Posts

How engaging men in your career will take you to the next level!

There’s no question that engaging men in your career must be a top priority if you want to move up the ladder.

In the last few years, a lot has been said about the need for women to have career sponsors and not only mentors. I’d venture to say that this is even truer for multicultural talent. Being on the radar of career sponsors goes a long way when it comes to being tapped for powerful opportunities. But you shouldn’t wait until a career sponsor comes along. You should be doing amazing things that make you visible to them. Like what? Well, like seeking cross-functional opportunities to shine, stretching yourself and leaving a great impression. Through it all you should be engaging men in your career. Some of these men will become your sponsors, others your mentors, and others will just be amazing colleagues that will make your journey a lot more enjoyable.

Gerard Borda on engaging men in women's initiatives | Discover how engaging men in your career will take you to the next level!

Gerard Borda on engaging men in women’s initiatives

I had a chance to talk to Gerard Borda, Head of Talent Management for Veritiv, an industry-leading B2B distributor of packaging, print, facility, publishing and print management solutions in North America, and former VP Leadership Development at Sun Trust Bank. A man who’s very interested in Diversity and Inclusion and who’s been a long-term strategic partner of women in the organizations where he’s worked. We talked about engaging men in your career as one of the best ways to achieve your goals.

What’s the best way for a woman to get you to support her career goals?

I’d like to have interacted with her prior to her request. It’s always better if I have seen her work or if I have worked with her in some way. It’s easier to support someone who shows initiative to learn more about my work in the organization. And it doesn’t have to be something formal. There are so many opportunities to interact with someone who works in your own organization. You could do it at a town hall meeting. It could be casual, like for example coming up to me to ask me about what I’m working on, or if I did a presentation and they come up afterwards to comment on something I said. It shows initiative and that’s important.

The science behind engaging men gender initiatives.

What doesn’t work at engaging men in your career?

Desperation. It’s okay to be unhappy in your job, I get that. But when someone comes to me because they are drowning in their career and they try to reach out to me solely as a life vest, that’s a turn off.

And also just because something is urgent on their calendar, it doesn’t mean it’s urgent on mine. If someone I don’t know approaches me to meet immediately, I might postpone the appointment on purpose to see how they react to the unexpected. I want to know if they appear frustrated or upset because of the last minute change.  Then I wait to see if they reschedule or follow up. If they don’t, it lets me see that it wasn’t that important to them after all, so why should it be important to me.

Men and women together for success. Discover how engaging men in your career will take you to the next level!

Get on the radar of career sponsors and make sure you engage men in your career

When do you feel you’re most effective as a partner of Corporate-sponsored women initiatives?

Like any corporate initiative, I have to see that there is clarity of goals, and understand how they see my role. I want to be clear about what they are trying to accomplish, the way in which they plan to do it, and make sure I believe it.

But it’s very much influenced by the organization because we all have very limited time. When an initiative is supported by the C-suite, then people are committed. But when you are being told this is something you have to do, (and it’s just the flavor of the month,) an executive sponsor will only give it little time. It’s the difference between compliance and advocacy.

What makes you want to get involved?

I believe in inclusion. I’ve been the beneficiary of inclusion and have seen first hand the effect of being a minority. I get that the world isn’t fair. I get that some people experience privilege and that their networks give them a leg up. But I’ve also seen that that privilege doesn’t guarantee anything.

What do you do to show your support for a woman’s career ambitions?

I will help a woman see the realities of the organization and ask her if she’s willing to adapt to that reality. The truth is that the organization is not going to change for one individual. It only changes over time. I help people define their values and priorities given where they are at in their lives and career.  I then offer my perspective on the values and priorities of the organization. Using these two points, I help them try to navigate the different opportunities available.

Discover how engaging men in your career will take you to the next level! Men wearing red shoes to show support for women's career success

These are some of the amazing men who show their support for women’s career advancement by wearing red shoes on Tuesdays! Identify your allies in your organization.

What suggestions do you have for women who are seeking the support of the male executives in the organization?

If you’re looking for an advocate for your career, that’s something you don’t formally ask for. It starts with your performance. Executives recognize good performance. You get on their radar because you make their success synonymous with your success.

