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Be a Pal, My Dudes

A guide to being an ally in the workplace

Erika Hall
Feb 19, 2018 · 6 min read
Animation by Ariel Davis

We all know the right thing to do, it’s cultivating a habit of doing the right thing in the moment that is so hard.

So, based on what we’ve heard in our workshops, conversations with colleagues, and straight-up asking Twitter, here are a few very specific helpful actions you can take. Many of these you’ve probably heard before. If we keep repeating them, maybe they’ll stick. We all know the right thing to do, but it’s cultivating a habit of doing the right thing in the moment that is so hard.

Listen to women

This is fundamental on all levels. Listen to the individual woman who is talking to you. Assume she knows what she is talking about. Listen to the collective voices of women saying there is a problem. Stifle any urge to respond defensively. Don’t try to guess what they’re about to say. Just listen.

Create space for women to speak

Give credit to women publicly in front of other men

I am sure you’ve heard about the problem of men either taking credit for women’s ideas or wrongly attributing credit to a man. Don’t accept credit someone else deserves more. Again, this is often unconscious. That doesn’t make it OK.

Use inclusive language

Our common workplace language is so gendered we often don’t even see it. Consciously choosing more inclusive language is powerful.

Make activities more inclusive

The thing about humans is that we love being exclusive. Think of how many products and services refer to being “exclusive” as a selling point. So, that must mean that anything inclusive is an inferior good. This is a lot of programming to overcome. But you can do it!

Check other men

If you witness another guy being sexist, rude, dismissive, or behaving in a way that makes the workplace harder for others, call him out. Again, you’ll need to put your antennae up for this. And it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Simply saying “Not cool” could be enough.

This is the only way behavioral norms will change — one interaction at a time.

If you notice a pattern of non-collaborative behavior there are various ways to handle it, from addressing it generally in a “Hey, let’s make sure we hear from everyone without interrupting” way to a private, side conversation with the wrongdoer.

Bust your own stereotype

Deciding what to wear to work can be insanely complicated for women — a whole extra level of effort on top of whatever the job duties are. When there are relatively few women on a team, there is absolutely no way to dress “like everyone else” and just blend in. So it can be impossible to calibrate, especially in more casual cultures. I’ve heard from many women that this can be one of the most stressful parts of the job.

Excelsior!

So much of this stuff comes down to caring, noticing, and doing a few small things differently. The result will be an environment in which everyone can do their best work, enjoy mutual respect, and learn from one another.

Modus

Helping designers thrive.

Erika Hall

Written by

Co-founder of Mule Design. Author of Conversational Design and Just Enough Research, both from A Book Apart.

Modus

Helping designers thrive. A Medium publication about UX/UI design.

Erika Hall

Written by

Co-founder of Mule Design. Author of Conversational Design and Just Enough Research, both from A Book Apart.

Modus

Helping designers thrive. A Medium publication about UX/UI design.

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