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Women supporting women at work is common, it is time that men stand up and support women equally, both at work and home. Gauri Das, a senior HR leader, explains how .
This article is a part of #ThoughtMatters, a thought leadership series at Women’s Web, where senior members from the HR fraternity present their personal stories, views, and wisdom around topics that revolve around women@work.
Neeta is a well-educated woman who works with a multinational company. She is a Mechanical Engineer and has not found many women in her circle since her college days. Mechanical engineering is not a preferred choice for women because we are stereotyped since birth. It is so pervasive that there are designated colours for new-born children based on their gender. When Neeta had her daughter in her hands for the first time she was wrapped in pink colour. This reminded her of her childhood days where family and relatives would tell her how a girl should dress up, play, and even study. With a tomboy look with short hair, T and jeans, and a no-makeup look, she would always be advised by relatives to look more feminine. But she was a rebel and didn’t care for such suggestions and that’s how she ended up in mechanical engineering against the advice of her family.
During her college days, she never found anything missing and loved being with her all-men gang. However, she was shocked when she entered the workplace and found how unconscious biases and negative beliefs play out at workplaces. The prejudices result in women feeling stereotyped and developing negative thoughts and thinking about limitations rather than possibilities.
Neeti’s story is not an exception. These are practicalities and a lot needs to be done by all stakeholders i.e. the organization, men and women to make men the allies and sponsors for women.
Here are my thoughts on how men can help create more possibilities for women.
When she was in college and there was a party to be organized, her classmates, all men, would come forward and take responsibility but at the workplace she observes that such tasks are easily passed on to the women, mentioning that it is their expertise. This is an unconscious bias. Since women run homes and are primarily homemakers, they are expected to do the same at work as well. This needs to change and men must take charge of such tasks and work with women side by side.
Question to ask – Why should only women be assigned such tasks?
This should be done in rotation where every time a new team member takes charge. By doing this, men will show equality and respect to women.
Men need to change their thought process and start understanding that women mean business and they should be given equal airtime. A study from George Washington University indicated that men interrupted 33 % more often while speaking with women than speaking with other men. Men should recognize this since awareness leads to improvement. This is how men will create possibilities for women.
Question to ask: Why are you interrupting your colleague or sending out a non-verbal cue that her thoughts are not important?
Men can create possibilities for women by advocating for them based on merit. Organizations must acknowledge and address the elephant in the room and senior leadership is most responsible for this. Men in decision-making positions need to come forward and become an ally and champion this cause. They need to evaluate each and every decision with a lens of merit and not gender.
Question to ask: Are stereotypes underplay when we see decisions that are not based on data but perceptions?
Men can support women by mentoring and coaching them. A formal mentoring program is a great way to formalize these but even in absence of those, men can come forward and support. Many men are part of women network groups and they share their knowledge and experience with women and thus help them achieve their goals
Question to ask: Am I supporting women colleagues enough? Can I take more steps on this?
Men need to be more humane and deal with empathy. Until all men start taking equal responsibility at home, women will continue to do the double shift and this may lead to asking for flexibility and support. Men must understand that women have special needs when it comes to flexibility and should come forward to support them here. Small changes like lunch outings instead of dinners can go a long way in setting the right example.
Question to ask: Do I understand my team enough? Am I aware of the unique requirements of each member of the team? Am I leading with empathy or power?
In my career of 15+ years, many men have supported, encouraged and guided me and their guidance is extremely valuable. But this is not the norm but an exception. There is a long way to go here and men need to take a few more steps to support and sponsor women. At the same time, women should come forward and ask for help because if you don’t ask, the assumed answer is always NO.
The views expressed in the article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization.
Cover image collage via Youtube gathered from Airtel & Titan advertisements
Gauri Das is an engineer turned HR Professional who has a keen interest in Human Psychology. She is a strategic HR leader with 15+ years of experience in crafting and aligning HR strategy with business read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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