26 Nov Being an Ally to Women: 13 Core Actions
On the home page of my website I declare one, who I am and, two, what I promise to deliver regarding helping men to be a strong ally to women:
I’m a husband, dad of daughters, writer, certified executive coach, feminist, and ally, helping well-read, liberal men become stronger allies to women in their families, at work, and in society.
I do this by writing books, blogs, and social media posts that both entertain and motivate, and through posing coaching questions that provoke fresh insights and purposeful action.
This “brand promise” flows out my ongoing efforts to be a better ally to women, as both a professional and a person. A while back I had an epiphany that while I’ve not been a man who hinders or harasses the female professionals with whom I work, I could be a lot more deliberate in my allyship. And since that moment, I’ve been making deeper contributions toward the expansion of women’s professional opportunities and learning more about myself, my own biases, and how I can be a more impactful ally while helping other men to do the same.
What does it mean to be an ally to women? Male allies constantly practice getting better at these 13 core actions:
- Acting and speaking in a manner that demonstrates zero tolerance for any kind of harassment or violence, especially our own, against women, in any setting
- Asking open-ended questions a lot more than telling women what they should do; in fact, be as reluctant as possible to give advice
- Becoming active in your organization’s women’s leadership and diversity and inclusion efforts
- Becoming comfortable with discomfort; i.e. not running away from, or getting defensive during, situations in which women are “keeping it real”
- Becoming progressively more aware of not driving our own agendas, insecurities, needs, etc., instead of truly trying to help women (including not forcing ourselves into the conversation or event if we’re not invited)
- Becoming progressively more aware of what “mansplaining” and “manterruptions” sound like, and ceasing to do it
- Hiring and promoting women into key leadership and influence positions, and ensuring the job descriptions are inclusive
- Listening, with curiosity, a lot more than talking, and becoming more aware of what empathy looks and sounds like
- Serving as a sponsor or mentor to professional women in a manner that helps them grow in confidence, awareness of their strengths, professional connections, and strategies for career growth and success
- Taking action to influence people with power, based on paying attention to things happening in the educational systems, marketplaces, state legislatures, federal branches of government, or the courts that could hinder a woman’s choices, freedoms, and opportunities
- Speaking in an inclusive manner and avoiding stereotypes such as “bossy,” “bitchy,” “emotional,” etc.
- Supporting women’s voices and ideas in corporate or group settings, including interrupting the meeting when we observe that a female colleague has not been invited, is not being heard, or is not getting credit for her idea
- Wanting to be an ally first and foremost because it’s the right, humane thing to do, and not primarily because it’s smart for business (which it is)
- Bonus action step: Refusing to be the first to laugh at your own jokes–not because this demonstrates allyship as much as the fact that such behavior is really annoying
Through my books, blogs, and social media posts (see social icons at the bottom pages of my website), I provide content that incorporates insights, skill-building, and tools that can help men become stronger at the core actions stated just above. I know they’ll help because they’ve already helped me and continue to do so. And if you hire me as your executive or life coach, I’ll pose the kinds of questions that provide you with similar insights, skills, and tools–and challenge you to follow-through on what you say you want, and what you claim you intend to do about it.
If you’re getting a lot out of this particular blog, you’ll also benefit from reading this recent Harvard Business Review article.
Now, back to my opening “promise.” You might (if you’re still reading this, which I hope you are) be asking, “Why liberal men? Why well-read men? What about the rest of us men who don’t fit that category?”
Thank you for asking! I’m open to helping you if you share my goal of wanting as many women as possible to have the fullest opportunity in our society to unleash their potential and thrive. However, it’s been my experience that men on the more liberal or left side of the political spectrum are more likely to fully advocate for this outcome. And as far as “well-read” men…you see, I’m a writer and a pretty literary dude so if you don’t love to read you might not find what you need here. And it’s okay if you decide that what I offer is not for you, because I can’t help everybody and neither should I try.
But if you’re a man seeking to be a strong ally, and you engage with my efforts here, I will exert all the emotional labor I can muster to deliver on my promises.