How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women, at Work and Home

BY Angelica Frey | December 13, 2020

Throughout the pandemic, women are the ones who’ve borne the brunt of the distress. The recent Women in the Workplace survey by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org found that one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce, largely because of the critical shortage of childcare. An alarming number have already left. In September, of the nearly 1.1 million workers who dropped out of the workforce, about 865,000 were women, while 216,000 were men, according to the National Women’s Law Center. We’re in the middle of a she-cession, a mass exodus of women from the workforce, with women of color particularly affected.

Women were already at a disadvantage at home and in the workplace, carrying most of the load as parents and enduring longstanding inequities on the job. Now that the situation has become an emergency, one of the pressing questions is whether women will be expected to solve these issues on their own. They shouldn't, according to the authors of the new book Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace, by professors David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson. They argue that men, who are often the most influential stakeholders in an organization, need to pitch in–now more than ever. “I think companies are wrestling with, How do we prevent losing two or three decades of progress on diversity and inclusion when it comes to gender? And that's a huge challenge,” said Johnson in a conversation with the co-authors moderated by Faye Penn, executive director of Speaking at From Day One’s recent conference on how employers can help working parents, the authors offered insights from their longtime research on gender equity:

No, It’s Not Just a “Women’s Thing”: “Too often we find that men hear words like women or diversity or equity, or inclusion about gender, and they immediately check out. They assume that's a women's thing: That's not for me, I don't really have a role in that. I don't have a voice. That’s not me. Men have been nowhere in sight,” said Johnson. “We want to flip the script. It’s not about women, this is about leadership–inclusion, equity, making people feel genuine, belonging–this should all be part of our leadership’s brand.” On that note, to some men, it’s quite an abstract concept. “Guys believe in gender equity, but most will say they’re not sure what their role is,” said Smith. “The guys who really do believe in it, they’re not doing as much as what they think they are.”

What About Your Household? Allyship does not end in the workplace. “We’re never gonna get to equity if it’s always women who have to step away from work during the pandemic,” said Johnson, noting that, when it comes to domestic duties that arise during work-from-home situations, women tend to do twice the work of their partner. (Single moms, of course, carry an even greater burden.) “As long as that’s the case, no matter how good we are at work, they’re always going to have this double shift,” he said. So, any man partnered with a woman should ask himself the following questions: Am I doing my share of the housework, of the child care, of everything that comes with that? Am I helping with the emotional labor of running a family? Am I planning the next event? Do I know my children's clothing sizes? These concerns tend to fall on women–and tend to go unacknowledged by men.

Role Modeling Works: At home, seeing their father being engaged in household and family-management chores gives a good example for both sons and daughters, the authors pointed out. Sons will learn that equally heavy lifting in the house is the norm. Daughters, by contrast, will grow up to expect the same from their own partners. At work, Smith said, men who want to be good allies of their female coworkers should talk about having to take one of the kids to the doctor, or having to leave a little earlier for a parent-teacher conference. In the good examples they’ve observed, “They talked about leaving loudly, they made it very visible when they were leaving and why they were leaving,” Smith said. “That’s to role-model for the junior men [at work].” This also means de-stigmatizing flex-work arrangements. “Most of us recognize that these are not women's programs anymore,” he said. “Not that they ever were before, it's just that women took advantage of them more often than men did.”

The Rules Have to Be Backed up by the Culture: If a company establishes equitable parenting policies for men and women, but fosters a culture that discourages fathers from taking advantage of them, the situation tends to prolong the inequity. Fear of being sidelined is strong, especially among men. While young fathers do want to lean in and be better partners at home, knowing that it’s better for a child’s development, they often face this kind of headwind, both from their supervisors and their peers. “If a guy takes two months [to take care of his new baby], men are like, Dude, why do you wanna be home with a baby? That’s something we have to overcome,” said Johnson.

Speaking on allyship in the workplace, clockwise from upper left: moderator Faye Penn of and authors David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson (Image by From Day One)

America Is Not Scandinavia, But We Should Do Better: It’s well known that other countries have better maternity- and paternity-leave policies than the U.S.–120 countries offer paid maternity leave. In the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees 12 weeks of leave after the birth of a child, but they’re not required to be paid and only 60% of workers are eligible. America’s laws tend to reflect its traditional views toward work and family. “The notion of what work is, and the nature of work–it's this very individualistic perspective that we have that, Hey, having children is your choice,” said Smith. “There’s no collectivist idea that children are a natural thing, that we should have children, and that it's healthy for our country and our families and our society to do that.”

