This review first ran in the Feb. 24 edition of the Hamilton Spectator.
By Joanne Lipman
I can’t afford to wait 170 years.
That’s how long the World Economic Forum predicts it will take women and men to reach economic parity worldwide.
But I need the gap closed by the time my daughter’s done school and launches her career.
Parents want what’s best for our kids. We also want what’s right. And gender equality is a fundamental human right. My daughter deserves the same opportunities that will be afforded to my son.
To close the gap between women and men, all of us dads, husbands, brothers and sons need to man up.
So what’s stopping us? Journalist Joanne Lipman says there’s real fear of how both our male and female colleagues will respond if we join the fight. “Plenty of other men would be happy to join the conversation,” says Lipman, author of That’s What She Said. “They’re just terrified of saying something wrong.”
A non-profit focused on working women asked men what would undermine their support for gender equality. “A stunning 74 per cent cited fear – fear of loss of status, fear of other men’s disapproval, and most telling of all, fear of making a mistake. Men are walking around on eggshells.”
Yet Lipman says women will only solve 50 per cent of the problem if they just talk amongst themselves.
“We need men to join the conversation, to be our partners. And as for the men, most of them aren’t anywhere near villains. They don’t need beating up with a two-by-four. They’d like to see an equitable workplace, they just can’t figure out what they’re supposed to do about it.”
So here are some of Lipman’s suggestions on what men can do to help level the gender playing field at work.
Interrupt the interrupters. Don’t allow your male co-workers to interrupt and talk over female colleagues.
Diversify the interviewers, not just the applicants. It’s not enough to bring in female job applicants, says Lipman. “If the interviewers aren’t diverse – if, say, all the interviewers are white men – they are less likely to see her as a ‘cultural fit’ while she may also feel so uncomfortable that she rejects the job even if offered.”
Stop dishing compliments that belittle your female colleagues. “Would you say it to man? If not, you probably should not say it to a woman, either.”
Quit making decisions for women who are raising children. Do they want to travel, relocate or take on extra hours? “Don’t assume. Ask her. Even if she declines, present the next opportunity, and the one after that.”
Give women raises and promotions before they ask or think they’re ready for it. Research shows men are four times more likely than women to ask for a raise and a bigger job. “Make sure qualified women are in the mix, whether they have put up their hands or not. Be prepared to twist a few arms.”
And start respecting women by eliminating slights large and small. Researchers have found that men get more respect than women even if they hold the exact same position. The subtle digs and lack of respect are wearying, difficult to fight and the steady drumbeat can be debilitating, says Lipman.
“For real change to happen, if we are to transform a culture that has long been molded by and for men, it will take individuals, one at a time, taking a stand, reaching across the gender divide. The wins will come from the accumulation of small, everyday interactions of both women and men. When men and women both reach across the gender divide, we actually will have a shot at closing the gap.”
@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.