Plus, the Waterloo City Council passes pregnancy bereavement policy
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Good morning, happy Monday and happy November! In today’s newsletter, we’re including an abbreviated version of a conversation I had with David Smith and Brad Johnson, who are the authors of "Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace."

You may be thinking: "Emily, why are you writing about men in a newsletter about women’s issues?" Furthermore, "Why are you telling me about the importance of gender allyship? I already know this!"

Great questions. To answer, I turn to the Fearless core values. The team behind Fearless believes that to empower women, we need everyone at the table. When we include men’s perspectives, we do so in a way as to not diminish women’s voices, but to show the role men play in creating an equitable world for women. Smith and Johnson say it themselves: "Men are the missing ingredient in getting to gender equity."

So if this conversation resonates with you and you think the men in your life would find it useful, please pass it on!

Have a great week.

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

A conversation with the ‘Good Guys’ on how men can be successful allies for women in the workplace  
David Smith and Brad Johnson present at the 2021 Women Lead Change Central Iowa Conference in Des Moines on Oct. 27. Photo by Emily Kestel.
In 2016, David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson published their first book, "Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women." A year later, the #MeToo movement dominated the headlines and Smith and Johnson found themselves being pulled into conversations about how men can be allies in the workplace. That’s when they realized they needed to write another book.

Published in 2020, "Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace" details 61 actions that allies can take. For the book, Smith and Johnson interviewed 59 women and 29 men about successful and unsuccessful ally behaviors and practices.

The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What does being an ally in the workplace look like?

Johnson: We kind of boil it down into two big categories. The first is the interpersonal side of it. This is how you hold yourself accountable in showing up in the workplace through relationships with women every single day. This is everything from being collegial to mentoring to being a great friend. Some of the things that men can do that really illustrate excellent allyship on the interpersonal level starts with listening. Apparently men are not good at listening at all. We’ll listen to a woman just long enough to hear what her problem is and then try to jump in and fix it. The second thing is to not make assumptions about women. Women told us that men assume things about them, without actually checking in with them to find out what their ideal career trajectory looks like. Show up and pass the friend test. Show up with a genuine curiosity and learning orientation. Do the self-education and read about gender and experiences of women in the workplace and check in and see if it’s congruent with their experience.

Smith: Interpersonal allyship is just the beginning. We have to develop an awareness of how women experience the workplace differently. It’s hard to fix the problems if you don’t have the understanding and awareness. The next step is the hard part, and that’s public allyship. This is where we have to become better publicly at disrupting the status quo of what’s going on around us. We can’t just sit there and be susceptible to bystander paralysis. Now, when we’re looking around and we hear that comment or sexist joke, we have to recognize it and do something about it right there in the moment. We have to own it. It can’t be, "Brad, you can’t say that because Emily’s in the room." You need to say, "I’m deeply offended by what you just said," or "I didn’t find that to be funny," or "I don’t think that’s who we are and what we do here. I’d like you not to say that again in front of our female colleagues." Beyond public allyship is systemic allyship and beginning to understand as we see where bias operates and how it creates inequity.

In your book you detail several different ways male leaders can set an example. One of the ways you mentioned is to share personal stories and put imperfections on display. You also mentioned in the book that making mistakes is part of the journey. When was a time that you weren’t an ally or didn’t exhibit ally behaviors when you should have?

Johnson: Dave and I have been working in this area diligently for seven years now, and we still blow it. Often it’s an error of omission. Most recently, there was a big military group in Germany that asked us to do a big virtual webinar for International Women’s Day on male allyship. Dave and I didn’t pay attention to who the moderator was going to be – we just knew it was a general. We got an email from a women’s group that was sponsoring the panel and they said that they were getting pushback from women in their network. They sent us the ad that they sent out to advertise it, and pictured was Dave and I and then this old, crusty white guy general. So International Women’s Day, and there’s three guys. It was absolutely the wrong optics. We call that a man-el – an all-men panel. We didn’t think to ask who was going to do the interview. Normally we remember to do that, but we just missed it. We led off the panel that day by saying that we blew it.

