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How to Be a Better Ally and Support Women in the Workplace

It's not enough to say you're pro-woman

From  Mom.me

Include Women


If you want to support your female colleagues or run a company that recognizes the need for gender equality, you need to do more than install breast-pump rooms and comply with federal workplace mandates. Being an ally for women in the workplace requires mindfulness, change and, most of all, recognizing where your company culture and norms fall short.

Start by making sure you're including women in top-level meetings and any team social gatherings. Take suggestions from everyone about where to hold social events. Not everyone plays golf. Not everyone can go out for drinks after hours. Your work-around is not to call these events optional. If they're face-time with the boss, they're necessary.


Give Women Credit for Their Ideas


Acknowledge contributions. Make notes if you need to. Stop taking credit for other people's ideas. Stop letting male colleagues take credit for your female staff's ideas. Call it out on the spot. "Dan, I liked that idea when Maggie said it five minutes ago."


Hire and Promote Women


Recognize that you're hiring friends of friends, the children of friends, people who look like you, people with the same background as you. And then do something different. Seek out recommendations for new hires who are women. Encourage women to put themselves forward for promotions.


Do Not Make Assumptions About Women


She knows her personal life and obligations best. Do not make assumptions about her availability, ability to focus, commitment or interest based on her marital or motherhood status, her appearance, her outside interests, even if you're trying to be helpful. Create a safe workplace for anyone to ask for more time or different accommodations without fear.


Address Harassment


Men who don't harass their colleagues and underlings are living life right. But it's not enough. Men need to hold male colleagues who do harass women accountable. This includes calling them out on the spot, supporting women when they report incidents, believing women who report incidents and following through with consequences.


Make Inclusive Culture Intentional


Build a culture of growth and support, and your company will attract excellent talent, including women. This means understanding and meeting the needs of employees, finding new and more informative ways of evaluating performance, increasing flexibility in terms of days in the office and vacation time, and grooming talent.


Hire People Who Fit the Culture


Look for new hires who have the required skills but also will make a good fit in your inclusive culture. Culture should not just tolerate, not just "celebrate," female employees. It should include them, take them seriously, understand the non-resume skills and experiences they bring to your work group that will benefit it.


Advance From Within


Stop automatically looking outside the company for high-level hires. Look within it. Tap female employees for job openings. Encourage them to apply and see themselves in the role. If the role historically has not been attractive to female employees, find out why and adapt the requirements and expectations. (This doesn't have to compromise productivity.)


Let Women Build the Career Paths They Want


Let women build the career paths they want, without the justifications or guilt. People need flexibility in their lives, and traditional, rigid work schedules don't work for everyone (or even most people). Some workers might be most productive working a couple of long days in the office every week with regular or shortened days from home. Others might need to come in early and leave early to beat the traffic, or their child care is limited to three times a week. Workers should know the expectations and deadlines, and then be allowed to make their best schedules.


Empower Role Models


If your workplace does not retain female employees in the same way it does male employees, consider it a red flag and get to the root of the problem. Give more senior women a chance to meet with new hires and be role models and mentors for them. Allow time for meetings and lunches where women can support each other. And don't turn around and "balance things out" with all-male lunches. That advantage already exists.


Encourage Networking


Women should be encouraged to network within the company and the industry. Good leaders encourage it. Women need a chance to establish themselves outside the context of their position, both within the company and outside of it. Cover conference fees, encourage them to attend and present on panels, and sponsor a networking event.


Raise Money for Women's Charities


Lots of companies have built philanthropy into their core mission, and raising money for women's groups is a great way to get employees involved and show that you're a workplace ally for women.


Ask Women What They Need


It's great that you're working hard to be an ally for women in the workplace. But did you consult any women before making changes to the office culture or employee handbook? Being an ally means working toward the needs of women in your company, not just reacting to headlines or other companies' attempts to create a less hostile, more inclusive workspace.


Commit to Fair Hiring Practices


If you're not hiring an equal number of men and women, or if your C-suite is exclusively (or nearly exclusively male), it's a problem. Take a look at your hiring practices. How are you advertising open positions? Are you promoting from within the company? Going back to your alma mater only to bring in new talent? Limiting your searches to recommendations from friends? Make changes to reflect your commitment to women.


Executive Mentoring


Mentoring is important at all levels of the company and can be especially important for female employees. Encourage executives to go beyond chats in the break room and actively mentor females who work at any level under them. Incentivize the mentoring, too, so that it's not uncompensated work. Women do enough of that. Encourage men to mentor women, too — but only those who have a great reputation for respect toward women and who are truly interested in seeing women advance at the company.


Change Dress Code Norms


Your industry might have dress code norms that are out of your control. But easing dress codes on days when employees are only in the office — not in front of clients or in court — can help even the playing field for women. Understand and acknowledge the bias against women who don't wear makeup, heels and dresses. Acknowledge that men's clothes are much easier and cheaper than women's. Acknowledge that dressing up is for outside the office, but that comfort and authenticity is prized inside.


Put It in Writing


Changing the culture and norms can't be something you only talk about in meeting rooms. Articulate it clearly and add it to the employee handbook. Go over changes and intentions at the beginning of meetings. Keep setting new goals.

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Career Magazine: How to Be a Better Ally and Support Women in the Workplace
How to Be a Better Ally and Support Women in the Workplace
It's not enough to say you're pro-woman
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