Dear Men: Please Don't Be An Ally. Be An Advocate.

4 Min Read

Dear Men:

You have heard all of the statistics before.

There are not enough women at the top, not as the CEO, not at the Board table, and not in the C-Suite. The glass ceiling sometimes seems like a concrete ceiling.

Women in middle management are dropping out of the workforce. There aren't enough women with sponsors to give them access to career opportunities and be there to help navigate their careers.

Women are still being told that they are too bossy, too aggressive, too confident when they ask for more money. Women are being told they are too passive, too timid, too shy when they don't.

Women are being told they can't be great mothers and great leaders.

Women are being told they just need more points on the board for that next promotion, when they have twice as many points as the men already.

Not enough women are being listened to and believed when they say: #MeToo.

And so Men, we have asked you to help. We have asked you to be allies. So many of you have raised your hands, been at the front of the line, have been proud to say, "Yes, I am an ally! I am here to help!"

But being an ally, well, it's just not good enough.

For the world to truly change for women, we need men to be agents of change. We need you to be advocates.

We need you to go beyond being allies — someone who sits on the sidelines and cheers when we score. We need you to become an advocate — someone who publicly stands up and actively fights to transform our workplaces. Because that's what advocates do.

So to all of the men reading this.

You want to help. You don't know where to begin. You feel anxious, unsure. You don't know if it's your place to do this.

We are asking you. We are giving you permission. We are telling you, you need to be advocates. Because if you don't do it, who will?

And so let me give you a place to start. Here are fifteen ways you can start being an advocate for women by transforming our workplaces, starting today:

  1. Make a public pledge to build a gender-balanced team. It doesn't matter how big or small your team is — you can advocate for gender balance. And influence others to do the same.
  2. Invest $$ in external organizations for access to diverse talent pools. Second Shift, Society of Women Engineers, and Financial Women's Association are a few places to start. Invest your dollars with these organizations to invest in access to the pipeline.
  3. Actively work with recruiting to demand balanced and diverse slates for roles and work to hire the right person for the right role.
  4. Stop biased language. "She should smile more." "She lacks gravitas." "She is bossy and aggressive." Ask yourself — would you use that language to describe a male leader?
  5. Decline panel invitations where only men are panelists, and demand that women to be included. Give your spot up to make the point. Also, it's not enough if only white women are included.
  6. Be active on LinkedIn and social channels. Share your views by posting articles, commenting, liking, sharing. Don't be a silent advocate, show us and the rest of the world that you really are an advocate for women.
  7. Attend women's business resource group events, and try to bring at least three male colleagues with you. Show up. Be present. Engage.
  8. Fight for policies that impact us all: paid parental leave, mother's rooms, in vitro fertilization and egg freezing medical coverage, financial assistance for adoption, Milk Stork, phase back to work programs for new parents, offering resources to deal with teenage cyber bullying, job share opportunities, remote working and much more.
  9. Encourage women and men to take paid parental leave. Set the example. If you have the opportunity, take paid parental leave as well.
  10. Lead a mentoring/coaching circle for women. Offer your insights and guidance. More importantly, listen to the voices of these women. Learn about their experiences.
  11. Step up to do "menial" office work: take notes, order lunch, set up the technology for the meeting. If women are doing all the office work on your team, then intervene. Ask the men to step up.
  12. Publicly sponsor a woman. Use your political capital to help advance her career. Introduce her to other senior leaders. Get her on that taskforce. Put her name on the slate for a role she wasn't even on the radar for. Give her the access.
  13. Ask to be one of the Executive Sponsors for your company's women's business resource group instead of creating a "Men as Allies" group. Or join the business resource group's leadership team.
  14. Stop mansplaining. If you see a woman being interrupted. Her idea being stolen. A woman dismissed or ignored in a meeting. Stand up for her publicly — and not after the moment has passed.
  15. Stop bullying and harassment in its tracks. Don't be that leader who says or does nothing. And don't be that leader who waits for HR to jump in. Be the leader we need you to be.

Finally, find at least one other man in your workplace to join you in being an advocate for women. Ask him to do the above, and then do it together.

This article was originally published March 4, 2020.

3 Min Read

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.