Part 2 of my interview with Femily, Silicon Valley’s Gender and Inclusion Consultant, focuses on what “the good guys” can do to support women in the #metoo era. Sadly, some men who would never harass have become reluctant to mentor women, and this will only hurt business results all around. So it’s more important than ever for men and women alike to take action advocating for high potential women, redirecting conversations that have potential to be uncomfortable, and treating colleagues of any gender equally. Tune in to get the answers to all the questions you’ve been thinking but have been afraid to ask – Hugs? Complements? Drinks? Business travel? Dating colleagues? Femily weighs in on these topics and more!


Episode 38: Tips for The Good Guys in the #MeToo Era with Femily

Shani Magosky: Welcome leader shifters to another episode of the LeaderShift Show with Shani. I am welcoming back for a second time Femily, also known as Silicon Valley’s Gender and Inclusion Strategist. Our first interview we could have talked for days, and so I decided let’s cut and we’re going to come back again.

Today is Femily part two. Specifically we’re going to ask Femily to share her wisdom about if you’re a good guy in this MeToo era, what are the new rules of the road for you. Like what should you do, what shouldn’t you do, and we’re going to go through a litany of things from mentoring and just what to do if you see something that it’s like walking the line or inappropriate, then just we’ll answer all those questions that you have in your mind, but maybe haven’t known who to ask. Femily welcome back.

Femily: Thank you so much, Shani. I’m so glad to be here. This was the remaining nugget of that juicy conversation that we had last time. I’m so glad we get to dedicate time specifically for the male leaders out there who are the good guys in the office. The good male leaders. They aren’t the creeps and they want to make sure that they maintain that good image and are able to help their female colleagues just like they help their male colleagues.

Shani: Absolutely. I think this is such an important conversation because most guys are good guys. What I was starting to see in this MeToo era, obviously great that women now have a platform and more safety to come forward with these things. That’s all great. The dark side of what I think you and I both saw happening with clients was men were like, well, I just want to– better safe than sorry.

Even if I don’t intend something, I don’t want to mentor women anymore or whatever and it’s like no, this is not an excuse guys to back away from professional relationships with women. Even more important now than ever you just got to be mindful and so we’re going to let Femily give us some tips today about what that looks like so that you can go back and feel comfortable doing what you’ve always done with high talent, high potential women, right?

Femily: Absolutely, yes. You’re right with the research. One in six male managers is now saying that they do hesitate to mentor junior females on their team, which is not only awful for those junior females, of course, but it’s also awful for business. Any business that is saying, well, we can’t really mentor this certain proportion of our employees, that’s not going to be the best business out there.

Shani: Absolutely, all right, let’s get right into it. I know you were telling me that when this was coming up you did a survey. A bunch of women and so just tell us a little bit about the survey and what the main takeaways were.

Femily: Absolutely. In early 2019 after I saw the research that said that some men were hesitating to mentor their junior colleagues, I pulled my San Francisco community and Silicon Valley community of ambitious and accomplished women, executive and junior women in the biggest international corporations, the fastest movie startups, the most interesting non-profits, entrepreneurship, education, healthcare rights. A wide spectrum of places.

The number one thing that I heard repeatedly from nearly all sectors is that it’s not just enough for men to not harass women. That’s certainly a great place to start obviously, but we’re talking to the guys here so they know this. They’re not going to be harassing women.

I kept hearing– I wish more of the good guys understood that it’s not enough to just think of yourself as a good guy because you know you definitely wouldn’t harass women. Now in this modern era we need the good guys in our offices to take action.

The kinds of actions that we’re talking about are simpler than you’d think, and they’re less of putting your neck out there than you’d think, but it still counts as a leadership. Some of those things are advocating for female colleagues who are doing great things in the office and saying, can Cherry co-lead this project with me. I’m really busy. She’s really awesome in this area. Can we both tackle this together?

Sponsoring junior women, suggesting women’s names when there are top talent who happen to be female, suggesting their step up projects that you see projects that lead to promotion. Something that can be trickier is bringing conversation back when people are interrupted. That shows that women get interrupted in meetings more than men. Guess what, women and men are the interrupters. It’s just that all of us are interrupting women more than we’re interrupting each.

When you hear someone get interrupted as a man in the office you can say, “Frank I loved your point, but can we also hear Miranda? I don’t think you were finished.” The more graceful you can be, the more light-hearted, the less it has to be an issue.

A couple more things that the women in the office said were, if you hear uncomfortable conversation starting about women’s bodies or sex or other topics that are not G-rated or aren’t necessarily going to make every man for that matter feel comfortable and feel like it’s a G-rated work conversation, just redirect the conversation back or add another topic to the conversation. If you’re in a group of six at dinner, maybe you don’t want to take the whole conversation into a new zone that would feel too much for you. Then just start talking to the person next to you about something totally else like weather, travel, books, sports, art, a theater or anything that’s a little bit more G-rated. Conversations people can take part in.

