International Women’s Day is a time to recognize and appreciate women and their contribution to equity, equality and inclusion. It is a day to celebrate women. And, for me, it is an excellent opportunity to once more shed light on how men can become effective allies.
As a CIS gendered white male, I find myself in the very fortunate position to be part of a team that is primarily female-identifying. When I was talking to my wife Anna about International Women’s Day and what I should write about, she asked, “what about the women on your team?” I then had a blinding flash of the obvious (BFO) and realized how lucky I am to be surrounded by a truly international team of women of color who are powerful, creative, insightful, and committed.
Every time I get on a zoom call with them, I look at the little window of my face and realize that I am the only guy…..the only white person I might add….and I am more than OK with it. One of my many realizations about this experience I am having as the other is that each of these women, in their own way, makes me feel included, and that they value and appreciate who I am as a (white) man in the world. This feeling is worth a lot to me and it’s something that any man, white or not, can experience, if he chooses. These women are also incredibly encouraging and supportive of one another and it allows for a positive and productive dynamic.
Moreover, these women are courageous. It doesn’t matter to them that I am the founder of the Better Man Conference. What does matter is that we, not me, have and are co-creating a safe space to work together. I routinely ask for their feedback and they give it to me straight – even if it is not what I want to hear! They also offer unsolicited (and constructive) feedback if they see something I might be able to do better.
These women are also heart-centered. They listen from the heart, they share vulnerably, and they demonstrate compassion and empathy for everyone on the team.
As a “youthful” 60 year old man, it’s both refreshing and enlightening to be in the presence of these amazing women who are from 10 to 30 years younger than me. The lived experiences these women share with me, as women of color and women from multiple generations, are instrumental in my growth. I listen to them attentively even as I phase out of the world in which they are developing. Yet I am still in that world, too, so it behooves me (and others) to ask “what can I do?” Then I had BFO #2! It occurred to me (and still remains true) that I have a unique opportunity and a responsibility as a white male leader to use my privileges/advantages to talk to other men -not just white men- to guide and support them in living and leading from their hearts the way these women so naturally and expertly do.
This “way of being” is not just important for our workplace; it is paramount in our daily lives.
So who are these amazing women?
Michele Keele wears numerous hats, one of which is our procurement manager extraordinaire who also helps us keep our finances in order. Many of you that have attended the Better Man conferences have met her at registration. Michele – thanks for your patience, humor and commitment!
Melissa Casey (aka Mel) has held many roles for the BMM team, most notably as head of business development, but in truth that is only one of her many talents. I must give credit where credit is due, and that includes my blog writing. Mel often challenges my thoughts, helps me to broaden my perspective and to consider things through a different lens. She also often helps to edit and wordsmith which has resulted in my turning out better quality blogs and in me simply being better. Thanks, Mel!
Rosane Pires has been with the BMM team for several years. She makes her contributions from Colombia where she also runs a chocolate and coffee farm. Rosane is the creative person behind all of our social media efforts. The graphics and messaging we share couldn’t be done without her. Thank you, Rosane!
Andrea Cummings Andrea is an amazing project manager that supports me in my keynote speaking and training endeavors. Andrea, as Jerry McGuire so succinctly puts it, “You complete me.” Thank you Andrea!
I may be the “face of Better Man” but in reality, it’s the individual and collective genius of our team of women that make BMM so incredible. If you are a man reading this I have some suggestions for your journey to becoming a male ally.
What can I do as a male ally
In my prior blog, I wrote about the importance of relationships. Being a male ally is all about relationships, whether it is building them, nurturing them, or starting them. I’ll leave it to you to decide.
Get Curious and reach out
My invitation for you is to survey your team, your division, or your department and consider building relationships with women, including women of color.You have an opportunity to contribute to a different narrative about (white) men through your actions; given you have been afforded certain privileges that are unique to being male and perhaps being a white male specifically, t your language and behaviors can have a tremendous impact in fostering a sense of inclusion and belonging in the environment around you.
Become a Sponsor
If you are in a leadership position, consider stepping into a sponsor role. This is not only an ally-like behavior, it is a learning experience for you as well. Check in with your DEI department or the Learning and Development folks. If that structure doesn’t lend itself to your intention, maybe there is a woman on your team with whom you can cultivate a two-way mentorship relationship.
Attend ERG events
Attend and participate in a variety of Employee Resource Group (ERG) events at your company. Many companies I speak to and work with have women’s ERGs. I often hear from them that they would like to have more men attend. Be that guy!
Talk to other men
I have learned a tremendous amount from women with respect to how they build community. If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you are on your path to allyship. You also know other men. Talk to them and share why this work is important to you. Invite them into conversation, without judgment, and ask questions. Share from the heart.
I’ve learned in my work with men that when I am vulnerable and share some truths, it makes it possible for them to do the same!
Lastly, be sure to take the time to acknowledge and appreciate the women in your life – they make all of us better men!