What does it mean to be a “good guy” in 2021? As gender norms continue to be dismantled in popular culture, the household, the workplace, and society at large, men are faced with higher expectations around allyship. This episode, originally recorded as a DEI Community Call, is all about that idea of modern male allyship. Josh Stewart (Vice President and Director of Talent Programs & Accessibility at PNC) moderates a lively discussion between Brad Johnson (Professor of Psychology at the US Naval Academy & Faculty Associate at John Hopkins University) and David G. Smith (Associate Professor of Sociology at the US Naval War College). They discuss their recent book, “Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace,” and what men can do today to make a more equitable tomorrow.
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
Brad: In the work that Dave and I have done in the research and asking women in particular, what does it look like for you when guys actually show up in behavioral terms in a real meaningful way in the workplace? What does that look like? And sort of the key elements of what we take away from the answers that we get are that this is collaborative. This is co-conspiratorship. This has men coming alongside and not rescuing. It is not guys to the rescue. I think too often, when men hear the term allyship, that’s the first assumption I make. I’m going to throw on my Cape and head to the workplace. Women say, “No, no. It’s coming alongside. It’s being a genuine collaborator, not making assumptions about what would be most helpful that actually asking me.”
Speaker 2: Everyone has a diversity story. Even those you don’t expect. Welcome to The Will to Change with Jennifer Brown. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, bestselling authors and entrepreneurs, as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion. And now here’s your host, Jennifer Brown.
Doug Foresta: Hello, and welcome back to The Will to Change, this is Doug Foresta, of course, I’m here with Jennifer Brown. And today, this episode that you’ll hear is actually a DEI community call that was recorded originally on 2-18-21. It was moderated by Josh Stewart the vice president and director of talent programs and accessibility at PNC with two people that there are no strangers to the program. We actually just recently have on the program, Brad Johnson, professor of psychology at the US Naval Academy and faculty associate at John Hopkins University and David Smith associate professor of sociology at the US Naval War College, as they discuss their recent book, Good guys, How Men can be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace.
Doug Foresta: And so Jennifer, my question to you to start this off is here we are the day it’s Women’s History Month and then yesterday was International Women’s Day. Correct?
Jennifer Brown: Yes.
Doug Foresta: And here we are talking about, man, what are we doing?
Jennifer Brown: Well, we need more men like you, Doug. We got to see it to be it, as we say all the time. Yeah, I mean, to me, gosh, so much of the equation is really both sides of the equation, figuring out how to cooperate on the advancement of women. Right? It’s just something that I think is not discussed enough. And I always as you know, wants to bring voices on that have something to teach and role model in the way that Brad and Dave do and Josh too. Role model, what this looks like in practice.
Jennifer Brown: And literally Brad and Dave had been studying this and researching male allyship and gender equity as it can be supported and championed by men in several books. And so they’re really deep on the work and they’re just such beautiful humans too. So when they came out with this new book, Good Guys which is fascinating interesting title, because what it makes me think of is, “Oh, like I’m one of the good guys.” Right? As a way to kind of get off the hook, Doug. We was talking about, “Oh, I’m well-intended” or “I’m one of the good ones. I’m not the problem.” But-
Doug Foresta: We’ve heard a lot of that. Sure.
Jennifer Brown: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So the title is, I love it because it’s the twist on that, which is actually truly good. What would good guys look like on this topic and how men can be better allies for women in the workplace. And we really, honestly, I think it’s perfect for International Women’s Month thinking about what are these partnerships? What can these partnerships do for us in our efforts to navigate through the gauntlet of bias, both conscious and unconscious, microaggressions, systemic inequities. Right? Which are sometimes easy to see, but a lot of times pernicious in a way that they are hidden and woven into every single people process and organizations. It’s difficult to navigate that alone.
Jennifer Brown: And so the participation of our partners, and this is true for all kinds of allies and advocates because we honestly can’t change really complex systems as a single group of people, it’s difficult to just do it ourselves. We can be brilliant at it, but I think that partnership is really critical and it fatigues us less. It holds us up and sustains us when we’re tired and it seals in the blanks and gives us a chance to be advocated for and alongside if we can figure out how to marshal the allies in our world and the people that are in our corner. It enables their own growth as well in the process. Right? That’s what we hope anyway. But as he encouraged this kind of behavior, as we ask for that support, as we really recognize also that support and what it enables that is a signal to people that they should do more of it. They should, “Oh, I can do more of this. Oh, I can lean into this. Oh, it’s okay for me to say this.”
Jennifer Brown: And there’s just so much uncertainty amongst what I call aspiring allies because whenever an ally unless somebody in an effected community calls us an ally, as we know, but the aspiring allies that are so eager to do more right now, don’t know what more looks like. And also have some gauntlet that they have to walk to figure out how do I do this in a strategic way that will be heard? And that will have the desired impact versus just me being an enthusiastic, but untrained ally. Right? Which can actually also cause a little bit more harm.
Jennifer Brown: So when you meet Brad and the Brads and the Davids of the world who are very rare, there aren’t many, but they they’re steep on this. And they’ve thought about their language really carefully. They’ve thought about respect really deeply. And they are intimately connected also with the younger generations, given that their professors, which is fascinating too. So it’s not an accident that they’re at the same time of a certain generation, frankly, my generation and looking at this in, through that lens, which is one could say not old-school, but it’s particular to our generation. Right? And the challenges that we faced and men in our generation face and women in that generation phase.
