Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg made “lean in” a catchphrase for ambitious professional women around the world, and there are loads of leadership conferences, seminars, and articles dedicated to helping women excel in their careers.
These are all great, author and journalist Joanne Lipman says, but women get it at this point. Our attention needs to turn towards educating men.
In recent Wall Street Journal article “Women at Work: A Guide for Men,” Lipman says that many men “misunderstand us, they unwittingly belittle us, they do something that they think is nice that instead just makes us mad. And those are the good ones.”
Here are some of the things she says male bosses need to understand about their female employees if they want to have the most productive and efficient workplace possible:
Don’t restrain yourself when giving feedback.
Jill Flynn, partner of the consulting firm Flynn Heath Holt, tells Lipman that she’s had male managers tell her they have held back in performance reviews with women for fear of “tears,” “the diversity police,” or even that she’s “too high maintenance” and will ask too many questions.
It’s good to have empathy for your employees, but not at the expense of ignoring faults or sounding patronizing. Be honest.
Actively include them in meetings.
A Flynn Heath Holt study published earlier this year “consistently found that women didn’t assert themselves in meetings. Indeed, half of the male managers whom they interviewed said that women apologise repeatedly or allow themselves to be interrupted.”
Lipman writes that bosses should push their more modest female employees by asking for their opinions in meetings.
Consider them for promotions even if they don’t ask.
IBM CEO Virginia Rometty says that early in her career she almost declined a promotion because she felt that she wasn’t qualified yet, Lipman says. Rometty only took the job after her husband told her “a man would never think that way,” and it’s a lesson she’s never forgotten.
Mike Kaufman, CFO of Cardinal Health, says that he’ll tell women to apply for a job opening if he considers them qualified when they don’t think it themselves.
Cut the cute talk.
One time a male executive emailed Lipman after she guest-hosted a show on CNBC to tell her she “looked mighty cute there on TV,” she says. She doesn’t accuse this guy of being creepy or misogynistic — it’s just that it came off as demeaning.
It’s the same feeling that some women get when they’re congratulated for managing to have both a successful career and kids, or for being an “accomplished woman leader” rather than just an “accomplished leader,” Lipman writes.
Understand that having kids doesn’t mean the end of ambition.
Kids grow up, Lipman writes, and once women don’t need to spend as much time with their young children, many want to continue climbing the corporate hierarchy.
“But too often, they have been sidelined by then,” Lipman says. “There’s a simple solution: Keep talented women with little children on the list when positions open up.”
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