Inspiring Women's Leadership

Including the Guys

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Professional women and men pulling on rope around an arrow to pull it upwardThroughout history, all movements have required the support of the majority group in order to make any progress.

The Civil Rights Movement benefited from white supporters.

The LGBT community needs straight people.

And women need men.

“Make your partner a real partner,” said Sheryl Sandburg in “Lean In.” She was talking about women creating equal partnerships with their husbands, specifically, but that message can and should have a broader application:

Men and women need to be real partners in bringing more women into leadership.

Men Who Get It

The men who get it, who are vital to the process, believe that we need more women in leadership roles because they know it will improve the world for all of us.

I’m happy to report that those men are out there, and they are becoming more vocal.

I was recently at a Vivek Wadwha (“Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology”) presentation, and was impressed with his focus and clarity. He is one of the men who is fully engaged with other men – particularly those in tech – around the conversation about gender inequality in Silicon Valley.

He is holding the tech world’s collective feet to the fire, and he is having an impact.

He has research to back up his claims, but more valuable is his very vocal commentary on the value of including, supporting, and promoting women for the unique benefits they bring.

He admonishes Silicon Valley venture capitalists on their fatally flawed male-centric view:

“The companies that women start…tend to be more practical and sensible than those started by men. They achieve 35% higher return on investment, and, when venture-backed, bring in 12% higher revenue than venture-backed male-owned tech companies.”

Corporations are rethinking their women’s initiatives to determine their relevance and whether or not to disband them or revise them to be sure that men are included in the mix. There is a dawning recognition that this is not a “women’s problem.”

Men like Vivek and James Allworth, who penned the HBR blog post “It’s Not Women Who Should Lean In; It’s Men Who Should Step Back,” are speaking up for women in leadership.

Not a Women’s Problem

I think that there are more men out there, at all stages and levels of life, who believe in the power of women’s leadership. That is, they know that the way women lead when they aren’t trying to be like men has the potential to change the world for the better.

But how can you start the conversation?

How do we let the men around us know that it’s a topic to talk about and work on?

In a blog post for Catalyst.org, Jim Turley, former Chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young (EY), writes that he was already becoming more aware of the issues that women in business face when he had an important experience. While at a different firm, he was leading a team to build a mentoring and sponsorship program for their women, and the team was uncertain whether the program should be for women only, or for everyone. After all, men need mentoring too.

Turley says,

“The lesson my colleague taught me was the importance of perspective. She simply said to the group, ‘Look at the firm from my point of view as a 23-year-old woman. All the corner offices are occupied by men, as is almost every window office. Then ask yourself: If you were me, would this seem like the right environment for you?’ By inviting me to see things from her vantage point, she converted me to the cause of gender equity in the workplace.”

I say, let’s do what we, as women, do best:

  • Include the men to create consensus through constructive dialogs
  • Invite them to be guests at your Lean In circles
  • Show them the business world from your perspective, and
  • Inspire them to support women’s leadership

We are strongest together.

Join the Discussion:

What is your experience with involving men in the conversation about supporting women in leadership?

What else would you add?

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