for themselves. As an advocate for gender diversity, make a point to speak out and communicate with your peers (most of whom are likely men) on how these assumptions might be just that. A leader who keeps their integrity and the organisation's best interests at heart often stands out. Let's not underestimate your own leadership influence when you speak up and advocate for what might help the organisation perform better and keep up with its rapidly diversifying customer base. These might not just be words that sound right, doing the right thing is a proven strategy to have a long and influential career while helping gender diversity goals.

Hope this helps us think of how men can contribute and be active participants in gender diversity goals, instead of being passive by-standers, who don't know what their place is in our quest for diverse leadership.

Your thoughts? Do you have comments and observations that might help this conversation? Would love to hear back.

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I am am Inclusive Leadership speaker, writer and facilitator. Check out www.equalityconsulting.com.au for how I can help your organisation build Inclusive Leaders.

5 Ways Leaders Create an Unsafe Working Environment

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We've all had experiences when we felt unsafe at our workplace. This is not necessarily physical safety, that too, but more so, psychological safety. To feel stressed about going to work because we can't trust people around us or the system is a real downer.

Feeling unsafe at work is one of the worst things to wake up to and put up with.

What new and stinging blow to our confidence and competence awaits is not a bedrock for springing out of bed and doing a great job. Yet, lack of safety is fairly common and goes unchecked very often. Not because we don't want to set it right, but because we don't realise how it affects others and their motivation and morale at work.

How does feeling unsafe at work play out?

We feel unsafe when our idea gets mocked at a team meeting by our manager or a peer, and no one defends us. Or when we end up taking blame by default in a client meeting because our manager is unable to gather the courage to do so. Or when we don't want to cc the boss on every email that goes out of our inbox, but know we better do it, anyway.

One of the fastest ways to send people scurrying to update their resumes is to make them feel uncertain, unsafe and unsupported at their workplace.

If you lead a team or are aspiring to lead one in the future, then hope you find the following 5 tips on creating a safe environment handy.

Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas, as well.

#1 Insist on being kept in the loop on every email

This one's an epidemic of the modern workplace. We might agree that trust is a basic building block of your team. If you can't trust your team to send an email without your knowledge, then two things go wrong. One, they know you are always watching them (not supporting them) and two, therefore you don't trust them. Our intention to be kept in the loop all the time is immaterial, the outcome it creates is almost always negative. This controlling tactic shows us in poor light as team leaders.

#2 Provide too much instruction and detail on every task

Does your team feel the need to be told what to do all the time? While a new team with less experience always needs a little more hand holding, the idea is to make them self-reliant over time. If we continue to give detailed instructions for every small thing we want done, the team quickly learns not to think for themselves. There is a nervous energy around them and they might feel anxious doing things their way. Very tiring and unproductive. A team is meant to trust their experience and instincts about doing a good job without detailed instructions on how it needs to be done.

#3 Do all the talking in senior leadership reviews

It's one thing to be on the same page as a team, and quite another to constantly plot and plan on how to posture in front of senior leaders. Does your team feel nervous or unsafe without you around? Do senior leaders focus on faults and put the team down? Or is your leadership of the team not confident enough to allow them to express themselves and speak honestly? Doesn't matter how we justify this behaviour to the team, there's no good ending to this one. We need to trust the team to share their views and roll with the punches if we must. They might even help you manage tough leaders above you.

#4 Try keeping a track of the team all day

You might wonder if team leaders might have time for this. You'll be surprised how many do. If we keep a hawk's eye on the team and try and keep a track of their tea and lunch breaks to how many times their personal phone rings, we'll soon burn ourselves out. If a team member is breaching basic work expectations, it becomes pretty obvious and quickly so. It shows in their behaviour in team meetings, in their work output and their communication with you. You'll have your chance to share your feedback. It's nearly impossible to track everyone all the time for fear you'll miss something. This makes the whole team nervous and always looking over their shoulder.

#5 Try fixing the person every time they make a mistake

Mistakes need to be fixed and people need to be cared for. We sometimes get this in the reverse order. Work pressures and responsibilities at work can blur the line between people and their performance. The thing is, errors will continue to happen, but your team might find ingenious ways to hide it from you as long as possible. They know they will be fixed if found out. A team not just fails to do a better job, but also loses faith in the system and your ability to lift their career and their skills to another level. Which is our primary role as their leader. One of the worst feelings is to make a mistake and know you'll be punished soon after, not supported or coached to be better.

Help your team to feel safe and supported, so they know you care about their mental wellbeing first, and then about the work.

That way, they will do their best work and also make for a great team to have around.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also find these useful. If you want to be notified of my newest articles, then Follow here:

I am am Inclusive Leadership speaker, writer and facilitator. Check out www.equalityconsulting.com.au for how I can help your organisation build Inclusive Leaders.