Welcome to 2017!
A clean slate – a white sheet of paper – opportunity. This year I’ve created a theme for my personal development focus area – “Positive Posture.” I’m going to be very intentional about handling every interaction through a positive frame of mind.
This requires a strong desire to learn, to understand the other side. It requires empathy and compassion. Lastly, it requires a willingness to genuinely imagine how it feels to walk in someone else’s shoes, to respect those feelings and find common ground to make progress even in the most challenging situations. Like talking about gender issues at work.
Angry White Men
To be more effective in my positive interactions on the topic of gender equality at work, I prepared in two ways in December. I read a book from my reading list, Angry White Men: American masculinity at the end of an era, by Dr. Michael Kimmel. I also attended a gender equality conference.
Dr. Kimmel is a sociologist dedicated to the study of men in society. In this book he is seeking to understand (and explain to the reader) why so many white men are so angry. He chronicles many conversations he had with angry guys. The book was infused with humor to lighten up the otherwise controversial subjects – reverse discrimination, domestic violence, entitlement, parental rights, white supremacy… you get the picture.
It helped me understand what (some) middle aged white men are thinking and feeling. Here are some of the things in the book. Keep in mind this is not saying “all men”… this is about some men… and this isn’t what I think, this is from Dr. Kimmel’s research:
- Men do want the status quo to be different but there aren’t good systems in place. Stereotypes of what it is to be masculine contribute to their inability to be heard and supported. (Example: Dads want workplace flexibility to balance home and work without career penalties; same thing women want)
- Men are mad that the amounts of love, care and support they put into the family are unrecognized in divorce court. The American court system is behind the times and hasn’t taken into account the enormous changes in men’s lives as parents.
- Men were raised to believe they were entitled to a good job where they could support a family as the sole breadwinner – they are nostalgic for that time – they want to reclaim that sense of manhood.
- The big economic disparity between rich and poor drives some of the rage; many men feel left behind, like “their” jobs are being taken from them.
And the Women Who Need Them
The other thing I did was participate in the Sky Top Strategies Gender Equality in the C-Suite & Boardroom conference in Chicago. This symposium brought together institutional shareholders, public company executives, diversity and search firm executives and academics to exchange ideas on gender parity efforts. It’s a great forum for mobilizing action.
We know that gender diverse leadership teams are correlated to higher performance, but how do we increase the representation of women in top leadership positions?
I was encouraged by some great progress being made with the help of white men! We need them! For example, Jack Remondi, Navient CEO pictured below, shared how his company’s board is now more than 50% women. Other sessions touched on the value of corporate CEOs joining the conversation visibly to support women’s advancement through such initiatives as the 30% Coalition and the White House’s Equal Pay Pledge. Several panelists in the portfolio management industry explained there is increasing interest in investing in women run companies.
Women and men are not from different planets. We share many of the same desires for balancing our work and our families. Men and women both want a level playing field at work with transparency in talent management.
As Dr. Kimmel says in his book, “diversity when done right, means everybody can get the opportunities and rewards they deserve. Listening to the voices of everyone means just that.”
In 2017, why not increase your knowledge and awareness about gender differences and similarities and how we can help our companies accelerate progress in a positive way. Follow ShowMe50, join our Lean In Circle online or attend one of our Atlanta Lean In Circle meetings.
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Join our online Lean In Circle to engage in a members-only conversation about career barriers at work
Attend our next Atlanta Lean In Circle meeting in person