When Jimmy Carter signed Women’s History Month into law, he noted that too often women’s contributions go unnoticed and unsung. Unfortunately, that still holds true in many cases, and until I began my own journey toward allyship, I, too, often neglected to acknowledge the women around me for the many ways they show up to make this world better. I struggle to even articulate the immense gratitude I have for the many women that have helped me on my journey. The women who have modeled action-oriented allyship with me. These women have encouraged and supported me to be the ally they needed me to be.
They taught me, they gave me feedback I needed to hear, they encouraged me and they loved me. They supported me in being a Better Man. After writing my recent book, Showing up: How Men Can Become Effective Allies in the Workplace, I decided to include some acknowledgements for people who had helped or influenced me and it is no surprise that immediately a number of women came to mind on both professional and personal levels. I would not be where I am today if not for them!
Exemplary Women Role Models
So who are these women? There are too many to list here but just to name a few: Rayona Sharpnack, founder of the Institute for Women’s Leadership and The Institute for Gender Partnership; Mita Malick, Head of Inclusion and Belonging at Carta; Jennifer Brown of Jennifer Brown Consulting; Kathryn Larson, former CEO of PBWC; Jennifer Seibel Newsom, First Partner of California Governor Gavin Newsom and Founder & Chief Creative Officer at The Representation Project; and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Meta and Founder of Lean In & Option B.
A Playbook to Emulate
What is it about these women that I want to encourage the men reading this to consider? These women are invested in change, committed to their missions; they have power, position, privileges, and platforms to use for good…..and they use them, indefatigably. They understand that gender partnership is THE KEY to advancing gender equity, equality and racial justice.
Us guys need to throw out the old playbook and rewrite what it means to be a man in today’s world. Whether it be in the workplace, at home, or within our communities, we need to redefine healthy masculinity. Many of us have unique power, position, privilege(s) and platforms that are available to us to use….so why aren’t we using them?
Action Oriented Celebration
To the men reading this, especially for those of you in leadership positions, you might be wondering what allyship really means and, more importantly, how can one embody whatever that is? I can tell you that from my own experience it is essential to be a humble learner, which requires the acknowledgement that there is a lot that I do not know and that I can, in fact, learn from women. One of the biggest lessons I have learned was around leadership. Sometimes, as leaders we need to allow others to lead and to learn from their example. This requires a level of vulnerability and trust in ourselves and in those who are different from us. In my work as an ally, I had to confront various biases I held with respect to women. I needed to get interested in how they were experiencing me, my language, my behavior. I needed to audit my proclivity to mansplain, manterrupt and monopolize conversations. Ultimately, I resolved to make space for women. Sometimes this required (and still does) that I decenter myself and center them….their voices, their opinions, their perspectives, their leadership.
Here is what I did not expect: that when I did all or some of these things, I felt included, I felt relieved, relaxed…and supported. The burden I had always assumed that was supposed to be “mine,” the one that made me feel alone at times, no longer needed to be perpetuated.
I could actually benefit from gender partnership.
I feel compelled to thank, from the bottom of my heart, Rayona, Mita, Jennifer Brown, Kathryn, Jennifer Seibel Newsom, and Sheryl Sandberg for being such awesome women for whom I have immense respect, and who truly showed me what leadership, allyship and partnership look like in action.
And for the men reading this, consider this an invitation to take a moment to celebrate the women in your life, personally and professionally, by deciding to put yourself on the learning path of allyship.’