GENDER EQUITY: THE ROLE OF MEN AS ALLIES (TOP 5) is a series of short-form articles and short stories intended to invite men to the gender-allyship table in a constructive, inclusive, and honest manner. While much of the content is often directed specifically to men and the need for allyship, we all have a role in gender equity.
I have long contemplated how I wanted to start this series. I know the science, data, psychology, and history behind all of the information that seems so important to share. I also know the depth of the emotions which often swell when this topic is discussed in the patently honest manner in which I intend to write. I decided the best way to proceed was to rip the proverbial bandage off right from the start. With that, here we go.
"I've worked my ass off for this promotion, and now it's being given to a woman. She's only been here for two years. I'm definitely more qualified than she is. This is bullshit. I deserved this. She only got it because of the 'gender equality' shit going on these days."
This is a real quote, from a real manager in a massive global organization that prides itself as an arbiter of social justice and equal rights. It is shocking. It is saddening. It is angering. It is raw. It is real. It is also a textbook example of cognitive bias, at the least, and gender discrimination/oppression, at the worst. Having already committed to patent honesty, I must confess. I made that statement, out loud to a colleague, in 2009. I am astounded by the ignorance and privilege I displayed at that moment. Almost immediately after saying it, I knew it didn't feel right. I knew it wasn't true. I knew it was raw emotion. I knew I was wrong.
My colleague, on the other hand, was fired up by my assertion. He offered full-throated support of my ill-conceived notion. He recommended I file a complaint with human resources and call our anonymous compliance hotline to complain. As I listened to his suggestions, I began to feel that pit in my stomach well up–you know that one that pops up when you begin to feel guilt, shame, and embarrassment after assessing your own behavior? Yup, that's exactly what was happening to me at that moment. I had to challenge whatever biases and beliefs had led me to such a faulty conclusion. After all, that's the process I would go through if a business decision was shown to be faulty. I call it an after-action report. So, why should this instance be any different?
In challenging my beliefs, my first step was both the most difficult for me at that moment, and the most rewarding step in the end. I realized that I knew almost nothing about the person who earned this promotion, and as a result, could only offer unsubstantiated claims of her inadequacy to justify my own feelings of rejection. That had to change.
The next day, I called her to congratulate her on her promotion and asked for 30 minutes on her calendar to discuss how the interview process was for her, and what plans she had for the team she was set to start leading. She agreed to meet the next afternoon. In that 30 minute meeting, I learned more about her than I learned in two years of working with her. She delivered better results, more consistently than I did. She engaged employees in an inclusive way better than I did. She spent more time learning from mentors and allies than I did. She brought a better plan and strategy to her interviews than I did. She delivered next-level leadership better than I did. I learned she was the best candidate for the position. I also learned more about myself than I expected.
If you're not consistently challenging the beliefs you hold–looking for ways to disprove your ideas–you're not only missing incredibly important opportunities to excel at what you do, you're letting yourself and those around down.
In the months that followed that initial meeting, we became close colleagues, and she offered to mentor me on my career journey. Of course, I accepted. I was already foolish enough to dismiss her once. It wasn't going to happen again. Having her perspective and lessons in my toolbox made me a better leader. I was forced to examine every aspect of my leadership presence and strategy, and how it correlated to people, process, and results. Quite simply, it was a pivotal moment in my career, and in my life.
Men, I share this story with you to illustrate one simple point. If you're not consistently challenging the beliefs you hold–looking for ways to disprove your ideas–you're not only missing incredibly important opportunities to excel at what you do, you're letting yourself and those around down.
So, whether it's "they're only promoting women and minorities now," or "what does she know," or even, "she's just not the right fit–not aggressive enough for the role," know that those are examples of beliefs that are likely unsubstantiated by facts. They are also linked to one or more cognitive biases that are holding you back from being as successful as you can be. Next time you find yourself wading into the dangerous waters of gender bias, STOP! Ask yourself to support the claims you're making. Then, seek to disprove your notions. This is the beginning of the path to male allyship.
If you're ready to seriously embrace male allyship in the workplace, Dr. Victoria Mattingly and I developed a customizable program for your organization. Learn more about our revolutionary program GLASS KICKERS: MEN AS ALLIES.
About the Author
Devin Halliday is an award-winning sales leader, with a diverse background and passion for people. He hosts the Belonging Factor Podcast, where he elevates the dialogue around diversity, inclusion, and of course, belonging. He is the author of Belonging Factor: How Great Brands and Great Leaders Inspire Loyalty, Build Community, and Grow Profits.
Devin is the Founder and Chief Belonging Architect at Rudiment Solutions, a people empowerment company that works with individuals and organizations to thrive in all things people, process, and profits. Devin proudly served in the U.S. Navy.
He's explored the people, places, and cultures across this beautiful planet. He's been amazed. He's been humbled. He's been outraged. But mostly, he's been inspired to share his lessons with audiences worldwide.