Jennifer Brown: But I love that they’re also kind of steeped in the world of young people because all of this is being challenged and or embraced or perhaps our younger counterparts believe this has all been taken care of Doug. I don’t know. Rude awakening for them. They’re warmhearted. They are the good guys in my definition of good. they’re excellent guys, honestly the two of them. But the fact that they used to anyway and now virtually travel the world, speaking to men about what this looks like, what it sounds like in calling people to action and role modeling that is, we just need more of that.
Jennifer Brown: And Josh is a good friend and at PNC Bank actually listened for Josh’s experience too, on this community call of literally running men as allies training program within PNC Bank, which is really interesting. So he worked with Brad and David on that. And so there are these efforts that are ongoing in different companies, but they’re a little bit underground. It’s hard to Google it and read about it for example. But I know some companies who have these groups that are forming storming, norming, they’re going through their own maturity process, trying to figure out who they are who are they for and about what do they need to learn? All that, wrestling through all of that.
Jennifer Brown: And it’s tricky because some people like you opened up this conversation, Doug, some people will say, “Well, why do men need space to have this conversation when space is everywhere for them?”
Doug Foresta: Right. You’d say the whole world is men’s space. Right?
Jennifer Brown: And yes, point taken. Yes, they are relatively the most comfortable and the most safe individuals in our world.
Doug Foresta: But not to have this conversation necessarily. Right? It could be safe for me to be a man, but I can only have certain conversations.
Jennifer Brown: Right. And that hearkens back to the man box. Right? Where we had Mark Green on talking about that. And earlier podcasts, we’ve explored like the better man podcast. We’ve explored masculinity. We’ve explored the constraints and the rules of the man box. Meaning if you step out of that and call someone out, or if you invite someone to receive some constructive feedback about a microaggression, there are all kinds of risks inherent in that conversation of breaking the code, so to speak. So it’s kind of, it is Doug, I think requires bravery and courage. And yet it really works. I’ve seen it work so incredibly well in a way that I could never be the messenger in the same way that Josh, Brad and David are. I could talk for hours and try to be as compelling as possible and persuasive and stern.
Jennifer Brown: And I don’t know all the tricks in my bag, but there is nothing like seeing a physical manifestation and hearing a man and have it this so comfortably and so authentically. And there is just this way that we learn from people that look like us that is profound. We hear them in a different way. We can envision ourselves in them. And I believe we can get there faster as learners when those circumstances are present. And so I’ve seen it at all in the betterment conferences I’ve been at, which have been so incredible to just witness it, honestly, as a woman it’s breathtaking because it’s so rare.
Jennifer Brown: And I know that the conversation is requiring of people to really step into discomfort. And that alone is commendable for any of us as humans. We can say all we want about the world being somebody’s safe space, but we all have our challenges and we all have the need for growth. And we particularly, as women need men to grow and be better, do more, be more targeted, be more proactive, make more time for this kind of learning practice, get it wrong, come back and try it again. All of that, it does need space holding because they are learners on this path, just like we are all learners.
Jennifer Brown: So anyway, I don’t like dismissive language as you know, Doug. And I think this is a really timely re-air for this March, 2021. So everybody, please pick up a copy of Good Guys, please consider if you work in an organization, that’s not having the conversation about men as allies, amongst men, it may be something you want to think about. And I do know that this entire group of speakers would welcome outreach from anybody that’s listening to this, to have their brains picked up about how to set it up and where to start and what’s what curriculum should we focus on and who gets involved and what should we target and all that stuff.
Jennifer Brown: I would just encourage everybody to look at this as literally a trend that I am saying today. This will be part of our DEI strategies in the future. It’s just very slow going, too slow for my taste, but these kinds of groups and efforts will become much more widespread. So let’s get ahead of the curve because I consider will to change a progressive and cutting edge conversation. Please investigate these concepts. Please reach out to these folks and please think about what’s possible in your own world in terms of in gendering these conversations, if I can use that word and encouraging allyship amongst men. So enjoy the episode.
Josh: All right. My friends, well, let’s just jump right in so much to cover. I think it was Dave that said you have that many questions on how much time do we have again? So it’s going to be rapid fire. We’re going to do this and get through a lot of content as much as we can, let’s start with intro. So you heard the basics, right? And so Brad and Dave asked you to just give us just a bit more particularly in the lens of like, how do you get to this conversation of all the things that you were focusing on as you were kind of building your professional roles, how did you end up in a conversation or an allyship specifically male allyship. And then if you can call out for me, who was just one person, one major influence, whether it’s today, you’re thinking about this person’s day, but a woman who you look up to who you really inspires your work or you hold kind of at the center.
Josh: And I would ask the same of the people in chat. So as you’re listening to Dave and Brad share with us that person, and don’t leave it in the chat. Right? Go and back and share this with this person and say how much this person means to you and how much of an influence they are in shaping your lens around gender. But with that, Dave, Brad, whoever wants to go first.
Dave: Brad, go ahead.
Brad: Okay. But I’m going to jump in. So yeah. Yeah. So how did we get here? I have spent my entire career Josh researching and writing about what excellent, mentoring and sponsoring looks like. And I have always been aware of this troubling data consistently showing women don’t get the same quality of mentoring very often. They don’t get sponsored loudly right in the way that men do. And part of the issue is that men don’t lean in. Men often avoid talented junior women because of their own anxieties or concerns or a sense that they’re not sure how to do this or how to even make the ask or the offer for that kind of workplace collaboration.
