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More Ways Male Allies Can Help Solve Tech’s Gender Equity Problem

Men are just as much a part of the #MeToo conversation as women, yet while women are feeling more confident speaking out, many men are stepping back, becoming quiet, not sure how they can best help solve the problem. As I wrote in Slate earlier this week, there is a lot men can do to be a part of the solution. In many cases with writers, we come up with more information than we can use in each article. Here on my blog, I thought I’d share the rest of what I learned.

Study the Problem

Read up on implicit bias, gender bias, and harassment. What it is, what it isn’t. Learn what you can about how these things can manifest themselves in the workplace. Figure out how you can identify them. Study the research. Find key resources and keep them handy. Teach yourself to identify your own potential biases. Learn to listen to women tell their stories. Learn to believe their reports of incidents. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but take it slowly. Find people you trust. Ask questions. Open a dialogue.

Live by Example

“If we don’t start seeing men in leadership leave the office and take care of their families, showing the example for the next generation of leaders, how are we ever going to solve the diversity problem?” This question was posed by Mara Lecocq of The Drum, who covered this year’s 3% Conference, dedicated to increasing the number of women in advertising. This can be done in many small ways: leaving the office early, taking time to go to the doctor vs. skipping it, taking full advantage of vacation days, recognizing that these benefits exist for all employees, and taking a general approach to work-life balance, health and wellness over getting ahead at all costs.

Speak Up

If you see discrimination or exclusion — particularly if you’re in a position of authority — discipline employees who cross the line. Make it known that workplace policies exist for a reason. Enforce them. Conversely, reward good behavior, such as employees who are visibly making positive efforts toward diversity. And if you’re a speaker or a conference attendee, call out conferences that have less than 20% female speakers. Actively encourage others to become allies. Use your social media platforms to impart what you learn, in your own words. Finally, be aware of what ‘mansplaining’ is and do your best to avoid it. When in doubt, shift gears back to listening and asking questions. Show you mean no harm.

Honor Experience

Many women don’t need mentors — we’re senior enough that we’re mentors ourselves. Yet it’s not uncommon for women to be treated as if we don’t know anything about a subject (where in some cases, we’re experts). So my advice to men here: check yourself. Check your assumptions. You never know what you might learn from the woman sitting next to you. I’ll never forget one holiday party I attended in Silicon Valley at a startup incubator. A man came up and introduced himself to my husband and to me. He started pitching his cybersecurity startup to my husband (who works in tech but has never worked in security). He never once glanced my way. I worked in network security for nearly a decade. I had a large network that could’ve potentially been helpful to him. He didn’t even think to address me on the subject, so I kept my mouth shut. His loss.

So Much More

So much more can, has, should, and will be said about this topic, I could continue going deeper, but there’s a lot we can work with here. Listen, learn, speak up, set an example, open doors, trust women, and be an advocate. We’ll all be better for it.

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