Men of the workplace — you may be a big fan of women’s rights. You may even have a lot of women in leadership roles in your company. Congratulations. These are all laudable accomplishments.
But don’t think this means you are not making your female colleagues uncomfortable. They just might not be telling you. These women are founders and coders, marketers and developers — but they don’t always speak their minds. So, if you are doing even one of the following man-isms around the women in your workplace, you need to take heed.
Now, these items may sound obvious or trivial. But trust me — they are not. When done, they send a big signal to your female counterparts. And not the good kind. So, take stock and avoid these missteps. Your female colleagues will thank you for it.
You may work out. You may be incredibly strong. And confident. But don’t grab my hand, twist, or press the life out of it. What’s more, don’t put your hand on my shoulder while you are shaking my hand and try to invade my space.
I have had many encounters with men over the years who have done just this. Incredibly, they still feel the need to subject me to their death grip. It is the ultimate power play, regardless of sex. But doing it to a woman sends a clear signal that you think you have the upper hand. It says, “I am the big dog in the room, take note.”
Quite right. So, avoid the brutal manshake. Be aware of your physical presence. Powerful ideas, not over-bearing handshakes are what will make us sit up and take notice.
Hopefully, you have heard of manterrupting. It’s not new. In fact, it has become so widely recognized that it even has its own slack icon! BUT it still happens all the time.
It’s great to have an opinion. It is important to communicate. And hats off to you if you are passionate about what you do. These are all commendable qualities. But all too often I see men, in the heat of meetings, interrupting women to get their views across.
Sadly, when this happens, women often shrink back. Their views are not heard. But we all know that diverse views help organizations make better decisions. So, if you find yourself manterrupting, bite your tongue. Invite the women in the room to participate. Then sit back, listen and be sure to hear them out. Do this well, and you’ll end up with a richer pool of ideas and a more engaged workforce.
Yes, I know you have likely heard of this one too. After all, mansplaining also has its very own Slack icon. But that doesn’t make it any less welcome.
Have you ever watched an English speaker trying to speak to someone from a different country who can’t speak the language? They tend to raise their voice, dumb down what they say, and talk very slowly.
Or watched adults as they speak to young children? They usually repeat themselves and explain things in ridiculously simple terms.
This is a lot like mansplaining. Only here you are talking to a grown woman who speaks the language as well as you do.
So, the next time you are getting ready to mansplain. Think twice. And if you need to add clarity, reference back to your female colleague when you do so, bolstering what she said vs. simply rehashing it.
Something like, “As Anna pointed out, we really need to….” is a great way to go. It will make Anna feel recognized while you clarify.
When you think about your female colleagues and their work-what words come to mind? Now do the same exercise for your male colleagues. Are you using the same words to describe them? If you are — fantastic, you are not a mantyper. But all too often, this is not the case.
Over the years, I have seen men who are go-getters, described as ambitious. Women who embody the same traits, on the other hand, are usually called ruthless. Similarly, men who are invested in their work are applauded for their passion. But women are labeled emotional. Hopefully, you get the idea.
This happens a lot. And many men do this unconsciously.
But mark my words, there is nothing a woman hates more than hearing this doublespeak. It is the ultimate insult.
So be aware of the language you use. And if you are writing emails or performance reviews, ask yourself if you would write the same thing to your male colleague or if your language is neutral. This will help nip any unconscious bias in the bud.
Would you like to schedule a meeting with me? Great. But please don’t set this up at the end of the day between 5 pm and 7 pm. Why? Because like many women out there, I have to take care of my kids. This doesn’t mean that I am any less dedicated to work or won’t put in all the hours needed. It just means that I am trying to balance home life and work life.
According to the Pew Research, even in an era where women make up nearly half the U.S. workforce and men are more involved in housework and child care than in the past, the public sees vastly different pressure points for women and men in today’s society. Roughly eight in ten adults (77%) say women face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent; a significantly smaller share (49%) says the same about men.
Setting up meetings between 7 am and 8 am or between 5 pm and 6 pm often means having to compromise on one of these responsibilities. Women want to do both, so give us a little flexibility and schedule meetings during the core hours of the day.
Similarly, if you are going to set up meet and greets or team bonding activities, be aware of the female dynamic. One VC reportedly told the leads from his portfolio that he wanted to invite them to his cabin to sit in the hot tub and drink fine wine so he could get to know them better. It was a nice gesture. The VC meant well. But it sent out a very different message to the pregnant founder of one company who could not partake in either activity and felt incredibly unwelcome as a result.
So, take stock of not just when you set meetings, but also what types of bonding and meet and greets you pull together. Women want to pull their weight. They want to participate. So, work with them a little and avoid man-scheduling. You’ll become a hero in the process.
Change is hard. But without awareness, it is not even possible. Being aware of these five faux-pas is a great first step. And now that you have this information, you can hopefully take the next step and change how you operate. I guarantee you’ll increase productivity. You’ll raise morale. And women everywhere will thank you.
© Courtney Burry 2021, All Rights Reserved