Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. By Henry Ford
What are the attributes of being an ally to women?
How do you want to support your colleagues, friends, co-workers, peers, and organization?
What does it mean to really listen?
These are some of the questions we challenged ourselves to consider when attending and leading at the Multicultural Women’s National Conference in July. This incredible experience focused on women and how all women can leverage each other by committing together to “#levelup.”
My involvement in this conference included:
- co-facilitate one of the nine affinity groups
- share in reporting out our commitments and go-forward actions
- join a panel presentation to discuss cross-race conversations
The affinity group sessions kicked off our day where I co-facilitated a group of only men eager to commit to becoming allies of women. But how do you get started?
We asked ourselves three questions:
- What does your vision plan look like when signing up to be an ally to all women?
- What are the key factors to consider when signing up to be an ally?
- How do you commit to being an ally, AND how do you share that commitment?
In trying to answer all three questions, common themes emerged: listening; being intentional; commitment to advocacy and; acknowledging the barriers that exist for women.
A mentor of mine (Molly Langenstein) says, “Listen with your eyes.”
People, not just women, want to be heard. In my experience, people are looking for safe and approachable connections. These real connections allow a person to start feeling comfortable sharing parts of themselves. Stephen Covey once said, “Most people do not listen to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
We acknowledged some of the barriers; our body language, lack of time, patience, and lack of understanding or appreciation of someone’s journey. Perhaps our concern to share our vulnerabilities can become a barrier. All barriers create walls that can be tough to break down. According to Tony Robbins, there are four tenets of deep listening: eye contact, nonverbal feedback, presence, and connection. These tenets set the tone for creating safe spaces for our sisters, so whoever they choose to trust can start leading with understanding and empathy.
We start becoming an ally to women when we stop talking and start really listening.
Now, I understand this subject is complex. We will not solve for this topic with one article, one tagline, or one action alone. That said, progress begins with one step forward, one momentary pause to ask ourselves, “Is this the future action I want to take?” or even “How will I show up?”.
A few recommendations to begin actioning support for women in the workplace:
1. State your intention.
- Ask Questions.
- Lead by acknowledging you may not understand a topic. You are looking to learn and be open to new perspectives.
- Ask your friend, colleague, trusted leader – “I want to learn more about “x” topic. May we find some time to discuss further?”
- Demonstrate and share your vulnerabilities; others find safety in shared experiences and will perhaps begin to build trust.
2. Be an advocate for women in the room.
- Correct someone respectfully if the language used is inappropriate, uncomfortable, or not inclusive. Language matters.
- Give credit to those that are due credit. Show up for those that might not be
- If your team member did the work, ensure they receive the credit that’s due. Said differently, sharing is caring.
3. Actively participate.
- Join an ERG (employee resource group) or networking group specific to the advancement of women. When joining state your intention, “I’m here today and in the future to learn more about you and how I can be an ally to support you.”
- Remember, women make up more than 50% of our world’s population. Women are customers. They support our businesses, and understanding their aspirations and needs helps create better connections and opportunities.
- Listen. Really listen through your actions, not just your language.
4. Find a non-traditional mentor.
- Find someone different than you and ask them to
be your mentor.
- A woman of color or a different background. Or someone younger or LGBTQ+. Change the dynamic by asking them to support your growth.
- Mentorship can open your mind to new ideas, new cultures, new values, and all of these attributes will help you become a better leader, colleague, person, or friend.
Becoming an ally of women takes understanding and commitment. Throughout the Multicultural Women’s National Conference, the Working Mother Media team, in partnership with a plethora of talented people and companies, created moments to pause for listening. This conference created safe places to think about how you want to show up for women in the workplace and more. It also gave us tools to grow, ask questions, and ultimately be intentional about becoming an ally for all women in the workplace.
How will you show up next?