Friday, January 18, 2013
NANCY & DENNIS: WOMEN IN CHARGE - A CHANGING WORKPLACE
I like to refer to men – regardless of age – who are supportive of women in the workplace as “guys.” Some of the things the guys do:
· Feel women are better managers; women, they say, are inclusive and collaborative, not dictatorial and secretive like men
· Prefer to work with and for women; when we have a job posting reporting to a man, it gets few if any applicants; post a job in a woman-run department and there's no shortage of applicants – especially from men!
· Do not feel resentment when women are promoted, are given “better” assignments, or have women-only events or group meetings
· Since they've been raised in an era of affirmative action, they see a need for society to atone for patriarchy by taking positive steps to provide women opportunities to advance
· Do not see opportunities for women as hurting their own careers
· Express admiration for their female managers and colleagues and see them as role models
But there's more! Guys recognize that the position of men has changed. Men no longer have a lock on the technical skills they once had and they certainly don't have the good-old-boy-network stacking the deck for them. They're feeling just a little vulnerable, so they're looking for ways to show they support us – Oh, don't you LOVE a vulnerable man? We're seeing real role reversals and power exchanges! Guys have combined the chivalry, to which all women are entitled, with a respect for our authority.
They're doing so many things that say they really respect us:
· They're polite
· They're obedient
· They know when to shut up – very important!
· They recognize our authority; we're hearing “yes, ma'am” a lot around our office these days!
· They value our opinions and ask for them whether we are involved in their particular project or not
· They gravitate to assertive and demanding women; I'm an alpha female – yes, call me a bitch – and I never have a shortage of guys who want to work for me. It seems that the more demanding I am with them, the more they like it. Men LOVE strong women!
· They recognize the need for all-female events and groups and help with these meetings even though they don't participate. They order and serve lunch, run errands, make copies, and so on.
· They cover the phones, particularly when there is a woman-only meeting or lunch
· They participate in many feminist activities and charitable efforts started by women. The guys recognize that having “Feminist credentials” is important, and many of them volunteer one night a week to work on Feminist activities. We women have any number of organizations and activities to which guys can be sent; they just have to ask, and most do!
· They mentor women and share knowledge
· They step up to help women on projects and in new endeavors
· They share project success with women
And then there are the personal niceties the guys do:
· Always offer to help with filing, copying, and other administrative tasks
· Run errands for women over lunch, picking up dry cleaning, fueling cars
· Defer to female staff, regardless of her level – “defer” is a nice corporate word for “obey”! I love obedient men!
· Make and serve coffee and keep the kitchenette clean and in order. My husband will tell you that making and serving coffee are becoming important skills for men in the workplace. Women have served coffee for centuries; why not men?
And it doesn't stop there. When the guys come into my office, they do so with a real reverence and a “Good morning, Ma'am!” They're almost bowing down to me, treating me like a Goddess; they don't do that with the male managers. In a meeting they listen to every word I say, they write it down’ and if they don't understand, it's, “Excuse me, Ma'am, will you please repeat that?” For me it's like being at home. Men who listen! Men who obey! I love men who obey! Sometimes I'll call for one of my guys and just give him some trivial thing to do, and he'll run off and do it; he'll come back and thank me for having him do it! Both of us feel good! I do the same with my husband; same result. Both of us feel good and our positions are reinforced in the process.
Not only do the guys accept a subordinate role in the workplace, but also in their personal lives. So many of our guys are obviously in some type of Female-led relationship. I hear them saying that they have to ask their wife for permission for some activity or trip. And so many of them talk about housekeeping problems, or how to scrub the kitchen, or about their wife going out that evening with her friends. It's nice to see a real change taking place; real role reversal! One of our guys was hesitant when I asked him to take an out-of-town trip; he was embarrassed to say that he needed to ask his wife's permission. “No need to be embarrassed,” I reassured him, “my husband has to ask permission, too.” He was relieved by my comment and that evening received his wife's OK. I keep his situation in mind before asking him to travel and always have him ask his wife's permission.
We've had some success integrating reluctant men into female-led and -staffed work groups, but some men have been difficult. We have had issues with men being less than compliant when given orders by a female supervisor; two have refused to work for a woman and are no longer in our company. It's unfortunate that many of the men have such attitudes. And it's unfortunate that some can't accept that the workforce is being feminized. Patriarchy dies hard.