Engaging Men in Gender Diversity
by Michele Wade, on May 26, 2020 8:00:00 AM
How can women engage men in improving gender diversity in the workplace? “Awareness building is an important first step in winning men’s support,” says Kelly Wolf Gonzalez, Director of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion at KeepTruckin Inc., who addressed the topic in her presentation at the 2019 Accelerate! Conference & Expo. “Studies show that the higher men’s awareness of gender bias, the more likely they are to recognize the importance of achieving gender equality.” Gonzalez recommends that women seek out potential allies – men who understand their own advantages, recognize the need for greater diversity and want to share their support.
From their current position of greater power and privilege, men have a platform to help transform unequal power relations between men and women in the workplace, Gonzalez explains.
They can help effect change in four key ways:
- Listen with empathy and seek to understand different perspectives.
- Ask about others’ experiences and share their own.
- Show up by being present, engaged and committed.
- Speak up as an advocate and evangelize.
Men as Allies in the Real World
Fortunately, more and more men in the transportation industry are recognizing the value of greater gender representation and showing interest in increasing diversity in the workplace. For example, about 14 percent of active Women In Trucking members are male, and five of the association’s board members are men. Championing Professional Development Jim Taber, National Account Manager at Arrow Truck Sales Inc., is one of the newest male members of the WIT board of directors. He welcomed the opportunity to take on the role this year, succeeding Jim Stevenson, the company’s Vice President of Business Development.
“Our industry is clearly dominated by men, so we, as men, need to be involved in promoting gender diversity,” Taber explains. “It’s up to us to act as champions for our female colleagues and be their advocates. We need to help bring awareness to their skills and attributes, give them access to people they might not have access to, and include them in future visions for the company.”
Taber sees value in involving more women in leadership. “If you don’t have different points of view, you can all tend to start rowing in the same direction. You need to have a variety of perspectives and life experiences at the table,” he says.
Arrow Truck’s career pathway initiative can be particularly helpful in guiding the professional development of women employees, Taber points out. Online training and intranet career portals that offer guidance and identify steps for advancement are available. Annual reviews, regular meetings to discuss goals for growth and opportunities for stretch assignments also help women to move forward.
It’s also important to walk the talk on a daily basis when meeting with female direct reports and women on other teams, Taber says. “I listen attentively, avoid making assumptions and think about what they’re really saying. And I always give my female colleagues credit for their good ideas and promote them to upper management.”
Incorporating the Female Perspective
Jason Williams, President, Expediter Services LLC and WIT Board Member, got involved with Women In Trucking about four years ago. He spent time with President and CEO Ellen Voie and began attending the Accelerate! Conference & Expo, listening and asking questions to learn more about the perspective of women in the industry. He wanted to understand the unique needs of the women the company is recruiting to be owner-operators and contract drivers.
He learned about their concerns regarding cash flow, breaking down on the road, etc. He also discovered that women prefer more educational, cooperative interactions than men. He changed his approach accordingly.
“With women, we now take a more collaborative approach: ‘We can do this together,’” he explains. “We speak to their fears and share information. We help to educate them.”
Understanding that obtaining funding can be one of the biggest challenges for female entrepreneurs led Expediter Services to team up with WIT in 2018 to provide financial support and education to help women in the industry become successful small business owners.
The future of gender diversity looks promising with support from men like these who are ready to listen, ask, show up and speak up.
This article was originally featured in Edition 1 of 2020 in our official magazine, Redefining The Road.
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