Plus, there’s the conditioning of the American Dream: That if we work hard enough, then we can move up. As a corollary, taking time off is not a sign of hard work. It’s a notion that’s hard to shake off, even subconsciously. “I believe in the American Dream, too,” said Smith. “But I also believe that we have to support our families, because they're going to have children. And part of a healthy society is having that support network there.”

Angelica Frey is a writer and a translator based in Milan and Brooklyn.


Is Your Company Attractive to a Diverse Workforce?

Three out of four job seekers and employees consider a diverse workforce as an essential factor when evaluating companies and job offers, according to a 2020 Glassdoor survey. “Underrepresented candidates really care about the makeup of your organization and the actual numbers,” said Rena Nigam, founder and CEO of the AI-enabled hiring and talent intelligence platform Meytier, during a recent panel discussion at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Ideally, employers will be able to show candidates that there are people who look like them across all company levels. But what if they aren’t there yet?“If you’re still at the beginning of your journey, then be authentic,” Nigam told journalist Lydia Dishman, panel moderator. “Convey your intention on why you want to improve or why you have a lack of diversity.”Overcoming Biases When HiringTo create a diverse workforce, everyone involved in the hiring process needs education on how to recognize their own biases. Education can help “control some of those thoughts, and ensure that it doesn't allow you to make a decision based solely on those particular biases, but challenge it in the moment,” said DeShaun Wise Porter, global head of diversity and recognition at Hilton.Shenece Johns is the head of inclusion and diversity at JCPenney, which is exploring how to use AI to attract talent. She says this technology is so new that the company is still navigating how to infuse it into the recruiting and hiring process.“There could be bias when using AI, and we want to be mindful when we do decide to go full-steam ahead so that we don't inadvertently put our own unconscious bias into the system and discriminate,” she said. “We want to be intentional and methodical about how we approach it. We don’t want to screen out individuals based on their name, school, neighborhood, or other factors like that.”But companies can employ AI to expand opportunities rather than automate rejection, says Nigam.“We use an AI based ontology there to ensure that we discover things that people may not have stated,” she said. “We look beyond the obvious on people’s journeys.”Skills vs. Traditional MetricsHigher education is becoming more expensive, meaning many individuals can’t afford college. However, that doesn’t mean they lack skills, says Louis Chesney, neurodiversity program manager at RethinkCare.“Even if you were to walk into an interview with a master’s degree, they care less about how many years you were in that environment, and more about if you can do the job,” he said.Lydia Dishman of Fast Company moderated the discussion titled “Is Your Company Attractive to a Diverse Workforce?” during From Day One's recent virtual conference (photo by From Day One)Hilton has eliminated the four-year degree requirement for most of its positions in favor of looking strictly at the skill sets of potential employees, says Wise Porter.“It afforded us an opportunity to truly evaluate and determine what is honestly needed for a particular role,” she said.Monica Parodi, vice president of talent acquisition for The New York Times, said that as a federal contractor, the organization uses a structured, consistent, and inclusive interview process where the questions are all tied back to skills.“The training needs to be there for recruiters to make sure that anything that veers away from skills and might show bias in debriefs returns right back to the skills qualifications for the role,” she said.Leaning into Corporate ValuesMany companies have diversity and inclusion as one of their corporate values. However, those are just words on paper unless an organization truly embraces them.The golden rule, ‘treat others as you want to be treated’ is one of the core values at JCPenney. Johns says it’s a phrase everyone is familiar with, so it’s a good way to connect everyone in the organization as well as job candidates. “We lead with that and we lean into it,” she said.However, people can perceive values differently, which can cause bias, says Porter. She said it’s important to ask “appropriate behavioral-based interview questions to be able to get down to the crux of the matter for a consistent experience.”The best way for an organization to communicate its values is to demonstrate them, says Chesney. That’s why it’s essential to provide a detailed interview agenda to job prospects. “This could level the playing field by giving all candidates the same information and expectations. It’s also important to be transparent about the accommodations process, which can help candidates with different needs to perform their best in the interview,” he said.Connecting with Overlooked Candidate PoolsNigam defined overlooked candidate pools as “people who see constant rejection. They are people who always end up in the job black hole.” These individuals include immigrants, caregivers, veterans, and those with disabilities, she says.The New York Times is working on hiring practices across the board for anyone from historically marginalized groups, including people who are neurodivergent, says Parodi.For example, the organization is moving away from panel interviews. Those interviews were created to reduce biases but have also excluded some groups, says Parodi.Certain individuals might not perform as well during a panel interview because they may struggle with working memory or executive functioning, says Chesney. He said those struggles are amplified “when you’re getting rapid fire questions from multiple people.”One of the most overlooked talent pools are those with criminal backgrounds, says Johns. “We are doing some work in this space to help with giving them a second chance,” she said.Mary Pieper is a freelance reporter based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | November 30, 2023

