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Ep 33: How & Why Men should be Allies & Mentors for Women: David Smith, Assoc. Prof, Johns Hopkins

Updated: Jun 22, 2023


Hello, This is Sirisha, welcome to my podcast!

Research and reality intersect as Prof. David Smith discusses the importance of Men as allies and mentors to drive gender equity in the workplace. He walks through the 3 steps of allyship and reminds us that the first forays into allyship don't have to be perfect, it's ok to make mistakes. His books Athena Rising and Good Guys are written to and for Men. As I listened to them it gave me a unique insight, into the challenges and thoughts men grapple with including how to be allies and how to use their social capital to drive change. We also delve into the challenges women face in attaining and being perceived as effective leaders. and briefly touch on how caregiving is a leadership issue and not just a women's issue. The work on allyship does not stop at work, these behaviours and attitudes need to be taken into our homes and communities for us to see true change especially from the ground up. Let us not forget that we need a safe space to explore, understand and then advocate on these issues... Listen in to this full conversation and see what you can do, what impact you can have and also what you can take home to impact your family, your community and the circle of life we live in.

David Smith, PhD, is co-author of the book, Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace and an Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. As a sociologist trained in military sociology and social psychology, he focuses his research on gender, work, and family issues including allyship, inclusive mentorship and sponsorship, gender bias in performance evaluations, and dual career families. He is the co-author of Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women and numerous journal articles and book chapters that focus on gender and the workplace.

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Below is a transcript of the episode, slightly modified for reading.


[00:00] INTRO [Jump to section]

[00:49] Meet David Smith [Jump to section]

[09:56] Men as Mentors & Sponsors for Women[Jump to section]

[14:03] Allyship...3 step Process [Jump to section]

[19:33] Understanding others Lived experiences and Perspectives...Finding common ground [Jump to section]

[26:39] First forays into Allyship don't have to be Perfect...Its ok to make mistakes [Jump to section]

[34:53] 2-3 things you can do [Jump to section]

[39:20] Women Leaders...the Perception challenge... Executive Presence... Unconscious Bias...level the playing field...eliminate inequity [Jump to section]

[42:32] What do you take home [Jump to section]

[44:41] Note to your 21 year old self [Jump to section]


[00:00] INTRO

Sirisha: Hello everyone. This is Sirisha and I host the women carrier and life podcast, just like you. I've traveled way with parts, stumble a little, picked myself up and learned a great deal on my journey. Many of us face similar questions, but we don't always get to have a conversation with our friends or peers. In this podcast, you will hear real stories that you can connect with on the challenges of navigating career in life. You must be wondering who I am in my everyday life. I'm a career woman, a mom, and an ever reader. I'm also a road tripper, amateur garden, and even a fashionist on some days. Join me in my guest. As we have an open and honest discussion on career change, trade offs and working across boundaries. You get the idea. It's a perspective you simply may not hear.

[00:49] Meet David Smith

Sirisha: Hello everyone. Welcome to today's podcast. I have Prof. David Smith. He's associate professor at Johns Hopkins university in the Carey school of business. And I came across him and his books when I was looking through LinkedIn and he talks about allyship and mentorship. David an academician who is written not only a book that impacts men and women when we are building allyship and sponsorship, but it also ways to be practically implementable from his research activities. He talks to various organizations and various forums, and this gives us a pathway forward and he talks about the three steps towards building ship. How do we. Step into this because it's not a place of comfort all the time and how we can do this and make mistakes. And it's okay to learn from them, listen in to this full conversation and see what you can do and what impact you can have. And also really what you can get to take home with you that impacts your family and your community and the circle of life that we live in.

Sirisha: David thank you for being here by the way. You're the first academic on the podcast, which is exciting for me since I spent it quite a bit of time in graduate school and interestingly, since it's very women focused, you are actually only my second male guest. And I'm really looking forward to hearing your perspective on things because I, to your two books, I listen to Athena rising and you have the second book out called good guys. Athena rising is about how to mentor. Women for men to do it. And I think that's what the unique perspective is, how men can do it and be mentors. And the book is written to men, not to women, which I found very interesting because listening to it, I was like, oh, this is how they're thinking. This is how they're feeling. Because for me, it's very hard to process that. And let me just actually finish your introduction. So David actually is a researcher, speaker, and writer. His work is on gender work and family. A lot of his discussion is around allyship, gender bias, how women come across as leaders, how that is viewed Also looking at two career families to caregiving responsibilities, and a lot of discussion around that. All very relevant today. That's at the forefront and we should be talking about more and I'm glad we are having these conversations because a lot of reframing needs to be done on what it means. As you, listen into the conversation, you'll see some of the discussion going on. So stay tuned in to hear more. So David, before we jump into the book , maybe you can give us some background of how you got through your journey and into this research field that you're currently in.

