GHC15 Male Allies

Male allies are having a moment. I missed the session last year but heard all about it through word of mouth and Twitter. Hearing stories of women being mistreated socially and professionally is difficult but necessary for us to move forward.

I’m here 15 minutes early and the place is already at capacity. I’m reminded of my late advisor-Dr. O.-one of the greatest male allies around. I grew excited as I looked around and saw all the men in the room. It was as though every man at the conference was in this room.

Speakers Ray and Rayona took the stage and gave some fun facts about themselves. I sparkly duo-they mentioned that last year the male ally panel listened to stories and this year we would hear from others (aka them).

They jumped right in and spoke about the bobble head ally. Those men who would shake their head up and down with the yeah I get it over and over again. Sadly, I myself have encountered this version of a male ally.  “Good intentions aren’t good enough..” Ray mentioned “we [males] have been the mass majority of the problem….it’s all justified and I get it and I’m sorry” Ray continued. I didn’t really know what to think but I felt as though this was deja vu and I had heard it all before.

Why men should care:

  • a better quality of life
  • no more isolation
  • restore our dignity
  • our family members
  • it makes for better business

Ray and Rayona went over each one and almost seemed to emphasize the last- it makes for better business. The whole business notion bothers me. Why now? Did we as a society miss the memo that stated there were X number of women in the United States? So is it about making the world a better place or is it about dollars and cents. I charged on.

“Women have a lot of work to do for  each other.” “If you think it’s challenging for white women, think of our sisters of color who have a much taller hill to climb”- Rayona. I took a deep breath and began to shift in my seat.

3 powerful leverage points Ray and Rayona discussed were

  • empowering and supporting women leaders
  • engaging men as allies
  • identifying and transforming institutional spots and systematic barriers.

Finally I thought. Some solutions. The duo mentioned the biggest obstacle we face is unconscious bias. They spoke of how it can be defeated by awareness. “we live inside of language…those conclusions are the source of our reactions”…Rayona.

Key insights to know about men:

  • shaming and blaming doesn’t ‘work
  • moral case
  • business case
  • personal case
  • mistakes will happen

We cannot evolve as a species without forgiveness. If you are looking for mistakes you’ll find them. If you are looking for progress you’ll find that too. I thought about progress and how we can get there. Ray and Rayona spoke about accountability. For organizations-> metrics, a call on women, for organizations to insist recruiters bring in qualified minorities. An example was used for an C-suite position that remained vacant until a qualified person filled it. Finally, sponsorship; two women: 1 white, 1 woman of color. The duo spoke about how we should push, promote and protect. I rather enjoyed the accountability bit. Companies however, will hire the best of the best. I waited for the pipeline word to drop. It didn’t and I didn’t miss it.

The duo reminded us if you take the case you can’t make a difference you won’t and that practice makes permanent not perfect.

Ray and Rayona definitely brought a spark to my day. I’m actually quite surprised they never mentioned we should perhaps think about changing our mindset. Do men see women as equals? Are we hinting that people of color fall even lower on that scale when we say things like: don’t forget the women of color or think about the hill they have to climb? I’ve had both positive and negative experiences with males in my life. I’m lucky in that the positive experiences outweigh the negative ones. I’m happy to see these difficult conversations coming to the forefront. It isn’t always roses but together we can change things.

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