I recently attended a women’s networking event sponsored by weVENTURE’s “League of Extraordinary Women.” These women, high level leaders in our community, are stepping up and setting great examples as mentors, leaders and cheerleaders for each other in addition to lending financial support to train and develop women entrepreneurs in our region.
They are passionate about community and economic development, the arts, business, education, conservation, and other issues that greatly affect the lives of our families and our future generations. They are research scientists, engineers, psychologists, doctors, entrepreneurs, educators and lawyers and they demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence, transformative leadership, and powerful decision making and negotiation skills. They are highly engaged in community activities and they use their voices to collectively address and solve serious problems.
Erica Lemp, weVENTURE’s Executive Director, has worked diligently over the last several months to bring this group of women together with other emerging women leaders in the community who are participating in this year’s inaugural eight month Athena NextGEN leadership development program, co-sponsored by weVENTURE and LEAD Brevard. Women elevating women…what could get better than this in developing future leaders for Brevard County?
Well, in addition to the great work being done by organizations like weVENTURE and LEAD Brevard, MALE ALLIES are needed. Why? To challenge the status quo – a continuing imbalance of women in boardrooms and executive leadership positions. The most successful organizations need strong and transformative leadership and a culture of inclusion that can attract, diverse, creative, and innovative talent.
So, how does one find a male ally? Is he a skilled collaborator? Does he have a reputation for working well with women? Does he carry credibility with male colleagues? Does he work on mixed gender teams? What does he do to demonstrate emotional intelligence? Do you observe ways he is producing business results through his relationships with women – peers, direct reports, managers, clients, customers and business partners?
I have witnessed and received “hands-on” experience from leading men in this community who are great examples of male allies. Tim Muth, a business instructor at Florida Tech, former Harris employee and former board chair of weVENTURE, has on numerous occasions sponsored female students to attend professional development events, has nominated numerous women for award recognition, has successfully participated in mixed gender teams in the IGNITE 360 business mentoring program.
Amar Patel, CEO of Brevard Achievement Center and current board member of weVENTURE, has sought mentorship from other women leaders in the community, has a board of directors which includes 45 percent women and he has just under 30 perent women on his leadership team. Bob DiBella, another weVENTURE Board member, has sponsored the organization from its inception, has a daughter he is encouraging to become an entrepreneur, and encourages women to continue investing in their financial intelligence by building strong investment portfolios.
Keith Winsten, Executive Director of Brevard Zoo, has a board of directors with over 50% women and his executive leadership team includes 40 percent women. In addition, his organization supports a fundraising and educational effort called Women of the Wild, which has attracted over 300 women to collaborate with the zoo on important initiatives. I applaud these men for their great leadership, their integrity and their unapologetic advocacy and “allyship.”
Women in the workplace don’t need male saviors. They need meaningful allies who will take the time to listen, notice and act because they genuinely believe it is the right thing to do. A true advocate will speak up to amplify the voices of others, not to silence them.
Recognize patterns of inappropriate workplace behaviors and help to break the pattern.
When a woman:
• Makes a point in a meeting and a man “clarifies” by saying, “well, actually…” and then proceeds to diminish the input…
• Has a great idea and a few minutes later a man claims it as his own…
• Is the subject of “locker room talk” and you’re part of the conversation…
What do you do? Appreciate a woman’s point in a meeting and ask her to clarify and extend. Don’t try to diminish her point of view and protect the status quo. Break the pattern of male silence when derogatory and offensive comments are made about women in a conversation. Your silence is visible to the women. It’s a wall of solidarity in support of the status quo.
Become a male ally and engage in meaningful ways that will support the development and prosperity of our community. It’s important to your wives, your daughters, and your sisters. It’s important to ALL OF US who live in this great community and want to see its continued prosperity.
Beth Gitlin is principal and founder of BJG Global Consulting and a Ph.D. Candidate at Florida Institute of Technology.
Columnist series are sponsored by weVENTURE at the Florida Institute of Technology College of Business. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne and Rockledge. The Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, visit weventure.org or call 321-674-7007.