Calling All Male Allies
Fix the Problem, Not the Women
Imagine if 94% of the CEO’s in the Fortune 500 were women, and men were paid at 80% of what women were paid across the board.
Can you imagine the male outrage, then? So why aren’t we as men outraged at the inequity women face in the workplace today?
A wise woman once said:
Women aren’t broken. Fix the problem, not the women.
How do we move as men from aware and activated to outraged and engaged?
In the history of equality movements, no group has ever been liberated without the ally-ship of those in the dominant group. For all the talk of male allies, where are the results? For all the acknowledgment of male privilege, what are we actually doing about it?
There is a pernicious and often unspoken meme that feminine weakness must be inherent in the lack of equality women face in the workplace. Or that women are equal, but must “wait their turn” to catch up.
The problem is this:
Women are more than ready and more than qualified right now, and have always been equally capable as men. The pipeline problem is an excuse, and a lazy one at that. More women graduate from college than men at the top of the funnel. So why aren’t we already at 50/50 at all levels and in all organizations, and why aren’t we at parity in compensation?
In some regard only one of two conclusions can be reached: women are the problem, or organizations are. While this may seem obvious, few men wake up every day outraged that their organization is “broken” in their favor. This absence of outrage exonerates us from doing the proactive work of fixing it.
Women have to spend additional levels of mind share and energy to assimilate to cultures that favor men. This is compounded by the reality that women do more at home, have to spend more time to get ready, etc. and are in the middle of a maelstrom of responsibilities. When something’s not working at work, women are prone to blaming themselves. If they do hold men to account, they are further disadvantaged. In a #MeToo world, some men are actively avoiding women in the workplace and socially. The unfairness of all this is astounding, as we men are trafficking in the unearned benefits of male privilege every day.
Guys: let’s step it up. If you are reading this, you are already aware and curious. The next step is becoming activated. To act, we need to listen first. When we listen, we learn. And only once we have learned do we earn the right to join women in leading this movement.
So where to begin?
Here is one call to action: join the Network for Executive Women as a member. I got involved, am now on the board of directors, and it’s changed my life. If not N.E.W., all good. Find one women’s group and initiative where men are welcome. Immerse yourself. Listen. Soak it in. A warning: once you begin to sit and process the day to day reality women are dealing with, you are going to get really upset. That’s good. Upset is good. Upset at injustice is what changes the world.
Men: we’ve done the talking. We’ve done the unconscious bias training. We’ve told ourselves we care.
But there’s only one way to show we actually do.
We have to do the work.