Pt. 2 How Male Allies Can Support Women's Emerging Success

In Part 2 of our blog series entitled, How Male Allies Can Support Women’s Emerging Success, Rachel Thomas, Co Founder of Lean In builds on what she shared in Part 1

Below you'll find the Rachel Thomas transcript continues or you can watch the video.

"We also know that women get more blame for failure and less credit for success.

(There's a) bunch of studies on this...I’ll share a couple of them with you.

So one, they looked at senior executive performance and what happened is when company performance is down, females are seen as less effective than men, they get more blame.  When company performance is up, senior executive men are seen as more effective, they get more credit for success.

There was also a research done recently, really interesting, an economist out of Harvard, looked at what happens when academics published papers.  So what is really interesting is that when a man publishes a paper himself, of course he gets all of the credit.  When a man publishes a paper in a group, he gets equal credit.  When a woman publishes a paper, as part of a group, if there is a man in the group, it is often assumed that the man was the leader on the paper, and she gets less credit.

So what can we do? How can we level the playing field for women?



A couple really quick easy things everybody in this room can do and start doing today is interrupt the interrupters.  When you’re in a meeting and a woman gets interrupted, slow the meeting down and say,  “You know what, I really want to hear what Rachel had to say.”  



If you see someone run away with a woman's idea, steal the idea back, “That’s a great idea. When Rachel said it, I thought it was a good idea and I like the way you’re building on it.”  



And if women on your team aren't getting as much credit as they should - celebrate them, send an email, talk about it in a meeting….very little things that make a difference.  And the other thing is, it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s a smart thing for you to do.

Research tells us that when you advocate for someone on your team, whether they are male or a female, your status goes up.



The final thing is, look again when women don’t go for it.  

I was at a CEO dinner a couple months ago, a very prominent CEO male sitting next to me, and he believes in this.  He talks very publicly about advancing women, his company is investing money in women, but halfway through the dinner he looked over and said, “Rachel, God, I just wish women weren’t wired differently!  Like, they just aren’t as confident as men, they just don’t go for it!’”

So what’s interesting is he’s half right.  The research tells us that women are more likely to suffer from self-doubt.  Where he is wrong, is that, there is nothing innate about it.  There’s no special confidence gene that somehow women don’t have and men do have.  A lot is based on women’s experiences.  We tend to underestimate women’s performance and abilities, and overestimate men's.

As one really glaring example, if you take a resume with a woman's name on it and you change nothing but the name to a man’s name, the likelihood of that candidate getting hired goes up by over sixty percent.  

And what is crazy is that this is so deep seeded, so pervasive, that women actually do this to ourselves.  We underestimate our own abilities and performance.  And men, I don’t mean to lay it on you but, you slightly overestimate your own.

So it’s not surprising that women are more likely to suffer, from what we call, the impostor syndrome which is this crazy phenomenon that when you’re in a role, you deserve to be there, there’s nothing wrong with your performance and yet somehow you’re not sure, you’re not sure you belong in the spot you’re in.  Not to say that men don’t suffer from it as well, of course they do but (this is) much more prevalent in women.

Another reason for this, is women get mixed messages.  We send our girls messages like, “Speak up but not too loudly”,   “Study, but no one likes a smarty pants”,  “Take the lead but don’t be bossy.”  And for all the parents in the room, by middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys.  This is a trend that continues life long and one of the main reasons girls site is fear of being less liked.

So what happens when we grow up... is now we’re in the workforce and we’re trying to be effective, we’re trying to be successful.  On one hand, we have to assert ourselves to be effective, on the other hand, we have to worry that we might not be liked, we might face social pushback when we do.  We’re effectively walking on a tightrope and men do not walk on the same tightrope.

So last year we did a study, Women In The Workplace, a hundred and eighteen companies participated (and a total of) thirty thousand employees.  For any of you companies in here who did not participate, it’s a great way to get data.  And not only get your own data, of course but all confidential.  We benchmark you both against your industry and peers and this year we’re going to benchmark you against top performers as really valuable information. This is my little plug for this study so if you’re not signed up, please let us know.  Well with the thirty thousand employees that participated, women said they were three times more likely to miss out on a promotion, a raise, or an opportunity because of their gender.  Just think about that for a second, three times.

So it’s not surprising that women have less confidence, mixed messages, performance gender evaluated, not getting as many opportunities.

So what happens is (that) women typically need to meet a hundred percent of hiring criteria before they’ll go for a new job.  Men, you guys have it right, sixty percent!

I think it’s Wayne Gretskey, he said, “You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”   So women aren’t taking as many shots and so we’re missing out on opportunities.


So what you can do?  When you see a woman in your life, a friend, a wife, a coworker whose not going for it, just give her a little nudge. Tell her she can do it!  And this is really important for team managers, if a woman passes up going for a promotion or says, “No.” don’t assume she doesn’t want it.  Sit her down, ask her why.  A lot of times when you really dig in, you’ll see that there is a bit of a confidence issue and with a couple words like, "You can do it…..I believe in you...Look what you’ve accomplished in the past!”  You can get her over the hump.

A little encouragement goes a long way.  

So what my ask for all of you here today, is (to) just stop, look again, you may see things differently. Instead of seeing a woman who’s overly assertive, not very likable, you may see a woman who’s really passionate about an idea and just trying to be effective.  Instead of seeing a woman who doesn’t have a lot to say, you may see a woman who is struggling a bit to get a word in and you may be able to find a way to make a space for her.  And instead of seeing a woman who is not ambitious, you may see a woman who’s suffering a bit with confidence and again in a couple words you may be able to make a difference and get her over the hump.

Switching gears...I want to tell you about, we just released the second season of a campaign called Lean In Together With The NBA.  Hopefully some of you have been watching the games and have seen our ad, but it’s all about you....what men can do to support women and the benefits to everyone when you do."

(To be continued…)


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