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Empathy During Traumatic Times, Male-to-Male Peer Pressure, and An Epic Tale of Breaking The Bro…

Empathy During Traumatic Times, Male-to-Male Peer Pressure, and An Epic Tale of Breaking The Bro Code

5 Ally Actions | Sept 28, 2018

in the shadows by Nicolas Alejandro via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and become a better ally.

1. Be empathetic, especially during traumatic times

On Sept 27, 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified before a US Congressional committee on sexual assault allegations. It was a tough day for many people as we witnessed how Dr. Ford was treated. It may have been traumatic for anyone who has been a victim or survivor of assault.

As Lara Hogan tweeted, “Managers/leaders: offer your teammates a day off, or whatever other support and space you can provide to them today. Find out what employee support resources are available to them at your company, too.”

Right on.

2. Speak up when you see harassment or dismissal of women

In Where Are the Male Allies in U.S. Politics, David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson observe there is a cycle of male silence that needs to be broken to create more inclusive workplaces. And they go on to pose a direct challenge. Find a “few good men” who will speak up, call out sexist or harassing behaviors, challenge norms, and become role models for change.

Such male-to-male peer pressure may just be the silver bullet we need in workplaces everywhere. And in the US Congress, too.

3. Point out when someone ignores a woman’s expertise

This story is epic and inspiring. Hilary J. Scarsella, an expert in trauma, theology, and religious practice, shared what happened to her at an airport after speaking at a conference. In a nutshell, she was sitting next to another speaker from the conference, and a man sitting across from them started a conversation. When he heard about the conference they’d spoken at, he engaged in a long dialog, debating her area of expertise.

And then the epic and inspiring thing happened. As the man stood up to catch his plane, the other speaker leaned over and said, “Dude, you missed an opportunity. You had an expert in theology and trauma sitting in front of you. You say you’re interested in these things but you didn’t ask her a single question. You didn’t try to learn anything at all from her. You know she has advanced degrees and is published but you just tried to show her that you know more about her work than she does. You missed out. Big fail, man.”

Wow. Was that a violation of some bro code? Maybe, but we don’t care. That speaker is our hero of the week.

The next time we see someone ignoring a woman’s expertise, we’re going to call BS. And lead with that same phrase: “Dude, you’re missing an opportunity…”

4. Don’t tell women to smile

Did you know that telling women to smile is a form of harassment? Doing so can objectify women by implying their emotions and appearance ought to be controlled. And that they exist for the pleasure of others.

Over here at Better Allies, we’re in awe of actor Brie Larson and her perfect response when she was told to smile. She posted photos of other Marvel (male) superheroes, all digitally edited to have big smiling grins. We think they look creepy. How about you?

5. Make sure all contributors are part of a team’s success story

As we read Making Tech Survivable: What Can Men Do? by Knut Melvaer, we found ourselves nodding vigorously with all 23 points. Most were familiar territory for us, but one caught our eye: “Help out documenting women’s work.”

Turns out that women are told to document their work to not lose credit. As software developer Patricia Aas wrote in Survival Tips for Women in Tech, “When you are ‘invisible’ at work, it is very easy to steal your work. When people are inclined to think you are less capable because of your gender, it is very easy for them to believe you didn’t do the work. People might ask you what you have actually done, because all your work is invisible, because it’s stolen. Protect yourself by making all your work in progress very public. Make an internal blog/wiki where you write about everything you make, do internal presentations, upstream all your patches…”

In support, Knut points out that we can help ensure women (and frankly, all contributors) are part of a team’s success story. For example, volunteer to take notes and make sure that their work is documented and credited where credit is due.

Here are more ideas for allies who want to make sure women aren’t written out of a project’s history:

  • Take a team photo and use it in presentations about your project.
  • Write an internal blog post acknowledging each person’s contributions.
  • Write recommendations on LinkedIn for team members, listing out their impact to the project.
  • Ensure the team knows what impact they had on the business, so they know how to brag about the project when writing their memoirs.

One last thing

We love getting email from our newsletter readers. This week, someone wrote, “I really appreciate your newsletter. It’s now part of our ally toolkit.”

Awesome. And we appreciate all of you who are out there becoming better allies, and creating more inclusive workplaces. Keep it up!

Becoming an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

Together, we can — and will — make a difference.