Here's How to Actually Support Women at Work

Putting his money where his mouth is, Brett Gelman, best known for his role as Brett Mobley on Adult Swim series Eagleheart, severed ties with the network over misogynist policies. Earlier this year Adult Swim announced its full roster of new shows, returning series, and specials. Of the 47 announced projects, exactly zero were created (or even co-created) by women. 

Taking to Twitter, Gelman told his audience, “If you are a straight white man you must actually help others and take action and not just say that you support them. Tweeting isn’t enough.” 

He also shared the following with Paste Magazine. 

"Every white liberal straight man needs to take action and work at unifying all peoples of our sides, and stop making women, and people of color and the LGBT community fight it out themselves and just pat them on the back. We have to take active roles in supporting them, defending them and hiring them."

Gelman is one outlier sparking a conversation among both men and women who are asking: 'how do I *actually* support women at work? You know besides simply saying you do. There's impotence in only talking about something, but that doesn't mean you have to quit. You don't need to refuse to work, but you need to put in the work. Equality doesn't happen in a vacuum. 

"You need to put in the work. Equality doesn't happen in a vacuum."

Tweet this. 

Joanna M Pawlowska, Senior Manager at NPR's Generation Listen, shares three ways that men can start really supporting women at work. 


"It’s there, shaping your attitudes and reactions to women, even when you’re not conscious of it," says Pawlowska. "If you find yourself responding negatively to a woman, notice and explore your reaction. Would you feel the same way if she was a he? Take this implicit bias test."

We all have implicit biases. What matters is paying attention and taking stock of where they live. 


"Women speak less in meetings," says Pawlowska. "So, invite women to speak first. Notice if they are being interrupted, especially by male colleagues."

In January 2015, Sheryl Sanberg and Wharton business school professor Adam Grant wrote a piece for the New York Times where they discussed "speaking while female."  The colleagues cited a study from Yale professor Victoria L. Brescoll. Not only did the study find that women speak less than men in meetings, it also found that male executives who spoke more often than their peers were rewarded with 10 percent higher ratings of competence. When female executives spoke more than their peers, both men and women punished them with 14 percent lower ratings.

This study follows a long narrative proving that not only do women speak less in meetings, they are judged more hardly than their peers. A study by Brigham Young University and Princeton researchers in 2012 showed that women spoke only 25 percent of the time in professional meetings. That means men took up 75 percent of an average meeting. The study also found that when women were left out of the conversation, they found it harder to sway discussions during majority votes on issues. 

If you don't speak up, you won't get heard. Which is where this next part comes in handy... 


"If your female colleague shares a great idea at a meeting, vocalize your support and help her build wider buy in," says Pawlowska. 

This ties back to minding your own bias. Take stock of what ideas you're supporting in meetings. Seriously, keep a tally. If you notice that you're only supporting the ideas of other male colleagues, take an active role in your own biases and make a point to support the women. Listen to the idea and encourage its float to the top of the conversation. 

You don't need to support something simply because it's coming from a female co-worker, but you do need to pay attention to what you're supporting and why. 

These are a few steps we all can take. Have other ideas? Share in comments below!