David: Absolutely and thanks, Sirisha for having one of those nerdy dudes , on your podcast here. so it's great to be here with everybody and yeah. I think a little bit more about my background is usually pretty helpful because I think again, you have a very female dominated audience out there that women often looking. it's to understand more about why men engage in doing this work. What's the motivation, understanding that? So I think that's helpful. And for me, I got my start in my career in the military. So I spent the first 30 years of my career on active duty in the Navy. Most of it is a Navy pilot the last 10 years or so as an academic, as a professor at the US Naval academy. A lot of my early experiences, I think in the military were the beginnings. My motivation to do this work and understand it later is I got into grad school and then my own teaching and really seeing, for me where my partner, my wife, who also was a military officer Naval officer. Seeing these parallel careers and having these conversations about a lot of the unique differences and challenges that we face, things that she faced, that I never saw personally, I never experienced it and really opened my eyes to what else was going on around me that I just didn't understand in many ways and so that was the beginning of it. Grad school certainly had the opportunity to give me the chance to explore it in more depth in a different lens. Looking at it as a soci. I do my research in the area of gender work and families looking at those intersections and certainly dual career families gives you that opportunity to look at how in many industries and professions they're, they are very gendered in terms of the career paths and how that affects decision making both for families uh, individuals. And for the organization about how they're helping people to advance in their careers in a variety of different ways, or maybe some ways, very subtly not helping them to advance. And so that was the beginning of a lot of the research that I did. And, it's been the last decade where I have focused this research around the, our two books. And that started with my collaboration, with my co-author. Good friend colleague, and co-conspirator Brad Johnson and Brad, Brad and I were teaching together at the Naval academy and he's a clinical psychologist by training and has focused all of his research in the area of mentoring and developmental relationships in the workplace. And one of the things we noticed early on was this overlap we had in our research about the inequities related to access and the quality. Developmental relationships, including mentoring, sponsoring advocacy, just friendships and other collegial relationships in the workplace. And so we started our focus thinking about how. How do we engage more people in being involved, especially as we think about majority identities and white men involved in men doing the mentoring, doing the sponsoring because we, again, not that men need or have to sponsor or, or to mentor women or that women need that from men. But it makes a difference in terms of the access to power and influence and resources than an organization of men are not doing that work. And we don't have, we don't see the same access there. So we were trying to understand really how do we motivate and how do we engage with men to help them to become better, more inclusive mentors and sponsors. And that led to the research we did for our first book at the rising came out in 2016 and we were busy working and with lots of organizations and leaders and of course me too went widespread that next year. And that really changed the conversations we were in and the landscape of those conversations that wasn't just about mentoring and sponsoring. We get more broadly. How do men show up as allies in the workplace and what do women tell us that they most appreciate in their male allies? What do they wish they could be better at. What are best practices. And so that led to the research that we did for our latest book. Good guys, how men could be better allies for women in the workplace, which came out in 2020. And yeah. Excited to be able to maybe share a little bit of the best of, for both of those.

Sirisha: Actually that perfectly segues to my next question, you're right in that it's not necessarily men have to be mentors, but it definitely helps with the landscape, especially based on the industry, in tech sector, in finance.

There are certain aspects which are more heavily male dominated. What can men do to become mentors? What should they be looking at and how can women have those engaging conversations as well? Let's be clear. It helps to have those relationships, not because they're going to, pay the path and make it simpler, but to be privy to a lot of the conversations, because it's very hard to get access. If you don't know what's going on.

David: Yeah. And it's helpful to understand what a little bit of the research evidence shows us about mentoring and mentoring across difference. So more inclusive mentoring and that. . I think most people understand that we tend to, we look for a mentor or sponsor. We tend to gravitate toward people who look like us, or maybe have similar experiences as we do, which is good. There's relatability. That's really important. For mentoring and that connection, but there's also, I think the opportunity to learn more from people who are different from us. And I think that's one of the advantages we see and certainly access for people who have more access to power and influence and can affect decision making and know more opportunities and resources. That's important as well for out there. And we find that, when women are mentored by men, they have greater access to lots of those resources. And certainly we see things like they make more money, they have more promotions and the, at the end of the day, that's not because men are better mentors that's because men have access to those. They're more likely to have. Be in those positions of power to be able to do some of that advocacy and the sponsorship that also comes along often with mentoring out there. And the other part of it that I think is important is we think about how do we encourage or engagement to do more of this is understanding that there's something in it for them. And recognizing that when we have a more diverse network of mentees, as well as we have a more diverse network of mentors. That, again, there's a lot of great benefits there and we see things like an increased access to different kinds of information, which makes us more successful. We have more diverse networks, both inside and outside our organizations. And I think, for men, especially, I think this is great that because we see this enhanced interpersonal skills, so more empathy, better, emotional intelligence, better communication skills, all things that make you better leaders, but at the end of the day, those are interpersonal and you get to take those home with you. So it also affects relationships at home and it makes us better partners and better parents. And so a lot of great benefits that go along with this. And, but I think that, the million dollar question is, so why don't they, why don't men do more of this? And so that, that was an interesting part of the research that we did was really getting to understand what's holding us back. Why don't we do more of this?

[09:56] Men as Mentors & Sponsors for Women... Providing Access

Sirisha: And why is that? We don't more of this .

