Many wonderful men are - or want to be - allies in the effort to get women to the decision-making table. So, why would we want to turn them away?
As we approach our 5th annual Women in Consumer Finance (WCF) event, people have started to ask whether men can or should participate. I have really struggled with the right answer to this question. But - spoiler alert – for now, I have decided that one single initiative can’t be all things to all people and we’ve carved out a space we think we can impact.
To be clear, the mission of WCF is to give women the confidence, the connections, and the career skills and examples they need to get to the decision-making tables where products are designed and policies are set.
There are many wonderful men who already are - and who want to be - allies in the effort to get women to the decision-making table. Also, given that men are the ones who hold the majority of leadership seats clearly they play a critical role in assigning some of the seats to women. So, why would we want to turn them away? Wouldn’t we want their insight, their partnership, their sponsorship, and their energy? Hold that thought.
Women in Consumer Finance is a Unique and Safe Space
First and foremost, women tell us that we have created a unique and safe space where they can be vulnerable and share their honest thoughts. For instance,
The pandemic continues to take a toll on employees, and especially women. Women are even more burned out now than they were a year ago, and burnout is escalating much faster among women than among men. One in three women says that they have considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce this year, compared with one in four who said this a few months into the pandemic. Additionally, four in ten women have considered leaving their company or switching jobs—and high employee turnover in recent months suggests that many of them are following through. (Source: McKinsey, Women in the Workplace 2021)
The fact is, for a variety of reasons, women do experience the workplace differently, and they need a place where that is acknowledged and addressed collaboratively. Participants in our growing community refer regularly to the sense of sisterhood they feel and how valuable that camaraderie is.
While there are men who are terrific, supportive confidants and wouldn’t intend to disrupt this atmosphere, the reality is that it’s a slippery slope. Here’s how this internal dialogue goes…
“How do I know that this guy won’t dismiss my tears when sharing a personal story? Maybe I shouldn’t share. I’m not going to raise my hand.”
…and how quickly the safe space and sisterhood evaporate.
“Women-only events create an empowering space where women tend to be very open in expressing their feelings and speaking up. There's a level of respect and familiarity that is not offered in a mixed setting.” – Carin Sarafian, Delmonico’s Director of Special Events (Source: Forbes, Do Women-Only Spaces Still Matter?)
So the answer to the question above about men is yes, we would love their insight, their partnership, their sponsorship, and their energy. Just not at the expense of this particular safe space.
How Can Men be Allies?
Here’s my request to those men (and women) who would like to be supportive: Don’t dismiss WCF as a frivolous or nonessential expense. In fact, one could argue this is one of the most essential expenses there could be right now. The entire industry is struggling to attract and retain the best talent. Having enough of the right people in the right seats, and supporting them in a way that encourages their best work, is by far the most effective way to minimize burnout and maximize business results across the entire organization.
WCF builds the confidence, the network, and the skills needed to maximize performance. Right now. What’s way more expensive? Unhappy high-potential employees walking out the door on short notice.