How to Focus and Accelerate the Hiring Process for a Better Experience

Amy Onori, senior vice president of talent acquisition at Publicis Media, was frustrated with the traditional hiring process, which was typically slow, inefficient, and biased. She and her team wanted to try something new and she had some experience with live hiring, a novel on-the-spot approach to hiring talent. When Apex, a trading platform at Publicis Media, had several job openings, she felt it was the perfect opportunity for innovation.“At the end of the day, we did make executive decisions on which candidate was going to be receiving an offer. And in the event that we weren’t going to proceed with a candidate, they were messaged within 24 hours explaining that we would not be moving in the direction of an offer.”Onori spoke about this one-day, top talent hiring process with Saja Hindi, a reporter for The Denver Post during a fireside chat at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Sprinting to the Finish LineThe benefit of live hiring is that it’s transparent and fast, and lets candidates know right away if they’ve made the cut. The purpose is to streamline the hiring process and make it more efficient.For the event, Onori says that several weeks out they stopped actively recruiting and created several featured positions they were going to fill at the event. The recruiters generated leads on LinkedIn and through other channels, incorporating diversity and inclusion. The candidates were pre-vetted and prescreened, and highly experienced for the roles they would fill.“The day of, we would have a lot of hiring initiatives. Meaning they would get a new hire orientation with a debrief on Publicis Media, in addition to what Apex is. [They] would be greeted by our senior leadership and there would be a round robin style of interviewing. We would go over each question and each answer and decide, right then and there, who we are going to make an offer to,” Onori said.The hiring sprint was held towards the tail end of the pandemic, when the economy was still opening up and people were coming back to the office. This is something Onori wanted the candidates to know—that they were returning to the office.“It also really created an awesome buzz with the return to office initiative. This entire event was orchestrated in-person,” which excited people, Onori said.Amy Onori of Publicis Media was interviewed by Saja Hindi of the Denver Post during the virtual fireside chat (photo by From Day One)This live hiring event wasn’t Onori’s first experience with the format. In a previous role, she held a similar event for entry level roles. “All of our entry level talent was hired that way from that point forward. And I wanted to bring that idea and execute it for Publicis and Apex, and make sure that we are doing this for experienced talent.”To make sure their hiring process was diverse, they leveraged their third party efforts through partnerships that foster diverse talent, like veteran networks. “We made sure that a diverse roster of talent was being considered. And I do feel that we succeeded in that manner," Onori said.Despite being a relatively new and unknown approach, Onori says she didn’t have much difficulty convincing senior leadership. “They really listened to me, and they really understood this could solve a lot. And we could be more effective if we just do these things right now, versus talking about it and potentially doing it a few months from now.”To get people to sign on, Onori came with a powerpoint and a plan that showed how it would solve recruitment efficiency and preserve the candidate experience, the specifics around data rollout, and her anticipated results. The biggest hurdle, Onori says, was time.“They had to dedicate basically an entire day with their senior leadership to do this, and to partner with me and my team to make sure that we were doing it in the way that I knew it could be successful. A day in the life of someone in media is a huge thing. You have a lot of things going on all at once,” Onori said.Breaking the process down further, Onori explained that to keep it unbiased the resumes were blinded and they had multiple planning sessions with leaders to go over the sort of questions to ask to make sure, for example, they didn't hire in a biased way. Leadership was only given 48 hours to consider resumes beforehand, which gave them review time but not enough to develop a strong opinion on the candidates.Even if they didn’t get the job, Onori says they left  with feedback and experience. Those who were hired found out in less than a day.A Hiring Sprint For All IndustriesSprint hiring is not impromptu. It takes time and planning to pull off a successful event, but Onori believes it is repeatable anywhere.“It’s not something on the recruitment side that can be done within an hour or two,” Onori said. But she says it does make the hiring process fair and equitable. She added that it's not specific to media or advertising and can be applied in every industry.However, Onori says sprint hiring is better for more experienced roles and having “enough lead time to allow recruiters to source and screen the right candidates” is key.So, is it worth it to try something new with the hiring process? Though Onori says this round of hiring was a bit ambitious, trying to hire eight out of nine positions, she was pleased with the four they got.“I think a lot of people are afraid to do something different to disrupt the process,” Onori said. She recognizes that staying inside the tried and true process is easy and safe, but being bold has its advantages. “Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. So long as what you’re trying to do lines up with business and what they’re seeking to accomplish.”As far as hiring sprints disrupting the future of hiring, Onori has some additional advice. “Hiring managers should be really thinking long-term in terms of what they’re seeking, not just as a hire, but as a culture,” Onori said.“Whenever you’re looking to hire someone, think about who is adding something different to the mix, who is bringing value in a different way. The many people in my group do not think just like I do, or perform just like me. And that’s what makes us a really strong team. We’re different, our ideas are different, and we’re each adding something new to our collective vision.”Matthew Koheler is a freelance journalist and licensed real estate agent based in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in Greater Greater Washington, The Washington Post, The Southwester, and Walking Cinema, among others.