David: Yeah. When we did this research, we found there were actually there were so many reasons why men didn't engage and do more inclusive mentoring and We called this the reluctant male syndrome. And we were joking a little bit about it, but in truth, there were so many reasons. I think it was helpful to understand them so that we could overcome them. And it was things like no surprise, unconscious bias or implicit perceptions that if we don't see someone as being. A great investment of our time and energy. If we don't see them as being great leader material, that we're probably gonna hold back. We're not gonna see them as somebody that I wanna mentor or sponsor. And certainly there's some of those implicit perceptions there. And certainly men also had many anxieties about being in relationships with women, and feeling I'm really comfortable. Women that I've grown up with, maybe their family, and they understand what those relationships were, but it felt like maybe they didn't have a social script. We call these man scripts of how to, how do I interact with, have its close mentoring relationship at work with a woman what's that all about? And again, when we have anxiety we tend to avoid it, right? That's the natural reaction for anybody. If you're anxious about something. The solution to this is actually, it's more of it. We need more interactions, right? To over overcome anxiety. We need exposure therapy. If Brad were here, he would tell you about that, that in clinical psychology. Yeah, we use, they use exposure therapy, more interactions, more coffee, more tea, more opportunities to interact and really to get to know somebody. And I think that's the key. As we begin to get to know someone we tend to like them more and we want to interact with them more. And then that leads to more developmental aspects of the relationship. So again, the solution here tends to be more of it. Not less.

Sirisha: it sounds every other skill we learned, if I was learning an instrument, it resonates with me or my kids' experience cuz it's challenging. But once you get good at it, then you enjoy it. But you have to get over that hump. And I think some of it is that some of it is the discomfort. I think being in that space, it's not something you have explored before. So how do you make it comfortable for you to have that dialogue? And in some ways you're using your social capital and I think the male or female is trying to see, where is that social capital and then time being used and how do they want to use it? And whether they can enable that person's growth, but also implicitly their own, because they are expanding it at the same time.

David: Yeah, absolutely. And and what's interesting about from mentoring relationships specifically and sponsoring as well that, we tend to enjoy, most people would prefer to. Organically grow those relationships. In other words, I don't wanna be, I don't wanna have matching me up with somebody and, oh, I don't know if I, if I'm gonna connect with them in a way that's useful. I don't know if they're gonna connect with me in that way. And so we tend to, we like to have those just very grassroots, organic connections in terms of doing that. But the challenge here is that if we leave it that way in those again, very informal relationships in how we connect with people. That it tends to be the underrepresented groups in our organization that don't get the same access. They don't get the same quality of mentoring. They're not in the same networks, as the majority in the group. And that, again, majority out there tends to be the white men in that case. And so having a formal program again, we're. Many people don't like it because they don't want to feel like they're being matched up with somebody. But a formal program helps to overcome that if it's a forcing function and making sure that we're recognizing all the top talent, regardless of, again, who they are and what they look like or where they work and recognizing all of it and making sure that we providing the same equal access to those kind of resources that everybody else is getting. And in some ways it also. In this case, men from a cross gender perspective it helps men to overcome some of that anxiety too, because now they're not worried about perceptions. We didn't talk about this as part of the reluctance, but sometimes perceptions people are concerned about people talk, what will they say? If I'm suddenly mentoring, a junior woman and the fact that you can point to it go it's part of this, mentoring program we have in our company. Everybody's oh, okay. They understand. And so we get past some of those perceptual issues and hopes to helps to overcome some of the anxiety as well.

[14:03] Allyship... 3-step Process

Sirisha: I agree with the organic because it makes you feel more comfortable, but I think where you end up feeding that organic relationships are very much in similar forums that you're already exposed to. So it doesn't give you that pathway to access that you've been talking about. I know you have your second book out, about a year ago called good. And you're talking about allyship there, and there's a lot of conversation around allyship as well, because mentoring is one space, right? It gives you sort of advocacy a path forward, but allyship is everywhere.

It's in meetings. It's everybody around you. Be it men or women. Speaking up supporting you? You've probably seen this or heard this in research. Very often women feel unheard because they may say something in a meeting. And someone else repeats the same thing and suddenly it. Okay, I'm going to use your name and say, oh, this is David's idea, what happened to the first person who said it, so that's an instance at where I think allyship comes up, either David or someone else can speak up and say, yes, I did. And Smith or Sandy had that first idea. So let's acknowledge that. So there is ways to speak up. It's not just that, but in so many forums. So how do people first recognize that allyship is needed? First even, it has to cross your in front of your eyes for you to realize, oh, there is something different. You may not be privy to it or something you may not notice and secondly, how do you take action and be intentional about it and encourage others to do it as well? It's not just a one person thing. It needs to be a whole bunch of people doing it together that really brings about change.

