Men, Listen Up to Understand the Evolving Workplace

“When men are ready to become advocates for women, they want to start by ‘Leading.’ In reality…the first step is to ‘Listen.'” – Recent Fortune 500 Keynote, Jeffery Tobias Halter

Men, it’s time to listen up in order to understand the evolving workplace.

Most organizations are seeking solutions on how to attract, retain and advance women. Many men—I believe up to 30 percent—want to help. The challenge is knowing what to do on a daily basis to demonstrate advocacy. And as I’ve mentioned in previously, progressive companies and their leaders are undertaking four simple, but very hard, actions to chart a new course for their organizations:

  1. Listen
  2. Learn
  3. Lead
  4. Have the Will to Change

Let’s begin with the first step – listening.

Listen

Genuinely listening to employee issues and concerns is the requisite first step to gaining understanding before diving into “leading.” To understand what is happening (or not happening) in your organization, it is imperative that senior leaders (namely older white men since they comprise more than 85 percent of senior business leaders) explore this paradigm:

Men and women are having significantly different experiences in the workplace.

Both genders are working hard, but women are working significantly harder as they constantly have to deal with being one of a few in the room. This is something that is rarely experienced by men. Typically in leadership meetings, men are the majority, and as such, make the rules. To the men reading this article, have you ever wondered about the minority experience in your company? It is time to ask and listen.

Take a woman you know and trust to lunch and ask one simple question:

Do you believe men and women are having different experiences at the company?

Then be quiet and genuinely listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t be defensive or justify company policies, just shut up and listen. After 10 minutes, ask a second time:

What else don’t I know?

Genuinely listen intently for another 10 minutes and ask a third (and final) time,

And what else?

In that last 10 minutes, you will hear root-cause issues that you have never heard or imagined existed in your company. You will hear about differences that women (and perhaps other minorities) are experiencing every day within your company. These experiences have a direct correlation to work, performance, retention and advancement.

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