I just had a conversation with a woman. She is the owner of an extremely successful business who upped her income stream this year by 1200%. Twelve hundred percent. She’s making money. She’s building a team. She’s securing bigger and bigger clients. She’s the type of woman who has been crushing it since birth.
In fact, her business is so successful that she is now stepping out into the coaching world. Together, she and I are building a new business and life coaching training program that is focused on women business owners and women who are looking for a way out of their cubicle life.
The program is focused on women. This is where it becomes problematic…for men. This is where men start to take to their keyboard and say things like “Why does it have to be focused on women?” “Don’t you think men can benefit from your experience, too?” “Why can’t men be a part of the group?”
Today I learned that a man made an inquiry about the new business right on cue. The inquiry raised questions for us internally: Are we were doing the right thing by focusing on women? Should we open up the coursework to target a broader, more diverse audience?
I totally overreacted to the questions because questions like this are triggers for me. I was raised by my mother, grandmother, and older sister. I grew up watching first-hand what challenges women face everyday in life, education, work, love, sex, family, mothering and more. I saw how opportunities and compensation were more abundant for men than women. I saw how individuals and society were much more forgiving of a man for his fuck ups than a woman. Hi, Roy Moore.
Some of that is changing to a degree. Men, famous and powerful men, are being called out on an almost daily basis for sexually harassing women: Harvey, Al, Louis, Don. This is a good thing. Women are showing up to the polls in greater numbers than men and doing their civic duty. This is a good thing. Hi, again, Roy Moore. Women are outperforming men in school. There are more women undergraduates and graduate students than men. These are good things. Great things.
And yet…women still get paid less per dollar than men. Women still get told to smile more. “Maybe you could try wearing clothes that are a little more drapey.” Years ago, in a different job, I overheard my supervisor, an older woman, say that to my much younger coworker after she was creeped out by a customer. True story. There is no resting dick face, but there is resting bitch face. Ambitious women are quietly and not so quietly slandered. There are glass ceilings for women. There are still expectations that they should not put career above family. They are mansplained. They are passed over for promotions even though they have more knowledge, skill, and expertise than their male counterpart.
Not too long ago, I worked with a woman who was the bilingual digital support specialist. She has design skills. She has communication skills. She has teaching ability; and she uses all of these skills in two languages on a daily basis. She is also a woman of color with two kids at home. Her salary? Less than $30K per year. White boy who came in with very little management experience or hard skills necessary for the job? Yeah, he’s making six figures. Also a true story.
Are we doing the right thing by focusing our training on women? Fucking-A right we are and for a host of reasons so let me help my brothers fix their thinking about this. If you want to get on board and help your sisters overcome and eliminate these obstacles; right these inequalities; and keep them safe, then here are 7 things you can do:
- Give women space. Give them space to work, to collaborate, to network, to ideate, to draw or sketch or do whatever it is they need to do to be successful in life and in business. Let them be them and let them be them on their own terms and timetables, not yours.
- Educate yourself. If you aren’t aware of any of the issues I’ve raised here, then you should do a little digging. Read some articles and blog posts written by women in business. Subscribe to some podcasts by women business owners. Follow women business owners on social media. Pay attention to what some of the recurring themes are and think about how your life, as a man, is qualitatively different and somewhat more privileged.
- Seek out opportunities. Know about a fantastic conference or workshop or retreat or event that cannot be missed? Share it with your women coworkers, colleagues, and employers. It doesn’t have to be specific to women. In fact, on some level it shouldn’t be. In yet another career, I was heavily invested in creating diversity initiatives and programs and grants for a university. There was nothing worse than someone sending me something they thought I’d be interested in because it had the word “diverse” in the title. That’s insulting and shows you really aren’t interested in understanding the issues on a deeper level. Don’t be that guy.
- Zip it. Seriously. Just stop talking. Stop interrupting conversations online. Stop talking over women. Stop co-opting conversations and placing them in a framework that is easier for you to understand. I remember mansplaining in a meeting once. I don’t think it had a name back then, but I realized I was doing it a few minutes after I had already done it. It was an awful feeling. She was smarter than me. She was higher up on the org chart than me. She was even the one who recruited me. Everyone may have something to add to a conversation, but not everyone needs to share it. Sometimes participation is just about listening. See #1: give women space to have conversations without you.
- Recognize her game. Becky Hammon is an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. She is the first woman to be a full-time assistant coach on an NBA team in league history. When she was asked how the male athletes responded to her instruction and coaching and her being a woman, she said there were challenges at first; but “game recognizes game.” Once they saw that they could learn something from her, that she knew things they didn’t, that she could make them better and improve the overall performance of the team, she stopped being the first female coach. She became Coach Hammon; and some of the best players in the league listen to her. So for you…recognize when a woman has game and listen. You’ll learn if you…
- Stay teachable. Face it. You have a lot to learn. You might be successful as a male business owner or employee or father or husband or son or brother; but you still have opportunities to be better. You have opportunities to see the world and your business and your relationships in a completely different way if you give women space to have conversations without you, listen, be silent, respect a woman’s knowledge and expertise, and remain open to the fact that she might just know better than you.
- Keep your f*cking hands to yourself.
*This article was written as a guest post from our Operations Officer, Mr. Megan Z. Perez.