I was heartened to see the recent New York Times article by Peggy Klaus. In her piece, Peggy notes that she has recently heard more professional women questioning the value of women-only events and conferences, asking “how helpful is it to talk mostly to one another instead of to the men who hold the power and who must be a key part of the solution?” In one of my recent posts, I referred to this tendency as the “isolation factor.”
This is an issue that we’ve been addressing for a long time at SHAMBAUGH, specifically through our Integrated Leadership model. As Peggy said in her article, “we should not leave women’s issues to the women alone.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, which is one reason why our Integrated Leadership model focuses on what organizations and men can do—alongside women—to harness the full power of gender-balanced teams and leaders.
To that end, when SHAMBAUGH works with organizations on the development of their female leaders, we find ways to bring men into the conversation. That might be through a fireside chat with both men and women, or engaging together in a session on inclusive leadership, or engaging men as mentors or sponsors and champions for their female leaders. But whatever strategy we take, we keep this central principle in mind: it’s critical that men see their role as not just supporting women, but simply as one component of what great leaders do to help develop and grow their next level of leadership.
With this in mind, here are a few of our recommendations on what men, women, and organizations can do to be a part of the overall solution to create integrated, gender-balanced leadership:
- Identify your biases about women. The more that men can recognize and address their biases, the better that men and women will both be able to close the gender gap. It can be hard to see your own biases, though everyone has them. In Chapter 6 of my book Make Room for Her, I share a tool that SHAMBAUGH uses to help both men and women check their assumptions.
- Be proactive about sponsoring talented women. Don’t assume that just because a high-potential woman in your company hasn’t asked you to champion her that she doesn’t need your sponsorship support. Find ways to proactively seek out high-performing women in your organization who can work on projects with you, and ask how you might help them reach their career goals.
- Ask for guidance and support from men. If you have primarily women in your network, consider that men still hold the majority of executive positions and are often in the best position to help advance your career. Value their viewpoint and perspective, and actively seek to bring them into your network.
- Invite men along. When attending a women’s networking event or women’s leadership conference, invite your male colleagues. This venue offers a natural forum to engage in some of the more difficult or sensitive topics that are not generally brought up in formal meetings or informal conversations.
- When you see something, say something. In my last post, I addressed the concept of men helping to challenge gender stereotypes when they see them playing out in their organizations. This concept applies to women, too. By saying something about the outdated thinking patterns that you see in the boardroom or other leadership arenas, women and men alike can help challenge the status quo and create greater inclusiveness.
- Ask male leaders to help. SHAMBAUGH research has found that around one-quarter of men are interested in serving as mentors, champions, and sponsors for high-potential women in their companies. With this in mind, organizations should seek ways to bring men into the conversation when it comes to women’s advancement.
- See how well you are engaging your men. Try this personal audit for your organization from SHAMBAUGH to see how well you are currently engaging your men toward the goal of advancing more women into your leadership ranks. Once you’ve completed the online audit, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about next steps you can take to increase your success rate in this area.
As Peggy said in her article, the problem is not with women helping women at women-only conferences—the problem is expecting these types of events to single-handedly fix the systemic issues that are keeping women from achieving gender parity at the leadership ranks. To effect real change, it takes real work—from all of us, not just women.
Rebecca is an internationally acclaimed and sought-after keynote speaker, leadership expert and contributing editor for Harvard Business Review and the Huffington Post.
To learn more about SHAMBAUGH’s integrated leadership solutions, visit: www.shambaughleadership.com
Rebecca is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor, Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton, and Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results.