Brad: And then I think it was David Smith, my colleague coming along, who was this new sociologist who was all about in his research, gender work and family and the intersection of those things. And it was our conversations together that really sort of, I think in some ways gave me permission to just pivot all of my focus to the gender issue in mentoring and sponsoring. And it was in some ways really a delightful change for me to really focus in on something that mattered personally. And that led to our first batch of research for theorizing how men can be better mentors for women. So that’s how it began. I think I was always ready to focus, but I needed a colleague, an ally to come along and collaborate with me.
Brad: And then the woman for me is my sister, my sister, Shannon is a Naval officer. I got my start in the Navy as well. I was only active duty for four years. Shannon has been in for 25 years and she is just an absolute amazing leader in the Navy. And I watch her headwinds related to her gender every single day. And it is that comparison in that awareness of what my sister encounters daily that I never have in the Navy that I think builds and just kind of Stokes my motivation personally. I admire her so much, but when we talk, I hear her say, “Hey two more guys this week told me I should smile more.” For example. And it’s a weekly reminder about how women encounter the workplace differently than I do. She’s the one, I think that is my personal motivation here. Dave.
Josh: And how does Shannon feel about the work that you’re doing now? What does she tell you about it?
Brad: Oh, I think Shannon celebrates it. I think she genuinely loves it. And the other part of that is it allows she and I as brother and sister, to have these conversations that I think are wonderful for both of us. I learn about things I’m missing when she shares with me very transparently what her experiences have been. I learned where I’m getting it wrong and what I need to work on. but it also is interesting and helpful for my sister. Right?
Brad: So quick story, she was in a race among all the folks in her executive leadership team, not too long ago, Shannon won. So she finishes first in this 10K. All the guys are behind her and then they’re all coming up saying, “Hey, Shannon, good job. But yeah, my Achilles.” They all felt bad that they got beat by a woman. And Shannon told me, “I feel guilty. I shouldn’t have run so fast.” And so she and I were able to have this great conversation. “Shannon, do you hear yourself? A guy would never say that, where does this come from? Why do you feel that you need to mute your talent?” And so I think she benefits from those conversations and I benefit it just in terms of learning more about women in the workplace.
Josh: Thanks for sharing that, Brad. All right, Dave.
Dave: Wow. I have to follow that, huh? Okay. Yeah. So you heard a little bit about the how Brad and I got connected in doing this and I’ll come back to that, but I wanted to back up just a little bit about with my story. And like Brad, I think the personal connection to doing allyship, whether you understand it as allyship, you can actually name it as allyship or not. And I would say that across much of my life and my career that I didn’t know what that meant. When it wasn’t a term that we even used or I’d ever heard of, I think, but I think because like Brad and similar to him where he was watching and listening and understanding his sister’s experiences in relation to his, for me, it was my wife and my wife and I were both graduates of the Naval Academy the same year.
Dave: So we had parallel Naval careers and like Brad, I watched her experiences and the struggles that she had that were so different than mine. Not that we don’t all struggle in different ways, but hers were in ways that I would have never experienced, I still have it, but it was helpful in opening my eyes to understanding because we would have these conversations about this and being able to go back into my organization and look for that. Right? Now that I’ve had my eyes open and I have an awareness of it, I can start to look for it and see it. And I think that’s so important around allyship because in many cases, for especially people who are more majority status is out there, that we just don’t see, the problem is as well. We don’t understand it.
Dave: So it was really helpful for me to see that and then to be able to affect change in that way. The other person I would just like to call out really important. I think in the woman important in my doing this work and this research is my mentor, who I met in grad school and was my dissertation advisor, Dr. Maddy Siegel. And Mandy challenged me in this. In many ways I felt like, again, not knowing the term ally, but I felt like, I would say, part of the solution back then. And in many ways she would open my eyes and challenged me to be better and to understand how in many ways I was still part of the problem.
Dave: And I think that that challenging me to do that I think was really helpful and pushing me forward and doing the research that I often do around gender work and family in particular. And then I think finally I would just share that the books that Brad and I have written would have never happened if he had not looked at me and said, “Hey, we can write we can write about this in a way that’s more not in a, again, nothing wrong with writing an academic journals that sit on the shelf and collect a lot of dust, but we can write it in a way that people are actually going to read it. It can be a message and this could be a cause that we’re working toward as opposed to, again, just part of who we are as academics.”
Dave: And I think that I think that’s been one of the inspirational parts of the work that we do as friends and colleagues, is that in many ways we don’t consider our work because it’s part of who we are and what we do. And I think that again, that’s why we’re, so again, inspired by being here with people like you, Josh, to see people actually out there doing the work every day and with an audience like this with people, I see all the great comments in the chat that are people that are doing this so great to be here with you.
Josh: Jennifer warned us, the chat is furious. I love it. And so keep it coming. That’s a amazing. So let’s just jump right in. And so, I’ll follow up with just a quick introduction. So at PNC, I lead part of the talent organization that focuses on our early career talent diversity recruiting in particular, our work around accessibility firm-wide. And then in addition this the program that we offer around men as allies that’s has been implemented for a number of years now. So I’ll work through this conversation to bring in some of that experience as well, but I love Brad and Dave for you to share just kind of some of the basics first if you’ve read Jennifer Brown’s book. If you participated in the forums, ally track, I see that coming up.
