Women’s History Month Executive Perspective: How to Be an Ally
Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to American history, culture, and society and has been observed annually in the month of March since 1987. The National Women’s History Alliance designates an annual theme and this year it’s “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” This theme is “both a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during the pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history.”
Women’s History Month also marks an occasion to commit to fight for a future where gender equity is the norm. According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report, progress toward gender parity remains slow. Despite small gains in the pipeline, women remain underrepresented across the corporate ladder. In fact, women continue to face a broken rung at the first step up to manager: for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted.
In view of this, our Women in Samsung Electronics (WISE+) employee resource group (ERG), which is the largest women’s ERG in the North America region and recently received two annual company awards for exemplifying excellence in leadership and allyship, asked three female leaders for their perspective on ways to advance gender parity in the workplace through allyship.
Here are their viewpoints on how we can actively choose to be an ally and advocate for women and improve their workplace experience:
Jisha Hall, Vice President, Network Operations, Verizon Networks Business
First, listen and learn. Empathizing and listening while not making it about you is the foremost step for an ally to lift another’s voice. True listening and learning requires compassion, respect for another’s experience, and being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’m an Indian woman who’s always lived outside India, so I can relate to being a minority in many rooms, yet allyship remains an ongoing learning experience for me. Learning others’ perspective and transferring your privileges to support others whether on a conference call, an interview room, or a public place is the essence of being an actionable ally. However, allyship is truly a journey and a lifelong commitment of education in making another’s struggle your own.
Tami DeWeese, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, The People Team
I have several tips to advocate for women at work: Make an effort to include women and diverse representation into meetings, decision making, events and recognition. Don’t describe women as “emotional” for expressing a strong point of view, label Black women as “angry,” or call a woman’s assertive style “bossy.” These descriptions don’t help women’s careers progress; they hinder them. Instead, help boost a woman’s confidence by getting to know her and building upon her strengths. Make warm introductions to help her get a mentor, let her observe the executive meeting, prepare and support her during big moments, give her credit for her ideas, advocate for her promotion, and rotate responsibility for organizing team engagements/outings (versus always assigning it to her). We simply need more male allies uplifting women. The pace of change towards gender parity is much too slow and, frankly, unacceptable.
Meredith Ackerman, Vice President, Employment Law
Allyship emerges from both active silence and intentional speech. Regarding the power of silence, learn how to be an active listener to understand individuals’ unique experiences. Silence as a leader can also be stepping back and letting others speak up and shine. Sharing your platform helps individuals develop and grow into leaders, allowing a voice that is different than your own to share a message in a distinctive way. As for intentional speech, praise the achievements of those being overlooked and let them know you are doing it on their behalf. Knowing you have an ally is powerful information for aspiring leaders. Also, advocate for those that may not always speak up in meetings by encouraging them to share their voices. One way to do that is by helping them prepare so they are more comfortable during the meeting, which will ensure success.