Women will more often lead the conversation and drive the solution.
The clarity and courage of women’s voices is compelling in this #MeToo era. As men, we may feel like we’re back on our heels, on the defensive, unsure not only of our actions but perhaps our motivations. Our confidence in the ways we relate to women may be shaken. If we hold a leadership role, these concerns may multiply.
So how do we lean in, move up onto the balls of our feet, and engage in gender collaboration in a new way? How do we make sure that women see us not as part of their problem, but as part of the solution?
Put another way: What can happen when men listen to women, in ways that establish trust? Women will more often lead the conversation and drive the solution.
Let’s be clear: women are not a problem for men to solve. And women have no business trying to fix men – we don’t respond well to being fixed.
But to collaborate with women requires men to invest in humility and teachability. This means that we do not doubt the voices of women, call their character into question, or in any way blame them for speaking up.
Research indicates that around 95% of women’s reports of sexual assault are truthful. So when our self-talk sounds like this – “Hey, that accusation may not be true” – it is time to listen even more carefully, because almost all the stories are true. We should also acknowledge that sometimes we don’t know what or who to believe.
One key practice for collaborative men: making more room for women to contribute. This builds trust, and ultimately enhances our relational influence. Male leaders, in particular, can:
Step out of the spotlight in presentations sometimes, when it will position a woman to speak with her own voice
Organize projects so our female colleagues will lead in their own way and gain credit for doing so
Delegate responsibility to women, while providing the support they need
Learn with women who report to us through reciprocal mentoring
Defer decision-making to our peers who are women
Do everything in our power to help the women above us succeed
Pay attention to the ways women disagree with one another, and hold our opinions about their diversity lightly
Temper our advocacy ‘for’ women through accountable relationships of trust ‘with’ women
It’s not that women can only move ahead when men make it possible. But every professional benefits from having influence partners, so when we, as men, stand down, more women will stand up. As allies, we can also intentionally resist the temptation of accepting accolades as a ‘male champion’ – such credit-taking belies the humility that informs sharing the spotlight.
For us as men, it is time to experiment with finding ways to open opportunities with women in ways that do not damage our own options. The resulting collaboration will be powerful.
The next blog in this series of three: What happens when men listen to women to build trust? Men influence other men. Read it here.
Image Credit: WOCinTechChat.com