An introduction for men at work on women at work

Male employees, who consider themselves progressive and meritocratic, can sometimes find themselves distraught as implicit and/or explicit accusations pile up that they are “dinosaurs” with regressive ideals. They might find themselves gently drifting away from roles that require significant engagement with overseas customers and partners, or roles that require innovative, cutting-edge engagement with a younger demographic. These men really don’t know what they are doing wrong or what they should be doing. Here is a list of assumptions, albeit unintended, about female co-workers that could prevent many capable men from growing in the organization, and a primer on what can be done about them.

She is not your mother.

Mothers give of themselves selflessly, tend to each other’s needs, and do so without compensation or credit. Male colleagues, sometimes unconsciously, expect their female colleagues to play the same role in the workplace. It is not uncommon for men, and even women, to assume that it is “natural” for female colleagues on the team to perform certain tasks such as community building, commemorating birthdays, restoring the team or setting up workplace nurseries and summer programs. for kids. While important for meaningful engagement in the workplace, they take time and effort. The work, however, is not recognized and even less remunerated.

Team members, male and female, will do well to share them equally. If you are a man and expect a female colleague to do these tasks, step back and participate instead.

She is not your personal assistant.

The dominant pattern that most of us have seen growing up is that of male boss and female helper (male pilots and female flight attendants and male doctors and female nurses, to name a few). -ones). It is possible that these notions of social stereotyping are so ingrained that male colleagues expect the women on their teams to conform to them. Asking women on the team to set up meetings and make reminder calls is common and goes unnoticed.

Men and women need to pay attention to these unconscious and stereotyped gender roles. And if you’re a man and you expect your female colleagues to follow you around and play your secretary, you need to get this behavior under control.

She is not your shishya (student).

Gurus in all religions generally tend to be male, and religious leaders in all religions also generally tend to be male. Since this is what we saw and absorbed growing up, both men and women tend to associate knowledge, abstract thinking, and visionary ideas with masculinity. This assumption is problematic in the workplace, and sometimes male co-workers unconsciously adopt the role of “guru” by instructing female bosses and co-workers on what to do and how to do their jobs. This undermines and demeans women’s experience and expertise.

Another consequence is that women’s ideas, especially when they are strategic, long-term and visionary (rather than operational and short-term) are overlooked or ignored, burying new ideas and initiatives. To counter this, women find themselves giving credit for their ideas to a male colleague, in the hope that he will be accepted. This prevents the free exchange of ideas and knowledge.

She is a fellow professional; treat it as such.

Male colleagues, at all levels of the organizational hierarchy, must strive to identify and verbalize latent biases, and to counter them. Listen, consciously, to yourself and others. And give credit where credit is due.

We form and reinforce associations between leadership, abstract thought, and masculinity through observations, which then become our expectations and beliefs about how the world is; even more dangerous, they can become our framework for how the world should be.

As society and the workforce change, these unconscious assumptions need to be challenged and changed. They have a pernicious effect on men and women at work, taking credit away from female employees and tying men into a corner, making them less effective leaders.

(The author is a professor in the field of entrepreneurship at IIM, Bangalore)

About Harold Hartman

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