One of the things that sold me on SADA when I applied for the position of Content Editor was that the four people who interviewed me were all women. My favorite jobs have always been ones in which I found myself in the gender minority–camp counselor, bookstore clerk, faculty in a graduate writing program. Companies like SADA, where many talented women are in positions of influence, happen to be companies where I tend to thrive.
As we’ve celebrated International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month at SADA, I’ve been reflecting on how men can show up as allies. One might assume this means offering career advice and mentorship to women who are earlier in their careers. I think we can do better than that. Here are four ways that the allies among us can show up for our female colleagues.
1. Seek out women mentors
I met Elizabeth when she was running a virtual reality startup incubator, and Melanie when we worked together at an online education startup. Both have led careers marked by myriad achievements across multiple sectors. I rely on their career advice because they’re prodigiously knowledgeable about topics outside my area of expertise and they occasionally tell me uncomfortable truths I don’t necessarily want to hear.
When you’re lucky enough to get this kind of honest, unvarnished guidance from anyone, their gender identification quickly becomes beside the point. This, in turn, can help you get past any culturally ingrained hangups of your own when you provide mentorship to colleagues who don’t share your gender identity.
2. Destigmatize gaps in resumes
During the pandemic, more women than men left the workforce, largely to care for their families. Caring for children is still a responsibility borne more by women than men. My own CV has been marked by years of freelance and remote work that allowed me to fulfill my primary role as Stay At Home Dad, which remains the best title on my resume. Having been the lone dad at a playground full of moms many times, I’ll never consider childcare as inferior work.
Years spent caring for children should never be a mark against any person interviewing for a position, regardless of gender. Parenting teaches you more transferable skills than one might think. Raising children involves serious time management, multitasking, quick pivots to resolve unexpected challenges, and constant communication. Speaking from experience, if you’ve ever successfully persuaded a toddler to put on a pair of pants, you can persuade anyone to do anything.
3. Cultivate female heroes
Take an honest look at the cultural figures you truly admire as role models. Are they all guys? Why is that?
When I was a fiction-obsessed twentysomething, I came to an uncomfortable realization that I mostly read and admired books written by men. My idols all tended to be writers, artists, and musicians, the majority of them male. As I challenged myself to broaden the scope of my influences, my own ambitions were enriched by the examples of women like Patti Smith, Yayoi Kusama, Carrie Brownstein, Nina Simone, Greta Thunberg, and Elizabeth Warren.
The apparent unreachability of our heroes’ accomplishments inspire us to ascend to greater heights ourselves. We’re emotionally stirred when we regard someone as having succeeded at something well beyond our capabilities. The world is full of female heroes. Celebrate them.
4. Speak up
Every once in a while, a story emerges in the tech industry of a company culture that seems to have been modeled on a raunchy teen comedy circa 1980. Toxic tech bro attitudes don’t just diminish women. They diminish entire companies that would otherwise thrive with the sort of collective intelligence that observes no gender gap. Every time I hear bizarre tales of a misogynistic tech company culture, I think, “Wow. You dudes must really hate making money.”
Allies who speak out against toxic masculinity in the workplace can argue that not only is such behavior horrible for women; it’s counterproductive for everyone. Standing up as an ally to women in the workplace isn’t just about righting historical trends that continue to drag us down. It’s about expanding opportunities for everyone.