A male business leader came to me.
He said, “I want your thoughts. I think I have a bias against women in the workplace.” He proceeded to tell me some challenges he had encountered with some female colleagues. I listened carefully.
Then I replied, “I don’t think you have a problem with women in the workplace. I think you have some challenges with people who want you to do work for work’s sake and that is a challenge for anyone because we need to find meaning in our work. We need to understand that we are a part of something bigger than the next item on our to do lists.”
We went on to discuss the bias that women face in the workplace. I shared some of the situations I had encountered or been witness to. One was a joke that someone made about pregnant women and their hormones.
He looked perplexed. He said, “But come on… women do have a lot of hormones during pregnancy and that HAS to affect them. I mean my own wife explained that what I see on the outside is only 10% of what’s going on inside.”
I jumped at this example, “Yes! You are exactly right!”
“As women we have to become very adept and emotionally agile to respond to what’s pouring through our bodies, while we are growing new life, which has a physical toll, and still handle the same challenges you face in the workplace.”
He said, “I mean, I guess I never thought about it that way before.”
As we continued to chat, I also discovered that he worked with all women. He only had a challenging relationship with three of them. I assured him that his willingness alone to have this conversation and care about the dignity of women in the workplace was a powerful statement.
Here is what I love so much about this. We can have hard conversations. We have to be open to new ways of thinking, and we have to be willing to own the bias that we have been presented with that formed us.
Show me a leader brave enough to say, “I think I might be struggling with this, tell me what I don’t know,” and I will show you a leader who has incredible potential.
Imagine how he might handle similar situations where he might coach others. He will be willing to gently care for their own learning curve just as he did his own.
I imagine a lot of the men who read my blog will read this and hope that they too can be brave enough to have this kind of a conversation. I invite you to the table. We need men who are curious about the stories women have. We need men strong enough to see us sitting with all the baggage we carry and not be afraid of it. We don’t need you to carry it, we simply need you to know it’s there, and that we’ve been working very hard to get the job done with it in tow. Welcome to the conversation. Even if you don’t have an issue with women in the workplace, you too might learn something new.