David: Yeah. And I think, having an understanding of what allyship really is because for some people it's a new term that maybe they don't understand what exactly it is. Actionable terms. And I think the other thing is that some people have different ideas about what allyship is. And so when we talk about it in, in our book we're really talking about kind of three specific functional areas and there, and again we tend to operationalize all of this into action and the first is we can think about allyship as inter. And this is how do I individually show up? And so for men, how do, how would I individually show up, hold myself accountable? And again, accountability is key throughout every part of allyship, hold myself accountable for the way I show up in the workplace, the kinds of relationships I have with my female colleagues and my collegial and my supportive and my collaborative. Do I support equity and fairness initiatives programs that are out there in the workplace. And this is really the easy part of allyship because it's just you putting yourself out there and really just, you worrying about yourself. So the easy part, the hard part gets into that public part that you were talking about. Public allyship is now not just holding myself accountable, but now I have to hold others. And so this gets to disruption, right? So when I hear something, see something that's biased or is discriminating or unfair, is inequitable in some way. Then I have to say something I have to step in and do something. I can't wait for somebody else or say, oh, I'll just do it some other time. We also have to do the advocacy part of this. This is the being a great raving fan public advocate for people who don't look like me and to talk about them when they're not in. And do that in a way that right is helpful in providing stretch opportunities and assignments and those promotion opportunities for everyone and doing that in equitable manner. And that again, can be uncomfortable. Both of these sides. So many men told us that. This is where they felt like they were really putting some skin in the game. They were accepting maybe a little bit of risk in some way. They could feel it when they were doing it, putting themselves out there a little uncomfortable in many, or maybe very uncomfortable in some cases. But then eventually we've gotta get to the final step and that is. Thinking about systemic change in the workplace. Systemic allyship is thinking about in the organization and it could be at the team level too, but really, as I understand through awareness, how bias begins to operate in an everyday practice to create in an inequity. So for example, how different biases might create a wage gap in my organization, or might create a lack of representation in senior leadership positions in the organization. Now, as I understand those practices and how that works now, I have an obligation to change it, to make it more equitable for everyone. So everybody can thrive and we can create the kind of parody and equity that we're looking for in our organization. And that is really that what we're trying to shoot for, because that is the. The sustainable change. That is the change that where we're, we can move on to something else, hopefully at that point and move and start to tackle a different issue in the organization. But, for example, with pay equity we often find organizations today are doing a lot of pay equity audits, which are popular and those are useful in trying to level the playing field when there. Inequities around pay. But it's a one time, right? When we, when we do that and we correct things and we level the playing field around pay, it does it for that one moment. And if we don't change the practices that created those inequities, it'll be back in two or three years. So it requires us to continually go back and do equity audits, which are okay periodically. But if you change the practices that were caus. Then we have, I think, a little more evidence now that is probably not gonna come back in the same way that it did before. So really from an allyship perspective, we're looking at all three of these levels. People are in different places. We look at allyship really as that journey. And we need to meet people where they are understanding their motivation to do the work and then where they are as far as awareness and understanding and intelligence to do the work. Because if you don't understand the challenges and problems that people are facing in the workplace especially things that you haven't experienced. It's really hard to put some of the the changes that are needed, the corrections that are needed in the workplace put 'em into action.

[19:33] Understanding Others Lived Experiences and Perspectives...Finding common ground

David: And that's what requires the collaboration part, right? That's why we, as men, as allies, we can't be doing this in a silo. This is not about getting together in, in a closed off room and deciding that, oh, this is how we're gonna fix things for women or how we're gonna fix women. Now we have to partner with women. We have to collaborate with them, come alongside and decide how we're going to do this. Right together and to solve this, because again we often don't have a good enough understanding to be able to do this. And it takes some time sometimes to develop that awareness. We spend a lot of time talking about how do we continue to develop awareness along the way on the journey. And certainly being an ally from a gender perspective, doesn't necessarily make you a, an ally from a race or from a able perspective or a sexuality perspective. That's just your understanding. Your awareness around the idea of gender.

Sirisha: Very true. I like how your staff stepped. That's the personal space. Then there is your sphere of influence. And then you're talking about the organization and you're right. One time audit, only levels the playing field there, but they inequity builds itself. You don't fix the root cause of the problem, right? That's where it comes down to like right now, New York and some other states have paid transparency. So that does, that actually is a great systemic way of changing because now everyone has access. interestingly, a few months ago I saw on Twitter for happy women's day. I think it was. And every company that tweeted that nonprofit organiz. Showed what the pay equity difference was. So they kept getting called out and you'd see them take off their tweets. And I thought that was a great way to show transparency like, oh, here's what it looks like. And it's not the best forum to do it, but for you to realize that is a general difference, you need to go address and not.

be blind to,

David: yeah, that transparency, is really important, both from an individual level as well, individual people, be transparent about what you're doing, why you're doing it, and then how you're doing this on a, more broad basis but also the organization. And I think that was part of it. It was. It's you've gotta be transparent about what you're doing because others will help you be transparent as they were in this case, which I thought was really interesting. And then, because otherwise I think, and this is what we've seen a lot more of around a lot of conversation around race, but also gender around performative allyship. That, Hey, you don't just get to post something on LinkedIn or Instagram and say that, oh, that, that's it that makes you an ally and you're doing your fair share. And that's what I think this group was getting to was the transparency, but also, Hey, this is not, you can't just be performative in doing this. You actually have to do this consistently. You have to take action. It's not about just posting something on social media. To make yourself look good.

Sirisha: True. And I think the other part is when you talk about gender and race and sex and everything, and not just women, the lived experiences are different. No matter how you hear someone's story, you want to be their ally. The lived experience is not something you can experience. My experience. Being an immigrant from India coming here is different. And as women of color is different from someone else who's come from another place or even maybe 10 years after me from walking the same journey as me because their experiences are different.

So there will be always some. Differences, but how to find the common ground and have that collaborative relationship, because to your point, when you wanna make the systemic change, organizational change, or even in your, microcosm inviting the other people to the table so that you can have a just open discussion, cuz you have to hear that. And it's also good. When we are talking about, in your case, why when they have their own perspective, so it's good to hear their side of the story. For the longest time, that's how the workplace was structured. So to understand how it was structured, that way to get access to that information, going back to your mentoring, getting access to the power structure, how does that work so that we can learn from that it's not to close off doors between everybody, but giving each one the opportunity to learn the others perspective.

