Based on my interviews, I developed seven composite characters divided into three categories: The Advocates (Mark, James, Samir), The Allies (Memo, Al, and Connor), and The Chauvinist (Richard). I ranked the characters from the most willing to support women in the workplace (Mark) to the least willing (Richard).
There is of course generalization, but my hope is that men can identify with one or a combination of these prototypes.
The Advocates – Mark, James and Samir
These men understand the value of diversity of thought. They care about the business and about the people. They drive change and they speak up on behalf of women. They understand why their contribution is important and necessary to drive business results by improving equality in the workplace.
Mark can be an HR person or a diversity consultant. Mark can also be a man who has lots of friends and is very comfortable convincing other men to hire, promote, and retain women.
Mark recognizes equality can carry subjective meanings because people need different things at different times in their lives. He actively listens to other people’s opinions and helps them understand how they formed those opinions. Mark knows everyone can ultimately evolve.
James is a change agent. He is a visible presence in the organization, who leads by example. He is confident and other men want to be like him. He is a successful manager who oversees a good mix of men and women on his team.
He shows a deep understanding of the reasons behind gender inequality in the tech industry. James is a compassionate, highly empathetic leader, who knows employees operate at different stages in their journeys. He is mindful how his words and actions impact his employees, as a formal leader or colleague.
Samir is a sponsor. He is determined to promote and support women. When Samir believes in a woman’s potential, he puts his own reputation on the line.
Samir can be part of a minority group, an advantage as he can empathize with whole groups excluded from traditional power structures, like women.
The Allies – Memo, Al and Connor
These men like to work with women but possess only a cursory knowledge of equality. They don’t reflect how their actions can help change the dynamics of the team or culture. For this group, equality means equal pay and treatment but they rarely discuss the conditions that produce the inequality in the first place.
They want to help even if they often don’t know what to do. Many of them have a daughter who’s changing their view of women in the workplace.
Memo mentors women inside or outside the office. He listens and shares his experiences to younger generations or to people from different backgrounds.
Memo won’t take big risks helping women. Therefore, Memo might prefer to mentor women through official, structured programs. And he is less likely to do so on an informal, ad-hoc basis. He will often wait to be asked to be a mentor, rather than to take the initiative.
Al is very respectful of women and wants to help but is unsure how. He likes to solve problems when given the right tools.
Al is comfortable talking about inequality and believes things are getting a lot better. He notes women can now be CEOs of tech companies and receive venture capital funding. However, Al often assumes the number of women in leadership positions, including board directors and executives, is higher than the actual data.
Connor is mostly content with his job so he does not like confrontation. He does not want to talk about touchy topics like gender roles or unconscious bias.
He prefers to withdraw when he feels uncomfortable or has to take sides. He will support women but only on an individual basis. And typically someone he knows very well, like his daughter or a woman on his team he has befriended.
Richard prefers the status quo. Insecure, he fears that women will replace men. Richard is unlikely to change his opinions and refuses to talk about gender inequality.
For more detailed descriptions of each of the seven prototypes, and ideas of what you can do to move from the prototype you identify with to the one above you on the matrix, please register to pre-order the book Women in Tech – a Book for Guys which coming out in 2021.
Not sure which prototype you identify with? Take the self test!