Josh: There’s lots of content around allyship and what it means. And so my question is like, if you had to just boil it down to what is allyship that’s part one of the questions. So we’ll kind of use two things together. The second thing would be there’s a lot of not criticism, but dialogue around whether where as an ally do you show up. Right? So if you just show up to a speaker’s event around gender, is that allyship? If you pull someone aside and have a quiet conversation with how they show up, that’s not so public, but is that allyship? Does it always have to be public? Can it happen in private? And is there value on all sides of the scale? And is performative allyship a thing? That’s really big, big question, but it all kind of bundles together.
Brad: Yeah. I hope we have a couple hours here, John. Yeah. So, so Dave, what if I jump in with this quick definition and you follow on with how guys show up. I think it is important operationally define what we’re talking about, Josh. And so in the work that Dave and I have done in the research and asking women in particular, what does it look like for you when guys actually show up in behavioral terms in a real meaningful way in the workplace? What does that look like? And sort of the key elements of what we take away from the answers that we get are that this is collaborative. This is co-conspiratorship. This is men coming alongside and not rescuing. It is not guys to the rescue. I think too, too often, when men hear the term allyship, that’s the first assumption they make.
Brad: I’m going to throw on my Cape and, and head to the workplace. Women say, “No, no. It’s coming alongside as being a genuine collaborator, not making assumptions about what would be most helpful but actually asking me.” And then kind of two big categories that we see. One are the relational things. So how do I show up in her personally as a friend, as a colleague, as a generous listener, as someone who doesn’t make assumptions, as someone who passes the friend test every day meeting, you’re only going to hear about things I say about you behind your back that are positive and supportive. As somebody who’s willing to mentor and sponsor and advocate.
Brad: The other big piece is the public. Right? And you mentioned that Josh, how do I show up as a disruptor? How do I beef up my situational awareness? See the dynamics in real time are related to bias and sexism, and then have the wherewithal to actually say something and do something in the moment. And the last piece of that I think is a systemic. Right? And boy, in this moment of the pandemic, never has that been more important where men as allies are willing to point out policies and systems that are not working for our colleagues and in this case women. There are so many things that are not working. That’s why we’ve lost millions of women from the workforce just during the pandemic.
Brad: So those are the big categories. But Dave, how does a guy qualifies as an ally? That’s another important piece.
Dave: Yeah. And that’s a great question. And I think one of the ways in particular as Jennifer talks about it and we do too in the book that allyship is really a journey and we’re all in kind of different places with this. How do we do allyship? How do we show up as an ally? Right? Can take a lot of different forms and there’s no one recipe for that. I think again, we’re all learning along the way. And I think specifically Brad and I would tell you that we were learning as we were going through the book. We learned so much from the people that we talked to. The men and women that we interviewed. And, again, sharing that I think is really an important piece of this learning process, developing understanding and awareness, so that we can go back and think about how we can be a better ally for people in our workplace.
Dave: But this understanding that it is a journey and that we’re going to make mistakes along the way, I think is critical to moving forward. And understanding that, hey, how do you show up each day? Well, and oh, by the way, it’s not that just because you did one act of allyship today that, “Okay, well, I’m an ally I’m done.” Sorry. No. Your clock resets automatically. Right and then. And the other thing is, I think the performative piece in particular, I think is a great question because we do see examples of that out there. And guys just wanting to kind of sling on their ally Cape and they do it in opportune moments when certain people are watching that they’re influential for them. And then they go right back to whatever it is they were doing before.
Dave: And I think everybody sees right through that. And again, that’s not what we’re talking about here. No, this is a way of leading and living and being. Right? As you think about your everyday life. And I would just like to leave this with one last thought about the living piece that holistically around allyship that you don’t get to just be an ally and slinging on your ally Cape at work. And allyship is 24/7. And that means so when you go home and we heard this over and over again from the women that we talked to that, “Hey, you got to be an ally at home.” And that in many ways can be way harder for particularly men who are partnered with women. It can be way harder for them, because again, there’s a lot of socialization, there’s a lot of norms.
Dave: And again, these are very heteronormative aspects of this, but norms that they’re fighting against social norms and things that decades and centuries of this, that they’re fighting against. And many of the guys say it’s harder for them to be better allies at home and being an all in equal partner in sharing and division of household responsibilities. Sharing equally and childcare, sharing and homeschooling right now during a pandemic. Right?
Dave: And then going back and taking that into the workplace. Right? Because women will see right through that. And, oh, by the way, men and other again, anyone in the workplace, you’re going to see right through that, if you go in and sling on your ally cape, and like you’re an ally at work, but then you’re clearly not doing your spare share when it comes to the running of the household and childcare and caregiving broadly at home. People see right through that.
Dave: And again, you’re just a fraud and it feels very performative in that way, because it’s not a holistic part of who you are. You can’t just put on your cape, take off your ally cape, and you’re an ally. So I think, again, men have to be very thoughtful about how they’re again doing that at home, and they’re being open about it when they’re at work, because the caregiving piece, I think, is a really critical part of this.
Brad: And Josh, can I also just add, don’t call yourself an ally, please. This is so important. I’m never going to self identify as an ally. I’m going to leave that to the women and others that I really aspire to be better with at work. And remember when one woman calls me an ally, I’m not an ally to all women. I haven’t passed some kind of licensure for allyship. It just means that that one woman appreciate some of the work that I’ve done, and I still need to keep doing it.