Shani: Which is a great strategy for inclusion in general?

Femily: Yes. If you hear a conversation and you don’t feel brave enough/safe enough to say, I’m not sure that’s what I’d agree with in terms of that group of people or something. If you can’t do that because it’s your boss, it’s your main funder, it’s your client, then starting a different conversation where you’re then not a part of that it’s like a notch down, but it can be very helpful.

Shani: Great. Advocating for women whether it’s for stretch assignments or promotions, making sure that if someone is interrupted that they respectfully bring it back and let that person finish the point. Redirecting or starting new conversations if it feels like the content is very shifted to one side or not G-rated. What else should the good guys be doing?

Femily: Another thing that happens to women in the workplace that men can really step up for, women often get assigned the office housekeeping stuff like party plan. Even can you circulate this card for Bill’s birthday and get everyone to sign it and add $12 or whatever. In an office corporate environment, people have to do those tasks that aren’t really going to lead to promotion, but that they’re like part of what makes the company warm and friendly and culturally. It more often falls on the shoulders of women. Can you setup for the party et cetera.

One thing that men can do is step up and make sure that they’re doing as much of that kind of note-taking calendaring social end of things because when they step in and do it, then it allows a woman to have 30 minutes more at her desk or with the client or pounding away at those deliverables that will lead to promotion.

Shani: There’s no harm in asking people to volunteer, but don’t just ask women. Ask a broad range of people, can you come half an hour early and help us set up.

Femily: Exactly. If you notice that it was just mainly women or mainly women, even just the same people and maybe it’s just your junior staff or whatever, they’re coming to do the set up, then you can always say, well I noticed Marsha, Tim, and Llewellyn set up. How about you Gary, Paul, and Phil can you cleanup? Also a great tip for family thanksgivings.

Shani: Exactly. If I do the cooking, you do the cleaning. Okay, fair enough. Share the responsibility, spread the responsibility among everybody for things that once upon a time were almost always directed to the females in the office. I love that.

Femily: Then there are some specific tips about listening, group dynamics, touch and what’s metaphor. Do you want me to mention a couple of those?

Shani: Yes. Let’s just have them all.

Femily: Let’s do it. Okay, great. I’m listening. Sometimes in the boardroom or in the meeting room, a woman will say an idea and then it won’t be really heard by her peers, and that’ll be made clear because two ideas later, someone will basically reframe her idea. Then someone a lot of times it’s a man or someone more senior will say, “That person’s just given a genius idea.” So kind of into the interrupting once a nice ally, male ally or a senior woman can often say “That’s genius, Larry. I see what you were picking up and building on what Maria said. It’s awesome. It sounds like there’s a lot of agreement in the room because Maria said it”, you said it, making sure the credit is there. 

It may sound a little egocentric that sometimes women fear that it’s a little egocentric, but here’s the thing. If you walk away from those meetings having delivered a brilliant idea that someone else essentially gets credits for. When it comes to promotion time or bonus time or any of those other critical career advancement times and you’re not remembered for someone who contributes those big ideas that get taken and snowballed, then you’re not going to get those juicy career advancements.

Shani: Yes, absolutely. Frankly, a lot of my female clients on the executive coaching side, and even side conversations that I’m having with professional women, businesspeople, and so forth, we talk about that. I always recommend that you don’t just share your idea. Share your idea with intentionality, with energy, with the kind of energy that other people will hear it with. Don’t lower your voice. Don’t use filler words. Don’t qualify your idea. Be bold, be strong, be passionate, and you’re much more likely to be heard.

Femily: Yes. Exactly. Absolutely. Don’t say things like, “I’m just spitballing here, or I’m thinking our loud, or this just came to me I’m not really sure about it.” It’s fine. We’re in a business–

Shani: “Perhaps, maybe this could be…” No, get rid of the qualifying language.

Femily: Yes, absolutely. Good. I’m with you. Yes, go ahead.

Shani: All right, no go ahead. I think there are a couple more things you want to note and then I want to talk specifically about mentoring because I think that’s a super important thing.

Femily: Okay, good. On giving advice. We all hear the phrase mansplaining. It’s an office workplace. We need to be able to give each other feedback and tell each other new things so that we can all learn and grow and become better and smarter, faster and more innovative. In order to make it not sound patronizing, just check first if the person knows that kind of thing. You could say, “Do you want me to tell you the background on this or do you know it already?” A lot of times the mansplaining stuff happens on things that are not necessarily work-related, so like someone starts explaining the whole history of Korea and the person’s like, “I’m literary from there bro.” [laughs] I would ask do you want my perspective on X or are you good? Ask that because you can offend a colleague, but you can also offend a client by mansplaining.

It can have real business ramifications if you don’t just check first and say like, “Have you read this book? Do you know the author I’m talking about? Do you know the scientists I’m referring to, blah, blah, blah.”

