In a misogynist culture, women are usually treated as a lesser gender and have to double their efforts to be appreciated. What's saddening is that in spite of what they can offer, they tend to be ignored. I'm not generalizing, because many of them have risen and become leaders in their own fields. But they are being doubted, tagged as too emotional. Some say that they can't make tough decisions and they're fickle-minded. But these arguments are untrue; being empathetic makes them better leaders. We have recently witnessed the leadership of women during the COVID-19 response – shoutout to Germany, Taiwan, and New Zealand.
Let's talk about WOMEN!
There's no better time to talk about women than right now! Topics that are most concerning are discrimination and harassment. Most men support more gender inclusion, but according to some research, men often are challenged at recognizing gender discrimination and harassment in real time. According to Harvard Business Review for instance, despite the recent focus on workplace sexual harassment and assault, a 2018 study revealed that 77% of men didn’t see harassment as a problem — even as 38% of their female colleagues reported experiencing workplace harassment. Lack of awareness can keep even well-intentioned men on the sidelines, rather than serving as effective advocates and accomplices for change.
We're not placing the blame on men, but we're asking them to be more sensitive and vigilant. As allies for gender equality, we should call out any signs of harassment and discrimination against women. Say for example, when a colleague is distressed due to PMS or cramps, choose to give her space instead of criticizing her experience. Give her boundaries as her hormones are fluctuating. Let's all be real allies to women.
How can we be better allies for women?
We have to work with the right intention and purpose. Based on the Harvard Business Review research, situational awareness is a key element of what we refer to as male gender intelligence (GQ). Sharpening our situational awareness requires greater vigilance of the gender dynamics operating in the workplace. Developing more acute situational awareness demands that men focus on the relational environment, watch carefully, ask curious questions from female colleagues, and then engage in generous listening. Moreover, it requires honest humility and a perpetual learning orientation. Situationally aware men become more attuned to gender inequities and harassment, and are more willing to address them in real time.
If you notice a woman in a room with a sea of men, give her a moment to talk and listen to her. She must have valuable input to share. Some will say “they're here to work” and gender should not be an excuse to treat them differently from other workers. I'm not saying that they should be given special treatment. All I'm saying is they deserve the same recognition and attention regularly accorded to men. If they're dealing with some cramps or, perhaps, they’re nursing a baby, ask them if they need help with the workload. Extending this kind of empathy to them is not treating them differently, but recognizing their specific experience and addressing it together with them.
How can we increase our situational awareness?
We need to educate ourselves. How can we be more mindful of how we communicate with women and around them? Stop sending sexual innuendos. Sometimes, when we're having fun in the workplace and we get so comfortable, we forget that there are women in the room. In their efforts to get along with everyone or the so-called "pakikisama," they keep mum and keep their discomfort to themselves. Not all women are brave enough to call men out. We have to filter ourselves because some sexual banter can be harassing in nature. Self-education heightens awareness of gender inequities, reduces sexist attitudes, and increases participation in gender equity initiatives. Let’s build our own GQ by reading about gender in the workplace and attending gender inclusion events.
Let's all be attuned to sexist comments, biased language, and even overt, leering harassment. Sift the ambient noise, the side conversations, banter, and formal dialogue. Actively listen for those daily slights, objectifying comments, and stereotypes that leave women feeling inferior or unsafe. Respect begets respect. Women should not be objectified and the room should be a safe space for all.
What else can we do?
Being attuned requires more than being careful with our words. Be sensitive also with what they are going through. Being a male ally should not stop at the workplace. Say for example, with your wives or girlfriends, be concerned with their menstrual cycle. Don't be ashamed of buying napkins or period products for them because it's a monthly period after all. They have to go through this for about 40 years of their life. If you truly care, you can even take the time to learn about the different period products that exist and what would be best for your loved one, such as sustainable products that can be reused and can be beneficial for them in the long run. Check out Lily of the Valley’s thoughtfully curated PERIOD CARE BOX. It contains sustainable period products for all women who are looking to have a comfortable, but environmentally sound menstruation experience.
Developing a deeper understanding of the experiences of the women around us and sharpening our situational awareness will inevitably and irrevocably transform our perspective. Stop looking at them as the lesser gender. Treat them as equals because they have a lot to offer. Make them feel loved, protected, and respected.
Contributed by Arthur Tolentino