Josh: Brad, you took the words out of my mouth. We, Jennifer and I were having this conversation a couple of days ago. We said aspiring ally, but never identify as an ally. That’s a name given to you and not proclaimed. So love that point. Thank you. I was falling up right with that super. Dave, your conversation or your points reminded me of one of the core activities we do in our program. We send men back to talk to women in their lives. And we say that could be a spouse. It could be a daughter or it could be a colleague. It could be an old college roommate, a friend, a neighbor. But you got to pick three and pick them from three different categories. And we’ll give you a a couple of days to get this and you just ask some quick questions.
Josh: So what do you think about gender in the workplace? And for students that might be school, but contextualize it. So that’s one thing. And what do you think about me being in a program like this? And I think that that is always been one of the most important things that we do. And we think, we’ll debrief that in like 30 minutes when they come back and it’s more like we’re going to need about two hours or three hours to get through that. And the reactions are usually like, wide-eyed like, well, it felt like some of the women that I spoke with were just waiting for someone to ask that question because they had a lots of thoughts. And I heard a lot.
Josh: And the variability across what I hear at home versus what I hear at work can be pretty dramatic. And so the consistency of how I show up as as an ally or an aspiring ally and how do I do that in all spaces as a conversation that’s how we definitely dig into in our program. So there’s some conversation in the chat around allyship and gender, certainly, but allyship and race and allyship and the LGBTQ community and the disability community Anon, isn’t all the same? Is it a one size fits all for allyship?
Dave: Yeah. That’s a great question. And certainly something that comes up fairly frequently for us, because again, Good Guys, we wrote, and we did the research around this with a focus on gender and very much just gender. Although we did broaden that out a little bit around the aspect of intersectionality around women of color in particular, to look at their experiences. But I think it’s a great question because the allyship at, at the root of it is really the broad definition is really about dominant versus non-dominant groups. Right? So, and we all have their particular groups that we belong to, that where we need people can be allies for us and we all need that. Right.?
Dave: And sometimes they’re obvious in who we are. And other other cases we kind of have to reveal that to others out there but I think one of the keys that Brad and I learned after we had done the research for the book was Harvard Business had come back to us and asked us to write an article on… This is back not too long after Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd murder had really taken a hold in our country last summer and had asked us said, “Hey, can you take this work you’ve done around allyship related to women. And can you apply that more broadly to race and gender?” So can we look at it from an intersectional perspective?” And we’re like, “Yeah, I think we can do that. But I think it would be appropriate here to bring in a couple of other coauthors.” Since Brad and I asked couple of our colleagues who were sociologists, who were experts in race.
Dave: And so Dolly [inaudible 00:33:54] and Angie Beeman came on with us and helped coauthor this article. And the first thing they asked us was, Hey in your research, can you take the strategies and the actions that we have in the book? And there’s so many of them, the book is really action oriented. And can you take that and take it out from a gender perspective and put it into an intersectional or a race perspective.
Dave: And Brad and I are like, “Wow we hadn’t really thought about it that way, but let’s go back and take a look.” And we did. And with the exception of the actions that were related specifically to allyship in the home and thinking about your home life, that domain, all the rest of it translates very nicely into other aspects of the broader aspect of what we can think of about allyship, the challenge there is that. So it’s kind of, yes, no answer to the question is yes, you can, but you still have to go back and there’s all the steps along the way of developing, unawareness, developing an understanding of the context. Because it’s different.
Dave: As we begin to look at it, other dimensions of difference and intersectional differences, it makes a difference. And we had some examples of that around race and gender and the book in particular, some great examples of how men were like just kind of had their eyes open that, “Wow, here, I was trying to apply this, what he thought was best practice to other women. And these were women of color and it’s like there were differences, their experiences weren’t the same.” And he’s like, “It’s like, yeah, that’s right. All the women are not a monolith.”
Dave: And I think that’s one of the keys that we always emphasize is that as allies just because you get a data point, you learn something in one situation, it’s okay to try to extrapolate that, but you ought to check in with others. Right? Other people other, and see, does it make sense. Right? Is this your experience? And this is part of the curiosity and the learning that we’re always doing and why, again, allyship is really about this process that we’re going through. This journey that it’s not a destination for sure.
Josh: One of the things that we do is have a panel discussion right in the middle of women in the organization. And that inevitably that’s the moment where the guys halfway through have felt like, “Okay, this is coming together for me. I’ve got some ideas of things that I will do. I’m building a perspective. And then you’ll hear something on the panel and I know nothing. Right? So where do I go from here?” And we always recenter. Right? It’s not a one size fits all. At the end of the day. It’s about listening, it’s about knowing people as individuals. Right? And you will make mistakes.
Josh: And so you’ll think you’ve got a best practice and you’ll quickly uniformly apply it. And inevitably it’s not going to work for someone and that’s okay. But I guess the question is from out of that, how do you recover? So as an ally and you do something silly. Right? You think maybe in in with the best intent but it’s wrong? What ha what do you do?
