With Emma Watson gracing the cover of September's Vogue UK and asking real questions about gender inequality, the #HeForShe movement is taking off again. Men are again being encouraged to take a stand for feminism and female equality. To that end, I’d like to offer some unconventional tactics:
Invest in Conference Room Chairs.
Only hold meetings in rooms with the appropriate amount of chairs at the table. One of the biggest reasons women are left behind is that they have what has been coined “the impostor syndrome”, they don’t feel worthy of the attention they receive. Because of this the often take the seat furthest from the influential players in the room and are thus overlooked.
One of my first jobs began the day with a morning team meeting. Everyone was expected to be there and we were joined by the CEO…as the newest person in the room, I did not want to take up one of the few available chairs. Not only was I worried about seniority of employees, but I also didn’t want to be on the spot for any questions fired. Looking back, I did myself a disservice. I could have advanced my standing at the company much faster by actually sitting at the table and taking the risk of being in the spotlight.
Leaders, by choosing to hold meetings where there are enough seats at the table for everyone invited, you are strengthening everyone's chances of success.
Teach Your Daughters to Raise Their Hands Straight.
Start at an early age. Encourage your daughters to raise their hands in school during Math & Science…not just in Reading and Art. And, while you’re at it, take a page from Amy Cuddy’s research: get them to raise their hands straight up, not with a bent elbow. This is how many boys raise their hands and it denotes strength and confidence, while the bent elbow gives off an air of uncertainty and tentativeness. Teaching your daughters at an early age how to raise their hand sets them up for success throughout life.
90% of the compliments I’ve received in the work world were on my general appearance, not on the successes I’d achieved. And even when I did achieve success the phrases “success looks good on you" and “success becomes you" were thrown around. And I'm not the only one; NY Senator, Kirsten Gilibrand has had similar experiences in Congress of all places. Have you ever heard the same said of a man? Nope. The solution? Ban compliments that aren’t based solely on work.
Criticize Female Leadership.
Too many women in leadership adopt the Queen Bee approach to leading. It’s Mean Girls and high school all over again. When you see this happening in your organization, take action. Having one Queen Bee and saying “look, I’ve done my part, I have a woman at the helm” is not acting in the #HeForShe spirit. You’ve promoted one woman who is keeping the rest down …she needs a SheForShe talking to.
Mentor a Man
...but do it at the same time as a woman. Meet with them together. It will be harder for you to change tactics or advice for the woman if you’re encouraging a man in the room as well. Equal advice. Equal mentorship. Plus, there’s a strong likelihood that the two will begin to coach and support each other in their career goals as well.
Remember, every step we take is one towards equality.