Men Who Get It

Since Unwritten Rules was published earlier this year I have been speaking at conferences, corporations and on panels. All of these events have had one thing in common – the audience has been almost exclusively women.

Given the book provides pragmatic professional development for women leaders, this isn’t surprising. But to achieve gender balanced leadership in organizations I believe we need to engage more men in the conversation.

As Ilene Lang, CEO of Catalyst, says:

“before individuals will support efforts to right an inequality they must first recognize that the inequality exists.”

Therefore, before men can support gender diversity at the top of organizations, they must get that there are inequalities inherent in the system.

Most men either aren’t interested or don’t get it.

But some men do get it and we would be wise to recognize and leverage them as allies.

Jeff Joerres, Chairman, CEO and President of Manpower Inc. believes in diversity, and as a result a large percentage of his executive and board members are women, including a 40 percent female executive team.

“We now have so many key positions that are filled by women that I no longer think of it as diversity,” he says. “It’s become a part of what we are as a company … The presence of women in leadership roles has significantly affected our financial performance. More than 70 percent of Manpower’s total revenues are generated by women.”

John Rogers, Chairman, CEO and Chief Investment Officer of Ariel Investments is also an advocate of women leaders:

“Of the top four officers at Ariel Investments, two are very strong women. Both are outspoken, and rightly so, as they have a knack for challenging ideas and bringing more to the table. This sets a tone for the company – it makes it OK to say what you think. The vibrant openness of these women is a great example of the firm’s leadership and sends the message to other women in the company that great leadership is not limited by gender.”

Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, agrees:

“Until I became involved … there was a legacy of mostly male leaders. When I became president in 2002, I made a deliberate attempt to find women CEO’s because it’s critically important to have a strong leadership team that reflects the community in which we serve. Having women in a company’s senior leadership ranks brings a new perspective to the decision-making process.”

Jeff Joerres, John Rogers and Don Fry are three men who get it. I think there are many more guys out there who, if we include them in the conversation and encourage their support, will help us create more gender balance at the top of organizations.

What do you think?