Lessons shared by male allies at the ASCEND Executive Women’s Forum:
“A year from now, we want to be able to say, ‘Yes, look at the changes that we were able to make in the community. Look at how we were able to put this into action.’” Tasha Ross, Director of Corporate Relations for the Rady School of Management addresses a room of 40 women at the recent ASCEND Executive Women’s forum.
ASCEND, a triannual event produced by and at the Rady School of Management gathers select women in executive leadership positions across San Diego to evolve beyond discussion of the challenges they face and move toward pushing boundaries and solving issues.
The January 2020 ASCEND Forum focused on engaging with male allies to change the conversation – to see more inclusive leadership across San Diego businesses. First, Professor Uri Gneezy presented research about workplace inequities that he and his colleague, Professor Ayelet Gneezy, are conducting for a forthcoming book. For instance, most office spaces have the temperature controls set at a lower temperature, one that is often too cold for female employees. While this is a small example, it is one that most can relate to and highlights some of the questions posed in the book.
Three others: Lenny Comma, CEO of Jack in the Box; Navy Captain Al Worthy and William Molloie, Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers were invited to speak on a panel as male allies.
Facilitated by Panthera Leadership CEO and Executive Coach, Felicia Lyon, and including questions from forum members, the panel offered actionable insights about what men and women of the workforce can do to acknowledge bias and facilitate change in the workforce.
1. Don’t put the pressures of the world on yourself.
Tell us if this sounds familiar. Lunch time is approaching and you have a long to-do list before the next big deadline. You head to the kitchen to heat up your food, which you’ll eat at your desk while you work. In the kitchen, you run into a colleague who asks how your presentation went yesterday.
“Fine,” you say. “I’ll send you a recap before the end of the day.” The microwave chimes, you grab your food and keep walking.
Your interactions are brief and transactional. Who has time for anything else?
“The outcome is that relationships aren’t built within brief interactions, and if you just take a little pressure off of yourself, you may be able to build stronger relationships,” says Comma. “Trust and believe in yourself. No one is going to be perfect. Don’t put pressure on yourself just because you believe that the world is putting pressure on you. Instead, be yourself. People are most attracted to you and want you to do your best work for the organization because you are you. If you can’t do your best work there and be you, then go somewhere else.”
2. Expand your network.
In a recent study, LinkedIn reported that among people who applied for jobs directly on their platform, those who asked for a referral from one of their connections were nine times more likely to get the position.
The caveat here is that our networks typically consist of people who look just like us. “Ducks pick ducks,” said Captain Worthy. This perpetuates a lack of diversity as employees move—or don’t—up the ranks of an organization. And a lack of diversity is straight-up bad for business.
“When there’s a decision to be made, different perspectives only make it better,” Molloie said. “That requires breaking the mold of ‘I’m comfortable with people like me and we all get the same answer.’ Because that might not be the right answer.”
Comma adds: “When you have multiple women on a team, the conversation tends to get more real. Women have had to navigate through the ‘good old boy’ conversation. Women have figured out how to challenge and change the conversation more than men who haven’t had to go through as much adversity. The process tends to be richer.”
3. Don’t overlook the middle.
From 2011-2013, Captain Worthy served as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Naval Aviation Enterprise. After every forum or program they produced, Captain Worthy said he always asked one question: What do we do now?
“We realized that the only time men were hearing this conversation was when they were already at the top,” Captain Worthy said. They were eager to get it done, but in a 100,000-person organization, how do you instill change?”
Realizing this, Worthy’s team began bringing men in middle management to the diversity and inclusion conversation. “The men in the middle need to grow with the women next to them so that the culture changes below and these managers effect change as they rise through the ranks,” he said. “It can’t just come from the top.”
4. Practice transparency.
Years back as a manager working his way to partner, Molloie coached his child’s soccer team. Driving from the office to soccer practice took at least an hour and 15 minutes, which meant that three days a week, he needed to leave the office at 3 p.m. to get to practice on time.
After about a year of “sneaking out early,” Molloie found himself waiting for the elevator next to a PwC practice leader. Molloie immediately thought, ‘Oh crap, I hope he doesn’t ask me where I’m going.’ The practice leader was anxiously hitting the button, and said, ‘If this elevator doesn’t come, I’m going miss rugby practice! I have to get home!’”
Molloie realized he need not hide where he was going. Seeing a leader in his organization take the time he needed—and not apologize for it—made Molloie realize he could do the same.
“If you’re not transparent, you’re prolonging the projection that ‘this never happens,’” Molloie said. “Although this is hard, if it’s not acceptable , you don’t want to be there. So be transparent. Only good can come from that. It may not feel like that all the time, but only good will come from that.”
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