It's the only way to move forward in this.

David: Yeah. The developing awareness is so important, and there are specific skill sets and. Ways to think about doing this, that we can be very intentional and deliberate about it that I think is helpful as we think about starting the journey in different places. And part of it is, just having some humility that, to understand People may be experiencing the workplace differently than I am. And I have to be open to that and to be able to really seeking those other perspectives and looking for them and doing some self educating. And then looking back into my own organization, having conversations with colleagues and and asking, Hey can I talk to you about some of these things I'm trying to really learn about it and helps you to make a better workplace, but also, to be a better leader. And part of that is not making assumptions about. because that leads to stereotypes. It leads to generalizations they're not appropriate, not true. And they make us less effective too, that, because you share something with me, I can't necessarily translate that to all immigrants. I can't translate to everybody in your generation. I need to go collect other data points. I need to keep an open mind as somebody else is sharing their experiences with me, that it may be different. And one of the places we see this, and I'm sure you've seen this as well. And many of your listeners too, that I can't generalize one woman's experiences to every woman. And certainly, that was really obvious in our research. We looked at the intersection of race and genders of women, of color. Very different experiences often. And we see that in the research, very different experiences than maybe they're white female colleagues. And so there's an allyship component even for within gender, right? So within for women, of how white women can be really great allies for women of color and that. And so again, I think there's more to it. People wanna. Quick, easy answers often. And maybe there's not really an easy answer here. There's, it's work. It's work to be really good at this. And again, I think that we have to be more deliberate about doing that work every day.

Sirisha: I think you bring up a very good thing when you're the one and the only other first person who's different from the norms that someone encounters. First of all, there is the stereotypical assumption that, can be what they represent. Actually, it puts a lot of pressure on the one and only person, because I remember when you go to graduate school and stuff, you're representing your culture, your place and your thinking, the next hiding decision could be based off of how you come across and whether that's true or not true. That's a lot of unintentioned pressure because. You are showcasing who you are. You're told, make sure you come across like this, when you're going off do this, and it's something you have to give a lot of thought , and you may not be representative of everyone, or you obviously are not going to be. I come from a country of 1.3 billion people. So by no means I'm a representing everybody. So you have to get more data points. I think going back to being a researcher you need more data points. You can start with that conversation. And most people are willing to have an in-depth conversation. If you come from a perspective of wanting to learn and wanting to educate yourself and not come with assumptions. Even for me, when I am having conversations about the me too movement, when you're talking about black lives matter and stuff, and I'm having those with friends, Other colleagues.

[26:39] First forays into Allyship don't have to be Perfect...It's ok to make mistakes

Sirisha: It is to learn from their own experiences because I may be a woman of color, but by no means is my experience, anything like that because I didn't grow up here. So lending that. And that's the only way, how do you address them? Even? That's a question I sometimes have, what am I allowed to use? What can I call and what can I not call? Because it's a constantly changing dynamic and you don't want to step foot in the wrong space and say something that is not right.

David: Yeah, that's such a great point that, and it gets to this idea that I think that is challenging from an allyship perspective, that we are often concerned and worried and fearful even about making mistakes.

And it's like the worst sin you can make as a human being, is to be wrong and might offend somebody. And so that holds people back and we need to understand that as well. But from an allyship perspective, I think from an actionable, and so if I see something so from a disruption perspective, if I see something happening. I clearly have learned is not right. And it's biased or discriminatory in some way. Then I think we can be more sure. In ourselves more confident that we're stepping in. We not quite get it exactly right in how we handle it, because again, there's a lot of technique and different contexts and situations and how to handle it. But the fact that we. Stepped in to do something right. We're proactive. And this is what we need is more people being proactive when they see these things happening. And yeah, we're gonna make mistakes all the way. We're not gonna get it quite right. And that's where it's critical that from an awareness perspective as well, that we work together all of us as allies to give each other feedback. So when it doesn't it doesn't, I know what you meant to do there, what you were trying to accomplish, but it didn't land the right way. And here's. And I need that. So if I was in a meeting today and I said something that was offensive, maybe to, to women in the room and shisha, you were able to come up to me afterwards and go, Hey, they, today when you said this and all the women rolled their eyes in the room, here's why. It's oh my God. Wow. Thank you. You just, again, sharing that information, that feedback right. Is critical, but the challenge there, and I think why in, from a gender perspective, again, that a lot of times women don't want to give men feedback is because they've learned the hard way that. They're gonna get it turned back around on them. They're gonna get gas lit that, oh, you're just being too sensitive or that's not what you really meant. Or I was just kidding and, all of these gas lighting phrases that come out and as opposed to me saying, oh, wow. Thanks. I had no idea. Could we have a conversation about this later? I'd like to learn more about this and become better at it, or this is something that I'm working on. I really appreciate the feedback, but finding a way to show that you care and you value and you want more of it, but not less of it because too often people, when they get this great feedback, It's not received in a way that again, I think people want to come back and give 'em more feedback, which is what we need as allies. We need to be able to do that. So understanding the imperfection out there is part of being an ally that we're not gonna get it right. Accepting that. And having the humility that I can accept the feedback when I don't get it right.

