Learn – One of the Four Things Your Company Needs to do to Advance Women (Part 2 of 4)

Men, it’s time to learn in order to understand the evolving workplace.

Men owe it to themselves, their companies, employees, shareholders and their daughters to do a better job in advocating for women. – Jeffery Tobias Halter

Recent headlines have set the stage for more companies to have the difficult and challenging conversations about the inequalities and inequities women have been contending within the workplace. There is a tendency to jump in to ‘fix’ the problem before truly understanding the root issues and aligning a strategy. In my work, I’ve found that best-in-class companies take the following actions, in this order, to structure a change initiative:

  1. Listen
  2. Learn
  3. Lead
  4. Have the Will to Change

In Part One of this series, I urged men to genuinely listen to the very different experiences men and women are having in their organizations. The intent of these conversations is to determine root-cause issues in your company and to allow leaders to have an epiphany about what is really going on in the workplace. After listening to gain an understanding, the next step is to learn.


Learn how to Articulate the Business Case to your team. This must be done at all functional levels of the organization. It is not enough for senior leaders to have a conceptual understanding. What is needed is a Locally Relevant Business Case that answers the question posed by middle management, “How does this connect to me and my work?” and, more importantly, “What’s in it for me?”

The war for talent cuts across the entire organization. There are five compelling facts driving the US War for Talent:

  • 85 percent of new entries into the workforce are women and minorities. The representation of your workforce is changing rapidly.
  • Millennials are turning 35 and compose your budding pipeline. By 2020, they will be the largest employee pool in the country.
  • Women are getting more than 60 percent of the advanced degrees. If you are a knowledge-based company, you need to attract and retain women.
  • The best and brightest aren’t even applying to work for your company. The No. 1 major in business schools today is entrepreneurship.
  • 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring per day, and this trend will continue for the next 15+ years.

These macro-trends are creating a massive war for talent. Organizations are feeling the pain, and smart leaders are addressing it. The Locally Relevant Business Case combines your company’s revenue opportunity and the war for talent into a measurable action plan that can hold people accountable.

Engaging Men

Why do I pick on men and say men need to be actively involved in listening, learning, leading and must have the will to changeBecause men are still in charge. Men hold 85 percent of senior leadership roles in companies. It is incumbent on men to lead this change.

I reached out to my colleague Robert Baker, Senior Partner, Mercer and Co-President at PWN Global (follow him on Twitter @robertbkr) for his insights on best practices in engaging men to advocate for women in the workplace.

JTH: What best-practices are companies deploying in the war for talent?

RB: Many companies haven’t yet realized that the war for talent today and in the future is vastly different than in the past. Recent surveys show that:

The best talent today is motivated by a sense of purpose and wants more flexibility, greater work/life integration, faster career progression, better people management, a more inclusive working environment. It’s also clear that millennial women and men, who form a large proportion of this talent pool, want the same thing.

Employees want to be able to balance their work and life commitments and interests. Organizations which don’t recognize this and build it into their people management programs will struggle to attract and retain the talent they need to deal with disruption and innovate and grow.

JTH: What initiatives have you seen companies put in place to engage men in women’s advancement?

RB: Companies have been struggling to engage men in women’s advancement because many men are unaware of how it can benefit them and the organizations they work for. What works well is for companies to stress the business case for gender balance and invite men to join in initiatives that advance women. At Mercer, we created “Men Matter”, a program to enable men to discuss their feelings and views on the issue and to expose them to the perspective of female coworkers.

In one meeting we played a video in which we had recorded the views of women on their experiences in the workplace. The men were quite surprised at the issues the women shared. As a result, they have really opened up to learning more about the position of women and the case for women’s advancement.

They have also taken specific actions to address the gender balance in their teams.

JTH: From your perspective, what can men do to become better advocates?

My advice to men is to be curious: ask women about their experience and perspective and listen to what they say. Read articles by women and men on the importance of gender balance. This exposure will help men better understand the challenges women face in the workplace and the obstacles to their career development. Men then need to question their approach and consider how they might need to change their attitudes, behaviors and actions. This is particularly important for people managers who have significant proportions of women in their teams.

In terms of specific actions, men can become better advocates by speaking out on the rationale for and importance of gender balance.

As people managers, they should champion their female talent by ensuring they have promotion opportunities and equal pay. These men can also act as role models by working flexibly, taking paternity leave etc. Finally, they should challenge poor behaviors towards women and negative biases that they see in the workplace.

JTH: Robert, any closing thoughts?

One other thing that needs to change is the approach to leadership. In organizations of the future, the focus will be on how to innovate and grow and that means we will need organizational structures which are flatter, more empowering and supportive.

In the future leaders will need different types of skills and competencies to manage the talent of tomorrow: they will still need to be resilient, decisive and assertive, but will also need to demonstrate “softer skills” like collaboration, empathy and intuition. These are skills many women possess in abundance and men can attain through being open to developing these skill sets.

JTH: Thank you, Robert, for your great insights. Please check out the work he is doing at Professional Women Global.

To summarize, how is your organization, and specifically men, Learning to articulate the business case for advancing women? The war for talent is real, yet as Robert points out, most companies are not even aware of the issue. Additionally, this is not just about women but also understanding the needs of millennial men and women who will be your largest workforce in two years and are demanding change. Employees want leaders who demonstrate key skills that women naturally possess and it is only through open communication and dialogue that organizations will be successful.

The final learning piece demonstrated by these men is to Lead. What visible, vocal actions are men taking and how are they holding people and their organizations accountable for change. Leading from the Front is the third thing organizations need to do to advance women, and it will be explored in Part 3 of this series.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Jeffery Tobias Halter is the country’s leading male expert on advancing women and engaging men. He is the President of YWomen, a strategic consulting company focused on engaging men in women’s leadership issues. Jeffery is a TEDx speaker, Huffington Post Blogger and the author of two books, WHY WOMEN, The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men and Selling to Men, Selling to Women. Keep in touch @YWomen.