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Earning Power!: When Being a Man is Good for Women

Thursday, October 13, 2005

When Being a Man is Good for Women

Men matter because they are half of the solution to workplace equality. Statistically, men are clearly still in charge in Corporate America. But what can a man do for a woman as a mentor that a female mentor can’t?

Men are in a unique place because they hold more access to power in almost all industries except for those businesses that cater specifically to women and children. Because there is a wall between men and women at work, women sometimes need a push or pull to reach their potential when the place is dominated by men.

Here’s how just one man can change a woman’s access to the top and to the even the playing field toward fair pay.

1) Give permission. Women sometimes need a guy to give her permission to participate in the conversation, the meeting, and/or the decision. She doesn’t assume that just because she was hired that the guys will value her opinion or include her in the exchange. She's been rewarded in the past for staying quiet, out of trouble or out of the way. Instead, let her know she’s there because she’s valued, and that she should speak up or be overlooked.
2) Give invitations. Women need a formal verbal or written invitation to get-togethers, hanging out, meetings and after work sessions where many key business events take place in an informal setting. They assume incorrectly that work only happens at work, in the workplace. They also assume that they’d be uninvited if they invited themselves to tag along without you asking directly.
3) Give introductions. Once she’s been invited, stop the conversation to make sure people know her name and why you think she should be there. Open your rolodex and contact list. Empower her by being complimentary about her strengths to others before it’s assumed she’s just office decoration. Let them know why you trust her enough to let her join.
4) Give opportunities. When heavy assignments come up, don’t assume she wouldn’t be interested because it involves travel, longer hours, meetings over cigars and cognac or that there are no other women involved. Let her tell you, “yes” or “no”, and at least give her an opportunity for discussion.
5) Give resources. If she accepts an assignment, she may try to do it herself. Let her know what headcount she is allowed and if she can hire temps, contractors, or full time people from other divisions or outside to get the job done right. Many men know that a guy put in charge will start building his empire immediately, but women may try to prove themselves and fail because not being given a team.
6) Give a budget. Sponsor her projects based upon return on investment. Often women will not ask for additional money to get something done right, but will bend over backward, even spending their own money on supplies or gifts to make things happen, and the company never does learn the actual cost of getting the results. Also, if others see she has a team and budget, they are less likely to question her credibility and more likely to support her success.
7) Give coaching. Instruction is vital to success. Give her the same sort of insight you’d give your buddy about what the key people on a project are looking for to call the end product outstanding. Don’t laugh or let her flounder as a right of passage if you see her heading the wrong way. Remember if she fails so does the company.

In short, men in charge can give a woman a chance to make them proud by sponsoring her through some simple visible and verbal actions. This is also a chance for men to benefit financially by having women join the men in producing results that benefit everyone financially. The bottom line is that smart men sponsor smart women and get rich because of it. And that’s how taking charge and being a man is great for working women.


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