Sirisha: Yeah and showcasing it. If I were to come and tell you something, or if someone were to come and tell me something that I didn't do, for me to acknowledge it, I did to the person who had possibly offended the most or in, even in the public forum the next time saying, Hey, I did say this the last time. But this is where I realized there was a gap because in some ways, when you acknowledge that, and I know it's very hard in a corporate setting to do that, cuz you have to come across as being vulnerable at some time. And that is a challenge, but that might actually be what they call, being emotionally connected and really building your leadership strength because that is when people come to trust. And in this time, that is what a lot of leaders need is trust. It's not just about driving the metrics and stuff, because then people are willing to put more ideas. You're likely to get more diversity of thought, more diversity of experiences that they want to help the organization grow. Cause that is what gels it, right? All research shows that diversity of thought really pays off. Even if you were to look at the numbers in revenue generating terms and being able to show up in that space and have that convers. It is a lot of what's the right word. It takes a lot of emotional courage for someone to come and tell someone that they didn't do something right, or that they had to. Correct. And it depends on in your hierarchy where you are in the hierarchy to have that conversation, that makes it even more challenging. And the higher up you are and someone who is not at that level coming to tell you that you need to change this, or maybe this is what you need to look to,

David: yeah, and I think that's really powerful to think about the notion that it, back to the connection you were talking about, that leadership working together is all about connection in the workplace and having that emotional affective bond is really important. It builds the trust that we're looking for with people. So people are not just a number. They're not just a, an employee. They're not just a, worker producing a product. They're delivering a service. They're a person and we have to develop that connection and that trust for leaders. And I think that's one of the things that is lost sometimes from a leadership perspective and traditional notions of what leadership is, and maybe the. The older versions, the 20th century versions of leadership, where it was much more hierarchical, it was more about power. It was, directive in nature. But we know today from the research, that's not what makes leaders and companies successful today. Organizations are more successful. They're more likely to be, get to those senior leadership positions when you have things like humility and vulnerability and empathy. How do we, again, how do we train or how do we educate, how do we give people that kind of experience and role model that for them?

Sirisha: Yeah. And I think for the first time, the workplace has so many different generations in it, because with technology, the generational differences are quite more staff than they were before, maybe 20 years ago . So being able to connect with all of them is very important. In the past probably, and maybe I'm generalizing here, promotions instead have been in a certain way. There was a cadence to it. Those norms are not the same anymore and it's very disruptive in a good way. And so you have to be able to nuance to be able to work within that frame. And the old way of doing certain things does not work anymore. And the world has become more connect. More open. Nobody works in isolation. Nobody in any country works in a team within themselves. They're all globally connected. So you have colleagues from everywhere or clients or customers from across the globe. So cultural challenges are also there, trying to understand how to connect with someone else from a different culture, that time zone being cognizant of what time you're connecting with them what their policies are and stuff. So there's so many ways. this allyship builds. It's not just within your space, but within your customers, clients, your suppliers, because it's all about relationship. Everyone is going to crisscross and move. There's a lot of movement across corporate world. So they're gonna end up in some other space where you're gonna end up meeting them again. And it's just the right thing to do.

David: Absolutely. Yeah. We talk about it in the book good guys, we'll talk about GQ or gender intelligence, right? How men and women we need to understand that. And, just to be clear with the audience out there, we need to expand this conversation beyond just the binary as well and we have to that's part of gender intelligence too. But you could broaden that out more. I think more broadly, we like to talk about cultural intelligence, cause it, it gets to a variety of different aspects. And again, these same skill sets and developing cultural intelligence and cultural awareness works the same exact way.And but gender just tends to be one of those ways that we can introduce this one from a majority perspective in getting. Majority men engaged in doing this work in a way that's a little more comfortable for them in some ways. And gosh, if we can get it right from a gender perspective, it really, these skills translate. They're gateway skills to other forms of dimensions of diversity and allyship. And so just remembering that again, just because you're maybe become really skilled and aware and have a lot of great intelligence around gender. But, maybe around disability, , I'm in a very different place and I have a lot more work to do in becoming again, developing that awareness, that intelligence. So that again, I can collaborate with my colleagues.

Sirisha: So from my perspective, the way I think of it is being curious, being open to asking questions, but being. How do I say socially acceptable about it? Doing it in the right way, not being curious for the sake of being nosy, but really trying to understand, so you can put forth your.

[34:53] 2-3 things you can do

Sirisha: As much as you can live their experiences so you can, advocate for it and build that allyship. So what would be like if you had to say two or three things that either an organization or a person would do to get me started on the journey. What would that.