Brad: Yeah. Well, thankfully that’s never happened to Dave and I. This is like our daily experience. Two older white dudes writing about gender and being a better ally across gender and race. We step in it almost every day. And I think what we’ve learned along the way is the key here for us at least has been the learning orientation, I think is a big piece of it. The humility to understand and to communicate transparently that there’s so much, I don’t know. But I really want to get better. I really want to learn. And the people, and in the case of our conversation today gender allyship, the women that I work with I think pick that up, that I get it that I don’t know a lot, but I think what they will feel conveyed is that I really want to understand and get better.
Brad: I think they’re going to see me working on the self-education right. And trying to understand, doing my own self-educating, not putting it all on her to teach me this. Really trying to establish trust with the women I work with. So that once I begin to do that with many of the women I work with say, would it be okay if I asked you about blank? Would that feel okay? And it’s fine if you wouldn’t want to share that experience with me, but I really am curious, and I’d like to know more. And part of that is I’d really like to understand how I could be a better ally and colleague to you. If there are things that I should know about your identity or experience or anything else that matters to you. And that’s a process that’s not going to happen on day one in a new relationship.
Brad: And then to your point, Josh, when I step in it, when I do something wrong, and that becomes apparent to me, my response set has to be fairly thoughtful. Right? I’ve got to be careful about the defensiveness. I got to be careful about gaslighting women. Right? Oh, I think you’re blowing that out of proportion or you’re a little too sensitive or that’s not what that guy meant come on. No, my first response needs to be, I believe that. And could you tell me more about it and I clearly have work to do. I want to work on this. I apologize if that’s appropriate and I’m going to work on getting better in that area, whatever that is. And perhaps something like, could I come back to you and let me think about this a little bit and do my own work and kind of come back and continue this conversation.
Josh: I see in the chat, the phrase, tell me more. That’s my go-to. So when I’m feeling, I don’t know a reaction to something, I just need to insert a little bit of time to let myself kind of process it. Tell me more about that. And usually it’s through that continued dialogue or keep it going. Right? About the response and how you respond in those situations is critical. We’ve got a really interesting question and I’m pulling it up. You guys I’ll tell you what this is the wildest chat I’ve ever seen, but here they are. We’ve got the awesome crew. Can I give some props to the JBC crew who is helping on the side and capturing some of these and saying this to us so that we can stay on track? That’s amazing. I love that. Thank you.
Josh: So here it is would love to hear from the three of you, how we can coach or direct men in our workplaces who self-identify as allies, but aren’t actually allies in the sense of the word i.e. support gender diversity and as a general topic, but constantly are talking over a female peers during meetings or ignoring promotion disparities, et cetera. This can be a delicate topic that often isn’t received well, or it could be a concern challenging to point out that due to retaliatory consequences. So what’s your thoughts?
Dave: Yeah. I think it’s a great question and there’s lots of different levels I think of responses to this. So at some sort of a basic level obviously the confrontation piece is the disrupting and making sure that that… Because for some of these people, I think that they’re just not aware of what they’re doing and how it’s affecting other people around them. And so one of them is how do I disrupt that and confront or just make that person aware of the impact. And this is where I think it’s critical that again, we all have, we have allies around us too. Right? I have my ally that’s going to pull me aside and go, “Hey, Dave, come here for a second. You know when you said that today? Here’s why everybody in the room cringed.” And I’d be like, “Oh my God, I had no idea.”
Dave: And again, with the assumption that I’ve got to have a little bit of vulnerability and humility that I’m going to learn from this as well be open to that, but not everybody is. Right? Not everybody’s open to that. And so sometimes we have to confront in a way that if they’re one of those people that they’re just not open to the criticism or the feedback, I would just say that it’s sometimes it’s more important just to get it out there and disrupt. It doesn’t have to be this relationship ending confrontation right there in the middle of a meeting. Right? But we can just make a comment or something that is going to show everybody else in the room that one, I heard that and it didn’t land. Right.
Dave: And make sure that that person also, whoever said it, despite the fact that they’re not open to the feedback that they get disrupted in the moment. Right? And they have to think about why did they just do that? Why did they just say that? Right? And they eventually, they’re going to get to a point where they’re hopefully will engage in a conversation. Again, not everybody is going to do that out there. And then there’s some people I think that you can go back and and have a private conversation with. And think again, there are people that you know who they are that will respond. And again, the other day I’m looking to, how can I best influence change and behavior? What’s going to make it most effective in the moment or is it better than I do it later.
Dave: And then I think from a systemic perspective, we have got to be better in our organizations about finding ways to incorporate accountability. And again, there are ways to do this from a performance review perspective, a performance evaluation. There are companies out there doing this today in very different ways to hold them accountable for doing the work and doing it well. And I think that we’ve got to start thinking more broadly about how do we formally put some accountability measures in place for people so that they, again, they know that they’re going to be held accountable if they don’t do it well.
Brad: Yeah. And Josh, can I just add the confrontation piece is I think tricky for a lot of folks, but I think men need to own more of this. Right? So the person that asked that great question about how do I respond to that performative ally who calls himself on, but it’s not actually doing it. Dave and I have this hashtag we like it’s hashtag #BroNo. And I think guys need to go to guys who are doing this and have the BroNo conversation. And often men can pull that off. Right? Just because of the dynamics of gender in the workplace, men often listened to other men and it may be, especially if he’s a senior guy, I can’t go to his office and say, BroNo, when you did this or said, it didn’t work. I’m worried about you. You keep doing this, it’s going to create problems for you. And sometimes as Dave said, I got to do BroNo, right there in the room when that comment gets made, because it’s so toxic. So inappropriate, I have to own that.
