First proposed by the National Women’s Political Party in 1923 The Equal Rights Amendment was passed in 1972. Although it has not been ratified by enough states to have it added to our constitution, many companies and government agencies have made great strides in recent years to increase gender equality across the board. Yet significant hurdles still stand in the way of this becoming a reality. We still have a long way to go.
Today’s work has typically fallen on the very people who lack the necessary political, financial, and social power that they deserve: women. Furthermore, women aren’t just expected to enact change, they’re expected to change to better fit a mold that was not designed for them in the first place. Industries and society alike will have to change if real equality can ever be achieved.
Although it might seem counterintuitive, the first step organizations should take is to include men in their initiatives toward gender equity. One survey found that only 30% of firms will see any progress toward gender diversity when men are not involved, compared to the 96% of companies that can see change when men are involved.
It’s not a simple task to include men in these initiatives, however. Time and again, we’ve seen reluctance from men who have simply been invited to join. The current system disenfranchises women while policing men, and even if breaking out of the system may ultimately benefit men, many of those men experience anxiety over the prospect of change.
Often the women in an organization might object to men participating. They may be suspicious of a man’s motives for joining in. But their participation not only helps ensure the measures will be adopted, it goes a long way toward creating the kind of open dialog between genders that allows true cultural change to happen. Allies are important in any fight.
Men who feel accepted by the women they are attempting to support will also experience a boost in motivation. Biologically speaking, it simply feels good to a healthy man when he uses his energy and power to support those for whom he has care and concern. Some women might raise an eyebrow at this suggestion, especially if, in the past, they have seen men attempt to scuttle efforts to move things forward or deride the women’s rights movement. Men may be able to more effectively earn acceptance in the role of ally by practicing the following tenets of good allyship.
In order to optimize effectiveness a theme of trust and teamwork must be established.
These are some important do’s and don’ts that are helpful in turning this dream into a reality.
- Listen empathetically: providing a venue for women to speak uninterrupted shows that their voices and experience are valued.
- Process respectfully: this includes conference and employee resource groups where women share their experiences, both positive and negative.
- Expect to be uncomfortable: growth can be painful, but it is necessary.
- Partner with women: share your social capital but only when requested.
- Center yourself or your experience: This isn’t about you. Do not speak over women. Rather, amplify their voices and support their platform.
- Comment about looks or attire: Although it may seem like a simple complement or conversation piece, it adds potential for unnecessary misunderstandings that may result in creating discomfort and possibly be interpreted as inappropriate and even harassment.
- Touch any part of her body: Unless you are in an intimate relationship it’s simply not acceptable to touch your female coworkers.
By working together, men and women can make great strides to create more welcoming environments for those who have traditionally lacked appropriate representation and consideration.
To learn more about Tj Bartel and how he helps men and couples create more harmonious, deeply intimate relationships, visit his coaching website.