Smith: To be an ally, you have to embody some of that humility; that I’m not perfect and I’m going to make mistakes. And when I make them, I’m going to learn from them and share what I learned. With our first book, the working title was not "Athena Rising." It was "Guiding Athena." Brad and I thought it was perfect. Our thinking behind the title was that guiding is a great synonym that’s often used for mentoring, so we thought that was appropriate. Our editor, who was a woman, came to us at one point and asked, "Have you ever thought about how that might land with women? In particular, that women might need to be guided by a couple of guys?" We missed that, and we thanked her for saving us from ourselves.

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Brad, you mentioned the notion of performative allyship earlier. Oftentimes, men say that they’re supporting gender equity, but in reality they’re not. Could you explain the difference between passive and active responsibility?

Johnson: There’s a great study by Promoundo that we often share. They asked men, "Are you doing all you can as an ally in the workplace?" Almost 80% of men said, "Yeah, totally. I’m doing it." And then asked women in those same companies [if men were doing everything they could] and the number was 41%. So we have a big perception gap. Sometimes men are just not aware of what women experience at work. If men aren’t self-educating or don’t have a woman in their lives who shares these experiences with them, it’s easy to ignore it. The other issue is overestimating. Men overestimate their competence in almost every area. There’s a corollary here because Dave and I talk about how allyship begins at home. If you really want to be a male ally and you have a partner, this is where it begins. You need to ask yourself, "Am I really doing my fair share of unpaid labor at home? The cleaning, the child care, the home schooling." Chances are, you’re not and you have room for improvement. Until men start sharing fully at home, women are never going to be able to share fully in the workplace. This is especially crucial in dual-career couples. Men really have to work on their gender awareness. They have to get humble and they have to ask their partners whether or not they’re sharing fully. And then they’re going to need to be open to feedback. Otherwise they’re going to continue with this inflated sense that they’re getting it right all the time when they’re not.

Men in hiring positions have a unique change and responsibility to be allies. What are some ways that they can promote gender equity within their roles?

Smith: From a recruiting perspective, we need to be thinking about whether or not we have an applicant pool that’s diverse. It’s hard to hire women if there are no women in the pool. The research is clear that in male-dominated industries, if there’s one woman in the applicant pool, there’s statistically a 0% chance that she’s actually going to get hired. But the minute you put two, three or four women in the pool, it goes up dramatically, because now they’re not seen as an anomaly.

Johnson: Dave and I champion the idea of men not allowing secrecy to persist in the workplace about things like salary. We encourage men who actually want to be genuine allies to share their salary with their female colleagues. Women too often get cut out of that intel. That’s part of why the pay gap persists. Our favorite example of this came from a dean at a university in California. She got hired at the same time as her male colleague. They were both professors for about seven years, produced exactly the same number of articles, same teaching evaluations. They shared a dean job for five years. The president of the university asked them to come to his office individually to negotiate their salaries. Her male colleague found out when her appointment with the president was and deliberately scheduled his for the day before hers. He came directly from that appointment to her office with a piece of paper and said, "This is what I just got offered. I want you to know this because I feel that as a woman, you’re going to get lowballed. If you’re offered anything less than this, you need to push back." She goes to the president’s office the next day and gets offered $10,000 less and she was able to push back because she was informed by her colleague. Occasionally, when Dave and I are speaking, lawyers and HR people get upset by that recommendation, but we really don’t care because we’re never going to get to parity if we allow secrecy. Lawyers need to get over that and need to figure out a way to be transparent about who’s making how much. One way to do that is to have clear pay bands around different job levels.

Left: Pfc. Taylor Patterson. Photo credit: KSTP TV. Center: Dame Sandra Mason. Right: Spanx founder Sara Blakely.
In the headlines
  • After Spanx founder Sara Blakely sold a majority stake in the company to private equity firm Blackstone valuing Spanx at $1.2 billion, announced she is giving employees two first-class plane tickets and $10,000 to spend on their trip. "This marks a moment for female entrepreneurs," she says in her Instagram video. "There aren’t enough women being funded out there; there aren’t enough women getting the support. … "This is a very big moment for each and every one of you, and I want to toast the women that came before me and all of the women in the world who have not had this opportunity."
  • For the first time, 30% of all S&P 500 board directors are women. Last year, that figure was 28%. Ten years ago, it was 16%.
  • The U.S. is one of six countries with no national paid leave policy. Democrats had hoped to change that with President Joe Biden's domestic spending plan, but the latest framework – which was cut down from its original size to satisfy centrists – dropped paid leave.
  • Nominations for the 2022 Inspiring Women of Iowa event are now open through Nov. 15. The event, whose proceeds benefit the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, celebrates Iowa women of courage, confidence and character as well as the businesses and people that support them. The 2021 winners were Erik Dominguez, Krista Tedrow, Manisha Paudel and Tricia Rivas. The event will be held on May 6, 2022, at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines.
  • The U.S. has issued its first passport with an "X" gender designation. The country's special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, called the moves historic and celebratory, saying they bring the government documents in line with the "lived reality" that there is a wider spectrum of human sex characteristics than is reflected in the previous two designations.
Being herself: Deanna Strable-Soethout
Strable-Soethout, 52, describes her professional life in three chapters. After finishing college at Northwestern University, she started at Principal in 1990 as an actuary. In the mid-1990s, she ran various product lines within Principal's insurance businesses and was named president of U.S. Insurance Solutions in 2015. In 2017, she became chief financial officer.