In addition, women need to know what they want and what is required by the company to achieve what they want. If the role requires you to relocate, and work late nights, you better figure out how you will do that if that’s your priority.

On the other hand, executives need to evaluate if that position really requires relocation, working late nights, etc., or if they are not being creative enough to figure out a different way to get the job done. There are some roles that have requirements that are non-negotiable (for instance, sales people need to be in front of client,) but oftentimes that’s not the case. The reality may be that the organization is not progressive enough to adjust to the woman’s life stage and offer alternatives to avoid losing that talent.

Want to learn more about your communication styles? Don't miss this great quiz!
Step Up Program. Be you amplified. Join the Step Up Program and make your career goals a reality!

Join the Step Up Program and make your career goals a reality! Read on to discover what it’s all about!! Click here!

What suggestions do you have for women’s assertiveness not to be misconstrued as aggressiveness?

Look for other assertive women who are viewed positively and observe how they communicate, how they strategize inside and outside of a meeting to win sponsorship for their ideas. Being assertive means to put forth your point of view in a convincing way to influence your stakeholders. Women have to find their voice and use it effectively. I find they listen more actively and have greater collaboration tendencies, two skills, particularly useful in the world we live in. So they can use those skills to gain support for their ideas.

Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives and the Science Behind It

Engaging men in gender initiatives can be a challenge. Science and research are revealing the best ways to bring them around.

In recent years, reaching equality between men and women has slowly moved to the center of the national discourse. Yet I regularly hear women complain about engaging men in gender initiatives. How do you bring them onboard? How do you encourage them to champion these important initiatives?

Masculine norms

Perhaps before we delve into engaging men in gender initiatives, we should understand what it means to be a man in today’s world. In a recent study, Catalyst identified four masculine norms with which men grow up in the U.S. and Western Europe. According to the authors of the study, the way in which men negotiate these norms determines how supportive they will be of equality between men and women in the workplace.


Reaching equality of men and women in the workplace is less of a challenge when men are actively involved in the efforts. Featured here, participants at a RSM Onsite Event at Thomson Reuters.

Reaching equality of men and women in the workplace is less of a challenge when men are actively involved in the efforts. Featured here, participants at a RSM Onsite Event at Thomson Reuters.

  • Avoid all things feminine: Men who are perceived as following the feminine norm are stereotyped as “wimps” or “sissies.”
  • Be a winner: Focus is placed on anything that makes a man attain social status- wealth, prestige, power over others. Focus on their career is paramount.
  • Show no chinks in the armor: Show no physical or emotional weakness. This norm pushes men to keep emotions to themselves. Showing emotional toughness is perceived as a key leadership attribute.
  • Be a man’s man: It’s important to be one of the boys, visibly complying with all masculine norms and participating in stereotypically masculine activities, which results in access to valuable networks.

Men exhibit different degrees of compliance with these masculine norms, and research shows that men who break away from them pay a social cost that includes isolation and loss of social status. As you can see, these norms with which men grow up and which inform their beliefs and behaviors deeply affect their relationships with their female colleagues.

What is the key for engaging men in gender initiatives?

The key for engaging men in gender initiatives rests with their level of awareness. It may seem obvious, but sometimes things are so obvious that we forget to take them into account.

Research shows that the more aware men are of any inequality between men and women in the workplace the more open they are to supporting a gender initiative. (97% of men highly aware of gender bias agreed it was important to reach gender equity vs. 74% of men with a low level of awareness.)

 

Invite male colleagues to be part of your women initiatives. Keep in mind the societal norms that affect them. Featured here, participants at a RSM Signature Event at McGraw Hill Financial.

Invite male colleagues to be part of your women initiatives. Keep in mind the societal norms that affect them. Featured here, participants at a RSM Signature Event at McGraw Hill Financial.

How can you raise men’s level of awareness of the lack of equality between men and women?

According to Catalyst’s study, there are three factors that help increase a man’s awareness of gender bias.

