Men, 2015 is the year you help women advance in the workplace.
Despite a steady — but slow — increase in the number of females in high-ranking board positions, women in the working world are not advancing nearly as quickly as their male counterparts. According to professional services firm Ernst & Young’s latest board committees report, the number of board seats held by women in S&P 1500 companies has only increased 5 percent in the last ten years. It’s proof that the metaphorical glass ceiling still exists, hindering women from being equally represented and heard in the workplace.
Men, however, can help. “It’s important for men [to get involved] because they control more of the influence and the power,” says Hattie Hill, president and CEO of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, which focuses on the leadership of women in companies like Kraft and Kellogg. “So when men say, ‘We’re going to do this,’ things start to move.”
Hill spoke further with Metro about four key ways men can help women break the glass ceiling.
Hill says that, for starters, men can increase their overall awareness about the issue by paying attention to workplace practices. “You have to know that [the problem] exists,” she says. “If a man is too busy doing what he’s doing, he might not notice.” Take note of the types of work female colleagues are assigned, ask them questions and get their opinions.
Give female employees more responsibilities/tougher tasks
Men in more powerful and senior positions should take advantage of their position to give more responsibilities and challenges to female staffers. An act as small as giving a female employee two or three extra things to do or switching up some of her tasks can get the ball rolling, says Hill. For example, if you notice a woman constantly taking meeting notes, delegate that task to someone else and give her another responsibility.
Shut down mansplaining
“If you’re in a board meeting and a woman says something, and then a man comes back and says the same thing, you can speak up and say, ‘You know, Mary just said that. Thank you, Mary, for that comment,’” Hill says. “It’s changing the communication to be more effective.”
Engage the women around you. “Ask them, in terms of your industry or your organization, ‘What do you think we need to change?’” Hill says. Women in your workplace know the workings of the company and the politics of the work environment; they just haven’t been asked about them yet.