Matthew Koehler | November 29, 2023

Shifting Mindsets: Innovative Strategies for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Glenn Jackson joined M&T Bank 25 years ago thanks to a development program. He’s been their chief diversity officer for an impressive five years, long before many organizations had an inkling of that role. Over the years, he’s developed an intimate knowledge of the workings of the company. But more than that, he has the trust of everyone, which has been instrumental as he transitioned to his current role in the DEI space. “We move at the speed of trust,” Jackson said. “So that’s been a blessing for sure. You also come up through a space where you understand where the biggest challenges are.” Because the bank started early in this and had the trust factor built in, Jackson said they’ve made great progress. Weaving diversity into a company must be intentional, and even though it’s still a young concept, it’s here to stay. Jackson shared his experiences during a fireside chat at From Day One’s November Virtual: Fresh Approaches to Diversity Recruiting. Lizzy McLellan Ravitch, workplace reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer, moderated the chat. On average, diversity specialists have been in their roles for around 18 months, and many are new to the company they are serving, says Jackson. Which means the specialist and the company are still working through how to do what they need to do to incorporate diversity into the fabric of the organization. It’s no wonder that some are finding it challenging to help shift the hearts, minds and culture of companies. Can it really be done? And if changes are made, will they stick? “There’s always a fear that as you start to make progress, the commitments will start to dwindle over time,” he said.Lizzy McLellan Ravitch of the Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed Glenn Jackson of M&T Bank in the virtual fireside chat session (photo by From Day One)Recently, among peers, someone asked, are you worried about people disinvesting in the work? “Probably about half the room raised their hand and said they were concerned.” Unfortunately, some businesses are making staff cuts and often less traditional roles like diversity can be in danger of not showing value. But since Jackson has been in his role for longer than most, he actually feels hopeful. And thankfully so did about a third of the peers who reported they were actually doubling down. “There’s an acceleration toward more challenging issues,” Jackson said. “The organization has built it in a way that is embedded in the DNA of the culture rather than built as a vertical, which, frankly, can’t possibly fundamentally change and shift the culture of an organization.”That’s the key, isn’t it? Not to build diversity as a side gig, but as an integral part of how the company operates. Of course, it’s challenging to change mindsets and shift from traditional ways of doing things. First, you have to pay attention. Second, you have to think outside the box.Jackson offered an example as to how they’re building DEI into the DNA. One of the most encouraging things M&T Bank is doing is partnering with CareerWise to offer an apprenticeship program. “It feels like a game changer for us,” Jackson said. The curriculum is for recent graduates who aren’t going to attend a university, but want a good career in banking. The program meets them where the students are, introduces them to the education they need, and combines it with the job training that will eventually lead to a good-paying job. “What I love about this is that you’re going right to the space that you belong,” Jackson said. The company is showing talent that it cares, and through the program they can build trust. Plus the employees coming in through nontraditional means can then become integral parts of the organization. Instead of relying on traditional methods, they went right to the source. Companies will continue to hire employees in the traditional way, but even those methods should be challenged and interrupted. This can be done, even at big organizations where there are typically many openings to fill. What hiring managers need to do is look at their biases. Most people don’t have ill intent in these roles, but unfortunately it’s natural to hire people who look like you or have experiences like yours, says Jackson.“But oftentimes, if you just rely on that pattern, you’re going to get the same results,” he said. Diversity is gone, and a narrow perspective prevails, which doesn’t help business or customers. Rather than rely on your initial instincts, Jackson says, broaden your perspective. Create interrupters that allow people who have different experiences to show what they can do. If you’re not sure how to go about doing that, Jackson has some advice. “You likely already have people in the ranks right now that did not come through a traditional sense that are high performers in your organization. Go talk to them,” he said. “Then it becomes a value discussion.”Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | November 28, 2023