Women at Work: A Guide for Men

LipmanJHere is a brief excerpt from an article by Joanne Lipman for The Wall Street Journal. She explains why even the most well-intentioned male managers can be clueless when dealing with women in the workplace. Her purpose is to “discuss the demystifying of women in the workplace and sharing advice for the men who work with them.” To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

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We are flooded with career-advice books for women. There are women’s networking groups and leadership conferences galore. But they’re all geared toward women, consumed primarily by women and discussed among women.

I am convinced that women don’t need more advice. Men do.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love men. I’ve spent my career as a journalist at publications read primarily by men. All my mentors were men. And most professional men I’ve encountered truly believe that they are unbiased.

That said, they are often clueless about the myriad ways in which they misread women in the workplace every day. Not intentionally. But wow. They misunderstand us, they unwittingly belittle us, they do something that they think is nice that instead just makes us mad. And those are the good ones.

In short, men could use a career guide—about women. So I set out to discover what frustrates and perplexes professional men about the women they work with. My goal was to get to the bottom of issues that men face every day: why women often don’t speak up at meetings, why they can seem tentative when they do speak up, why there are so few qualified women in the management pipeline despite good-faith efforts to recruit them.

And then I went in search of solutions. I sought out male executives who are getting it right. And I drew on the two-plus decades that I’ve spent covering mostly male executives around the globe while working in male-dominated environments.

The point isn’t to blame men. In my view, there has been way too much man-shaming as it is. My aim instead is to demystify women.

The business case for this is compelling. Companies with more women in leadership posts simply perform better. Fortune 500 firms with the most female board members outperform those with the least by 26% on return on invested capital and 16% on return on sales, according to a 2011 Catalyst study. Yet the number of women at the top is barely budging: some 5% of Fortune 500 chief executive officers and 17% of board members. Numbers in law and finance are dismal too.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Ms. Lipman is a former deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and a former editor in chief of Condé Nast Fortpolio. She is the co-author, with Melanie Kupchynsky, of Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations, published by Hyperion (September 2014).

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