Careers

5 things men can do right now to support women at work

GREAT NEWS -- "Squad Feud" Episode 202 -- Pictured: (l-r) John Michael Higgins as Chuck, Nicole Richie as Portia -- (Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC)
GREAT NEWS -- "Squad Feud" Episode 202 -- Pictured: (l-r) John Michael Higgins as Chuck, Nicole Richie as Portia -- (Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC)

Although inappropriate work behavior can be displayed by anyone, the recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations in media, politics, entertainment and tech has placed extra focus on men in positions of power.

Since the New York Times' October story of sexual harassment and assult accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, more than 30 powerful men have been linked to acts of sexual misconduct.

While there are countless books, seminars and conferences geared towards how women should act to thrive in the workplace, very few resources are geared towards educating men on how to build a successful career that promotes workplace inclusion.

Here are five little things any man can do right now to support women at work:

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1. Include women in social outings and team meetings

In a recent Facebook post, Sheryl Sandberg addressed the issue of sexual harassment at work and the need for no tolerance policies. She noted that 64 percent of male managers are afraid to be alone with a female colleague, partly due to fear of being accused of sexual harassment.

However, Sandberg explained, isolating women in the workplace is hardly a solution. Mentorship, networking and workplace promotion are all crucial to a woman's success.

In a Harvard Business Review article titled "Men Shouldn't Refuse to be Alone with Female Colleagues," United States Naval Academy professors W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith make a similar argument.

"When women are, in effect, quarantined, banned from solitary meetings with male leaders, including prospective sponsors and career champions, their options for advancement, let alone professional flourishing, shrink," they writes.

Sandberg says many male leaders came to her after the publication of "Lean In" and admitted to giving fewer opportunities to women without being aware of it.

"Doing right by women in the workplace does not just mean treating them with respect," wrote the Facebook COO. "It also means not isolating or ignoring them — and making access equal. Whether that means you take all your direct reports out to dinner or none of them, the key is to give men and women equal opportunities to succeed."

2. Give women credit for their ideas

Several studies show that when it comes to meetings, women are more likely to be interrupted, talked over, or have their ideas stolen by male colleagues. Earlier this year, astronomer and physics professor Nicole Gugliucci used a term that neatly captured the scenario of men stealing a woman's idea.

"[My friends] are women who work in various industries like tech, gaming and science, and we were discussing the phenomenon lately. One of my friends came up with 'hepeated,' and we thought it was pretty funny," Gugliucci tells CNBC Make It.

Harvard public policy professor and behavioral economist Iris Bohnet says one solution to solving this issue is "micro-sponsorship," which is the act of advocating for a colleague who has been wronged.

"Become vigilant about attributing comments to the people who made them first," Bohnet, who is the author of "What Works: Gender Equality by Design," says. "Everyone, men and women, can become a micro-sponsor."

Before Gugliucci's viral tweet, New York Times gender editor Jessica Bennett addressed "hepeating" in "Feminist Fight Club." In the book, Bennett also discusses the idea of "himitators" and "bropropriators," terms that also refer to men stealing women's ideas at work.

"I don't think 'hepeaters' even realize they're doing it," she says. "This is deeply ingrained bias and years of culture that have long taught men to speak up and loud and with authority and the rest of us [women] to listen when they do so."

According to Bennett, "hepeating" can be combated by creating greater gender diversity in a room and ensuring that women are heard the first time they speak.

3. Hire women, pay them, promote them

Kim Churches, CEO of American Association of University Women, says the hiring practices of many organizations have a lot to do with the issues we see in the workplace.

"A lot of these systematic things are linked to us not seeing enough women in leadership roles," she tells CNBC Make It.

Churches says men who are in a position to hire should not be afraid to add more women to their team.

Companies can expand their scope for finding candidates by reaching out to professional organizations geared towards women or attending college job fairs at all-female institutions. To ensure that women of all races are also included in their hiring practices, companies can also attend conferences and reach out to organizations geared towards ethnic minorities.

In an interview with CNBC earlier this year, CEO Jamie Dimon said he's proud to report that a sizable portion of his direct reports are women.

"Thirty percent of our top 200 people are women. And they have unbelievable jobs," he said.

He pointed out that his company also has a black woman leading their retail division and that they are working to place more African-Americans in senior level positions.

"We're doing great with women, we're doing great with Asians, we're doing great with Hispanics," Dimon said. "We've got to do better with African-Americans and we're going to."

Studies show that companies with a diverse workforce not only have an increased pool of skill sets, but also financially outperform their peers.

4. Don't factor a woman's personal life into professional decisions

Often times, women are left out of consideration for a promotion or job because it's assumed they won't want to balance family demands or a pregnancy with increased professional responsibilities.

According to the Center for American Progress, the labor force of companies in the S&P 500 has just 25 percent of women in executive and senior-level roles, 20 percent in board seat roles and just 6 percent in the CEO spot.

Men in positions to promote and hire staff, should carefully consider if the factors influencing their decisions are the same for male and female candidates. For example, is it assumed that a new or soon-to-be father won't be ready for a new opportunity?

In an episode of the "Masters of Scale" podcast with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Sandberg discusses the effects of preventing women from making their own career decisions.

"So often we take opportunities away from women because we assume what they want, rather than giving them the full opportunities they deserve," she said.

5. Be mindful of harassment

It's not enough to not be a harasser. Men must play a role in preventing, highlighting and reporting situations in which harassment occurs.

"It helps an employee to know they have a group of people supporting them and it leads to them not being quiet," says Churches.

Gillian Thomas, senior staff attorney at American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project, says that in order to create safer spaces for women, individuals in leadership positions must do a better job of setting a good example.

"We need to have workplaces where male allies, as well as women, are getting the message from leadership that this is an environment where harassment will not be tolerated," said Thomas. "Not just vague statements about zero tolerance but where there are procedures in place and training about the law and suggested strategies to bystanders about how to react."

For men who behave professionally in the workplace, speaking up about any alarming behavior you see is also important.

"It's too easy for men who pride themselves on not mistreating women to check out of the conversation and say, 'I'm not the problem so it's not my problem,'" says University of Virginia professor Siva Vaidhyanathan. "That just doesn't hold up. It's everybody's problem."

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