David: One of the keys, I think that overlaps in a lot of different ways is just really one first understanding your own personal and motivation. So each person has maybe a little different motivation for why what's your, why? If somebody asks you, why are you suddenly interested? Why are you asking me about this? So I can give context around that. So I, it's not so awkward when I can tell you my story about why this is important to me. And again, people have lots of motivations and they have lots of whys about this, and it might be a connection. As I told you, at the very beginning, it might be a personal connection. It might be a family member. It might be a colleague, somebody who shared an experience with you and you were just like, wow, that is just not right. I just wasn't aware of these kinds of things happening. So I've gotta learn more and it motivates behavior getting in touch with that sense of fairness and justice people have really is motivational. Other people are more about the back to the performance or the business case you were talking about. And again, understanding as you become more aware and understanding of the evidence around, as I build diversity and inclusion and equity in my organization about. The business case around it, why it's helpful for my business, why it increases the performance of my team, why it helps me be a better leader. And again, that gets to that idea that some people just wanna, it's part of their leadership brand. It's just who I am as a leader. And so I wanna be better at this, in that way. And and of course, there's the moral case to this as well. And that's the, you hear people say it's the right thing. And agreed. There's a moral underlining throughout all of this that I think shouldn't get lost, but people in different places and you UN need to understand your, why can you share a quick personal story? And we, we work with senior leaders to do this because it often they're. A little uncomfortable, maybe in talking about diversity or they're uncomfortable talking about gender or race and so we'll start with a story. Start with a connection to this that you can personally share show, develops, demonstrates that authenticity, maybe a little bit of vulnerability that you have around this and then connect it right back into the business. Take your personal narrative and. Connect it back into the business of why it's important within my business. Cause that's gonna help everybody else who works with you to see this and why they should think it's important too. So we're trying to bring everybody else along the way. The second part I would say is inward. In developing, always along the way, no matter how senior you are or where you are on this journey, we're constantly learning. So we need to continue to work on honing our listening skills and listening in a way, again, not to solve necessarily to solve somebody's problem, but to listen, to see perspective to really understand, to begin to develop. This is how we're gonna really get to the problem solving and doing it in a way that's more collaborative right. Of how I can, at the end you go, wow. I, I didn't really understand that now. I really appreciate you sharing that with me. And. I'd like to think about that. And then maybe we could have a conversation about , what are the ways that I could best support or help, in creating change. So that it'd be a better experience for you and for others in the workplace, I'm not here to necessarily, to rescue or to fix you or anything in the system, but there to collaborate because maybe. Maybe you, it's something that you want to personally do, and it's not for me to do, but it's me to support you in the work that you need to do to create that. And so it changes and it varies. And so we just need to be open to asking that and that listening, those listening skills are really important as we go through that. And I would say the final thing is remembering that, You don't necessarily need to call yourself an ally. Again, this gets to the performative aspect, just do the work, do it every day, show up and think about the way that you show up in the organization, the interpersonal part of this, and how am I being a good ally today and just do continue to do that work. And if others call you an ally, then that's great. You should feel good about that, but you're just, again, you're an ally for that one person. Not necessarily for everybody. Okay, you got to go back out there and keep doing this day after day.

Sirisha: Very true. And I think same thing goes for mentor. You don't have to be labeled that tag as much as you can the journey.

David: Especially if you're not in a formal mentoring relationship, it might be creepy or awkward or weird to call somebody your mentee. If you're not in a formal relationship, again, if somebody calls you, they identify you as their mentor. Feel good about it. That's great. But that doesn't mean that you need to claim that title.

[39:20] Women Leaders...the Perception challenge... Executive Presence... Unconscious Bias...level the playing field...eliminate inequity

Sirisha: Very true. And you were talking about leadership and women, and when you're looking at the space for executive leadership, I think some of your research talks about presence and how they're perceived.

Can you walk through that? And what is your research showing? What is it that can be done?

David: So there's a lot here, obviously with this one, some of the challenges we know the biases we often find from a gender perspective, relate to, again, women's competence and women's agency and how they're seen as leaders. And how that perception part is really important. And how do we begin to shift and change that? And so much of the focus has been on how do we help women change to adapt themselves to a, again, a very traditionally masculine workplace and. To some extent there's a functional piece in trying to get the job. Today and tomorrow, but I also like to think about it from a more longer term perspective of what we really need to do is change the system a little bit and how we're perceiving it. And maybe there's some education that needs to happen. So for example, from a performance evaluation perspective, we know that, subjective performance evaluations are loaded with bias and ways that create inequities and so how can we train people who are writing performance evaluations, performance reviews to re. When there is bias involved in there and how do we. Remove some of remove that bias so we can level the playing field. And so there is definitely, there are interventions in place. I think that finding in, within the subjective language of how we evaluate each other is really important. But I think there's also the agency piece and this is the, how we use power and influence that becomes so important when we get to the managerial or the leadership level. And this is where we see a lot of . The shift in change in the workplace because in a lot of workplaces today they're doing a better job of recruiting and hiring, more balanced pools of talent and more diverse talent. But then we get to the first rung of management or the first rung of leadership. And we, that's where we begin to see the big differences there. And a lot of that has to do with the exercise of power and how that's done. And there's a lot of stereotypes there that we need to bust and recognize when they're being activated and how it's having a negative effect on the development of our leaders in the organization. And I think. Again, there's just a huge educational component to that awareness component to it that it's easy to educate to it. And then we have to think about how do we hold leaders accountable for it in doing that work. and

Sirisha: How do we measure it? Most cultures do work around measurement. I know it's a bit subjective, but still, I think having some markers when you're looking at promotional rates and I want to clarify this because I, people do ask these questions. Sometimes the women are not getting promoted because of women they're. Incredibly capable of doing the job. It's giving them access to that position because research does show that men are judged on potential where women are looked at performance. So there's already that sort of inequity built in. So how do you bust that bias and give everyone, I think of it as a level playing platform, right? . If you give one person the access, they're always gonna have a step ahead. So you continue to build like, even your wage gap, you continue to build that inequity. So you have to give them both the opportunities similarly and level it.