Josh: So many nuggets from Brad and Dave. I use BroNo, I use broppropriation frequently. All kinds of things and just creating some safety around the language you might use with a male peer, our common language, just to call that out. Now let’s talk about public versus private. So might not be in the middle of a meeting saying BroNo, but here’s one of the questions that came in. How do you feel about calling out versus calling in I.e. doing it publicly versus privately and particularly in terms of hierarchy. So can a more junior person call out the more senior person and if not, I mean, how does it get done? What kind of language might you use in those instances?
Brad: Yeah. A couple of thoughts. It’s another excellent question. I mean, I think you have to do something on that, BroNo spectrum. Right? But maybe for somebody senior, I mean, that’s going to require me to put more skin in the game. Right? As a junior person in that room, I realize that’s a challenge, but I don’t think if you really aspire to allyship, you get to just turn the other way because you happen to be a bit more junior.
Brad: So how do I do that? Rather than go DEFCON 5 and become confrontive and accusing of that person. How about just ask an excellent Socratic question? I’m really confused about what you said, because here’s the impact that had, and I don’t think that you were intending that, but I just wondered when you said that if you’d really thought about it or what was on your mind when you said that, because as I looked around the room, when you said that, here’s what I noticed and it wasn’t good. And I was just concerned for you. So could I ask some good Socratic questions that might not make him feel so defensive?
Brad: The other strategy we like is to don’t think that you always have to do this alone. Right? What about getting a couple of junior men together who share your concerns, get some allies in your corner and then go to that person more corporately. Right? Together and share your concerns and let them know what’s not landing the right way with you. What doesn’t feel authentic or okay. Or how it’s having a negative effect on other people. Sometimes there’s strength in numbers and that can be a useful approach.
Dave: And Josh, real quick, there was three comments in the chat they’re flying by, but I just wanted to address because I thought it was really important. The idea that, again, if you’re one of like, for example, for a woman of color, and I think the example that was in there, might’ve been for a black woman. If she says something in the moment, especially to a white man, again, we’re going to play off the stereotypes as she becomes that aggressive, angry black woman then. Right? And so it gets even further penalized and that backlash against her.
Dave: And again, this is why we need allies to be doing this work and not put it back on the people that are being penalized and getting the feed all the negative feedback and pushback. But again, those of us who are, and we’re in majority positions and the dominant areas that we have to stand up, even though it feels very uncomfortable, it feels very risky. We’re putting a lot of skin in the game and that’s just part of the deal.
Dave: If you’re going to again, be an ally and do allyship, do the action part of it, it’s going to feel uncomfortable. And this is I think again, understanding when you begin to understand your privilege and you can start applying it in a way that’s again, to effect good behavior, good change out there out. And sometimes that’s going to feel very uncomfortable when you do it. And I can think of a lots of examples for when I still today understanding that when I do that. When I put myself out there like that, I recognize that, it’s like, wow, this feels really risky, but no, I have to just kind of sit with it for a second, recognize that this is what we do, and then we’re just going to do it.
Josh: Yep. We’re going to move to, we got a lot of DEI practitioners on the phone who are on the session who are wondering like, “Okay, where do I begin with this?” Right. And so I’m going to ask you in a second what kind of best practice examples might you share? I would say from my seat, there’s a lot. And it just depends on where your organization is in this journey of how formal you want to be about developing something that’s introduced into your organizations. And there’s a couple of levers you can pull. And so one, if you have employee networks that’s a great place to start look at the maturity of a women’s network. Have they been around a long time? What kind of programming they’re doing and is it inclusive for men? Right?
Josh: Having created a space where men can join those activities. And if not, there could be a very good reason for that. But then how do you slowly introduce that with great intention? And so can you build a piece of your goals and objectives of ERG that introduces allyship doesn’t have to be just in women’s ERG? It can be in all of your ERG, maybe an assessment to say across all our ERG, are they designed to be in a welcoming of allies or are they not? There are reasons to create spaces that are focused just for the ERG. Right? For the people in that particular group being addressed. But then what other spaces do you create to kind of create that allyship kind of welcome. And someone asked earlier, if we’re not seeing allies announced themselves then how do I know who they are?
Josh: Well, if you create that intention and then they start showing up, you’ll start seeing who they are. It might be just one guy in the room auditorium the first time. Right? But it has happened. We haven’t seen that happen. But that’s one, one way to do it. There’s also formal programs. And so where do you have the greatest impact teaching about allyship? So that’s where our men as allies later program lives. It’s a very formal workshop oriented model, or we kind of highly select men. And there are men who are not like, on the naughty list. Right? So it’s not allies remediation. It’s like, “Hey, we already see you actually doing great things in leadership and we can use you and your influence. We already see you connecting with women’s groups. So how might we kind of kick you to the next place?”
Josh: So we create a program that’s specifically designed to teach around allyship and then expect that they’re cascade in the organization. And then there’s more senior level work. Now there’s not really a sequence to this, so you can kind of pick and choose based on your organization. Like what’s important, what will have the impact, but is there sponsorship, is there mentorship programs available targeted to women or just targeted in general to cross demographic. Right? Do you have men mentoring women, do you have through your ERG is a mentorship program.
Josh: So that’s really something that your organization has to wrestle with. What’s the entry point, there’s lots of things to make sure you’re thinking about it kind of multiple tiers. We are implementing all of that but by no means is that a suggestion to go for all of it right away.
