I recently had the opportunity to address a room filled with male business professionals in the tech industry. Typically, my audience consists of women; women striving to navigate their professional path, overcoming roadblocks and find their footing in a male-dominated industry.
Presenting to All Men versus All Women
So it was a unique experience to prepare for and present to the very men who hold the reins in most STEM-driven fields. What was important to them differed greatly to the women I usually address. Their concerns, if they have any, are more top and bottom line-driven rather than learning how to relate to and be taken seriously by the opposite sex.
My presentation, How Leaders Can Transform for Success, examined the value of confidence, the difference between managing and leading, and aligning yourself with your ultimate goals. I talked about the importance of having and being a mentor. This is a topic especially important for men to understand as they have the ability to help the women in their organization rise within the structure of their company.
After the presentation, attendees were asked to rate the presentation and provide comments. The comments fell into three categories and as I read them and appreciated their candor, it occurred to me that I had in my hands, the current state of our movement towards a more gender-equal workplace.
Three Categories of Man’s Understanding
- I get it. I believe it. I’m personally working on it.
- I get it. I understand it. I’m not sure how to proceed.
- This information is not applicable to me.
Talk about a range of attitudes.
Those that “get it” said things like:
Many men have been unable to come to terms with how to approach things (#metoo movement) today and having it brought to the forefront and discussed by women was illuminating and engaging. Very important for this male-dominated industry.
Many thought the information was of value to them on a personal level:
An amazing and topical presentation. Tons of take aways. Very motivational and will make a difference in my day to day.
Those that understood but weren’t sure how to proceed were open and honest:
I’ve got some work to do on becoming more of a leader than a boss.
I need to work on being a better leader
And then there were those who said…
Just didn’t do it for me.
Where to Focus Our Attention
They say that if you believe the good comments you must also believe the not as positive. In fact, there are some scoring systems that discount the top and bottom numbers and just average the middle. So if we do that, we must focus on those that hear the message and just need guidance on how to proceed.
Here is the great news – it is this place in which we find both men and women. Women also feel like they understand so much about business and yet are unclear how to make a difference.
Focus on the Willing
As you examine those in management within your organization, regardless of gender, look for those who are willing to learn. Those who are willing to:
- Learn new things
- Examine procedures and be willing to change them
- Help each other
- Think about problems from other’s perspectives
- Value the difference we all bring to the table
- Learn more about how other’s experiences can benefit the company
- Reach out and help those interested in advancement
It is this category of employees who want to change and just need guidance. Consider training programs, book club discussions, sack lunch gatherings where concerns, fears and lack of direction can be addressed and guided.
Rather than spend time trying to convince those who still believe that gender equality in the workplace isn’t applicable to them, concentrate on those (men and women) who are willing to embrace change to make a difference.
- Understanding Gender Bias in the Workplace
- We Need a Few Good Men to Combat Gender Bias
- Removing Gender Bias from the Interview Process
JJ DiGeronimo — the president of Tech Savvy Women — is a speaker, author, and thought leader for women in tech and girls and STEM. Through her work, JJ empowers professional women and consults with senior executives on strategies to retain and attract women in technology to increase thought and leadership diversity within organizations.
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