Through each chapter, she watched as other women leaders copied the styles and personalities of men. They didn’t let their guard down. Strable-Soethout wanted to bring her full self to the executive level, to not change who she was to fit someone’s else’s ideal.
Worth checking out
She is breaking glass ceilings in space, but facing sexism on Earth (New York Times). Tarana Burke on putting your health first (9 to 5ish with theSkimm podcast). Millennial women’s economic future looks grim. But this moment could still offer a ‘reset’ (The Lily).

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a she-cession, with millions of U.S. women leaving the workforce. In 2020 2.3 million women dropped out of the workforce, and today 1.6 million women still have yet to return to the office. Inequities that have long existed have been exposed – from women carrying an unequal share of household duties to a lack of gender representation in leadership, to women being far more likely to face sexual misconduct or domestic violence. Yet there have also been strides – the first female vice president, improved gender equity at the Olympics, and community organizing that has emphasized empowering women and families.

In a panel discussion airing at noon on Nov. 15, we’ll talk about all of that and what we can focus on in 2022 to collectively support women in work and life.

Joining us will be
  • Maria Corona, executive director, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Renee Christoffer, president and CEO, Veridian Credit Union
  • Beth Livingston, faculty director of the Dore Emerging Women Leaders Program at the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa
  • Dawn Oliver-Wiand, president and CEO, Iowa Women's Foundation
  • Toyia Younger, SVP for Student Affairs at Iowa State University

Register for the event and mark your calendars!

Waterloo City Council passes bereavement policy for loss of pregnancy
Three days after National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, the Waterloo City Council on Oct. 18 unanimously passed a resolution that establishes a paid bereavement policy for loss of pregnancy.

Introduced by council member Jonathan Grieder, the policy would eventually cover all Waterloo city employees who are affected by miscarriages and stillbirths.

"This is an issue that’s personal to me and is personal to a lot of families in the Cedar Valley," Grieder said. "I want us to lay down a marker that we as a city, as an employer, care about our employees in their darkest days. … I want to make sure we are taking care of those who need support."

Council members Sharon Juon and Margaret Klein mentioned concerns about the specific language in the resolution. Klein said that despite it being "a little flawed," she would vote to pass it because of her own experience with miscarriage.

"My seventh pregnancy was a set of twins. Only my little boy made it," Klein said. "No one paid attention to that sort of thing back then. You were supposed to be happy that you had one. … I’m going to vote for that child."

Between 10% and 15% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet there is no federal requirement to provide paid time off after pregnancy loss.

Earlier this year, New Zealand passed legislation that grants up to three days of bereavement leave to the parent and partner in cases of miscarriage or stillbirth. The U.S. has yet to enact such a law, leaving it to individual companies, organizations and local governments to implement paid leave policies for pregnancy loss.

In a tweet, Grieder wrote, "This policy is among the first in the state and nation. I’m so proud that we unanimously voted to lift up our families in their time of need."

In September, Kum & Go CEO Tanner Krause announced that the company now covers loss of pregnancy in its bereavement policy. Both parents get five days of paid time off to recover. Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa also offers paid bereavement leave, which includes five days off for a miscarriage.

Grieder said that by passing a resolution publicly rather than just letting the city’s HR department put forth a policy, the council is helping to "erase the stigma by shining the light of policy on it."

The length of time that families would be eligible to take off under the policy was not included in the resolution text.

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