Oftentimes at a professional women’s conference, the question will be posed to a panelist: What can men do to help women get ahead at work? The answer is often “the laundry,” typically followed by a hearty laugh from the audience.
Yes, and…here’s something else the men we love can do: Speak up for women at work.
Defend us when we’re harassed. Underscore our points when we’re interrupted. Give us credit for our work. Sponsor us. Promote us. Pay us.
It was only last week that I realized I wasn’t giving the men in my life all the information they needed to be our advocates. That’s because last week, I wrote in this newsletter about (one of the times) I had been harassed at work. This was not something I was talking about regularly at the dinner table; after all, I didn’t want to drag the seediness home with me. So these terrific men weren’t armed with full knowledge.
Without this experience being personalized for them, it’s easy for men to take what seems like the safest route, which is to look away...as so many did with Harvey Weinstein.
Some time ago I asked a man with whom I’m close what he does when other men make inappropriate comments about women; he said he let them go by. After all, he said, he has to work with those people.
Yes, but so do I. And so do the other women in his life.
What if this were your daughter? I asked him. And every woman is some man’s daughter; and that father often is not there to stand up for her. Don’t you want some other honorable man to defend your daughter when you’re not here?
That was an eye opener for him.
Perhaps closer to home, can you sit back for a minute and imagine if you were in this position? If the genetic accident that made you a man had made you a woman instead? And thus that society dictated that you had to show up at work acting not too tough and not too soft, that you were paid 78 cents for doing the same work as the majority (and less if you were a woman of color or a woman with disabilities) just because of who you were, and that society further dictated that you do twice as much work in the household? Oh, and that sometimes you were sexually harassed at work, which left you feeling humiliated and insecure?
So, absolutely, please help with the laundry. AND be the good guy at work.
The great news to all of this: Research shows that men who promote women and people of color have their reputations enhanced at work. Win-win-win.
This article originally appeared in Ellevest's newsletter, What The Elle.