There’s great debate in the worlds of social justice and progress about finding the line between “safe spaces” and “buy in.” For women in the workplace, especially those in corporate America, C-suites, and board rooms, women want the same importance and respect have, but the question remains: Do we fight against men for it, or recruit them to help us diversify our leadership?
For many, the argument is to recruit men to join the effort to bring diversity and gender equality to the realm of upper management. From a sheer numbers perspective, a movement to include more women in the upper ranks of a company is an all-hands-on-deck effort. Most men will probably agree that running an inclusive business means ensuring an inclusive team is in charge of the company, and few if any will admit to harboring some deep aversion to having women in leadership. What these men may not know, though is how to go about improving the number of women present at the table.
If the men of your company aren’t actively helping promote gender equality, then they’re hurting the effort by enforcing the status quo. To grow the number of women who make it to the C-suite, men have to take up an active role in forwarding the agenda of gender inclusivity and equality.
A common refrain among those who claim they want gender equality is that they don’t know where to start or what to do. Where does one go to find qualified, experienced women in the field? Coco Brown, the founder of a women’s empowerment networking group called The Athena Alliance, recommends for men to start with someone the trust and to network out from there. She writes, “If a CEO knows one amazing executive woman, he has access to at least six others. We all run in like peer groups.”
Additionally, as simple as it may sound, men can practice not talking when a woman is talking. Psychological implications of socialization and imposter syndromes aside, men often physically have louder and deeper voices than women do, meaning that, as they wish, they can drown out a woman’s input with ease. For many women who are trying to contribute to their place of work, literally having their voices heard is an important step.