Last Monday I attended a panel discussion hosted by Great Dames (WWW.GreatDames.com) on how men can be stronger allies to women. The panel featured men and women:
Fred Dawson, Wealth Manager Focused on Women
Allison Garrett, Fearless Change Agent
Maria Hess, Communications Diva/Moderator
Sarah Kenney-Cruz, Passionate PR Whiz
Pedro Moore, Venture Advisor to Daymond John of Shark Tank
Mac Nagaswami Macleod, Trailblazing Entrepreneur
The take away for me were what the men had to say about the topic. All had a sincere interest in being of help to women but offered the following advice to women seeking their help:
1. Know What You Want. The men were willing to help but wanted to know specifically what women wanted to do or achieve. I was curious why this came up so overtly. And then I realized it is because so often women do not know what they want. I see this all the time. This was the problem that got me into the business to begin with. In my last few years with Accenture, I met so many women (clients and Accenture employees) who were in the wrong job and were miserable. But when I asked them what they wanted, they could not answer the question. And I am still seeing this as a problem.
2. Know Your Strengths. The gentlemen who offered this point also challenged the audience to go ask 10 people what their strengths are. This is the very same exercise I get women who work with me to do. But I also get them to add in a description of the situations in which those strengths were demonstrated. Strengths are by definition, situation-dependent. Remember we do not want Mr. Spock taking a customer service call.
3. Tell Us Specifically How to Help. This was much more curious to me, and I wondered if this is less an issue with male/male mentorship or peer relationships. I wondered if men just intuitively ask for specific help or if for some reason, men need more guidance when providing career assistance, advice, or help when dealing with women. If one knows, for example, that they want to meet a specific person, I can see making that specific ask: “Would you introduce me to Sam?” This is an example. But if you know what you want and are curious about who you should meet to get advice, this is a bit harder. I wondered if the question, “Who do you think I need to know?” would get anywhere.
This is a small data set, but it is worth thinking more about this advice. I guess in the meantime, I would advise women to say:
Here is what I want_________.
Here are the strengths I have to build upon_____________.
Can you help me with ______________(make a specific ask)?
And is there anyone or anything else you think I need to know to achieve my goal?