David: Yeah, absolutely. And there's that potential piece is important.

[42:32] What do you take home

Sirisha: Very true. So all of this research, you started out by actually talking about your wife and what you saw when you were getting into this space. So what has your research impacted if you don't mind me asking in your personal space, what if it, do you take home with you?

David: Wow. Yeah. So much of it because, I think this is one of the key, takeaways that we had when we did the research for good guys, was that, at the end of the day, one of the things that is really helpful in changing behavior in the workplace is making sure that we're doing it at home and so we always talk about, at the end of the day, gender equity in the workplace starts at home. You can't separate one from the other necessarily, and that if we're not being. Equitable equal allies at home. And that means everything. Again, most of us are in dual earner families. Cause that's just the way the world's built today. That is the majority of families that, if we're not doing equitably at home, then it's already, we're starting off at a disadvantage. And we already know that women and most cultures. Way more of the domestic responsibilities. Most of the caregiving during the pandemic, even a lot of the homeschooling that still continues to this day. And then even more, it's just beyond, beyond some of the physical tasks, it's the emotional labor, it's the cognitive labor, the keeping track of things, the list, the planning, the organizing of all the things that often as men we're just oblivious to, or we are making assumptions. She's got it. And I don't have to do it, or I don't need to do it. And again, if we're gonna get to leveling the playing field at work, we've gotta begin doing our fair share at home because it begins to change our behaviors in the workplace. And if I know that it's my responsibility, I am the primary caregiver. At this time that, Hey, when the phone call comes from the school to pick up a sick kid, it's gonna come to me. And then when I have to leave work early I'm gonna have to tell. Why I'm leaving early and that begins to normalize things. If I'm very transparent and visible in doing that and leaving and people seeing it and recognizing that, Nope, that's it. I would like to revisit the question of caregiving, which I think you've reframed as a leadership issue and not a women's issue, but in the interest of time, let me move to the question I ask all my gets and if you're okay, we can continue this at another time.

[44:41] Note to your 21-year-old self

David: Sure. So what is the advice you would give your 21 year old self and carry in life? Wow. The 21 year old self that was like eons ago. It seems like stay curious for me, I was, obviously most of the time, part of a majority identity in my workplace and that as to keep an open mind and continue to look for other perspectives and remember that again, people are experiencing things often in the workplace that we just don't understand And it's hard if we don't build the connection to be able to share those experiences for those people to really have an opportunity, to have a space, a forum, to talk about them. And, I remember experiencing that myself, , there weren't as many dual career families In my line of work and when I started and I was having a hard time finding somebody to connect and really understand because most of the people that I worked with weren't in that situation and didn't understand the challenges that we were facing. And so it was hard sometimes to find people could really empathize and maybe even mentor me in some ways to give me the guidance and Give me ideas about ways that we could combine again, our careers and our family goals in the same way that still supported our career goals. I can imagine, especially when you had kids in caregiving or you had to go home at a certain time, it's challenging on the flip side, it's interesting because I have colleagues who are, you don't have families or are single. And we have to be careful that we don't reframe the conversation for them because people expect them sometimes to stay later and work and they have their own other interests that they're pursuing. So be open minded and don't stereotype anything. And I think that's what you're trying to. Absolutely. Yeah. And like you said, with single people, they have caregiving responsibilities. People make assumptions that they don't, but they do, , and again, they have other things that they need, that may be different, but they still have needs and desires and certainly there's responsibilities and caregiving as well. Very true. And what is the one word you would use to describe yourself? Wow. I would say humility. And that's I think that's two sided I do like to keep, an open mind and not make assumptions. And that's one of those things that I try to live every day. And I think you research has been a great forum, and I'm glad you're actually researching that because. It opens up, not just people's experiences, but data showing that right. Some of us live off data. So it's great that you're enabling the conversation through that sphere and in the academic world, pushing it towards industry. I would love to hear from you on what tips that David gave resonated with you, or that you might have implemented. So send me your allyship story, your mentorship experiences let me know if you're okay with me sharing online on the podcast. You can email me at women carrier and life,, and we can continue this conversation by answering Q and a and giving that feedback. Podcast,

Sirisha: David, thank you so much for being here. If you wanna share your social media handles that way people can connect with you and learn more. And so you can find more about the work that Brad and I are doing on our website at workplace allies. That's all one word workplace, and all of my social media on LinkedIn, mostly on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can find me at David G. Smith PhD. And I know you're having great conversations on LinkedIn because I see a lot of what you're writing and, commenting on recommend people to go and read your books because they're written really well. So thank you so much for being here and I really enjoyed today's conversation. Thank you.

Sirisha: I hope you enjoy today's episode tune and every other Wednesday to catch the next episode. If you think a friend may benefit from this, please share this podcast with them. Please like subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. I would love to hear from you about your stories and your journey. You can reach me on Instagram or Gmail at women carrier in life until next time, this is CIA signing off. Remember there are infinite possibilities to drive change in carrier in life, which will you choose to make a reality today?

Guest: David Smith

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Host: Sirisha

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