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Manbassador: It's Not a Cologne

Posted 22 September 2014 9:21 AM by Jabari Adisa

During the 3% MiniCon (Sep 10, 2014; Atlanta, GA), in response to the introduction (to me) of the concept of a “Manbassador,” I was inspired to tweet:

Manbassadors are described as men who are close allies in the quest for gender equity and healthy gender dynamics.

I can’t pretend to be the most enlightened, tolerant man in the world, but I do place a strong emphasis on becoming better. When I’m presented with a compelling, defensible argument (e.g., “Manbassador”) I explore it as an opportunity to learn and to work on incorporating the wisdom into how I conduct myself personally and professionally. This is a trait that I hold in high regard when I detect it in others and one that I believe men, especially those in male-dominated fields, should cultivate as a key component of contributing to environments that are successful, sustainable and inclusive.

I think it’s important for men to talk to men about methods for creating such environments, so in service to that I’ve collected ten simple tactics that men can employ TODAY to help foster a culture that demonstrates value for, and encourages the participation of, women.

1. Stop assuming that you have all the best ideas.

Great ideas come from a wide variety of inspiration and experiences. Allow others to express their ideas, and perhaps more importantly, pay attention to the silent corner of the room. Some women may be less likely to contribute in a room full of men, but that doesn’t mean that their ideas are less important.

2. Don't relegate women to supporting roles.

Include women in all aspects of company life including, for example, when interviewing potential candidates. This can help women candidates see themselves on your team, and it can telegraph to male candidates that women are fundamental contributors.

3. Promote based on merit, not extrovert cred.

In our fast-paced business environment, we defer to the loudest voice; we admire the person who rushes to the whiteboard, and we heap praise on the person who drives to a quick decision. Leave room to respect quieter modes of contributing.

4. Don't expect women to be magically intuitive.

Some women will have superior insights into marketing to women, but some won't. Give them room to be human and flawed but still respected — just like you.

5. Don't expect women to teach you to be less chauvinistic.

It’s my assumption that women have better things to do than drag us along toward being better people. Step outside your comfort zone. Read relevant books. Listen to informative podcasts. Use Google. There’s really no excuse for being uninformed.

6. Stop talking over women.

Call it out when it happens. Correct yourself when you do it. When people get talked over, make room for them to complete their point.

7. Make sure women get appropriate credit.

Women may be less inclined to promote their wins. Take opportunities to ensure they get recognized (and not only when they are wearing cool shoes). Give them props when they introduce a killer idea, go 110% or pull the team out of a bind.

8. Respect family demands for men AND women.

We praise men for prioritizing their children and families, yet we penalize women for doing the same. About men, we say, “He’s a great father.” In reference to women, we wonder if she’s distracted or whether her dedication to the job is sufficient. By respecting family demands across the board, we create an environment where balance can be achieved.

9. Write job announcements in ways that encourage diverse applicants.

Your job posting may be the first exposure a candidate has to your company. According to Kat Gordon, research suggests that women candidates are hesitant to apply for jobs where the requirements are too firmly stated, and women are sometimes hesitant to negotiate against a stated salary. Men, on the other hand, regard requirements as suggestions and perceive much more wiggle room in terms of salary. If you really want diverse candidates, soften these factors in your job descriptions.

10. Stop assuming that current models of leadership are the best.

Stop assuming that your style is the best style. Stop assuming that an approach to problem solving is most effective simply because it’s the most known or most celebrated. As my wise old father used to say, “It takes all kinds to make a world and just one kind to break a world.” Don’t be that “one kind.”

The tactics I’ve outlined here are easy to implement and consistent application of them can be instrumental in developing productive, inclusive environments where everyone is welcome - and encouraged - to contribute. To be sure, if you’re one of the men who questions the value of diversity, much of what I’ve suggested will likely grate against your sensibilities. However, to those of us who have a genuine value for diversity and mature senses of fairness, creating an inclusive company culture is good for business, instructive to clients, good for employees, and good for families. Why wouldn’t you do it?

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