March is Women’s History Month. While this month focuses on the achievements of women in the US and worldwide, it also offers a time for everyone to examine the current role of women in the workplace – and the systemic hurdles that women still face at work.
Often, people assume that sexism and related barriers for women are women’s problems. A system that disproportionately burdens women does so by taking some of the burden off of men, so sexism isn’t men’s problem – right?
In fact, a system that prevents some team members from contributing fully affects everyone. Men who actively advocate for their female colleagues and support efforts to dismantle sexism benefit everyone in the workplace by doing so. Here’s how men can become allies to their female colleagues – and move everyone forward as a result.
Build a diverse leadership team.
Don’t force the men in leadership to guess what it’s like to navigate the work world as a woman. Instead, ensure that your leadership team includes a range of perspectives across the sex and gender spectrum.
Give credit where credit is due.
Every professional woman has experienced a situation in which one of her ideas was later credited to a male colleague. If you’re praised for a female colleague’s idea or efforts, don’t just smile and say “thank you.” Instead, pass the credit to the right person: “Thanks, but that was actually Aisha’s idea.”
Broaden family leave – and use it.
Fight stigma around maternity leave by creating broad, gender-neutral policies about how new parents may use leave for a birth or adoption. When your family needs a parent to be present, take parental leave. Modeling the use of parental leave by either parent sets an example for everyone on your team – and it tells them that parenting isn’t solely a “woman’s job.”