#WorkTrends Recap: Helping Men Become Allies in the #MeToo Era

In the age of #MeToo, how are we creating equitable workplaces for women?

This week’s #WorkTrends guest, Melissa Lamson, has been working on this cause for years. She is CEO of Lamson Consulting, founder of a popular leadership program for women and has consulted on management for companies like Space X, LinkedIn and SAP.

She shared how men can proactively work to understand how the sexes communicate differently, and how they can work with women to build a more diverse culture at work.

Listen to the full podcast below, or keep reading for highlights from our conversation.

Gender Parity Requires Work from Women and Men

“If men and women don’t work together in organizations, they really won’t achieve gender parity,” Lamson says. “There has been a lot of emphasis on what women need to do to advance their own careers — networking, mentoring, training programs. The onus has been on women to support their own development.” But, she says, women can only go so far in creating more gender balance at the top of organizations. Companies need to enlist men to support this goal.

Most men are happy to contribute when they realize what’s at stake, she says. “I don’t believe that most men intentionally keep women from advancing today, but they don’t know what they necessarily could be doing to help.” So, she’s worked with companies to develop workshops for men. Through those workshops, some men say they realize their KPIs were gender biased, or that they never knew what women on their team wanted. Opening a conversation between women and men in the workplace is a good place to start.

Men Often Don’t Perceive the Problems

Lamson says that the men in her workshops often have no idea that their behavior or language could be perceived as hurtful or even sexist. “When men have a conversation, they will do that in a really competitive way. That’s normal, they’ll challenge each other and interrupt each other. If they do this with women, it’s perceived as being disrespectful and they get labeled as unsupportive.”

But Lamson says that’s not what most men want. “In my experience, men really want to be a hero. In my workshop, men will literally start writing down everything I’m saying. They’ll ask for exact phrases they can use with women to show support. They want to make women happy at work. They want to promote them, they want to work with them on teams and collaborate with them. They just literally don’t understand that there’s an issue.”

But, after her trainings, most men start to understand what their female colleagues are facing at work. They buy into the idea that we’ve all been socialized to see things in certain ways — and we can do some things differently to more effectively collaborate at work.

Understand Different Communication Styles

In her workshops, Lamson teaches about five communication differences between men and women. While everyone is, of course, different, she’s learned that some gender stereotypes often ring true for many groups, and understanding these can help teams learn how to work with one another better. She calls one of these communication differences “Status-First Recognition.”

“The research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as the more important and powerful. In contrast, women seek recognition, reward and appreciation. So, they want to be appreciated for a job well done and all the hard work that they’re doing.”

Those different motivations lead to gendered behaviors that can leave us at a mismatch. For example, women will thank men a lot. They’ll say, “Thanks so much, we really appreciate it.” Behind closed doors, women will tell you they’re trying to stroke men’s egos. But that doesn’t actually work with men, Lamson says. They don’t want to be thanked — they want to feel important and powerful.

On the other hand, men will interpret a female coworker’s silence as a non-problem, when resentment could actually be brewing. “Men assume that women are totally fine and feeling good about working with them unless they express that they’re not. That’s not a correct assumption.”

She gives groups this tip: If a man and a woman are talking in a meeting and the woman suddenly gets quiet, a man should notice that and start re-engaging her by asking questions.

“Men aren’t programmed to ask as many questions,” she says. “But if they can pivot and start asking questions, they’ll get the engagement back on track.”

Gender Diversity Drives Business Results

Lamson points to research from McKinsey, Catalyst and others that having more gender balance in an organization, especially at the top, actually affects the bottom line positively.

Catalyst research found that companies with the highest representation of women on their top management teams experienced better financial performance than companies with the lowest women’s representation.

But that doesn’t just mean adding one woman to an all-male board. Research shows that when one woman joins a group of men, she’ll adapt her style to theirs. When two women join, there still isn’t a substantial change in the group. But when there are three women, they have the power of a group — and will influence change.

True Diversity Is Much More Than A Drive By

“For you and me, sex is not a competition
For you and me, sex is not a job description
For you and me
We agree—
But that’s just us
Reaching for the alien shore…”

—Neil Peart (writer and musician)

At the tail end of my run, I walked engrossed in my cool down, my music and my thoughts. I half-looked back over my right shoulder to make sure there were no cars coming – and whoosh – a black blur shot past me on my left.

Startled into flight or fight I spun around and just about fell over. But it sobered me quickly, elevating my heart rate and focal strength to new heights.

What was I thinking? I thought. About everything else but where I’m at obviously.

Yes, I made it home intact and more in touch with my immediate environment, but it actually got me thinking about everything else ironically. Like the article I had read earlier in the Washington Post about CEO Marc Benioff reviewing the pay of his entire workforce (all 16,000 employees) to make sure both males and females are compensated fairly based on the work they do and their performance. He was quoted as saying, “When I’m done there will be no gap.”

Right on. Admirable and exciting not only for how this may impact’s overall employee and business performance, but also how it may help spur further change at other companies.

But why now? What’s the motivation that shot past Benioff and other progressive business leaders doing similar change management initiatives around gender diversity and performance?

Is it the fact that study after study now reveals the impact of gender diversity on technology business performance is powerful (which includes pay equity as well)? According to a report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a teams’ collective intelligence rose with the number of women in the group. Is this possibly because of the women’s higher performance on tasks that required social sensitivity? I would say yes. Gallup research does show that women leaders tend to have significantly happier, more highly engaged teams.

