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  • Emily Mathison

I love working with men

Updated: Aug 17


Emily with her amazing male coworkers

I’d still like them to advocate


A couple of weeks ago I set out to write this piece, but as with any good train of thought, it was derailed. So let’s get back on track. 


This topic is an important one to me personally because the two industries that I’ve gained the majority of my professional experience in — home services operating a painting business, and tech in the water industry — are heavily male-dominated. 

They shoot their shot and rarely apologize for taking up space. 

And don’t get me wrong, I love working with men. Like the great Cher says, “I love men! I think men are the coolest.” My coworkers are top notch.


In fact, I’ve found working with mostly men to be extremely refreshing. I appreciate seeing an argument from a different perspective. I value men’s directness and confidence (even if it’s false). They shoot their shot and rarely apologize for taking up space. Sometimes I wonder if I even prefer working with men. They’re often (and I mean this in the best way), simpler. 


But what isn’t the coolest, is being told, “We would just be more comfortable with a man doing this job.” Or during a job interview, “So, you must be planning to start a family soon. It’s ok, you can tell us.”


Number one, get bent. Number two, heck if I know!  Men, if you’re still with me, please hang on. I gave you a little ego pet (wily women, I know), so you can trust I’m not going to bash you. We need you in this conversation if we want our calls for equality in the workplace to escape the echo chambers of women’s spaces. 


I think there's room for improvement.

While I personally don’t mind being a woman in a male-dominated industry, and despite select incidents, I don’t feel disadvantaged in my day-to-day… I think there’s room for improvement. Because not all women share the same experience or values as I do. And certainly other privileges I’ve been fortunate to receive have rosied my experience. 


Check out the Ally Continuum by Diversity and Inclusion consultant Jennifer Brown. Here she lays out a progression from apathetic, through aware and active, to advocate. Take a moment to reflect on where you land on this continuum. What nudged you from one stage to the next? Do you want to keep progressing? 



I think this continuum is powerful because, in many issues of inequality, I often see myself and others as “active." striving to be an “advocate.” But as we discussed the other week, advocacy is hard work. 


So, here are some tips for both men and women, to help men become advocates, or better advocates, for women in the workplace: 


1. Join public gender-inclusion and women-led events. 


Don’t worry, it’s not a trick. Sometimes these events — talks, conferences, marches — can seem like they’re only geared towards women, and maybe we can do a better job on our branding. But if the event is public, specifically welcomes men, or you’ve personally been invited by a woman, please go. We won’t bash you or use you as a symbol of the patriarchy. We want to bring you into the conversation because nothing changes unless we all talk about it together. 


And my women, I hope that we can find meaningful ways to engage men at these events. HBR researchers share, “Evidence reveals that gender-parity efforts are most effective when men believe they have a dignified and important role to play, that transformation in the workplace is something they can share in.” I see this as arming men with actionable suggestions such as changes in behaviour, language or tone. 



2. Ask women whom you have a close relationship with if they will share their experience of gender discrimination with you.

 

Be respectful of who you choose here, think close friends or family. These are often difficult experiences to share and relive. But hearing the experience of someone you care about will help you empathize with the experiences of women you know professionally. It will also help you spot when someone is being treated unequally in your own workplace. 


Pro tip: Don’t try to fix it, yet. Just listen. 


And for women, there are benefits here too. Sharing your story has been found to help strengthen your resilience and find resolve. 



3. Accept your privilege, then use it for good. 


“Attachment constrains our vision so that we are not able to see things from a wider perspective.” - Dalai Lama 


Having privilege does not mean you are immune to hardship. Nor does it mean your success is without merit or you did not work hard for it. But it does mean that you had a different starting point and/or different opportunities along the way. 


By being aware of your privilege and when it serves you, you’ll be able to better see where improvements should be made in the workplace, and where pitfalls for your women coworkers may lie. And to go a step further, bring that into open conversation. You may be privy to moments of inequality that women aren’t even aware of. I often wonder what opportunities I’ve missed out on that I didn’t know about. What has been said about me that I wasn’t there to hear? Or if I were a woman of colour, what would my career look like then? 


Lean into the discomfort, interact and let’s learn together. 




About Herstory.

We want to share, challenge, and celebrate Canadian women in today’s workforce. Join us. Please send exceptional stories of women we should know to info@herstory.io

Until next week.


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