Men think and communicate differently than women.
There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go with others.”
What happens, though, is that when we look for people to support us professionally, many times, we look for people just like us. What I’d like to encourage you to do is to purposely diversify your community, and specifically, seek out male allies.
Male allies are men who understand they have an advantage and are committed to building relationships with women and actively demonstrate efforts to address gender inequities.
In my corporate career, I was very blessed to have some terrific bosses. As I look back, I now see that I had mentors, sponsors, and allies in almost every one of my roles. They encouraged me to reach for more; they put my name out there and invited me to “sit at the table.” Now that I own my own company, I continue to build a community of people that support me and make some very specific decisions to include men in the process. Here is why I do it, and you should too.
Men think differently than women, and especially when it comes to risk. In a Hewlett-Packard study to get more women into top management, they discovered that men applied for promotions when they felt they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements. Women would apply when they believed they had 100 percent of the qualifications of the job. Men can bring a different perspective and encouragement to what you are trying to achieve and how you are trying to achieve it.
Men communicate differently than women. Men generally communicate, for a result, to achieve a goal or task. If you’ve ever had a conversation with a partner or spouse and said, “I just want you to listen, not fix it,” then you know what I’m talking about. It is an advantage for women to be able to communicate with others the way they want to be communicated with. By having male allies, you are exposed to different styles of communication, and as a result, you learn to communicate better.
It expands your professional reach with a network that is more diverse. I feel strongly that we need women supporting, mentoring, and championing other women. The women’s conferences, corporate networking groups, and professional development opportunities where women support other women are needed. But gender equality isn’t about replacing men, it’s about working with men, and your networking efforts need to reflect that. You need men supporting you as well.
To find the male allies you need, pay attention to the men who are currently sponsoring or mentoring women. Identify men who participate in women’s network initiatives or have a reputation for working well with women. If you own your own business, you might consider a mastermind with male members or engaging with a male coach. Have conversations with men in your industry to get their perspective, feedback, or ideas on your goals. Remember, this, like any other relationship, comes down to trust. The male allies that you invite into your professional world should allow you to feel heard and respected.
Here’s wishing you the clarity you deserve.