A few weeks ago, my stepdad came to me with a problem.
He’s optician for a trendy new start-up making affordable glasses out of recycled plastic. He arrived at work one day to find his boss interviewing people for a new interim store manager. He was outraged. Not only were they all men, but they were all external.
The store already had three perfectly capable women working for them who could easily be promoted. These women already understood the brand and how the store works and were familiar with their customers, procedures, and co-workers.
My stepdad came to me in exasperation, wanting to know what could be done. He told me: “We’ve got enough stuffy white men working here—me included—without hiring another one, especially one who just wants to talk about car racing the whole time!”
When I asked if he had spoken to his boss, he said he had mentioned it but didn’t want to press the issue. He felt uncomfortable telling the store owner how to do his job and also didn’t want to get in an awkward position of having to recommend any one of the women over the others.
So what can he do? Here are two easy steps he can take:
FIRST, and most important, is speak to the women themselves. It is well documented that women are often less comfortable putting themselves forward and asking for promotions than men. They frequently don’t believe they would be good enough, and are so used to seeing men in management positions that they don’t even consider it for themselves.
By speaking to each of the three women, being clear that he thinks any one of them could do the job, my stepdad (or any senior guy in a similar position) can encourage them to consider the role and perhaps even put themselves forward.
SECOND, he can speak to his manager again. But this time explain that, for his own sake, he’d rather see someone in the position who already knows and understands the job, showing that he values the contributions the women have already made to the workplace. He can also admit that he’d like to see one of the women in the job because he prefers a gender-balanced work environment.
By expressing his concerns this way, he avoids the problems of either presuming to speak for the women concerned or telling the manager how to do his job. But he also stands up for what he thinks is right.
The amazing thing is that it makes business sense to promote internally anyway. They save money on training and prevent future loss of staff when the current employees realise they want something more and go looking for promotions elsewhere. At the same time, by promoting a woman, they maintain a balance of perspectives and leadership styles within the business. So really, it’s an all win situation.
If you're facing similar problems in your workplace, get in touch with us for a free phone consultation to see how we can help. You can also follow us on Facebook for more top tips.