Written by Heather Bussing
May 31, 2022
Dear Men, We Could Use Your Help
We could use your help. We're making less than you do, on average 82 cents for every dollar you make.
Often, we don't get hired or promoted because someone is concerned that we might have babies and won't be as committed to our work. (Many of us can't wait to get back to work, but we're not allowed to say that because then people will think we're bad moms.)
Sometimes, people believe that we can't do the job because they think women are not as smart or strong or brave or skilled. (Have they met us?)
We know you believe in equality and the idea of women having leadership roles at work, no matter what kind of work. That's important and we appreciate it.
We could also use some allies. Allies do more than understand and agree; they are active in their support.
Allies are people who work for meaningful change and equality for women (and other marginalized groups). It means thinking about equity, advocating for women at work, and supporting change. It's the kind of stuff you do all the time on your own behalf and for people and ideas you believe in.
But it's also important that the things you do will actually help. Since you've never been a woman and might have never experienced discrimination, you probably don't have the full perspective on what needs to change and effective ways to approach it. It's tricky territory because it involves power, money, status, egos, and emotions. It also involves looking at things in new ways, ways you may have not considered. You haven't needed to.
We understand that being an ally to women may not always seem like it's in your best interest. But opportunity is more like the internet than pie. It's always there. You don't have to hide the last piece at the back of the fridge where no one can find it.
What we want are the same opportunities to compete and thrive and succeed. Our possibilities should not be limited because we happen to have collected a particular set of body parts, or not.
Here are some ways you can be our allies and make a difference for everyone.
Men and women walk through the world very differently. From the places we're comfortable going to how the word treats us as we go, there are many different realities. For example, men are not particularly concerned about what their butts looks like. Women get judged on it. Even when it's positive, it's not good.
It's important to solve the real problem, which is that many people still think it's weird that women have ideas, opinions, resources, power or autonomy. It's not that they truly believe it, although some do. Mostly, it's because our systems have run that way for much longer than not and some people are still catching up.
Listen to what women are saying about their obstacles and challenges. They won't be familiar to you, but that doesn't mean they aren't real. Then begin from women's experience to address bias and inequity.
Also, the fact that things are different for women is not the problem. Difference can be great. And frankly, we're not so crazy about the way you treat each other either.
We aren't asking to be treated like men. We want to be ourselves and have a fair chance.
Coach, sponsor, and mentor women. Advocate for women when they are not in the room. Make sure they are getting assignments and developing skills that will help them get a promotion. Help them see possibilities and encourage them to raise their hands.
Normalize parental leave. It's good for everyone. Pick the kids up. Leave early when your daughter falls off the monkey bars and breaks her wrist.
Make the coffee. Take the meeting notes. When you see these kinds of tasks defaulting to women, offer to take it over and spread it around.
Tell your peers and colleagues how much you make. If you discover inequities, advocate for equal pay. Under federal law, employers cannot cut your pay to make others' equal. They can only raise people's pay.
When someone tells a sexist joke, makes an inappropriate comment, or asks the women in the room to do tasks you wouldn't normally do, let them know it's not okay. It doesn't need to involve public humiliation. Take the person aside and tell them why it wasn't appropriate.
Later, address the group directly if it makes sense. But be aware that if you have more power than the person you are trying to advocate for, others will blame her because it's safer.
"A culture is defined by the worst behavior tolerated." - John Amaechi.
What's more important than the rules is what people get away with. Speak up.
If you are not sure what to do or how to handle a situation, ask for help; all the best leaders do. It dramatically improves your chance of making a positive difference in less time. What could be better?
Thanks for being our colleagues and allies.
Download our white paper to further understand how organizations across the country are using market data, internal analytics, and strategic communication to establish an equitable pay structure.