Don’t be a dick…

March 7, 2019

Ahead of International Women’s Day, I have written a few thoughts about what men might consider doing to make a positive contribution to the ambition of the movement. In 800 words I am not promising nuanced insightfulness, more the bleeding obvious, and I am sorry if  my brevity looks patronising.

This is what I think we can do in the next ten minutes, ten weeks, ten months and ten years.

In the next ten minutes:

Let’s not be a dick. It is a modest request, but it would be a contribution, nonetheless. If we managed not to be a dick for the next ten minutes, the world would be a better place. Better still if we could commit not to be a dick on a rolling basis. That might be a stretch from a standing start, but no harm in the ambition.

In the next ten weeks: 

If we are in leadership roles, let’s commit to meet every member of our teams and just listen. There should be no agenda other than to just listen. A respectful space that will not be crowded out by the noise of the moment, or an urge to explain. These meetings must not be postponed, shortened or forgotten. Our challenge is to truly listen without comment, judgement or defensiveness, keeping our eyebrows level and not looking at our phones. Having listened, we must then reflect on all we have heard, and then share the ideas in such a way that it is obvious we have been listening to everyone and that everyone’s opinions have mattered.

In the next ten months:

Let’s change some things. There probably won’t be a budget or the resources for a sweeping grand gesture. We know that the sweeping grand gesture is what some men default to in the absence of competency.  So, no grand gestures, with rising violin backing tracks and multi-channel hashtag, viral jazz hands. Instead, we need to encourage behavioural change that rebalances the workplace for all to thrive.

We must become role models for taking proper holiday breaks, for leaving on time, for not sending emails late in the evening, for celebrating family moments and for being a carer for our children and our parents. We must become role models for respectful listening and for encouraging colleagues to put their families first. We must become role models for valuing the difference people make and not how long their jackets remain on the backs of chairs.

At the same time, we can undertake practical, pragmatic reviews of recruitment, reward and performance assessment processes. We must be open to the likely inevitability of some embedded bias and therefore we must make decisions about change that are evidence-based, not inspired by a hunch or which we think makes us look good.

We also under-utilise team meetings. Let’s have team meetings that discuss the perspectives of minorities and traditionally disadvantaged groups. Let’s learn to listen. Let’s be open to the possibility that good people (including us) can still be blind to the prejudice others endure and the disadvantage they experience because it is not our experience. Let’s work harder to help build supportive personal networks for our colleagues, for mentoring to be available for everyone and for out of office socialising with colleagues or suppliers to be respectful of all sensibilities.

Finally we should also consider reaching out to our communities to hear the impact of our businesses on families. What do the family members think of the workplace where their mums and dads, and spouses and partners are working? And of course, we must listen.

In the next ten years: 

We go to work to make a difference, to be part of something, to feel valued, to have some fun, to develop, but above all we go to work to make a difference to the people we love. Can we therefore create the environments where everyone can thrive?

No one goes to work to be rubbish, to spoil things, to be ineffective, to hate the minutes of the seemingly endless hours trapped by the relentless ping of an arriving email. No one goes to work to be discriminated against, to be bullied, harassed or diminished. Do not let it happen on your watch.

Let us be the people who can look back and know we have changed our bit of the world for the better; that we called out the small and apparently inconsequential moments of misogyny; that we advocated explicitly and persistently for fairness and that we lived our values for all to see.

When we leave our roles, our greatest legacy will be that our colleagues knew we cared, that we acted, and that we made it better. And if ten years feels like it is too much to comprehend, we can all make a start by adopting the rolling ten-minute challenge, and we probably won’t go far wrong.

Take care



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