Don’t Fix The Women, and Other Actions for Allies

Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Three woman of color sitting at a table in a windowed conference room, looking surprised and concerned.
Three woman of color sitting at a table in a windowed conference room, looking surprised and concerned.
Photo courtesy of

1. Don’t fix the women

This week, we had to pick up our jaw from the floor as we read, Women At Ernst & Young Instructed On How To Dress, Act Nicely Around Men. As recently as last year, this large professional services firm was running seminars to basically fix the women so they could fit into their male-dominated workplace culture. The reporter suggests this training was offered to address concerns about #MeToo.

Here are just some of the suggestions from the training:

  • Don’t directly confront men in meetings, because men perceive this as threatening
  • If you’re having a conversation with a man, cross your legs and sit at an angle to him. Don’t talk to a man face-to-face. Men see that as threatening.
  • Don’t be too aggressive or outspoken
  • No short skirts, bottle blond, flashy jewelry, or broken nails

Instead of telling women they should modify their behavior or looks, why not teach men how to look out for harassment and respond? How to be more inclusive with their own behaviors? How to be better allies for members of underrepresented groups?

2. Don’t assume someone lacks knowledge

Over the weekend, Professor Tasha Stanton, a clinical pain neuroscientist, tweeted,

“Friends at conferences — please do not assume that the people that you talk to do not know anything. I just got told that I should read what Stanton et al found about pain.

I. Am. Stanton.”

We love that response.

3. Set up job seekers for success

Ahead of interviews, do you send candidates detailed information about the process and recommendations for how to prepare? If not, imagine you’re their mentor, armed with insight into everything being discussed by the interview team. What would you share with them to help set them up for success during their interviews? Should they prepare a brief “elevator speech” about who they are and how their contributions have had an impact at their previous job? Should they wear a suit? Or should they NOT wear a suit because your workplace is very casual? If it’s a video interview, can you arrange a trial run to ensure they have the right software and bandwidth? Is there a recent press release about your organization they should read?

We heard from one leader who decided to go a step further and provide all interview questions ahead of time. He wanted to ensure candidates on the autism spectrum would know what to expect and show up prepared and ready to do their best.

4. Look at pay equity when acquiring companies

In an interview about his new book, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff talks about pay inequity, and how it has to be monitored regularly. He highlights that reviewing pay is now an important step in their due diligence process when acquiring companies. Because, as he explains,

“When we acquired companies, we weren’t just buying their innovation, we were also buying their pay scales.”

If you’re involved with acquisitions at your company, be sure to dig into pay equity as part of your process, and understand if there will be a financial impact to make it right. Of course, this assumes you work for an organization that cares about pay equity. We hope you do.

5. Mentor someone from an underrepresented group

A powerful quote from author Reni Eddo-Lodge appeared in our Twitter feed this week:

“If you are disgusted by what you see, and if you feel the fire coursing through your veins, then it’s up to you. You don’t have to be the leader of a global movement or a household name. It can be as small scale as chipping away at the warped power relations in your workplace. It can be passing on knowledge and skills to those who wouldn’t access them otherwise. It can be creative. It can be informal. It can be your job. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re doing something.”

One small scale idea is to mentor at least one person from an underrepresented group, to pass along knowledge and advice. Respond to that next email seeking your advice. Tell an employee inclusion group at your company that you’re available to be a mentor. Volunteer through a formal mentoring program.

In other words, do something.

Being an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

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Everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

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