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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

9 Ways Men Can (and Should) Help Close the Gender Gap

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This is for the men. Hello, and welcome to the conversation, the fight, and the solution!

Obviously, anyone is free to read this, but most women don’t need to be awakened to all the ways that gender has an impact on their careers.

Because they already know. And they’re already “making a million adjustments” in a working world that, for the most part, was “created by men, for men,” according to Joanne Lipman, author of That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together who was the first female deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and later the first female editor-in-chief at USA Today.

So this article—based on the book as well as a conversation with the author— isn’t about what women should do to help close the gender gap (though sure, some of the tips apply to everyone). It’s about what men—yes, you—can and should be doing to become allies.

1. Become Aware of the Gap

Before change comes awareness. It’s hard to notice all the ways gender impacts work if you’re not the one experiencing them.

So, how do you become aware? You’ve already started by reading this article. You can graduate to Lipman’s 2014 Wall Street Journal article “Women at Work: A Guide for Men,” which was the genesis of the book, or to her book itself (which has a handy cheat sheet of tips and takeaways in the back).

2. Join the Gender Conversation

In one chapter, Lipman describes a visit to Iceland to try to figure out how it made the top spot on the World Economic Forum’s ranking of gender equality (the United States was number 49). “It’s all about the men,” she concluded. “[T]hey are remarkably comfortable talking about gender, in a way that American men aren’t.”

But she has hope that’s changing. When she appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box in 2014, she remembers the male anchors of the show not really engaging in the discussion. When she went back on the show a few years later, she noticed that “this time the guys were really active parts of it,” she says. “That’s exactly the way you want life to be. It’s a sign of great progress.”

“The key is to move this conversation out of being a ‘girl’ conversation and into being an ‘us’ conversation,” Lipman says.

3. Look Across the Team on Pay

If you’re a manager with a voice in pay and raise decisions, “look across at who’s doing equivalent work and are they getting paid equivalently?” Lipman says.

That applies to initial salary decisions as well as raises. Women and people of color tend to start out with lower pay and then tend not to be able to catch up, one reason some cities and states have banned salary history questions in interviews.

If a woman is doing a great job and you give her a higher percentage raise than others, that’s great. But it might not be enough if she’s still lagging in overall pay behind colleagues at the same level doing similar work. So make sure your employees are not only moving up, but also being compensated fairly compared to each other.

4. Fight Against Interruptions

Women are interrupted more than men, even on the Supreme Court. Both men and women can help fight the phenomenon by cutting interrupters off and making sure women can complete their thoughts in meetings.

If you’re a boss, you can also create a policy. Lipman points to Glen Mazzara, who instituted a strict no-interruptions rule in the writing rooms of The Shield and The Walking Dead, as an example.

But you don’t have to be the boss to make a difference, Lipman says. “Anyone should be empowered to interrupt the interrupter.”

5. Amplify Women’s Voices and Brag for Them

Even when women are able to share their ideas, their colleagues often overlook or repeat them and get the credit.

If you want to help, do what the women of the Obama administration did. When you hear your colleague share a great idea, repeat it and give her credit. Lipman suggests something like: “Oh Chloe I love your idea of [and then repeat the idea].”

6. Diversify Candidates and Interviewers

“You need a diverse slate of candidates, everyone should understand that,” Lipman says. But “that’s not enough,” she adds. “You need to also diversify the people who are doing the interviewing.”

Ensuring interviewers are diverse could help reduce the tendency to hire the same kinds of people and prevent the “not a cultural fit” reasoning that can be influenced by implicit biases. There’s a good chance it’ll also make the diverse candidates more comfortable and be more likely to accept a job.

7. Let Women Make Their Own Decisions

Make sure you always include women in conversations about their own futures. It sounds obvious, but “you’d be surprised at how often they are ruled out,” Lipman writes, “not because there’s some sort of evil sexist conspiracy, but because bosses make assumptions about women that they rarely do about men.”

Don’t assume a woman wouldn’t want to travel, move, or take on more responsibility because she has young kids. Lipman writes that the response to such a comment should always be “Let’s ask her. Let her make the decision.” That’s true even if she’s said no in the past.

8. Deal With the Tears and Give Them Feedback

Women sometimes cry at the office. It just happens.

“When I meet with executives around the country—asking men what flummoxes them most about their female colleagues—they almost inevitably mention tears,” Lipman writes.

What they don’t realize, she explains, is that those tears aren’t a sign of sadness, but one of fury and frustration—the same emotions men would express with yelling. As a result, some male managers become afraid of giving women constructive criticism and feedback.

“So women don’t get the guidance they need to progress,” Lipman writes. “If you’re a manager, check your employee reviews to ensure you evaluate men and women equally.”

9. Show Them Respect

“Female bosses are in a particularly tricky spot,” Lipman says. “There are certain men who just have a problem dealing with a woman who is a boss,” Lipman says. “Men try to put woman into familiar role,” she adds. But “she’s your boss, not your mother. You can’t turn into a 12-year-old boy and roll your eyes.”

It’s not always so blatant, though. In her book, Lipman points to research that “found that men get more respect than women—even if they hold the exact same position.” A good rule of thumb, Lipman says, is “if you wouldn’t say it to a man you probably don’t want to say it to a woman.”

Women have long been adjusting to male-centric work environments and taking steps to fight inequities. Now, “more men are joining us, reaching across the gender divide to help us close the gap,” Lipman writes in her conclusion.

And that’s a good thing, because “women aren’t going to solve this problem on their own. Men need to see this as their issue, too.”