  • Defiance of some masculine norms– Men who tend to defy the masculine norm “avoid all things feminine” tend to have more awareness of inequity.
  • Having a woman mentor- When men have women mentors they tend to be more familiar with inequities women experience in the workplace.
  • A sense of fair play – A sense of fair distribution of resources, of the gaps between the haves and the have nots, also makes men more sensitive to gender bias.

Of these three factors, having a sense of fair play was by far the one responsible for inspiring more men to be champions of equality between men and women in the workplace.

A brief intro to brain science

The moment you learn that male and female brains are wired differently a sense of liberation and relief comes upon you. The revelation presents us with the opportunity to look at a different way of engaging men in gender initiatives.

The moment you learn that male and female brains are wired differently a sense of liberation and relief comes upon you. The revelation presents us with the opportunity to look at a different way of engaging men in gender initiatives. Photo credit: guardianlv.com

The moment you learn that male and female brains are wired differently a sense of liberation and relief comes upon you. Photo credit: guardianlv.com

Science tells us that men tend to be more left brained, which means they favor linear, logical, conceptual, hierarchical, compartmentalized thinking. Focused thinking detached from emotion in order to get things done. As if they have little boxes in their brain where they keep work, family, and children, all neatly separated. As a result men can become impatient when women offer them too much context when they ask questions or when they come up with a more creative, less linear answer to their question.

On the other hand women tend to be more right brained, which means they see the big picture, are empathetic, intuitive, favor collaboration, emotional intelligence, patience and optimism. They naturally bring a host of qualities to leadership that have been quite absent from our male-dominant C-Suites.

Brain studies have revealed that women have a larger corpus callosum, the area of the brain that connects both hemispheres, which facilitates electrical impulses to go back and forth faster between the right and left sides of the brain. Not surprisingly, it’s been proven that women use both hemispheres of the brain to make a decision.

Studies have also shown that the amygdala, the area of the brain considered the “seat of aggression,” is three times larger in men than in women. The size difference is likely evolutionary as men historically were the protectors of the family. Again, not surprisingly, aggressiveness is a trait tightly correlated with men.

How to use brain science for engaging men in gender initiatives

“The brain’s ability for perceptual change is the foundation of a leader’s capacity to adapt,” said Dr. Peter Dean, author of Breaking Into the Boys Club, M.Evans, 2009, during his presentation at the Women Leadership Conference organized recently by The Conference Board. Translation: people (leaders) can change their perceptions and that’s what you should work towards.

Here’s how it works. Men and women have different proportions of a series of chemicals that affect our behavior: estrogen, progesterone, serotonin, oxytocin, testosterone and vasopressin. Women have more of the first four chemicals, which are responsible for empathy and calmness. Men have more of the last two, which are responsible for aggression and territorialism.

Use empathy when engaging men in gender initiatives - Empathy Quotes - Photo Credit: misadventuresofbillybump.blogspot.com

Use empathy when engaging men in gender initiatives – Empathy Quotes – Photo Credit: misadventuresofbillybump.blogspot.com

Engaging men in gender initiatives and empathy: the secret weapon all women are naturally armed with

Dr. Dean suggests that if women use empathy in the conversations they have with their male colleagues, they can induce a chemical reaction in them to help the adaptation response. Translation: when your colleague reacts negatively to your gender parity project, come back with something like, “I understand where you’re coming from. You think that if we reach equality between men and women in our office that means women will take over and men will lose their jobs. But you have no reason to feel that way because men and women have very complementary styles, and, as a matter of fact, at companies with more women executives, things improve for everyone.”

Knowing the masculine norms men respond to and the potential risks they run for straying away from them will help you craft empathic messages that get to the heart of the men you’re hoping to turn into champions of your programs.

We are living in wonderful times when opportunities for change abound. We need each other to create the new leadership model for the 21st Century. Engaging men in gender initiatives is the only way to reach equality between men and women.

Engaging men in gender initiatives is easy when you bring the power of the Red Shoe Movement to your organization. Check out the RSM LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS

Engaging men in gender initiatives is easy when you bring the power of the Red Shoe Movement to your organization. Click to check out the RSM LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS and Connect with the Movement!