Also, according to economist research referenced in an amazing report from Mercer titled “When Women Thrive Businesses Thrive” from November of 2014, eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost GDP in the US by 5%, in Japan by 9%, in the United Arab Emirates by 12%, and in Egypt by 34%. The fact that women invest more of their household income than men the overall wellbeing of their children and their communities, greater gender diversity in the workforce could dramatically impact quality of life globally.

In January of this year (2015), McKinsey released a study showing that gender diverse companies had financial performance that was 15 percent higher than the national industry median, and ethnically diverse companies had performance that was 35 percent higher than the national industry median.

Also according to McKinsey, an investigation of 89 European companies with the greatest gender diversity at the top management level found that, on average, these companies’ financial performance was higher than average for their business sectors. In particular, these companies demonstrated superior return on equity, earnings before interest and taxes, and stock price growth.

There are business leaders who are doing more than just being accountable according to the same Mercer research report referenced above, and those organizations where leaders are actively involved in diversity programs have more women at the top and throughout the organization as well as more equitable talent flows between women and men.

Plus, more women will move into top roles over the next decade globally, everywhere but North America unfortunately. The TalentCulture #TChat will be live in Cork, Ireland this week for the IT@Cork European Technology Summit, and according to a University of Cambridge study has observed that Ireland is fifth in the world for female economic power, ranking just behind Australia, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

In Ireland, women are in positions of seniority in a staggering number of large global tech businesses – Apple, Microsoft, PayPal and many others. And academic institutions in Ireland are now seeing businesses and STEM-based industries focus more heavily on the gender diversity agenda.

In fact, there’s been a lot of exciting work over the past decade developing talent pipelines in Ireland for example, developing and sustaining new models of industry-academic partnerships. For example, VMware in Cork has grown from 1 employee 10 years ago to 800+ employees today by adding approximately 100 employees per year to its workforce. In excess of 40% of these new employees have been recruited from partnerships with local academic institutions.

The approach adopted in this case is an example of how organizations in Ireland are now innovating in the talent pipeline space and generating competitive advantage from partnering with academic institutions such as the Cork Institute of Technology, as distinct from following the more traditional option of just simply hiring from the pool of graduates that the academic institutions decide to produce.

It’s not lost on talent acquisition leaders about how hyper-competitive it is out there to recruit the best people – both women and men alike – with the skills needed for the work demands at hand. I’m sure there are many other examples of the whoosh-blur changes from around the world culminating in and not a moment too soon. The new State of Talent Acquisition survey data from ERE Media underscore how vital speed-to-hire and workforce planning are to organizations (as well as current hindrances).

In a recent interview with on the topics of diversity and inclusion, PeopleFluent SVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Alys Reynders Scott, an inspirational mentor to me and many others, states that leaders – the big L’s and the little l’s – should be all about building a palpably inclusive culture that delivers the promise of a diverse workforce with business success is the best thing any organization can do to attract the next wave of highly qualified diversity candidates into the business.

Because the investment to attract and retain with a true diversity agenda that impacts the world of work for the better is much more than a drive by.

#TChat Live from Ireland: The IT@Cork European Technology Summit

We’re very excited to announced that the TalentCulture #TChat Show will be live from the IT@Cork European Technology Summit in Cork, Ireland on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, from 6-7pm GMT (1-2pm ET, 10-11am PT).

This special #TChat will focus on the impact of gender diversity on technology business performance around the world.

A University of Cambridge study has observed that Ireland is fifth in the world for female economic power, ranking just behind Australia, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

In Ireland, women are in positions of seniority in a staggering number of large global tech businesses – Apple, Microsoft, PayPal and many others.

But the current state of women in technology isn’t great, especially in the U.S. For example, the leadership at all of the top tech companies is overwhelmingly male. The good news is that academic institutions are now seeing businesses and STEM-based industries focus more heavily on the gender diversity agenda.

In January of this year (2015), McKinsey released a study showing that gender diverse companies had financial performance that was 15 percent higher than the national industry median, and ethnically diverse companies had performance that was 35 percent higher than the national industry median.

Sneak Peek:

We hope you’ll join the #TChat conversation every week and share your questions, opinions and ideas with our guests and the TalentCulture Community.

Thank you to all our TalentCulture sponsors and partners: Dice, Jibe, TalentWise, Hootsuite, IBM, CareerBuilder, PeopleFluent, Jobvite, Predictive Analytics World for Workforce and HRmarketer Insight. Plus, we’re big CandE supporters!

Special Live #TChat: The IT@Cork European Technology Summit in Ireland


#TChat Radio — Wed, May 6th — 6 pm GMT / 1 pm ET / 10 am PT Join TalentCulture #TChat Show co-founders and co-hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman as we welcome our special guests from the IT@Cork European Technology Summit: David Parry-Jones, VP UKI Vmware; Caroline O’Driscoll, Tax Partner at KPMG, Vice Chair of IT@cork; and Michael Loftus, Head of Faculty of Engineering & Science at CIT.

Tune in LIVE online Wednesday, May 6th!

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wed, May 6th — 6:30 pm GMT / 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and our very special guests will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community from around the globe. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: Why is there still such a gender gap in technology and business today? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q2:  How can business leaders create an inclusive culture that encourages and sustains gender diversity? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q3: What are the primary benefits of closing the overall diversity gap? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Until then, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!!

Also at the IT@Cork European Technology Summit, Meghan and Kevin will be moderating a Tech Diversity Panel Discussion and Meghan will be a panelist in a Digital Marketing Discussion! Join us!

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Photo: Cork, Ireland