Josh: Brad and Dave, we have just a few minutes left. You’re out and about, you’re talking to lots of organizations trying to do this work or starting to do this work. What’s been successful. What great examples do you see?
Brad: Yeah, well, we got to lead off with PNC Bank to be quite honest with you, Josh. So the program that you have developed as a grassroots group of men in PNC Bank who enter an allyship program because they want to be better in the workplace and they get recruited in, as you said, because they’re already showing signs that these are guys who get it, they’re doing the work. They go through some training in male allyship. I think that’s a wonderful model. Start with a grassroots guys. Let it be something that builds by word of mouth, do the recruiting, pull more guys in, get more and more cohorts starting. Right? And now you’re building your community, which is I think, a great model.
Brad: And also, you touched on something else really important, where does this fit in the company. Right? Where does this belong? I think often it can be difficult to just begin male allies separate from any of the programming linked to gender broadly or the women’s ERG or the women’s network. So best practice. So we’ve seen is to have the women’s network or the women’s ERG facilitate starting the male allyship program. Like you’ve got a at PNC, let this be a part of the women’s network. Let’s recruit these guys that show some interest, let’s let that build. But this means that we need to invite these guys in to our gender initiatives and to big programming kinds of events. Let’s invite them to our conference. Right? Or international women’s day event that we’re doing. Let’s invite the guys to this.
Brad: And one really interesting sort of best practice we see is how about a male co-chairing the women’s network or women’s ERG and a woman co-chairing the male allyship groups. So you’re modeling this kind of cross gender collaboration that we’re talking about. It’s a wonderful model that we see out there. Dave others that you’d want to give a shout out to?
Dave: Yeah. I just think that finding the key… We have different kinds of training and development types of programs in companies. And again, you know what those are for your company and whether it’s a mentoring and sponsoring program, that’s another way to think about it. But these are all places where we can instill. Right? The principles of allyship. Right? Inclusive leadership is another way to think about it, I think, and make it part of who we are and our brand for our company. And not this one-off, it’s not a one-off training that happens out there. Kind of like a lot of companies have spent a lot of money on unconscious bias training over the last few years. But they’re these one-off training and they just, in many cases, they don’t create the change that you’re looking for, the outcomes that you’re looking for out there.
Dave: But if you make it part of who you are. Right? Of what we do. This is who we are, what we do. Then that’s where we see the change happen. That’s where we see the outcomes that we’re looking for. And you cannot underestimate the power of having the leadership at the top out there, role modeling and setting the example. I mean, Brad and I, we haven’t gotten to the point where we demand it yet, but we’re pretty close where we do an event for a company, if it’s not your CEO or the head of you, whatever your business unit is kind of like to know why they’re not the ones kicking off though that they’re attending the entire event with us. Right?
Dave: And we love for them to stand up there and just share a little bit about, “Hey, here’s why this is personally important to me and why it should be important to you too.” And connect it then to their business, why it’s important to who we are and what we do in our business. And I can’t tell you how really influential that is. And again, lots of people start to pay attention and perk up when the senior leadership talks like that.
Josh: Dave, Brad, we could be here another hour, maybe several more. And I know that it was not my role to be a plugger or a spokesperson, but there’s so much more practical guidance in your book. The latest book one of two that I think we’ve hit upon just a little bits and pieces of it through the day today. Please for those of you interested in additional resources, consider that as something to add to your shelf and don’t let it sit there, read it, share it.
Josh: So thank you, thank you. I am inspired by you every time we were together. I get new things to think about, new things introduced into our own program. And thank you, Jennifer, for this very non-hostile inclusive, nothing but allyship takeover. And I will give it back to you to close us out.
Jennifer Brown: Feel that love. I’m here for all of the allyship we feel from you. And I want to also represent, we didn’t have a lot of time to talk about this, but this is not a binary male, female conversation. We didn’t get deep into that, but I saw it in chat. I want to acknowledge it. Allyship to me comes back to power platform, privilege, access, comfort, safety. So if you have any of those things and there is a community or identity or a colleague that doesn’t, that is an opportunity for allyship. I mean, very basically defined.
Jennifer Brown: So while we have spent a lot of time talking in the binary terms today, there are so many opportunities to regardless of diversity dimensions, per se, because we are all combinations of a lot of parts of our identities, both marginalized and privileged, like we always talk about. So I always feel in myself that I am at the same time benefiting from allyship and solidarity. And I’m also there in solidarity with others. And there’s both end in me, and I know that’s true for each of us as well.
Jennifer Brown: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com. You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion and the future of work and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.
Speaker 2: You’ve been listening to The Will to Change uncovering true stories of diversity and inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes to learn more about Jennifer Brown. Visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening, and we’ll be back next time with a new episode.
- Accessing our Infinite Power: Change Agency and Abundance with “In Your Power” author Dr. Sharon Melnick
- NASA’s DEI Journey with OD Specialist Diane Cain and JBC’s Adrienne Lawrence
- Doing the Work and Doing it Right: Deconstructing DEI with Author, Speaker and Consultant Lily Zheng
- Building the Damn Thing: Takeover Episode featuring VC and Author Kathryn Finney interviewed by WatchHerWork Founder, Denise Hamilton
- Through Thick and Thin: Employers Supporting Employees Through Health Crises with Cancer Channel Author Sarah McDonald