In a room full of women the handful of men who attended this breakfast with red ties and red shoes will be remembered by all of them. As the men who support women all the way to the highest levels of their company, these champions will reap benefits unavailable to those who stay on the sidelines.
Let me be clear about my agenda with this post. I’d like to encourage more men to support women’s pursuit of decision-making positions by revealing what’s in it for them. Yes, many of us would prefer for men to contribute to leveling the playing field because it’s the right thing to do or the just thing to do. Or because they actually believe it benefits organizations and society at large. Or because having daughters have changed the way they see the world.
But there’s so much that needs to be done to move the inclusion needle at the highest levels and so much to make any gains stick, that I’m not choosy. Be part of the solution because you’re convinced it’s a win-win for everyone to gain gender parity at the top or because you realize there are a lot of benefits for you in playing an active role. Either way, if you are in, we all win.
Here are 4 benefits for men who support women all the way to the C-suite
1Exposure and increased influence
Men who level the playing field have a huge advantage: They are in a minority. As such, you get a ton of visibility. In addition, we all know the power of espousing another group’s causes. It tends to lend credibility to the cause and to you as the one speaking up about it, as you’re perceived as having little to gain from supporting someone else’s cause. It’s why it’s always so effective when straight people support the rights of gay people, when whites stand up against injustices perpetrated on non-whites, and when Jews stand next to Muslims when they’re being discriminated against and vice-versa.
So, whatever you do as a man who supports gender equality in the workplace you will attract attention to the issue and to yourself. You could be a strong catalyst for change (as Sergio Kaufman, CEO, Hispanic South America, Accenture clearly is,) by demanding that the gender issue be treated as any other business issue. With metrics that measure actual progress, by setting up goals for each leader in the organization and by making them accountable for reaching the specific goals. Hopefully 50/50 men and women all the way to the C-suite.
Here’s a list of men who openly support women
2Take the credit for achieving the change
Given the state of affairs in most large organizations, if you really wanted to make the achievement of gender equality your legacy, you could probably do it. You could use the large body of research available to make the business case.
The first step, however, should be to find out the real experience regarding growth opportunities of female talent across your organization. Discover areas of improvement, unconscious biases of the current leadership and all talent that may be affecting women’s possibilities to reach their full potential. In other words, do your due diligence as you would with any other business challenge.
If gender equality were treated with the same seriousness as all other business issues, we would’ve resolved this crisis decades ago. Why not be the first in your organization and one of the very few leaders worldwide who is credited for having accomplished equality in a few, short years?
If your goal is expand your influence outside your organization, being one of the few men who openly talks about this can give you a great story to share with the media. Obviously, you must first walk the walk. Make things happen in your company. Be the change you propose.
Sure, you can talk about the importance of more inclusion at the top and the obstacles that get in the way and that, in itself, will bring you visibility. As I was saying, there are not enough men out there speaking out about this topic. But if you seek real influence, your actions, beliefs and words must be aligned. People, particularly those who work with you, will quickly turn against you if they feel you’re using this sensitive topic to attract attention to yourself while doing nothing to change the status quo in your workplace.
4 A large group of colleagues supporting your career ambitions
It goes without saying that once men come out of the closet as open supporters of women career growth those same women along with tend to reciprocate. They can become your strongest allies to help you co-create change in the organization and help you personally achieve your own career ambitions. As long as they see your intentions and actions sincere, they will become your advocates and contribute to building your reputation as a true champion of inclusion.
The secret to develop this strong group of women supporters is to be equal partners. Leave any patriarchal instinct behind. Don’t support women’s career growth with thoughts of them needing your protection out of being weak. Or because you think they can’t do it alone.
Do it from a sense of fairness. After all, you wouldn’t want to win a game of foosball because the table is inclined towards your side, would you? You’d want to claim you won fair and square because you’re the best player.
That’s all women in the workplace have been asking. To have once and for all a level playing field so they can play with equal terms. So they can truly reach their full potential and go as far as they choose to in the workplace.
If you are one of the executives currently leading the way in gender equality, let us know. We are already working on our 2018 Hall of Fame.