3 Actionable Steps Men Can Take to Help Women in the Workplace
You’ve been to conferences about women in the workforce, you’ve proclaimed yourself an ally to women… now what?
Read Time: 4 Mins
More and more men are actively engaging in involving themselves in women’s rights, attending work conferences about women’s importance in X industry, and proclaiming themselves as feminists. But it can still be difficult to go from fundamentally believing women should be treated equally at work and (everywhere else), to actively practicing those values professionally.
While these tips cover situations at work, they can and should be applied for treating women in any and all situations. At a base level, they’re meant to further challenge your ideas, the way you treat women, and to prove your belief for gender equality through your actions.
1. Don’t speak over women
Many of the women I know have the same problem when trying to express an idea in school or at work: they can’t get the guy next to them to shut up.
The New York Times specifically shed light on how this phenomenon affects women during meetings. A reader named Joyce Lionarons told The Times,“My female boss told me she needed to allow each man to interrupt her four times before protesting in a meeting. If she protested more often, there were problems.” Another reader named Bianca DiRuocco, detailed that her boss will quickly dismiss female employees’ ideas during meetings only to claim them as his brilliant invention a few weeks later.
A study by Stanford found that in a set of 31 one-to-one conversations, men who spoke with women interrupted them a total of 46 times, while women only interrupted men 2 times, and same-sex conversationalists only 7 times.
If women can’t make themselves heard at work, is it any wonder why there are so few female CEOs and an obvious gender gap in tech? Even if you have the best intentions with interrupting (maybe you want to add to someone’s point or clear up something confusing) wait until they wrap up their thought. Let them share their ideas even if you think they won’t work. Let them have a turn on the stage. Let them shine.
2. Recognize Misogyny- and Do Something About It
Actively make an effort to discourage a toxic work environment. If you overhear or witness an instance of harassment at the workplace (or anywhere else)- report it no matter who it’s about. If we keep giving upper management a pass for being abusers, we will keep creating Harvey Weinsteins of the world. Speak to someone privately about the situation or send an anonymous email to your company’s HR department reporting the case.
Even backing away from the coworker that uses the phrase “He throws like a girl” can be beneficial. You won’t regret surrounding yourself in better company. And neither will the women around you who won’t be the only one avoiding him.
3. Learn What Creepy Behavior Is and Put an End to It.
As much as you might not want to admit it, you may have behaviors around women that are inappropriate. To review some statistics, a fifth of women in England and Wales will be the victim of sexual violence in her lifetime. About 85,000 women in these countries are raped each year. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, almost 10% of sexual assault in the U.S. happens at work.
The high likelihood of being attacked as a woman means that one always has to be extra vigilant. Given these facts, and subsequently, how constantly careful women have to be to avoid dangerous situations, can you understand why it’s not okay to touch a woman you barely know? Do you get why your female coworker declined an offer for you to drive her home without anyone else in the car? Will you further examine your actions to make sure you are not putting someone else in an uncomfortable situation?
I could write a whole article about how to recognize your own problematic or borderline problematic habits, but the best way to grow isn’t from one blog post. I encourage you to continue to engage. Read feminist essays, read perspectives from women of color, read fiction written by women, read websites that center around women's’ issues. Engage in conversations with female friends about issues concerning them. Talk to men about them too. Open up a dialogue. This is the only way you’ll truly continue to grow, expand your mind, and slowly learn the do’s and dont’s.
Once you hear one person’s perspective about how an issue should be fixed, don’t stop there. Chances are many women, who all want gender equality, will have varying ideas about topic to topic. It isn’t one women’s job to speak on behalf of all women. But it’s your job to absorb as many viewpoints and hear as many people’s experiences as possible and make an informed decision about how you should proceed from that point on. So read, watch, and listen. As long as your valuing women’s opinions about topics that concern them, you’re halfway there.
Adriana Chavez is a student and writer based in New York. She currently works as part of the Day of the Girl-US action team where she runs the Girls in STEM blog series. She is passionate about coding and intersectional feminism. When not hidden behind her computer or a great book, she can be found walking the streets of New York with her rescue dog.