Shani: 100%. I love that. Good tip. All right, so let’s get into this whole topic on what do men need to make sure they are doing and not doing when they mentor? What’s changed since MeToo?

Femily: Sure. I keep hearing this from well-meaning men who are in my audiences when I go to speak to all-male leadership at tech companies. They say things like, “You do know that the MeToo movement is dividing people in the workplace and that men no longer want to be alone with a woman for fear of getting in trouble.” I’m just putting that out there so we know we’re directly talking about that. They believe this too.

They believe that figuring out how to mentor junior women is critical. It’s critical for business reasons like you have to mentor all of your rising stars or you’re going to leave some of them in the dust which is not for your business. Also, in terms of women when they’re mentored by men, they make more money. They receive more promotions and they report greater satisfaction with their career trajectories. That’s a Harvard Business stat.

Because there’s now that world of fear, there are some new recommendations. Your listeners should take what resonates and leave the rest. We have very unique core cultures out there, very unique humans out there. Take what resonates and leave the rest. You’re dealing with a spectrum of risk here and so you definitely want to take what feels right to you. The main thing underlying all these questions are what if I unintentionally caused sexual harassment or what if I get falsely accused. Let’s just deal with that right up front and then go into the subtler like how should you mentor women, right?

Shani: Great.

Femily: The fact is you’re not going to unintentionally cause sexual harassment. If you think about any of the Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, any of the people you’ve read about in the paper over the past couple of years, those are not subtle things you wouldn’t know you’re doing. Those are horrib–

Shani: Those are not misinterpretations.

Femily: No, those are not gray area. Those are very clear. You know they are explicit. They are extreme. They are repeated. They are well beyond the gray area. You would definitely know. Also, those folks were not worried about if they were going to be misinterpreted. If you’re already worried, it’s not going to be you. You’re already one of the good guys, but also [sound cut] what if someone accuses me falsely. I get it that it’s terrifying. That would have ramifications for your reputation, your career, your income, your spouse et cetera, right?

Shani: Yes.

Femily: Lucky news is it’s incredibly unlikely. The incidence of fraudulent reporting of sexual harassment and sexual assault are .05 in that range of time. What we do know is that men are much likely to be the victim of sexual assault and sexual harassment than to be falsely accused of it.

Shani: Interesting. Let’s actually say that again, I think that’s going to be news to a lot of people.

Femily: Men are more likely to be the victim of sexual harassment, so to be sexually harassed themselves in the workplace by someone else, by a male boss or by a female boss or to be the victim of sexual assault than to be falsely accused of it.

Shani: Interesting. It makes me think of the silly movie Bad Bosses where Jennifer Aniston played- I think she was a dentist or something and she was harassing her male employee. Which also happens, and so listen if whoever’s listening to this, I think these tips are going to transcend direction, right?

Femily: Yes. The other thing to be aware of if you’re still thinking about what if I’m falsely accused of a crime or something. Men are 14 times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than of sexual assault. If you want to get a wrongful conviction, just start focusing on murder because you’re 14 times more likely. It’s basically unlikely. It’s causing one out of six men to be scared to mentor women, but it barely ever happens. It’s time to mentor women.

They deserve it and you deserve not to be scared of it anymore. The other number thing that I will drop here is, it’s somewhere in the range of three-quarters to 81% of women experience sexual harassment in some form throughout their career. Well, you as the good men out there are far more likely to need the answer to how can I help a female colleague who’s been sexually harassed or a colleague of any gender who’s been sexually harassed than the question of what do I do if I’m falsely accused.

Speaking of that, what do you do? This is an environment where many women are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. They are turning to a lot of these good guys in the workplace to say, “This happened to me. What do I do?” It’s important to be a good guy in an office. You have to get this part right. It can be a heavy topic and it’s always disturbing to hear that someone has been through something like sexual harassment or actually someone close to you.

First of all, know that it takes a lot of courage for someone in the workplace to bring this up at all, especially to another colleague. You as one of the good guys is to thank her for telling you and for being so open. Don’t press for details, just let her tell you what she wants to. Don’t question her truthfulness or her perspective unless you’re her HR manager or the in-house counsel or the manager, in which case your company has rules about what you’re supposed to do when someone tells you about sexual harassment.

If it’s your pal at work that’s telling you about this, your only job is to support her. It’s not to get to the bottom of it. It’s not a problem to solve it for her. It’s to reassure her that it’s not her fault if that comes up. She may not think it’s her fault, so you don’t need to bring the fault thing up unless she’s asking if you think it’s her fault. Good phrases for this type of thing are like, “That’s really awful. I’m so sorry. That should have never happened. How can I help you, how gross. Thank you for telling me. Whatever you decide to do, I have your back.” Those kinds of supportive statements are the ones that someone’s looking for when they have or there’s a workplace situation.

Shani: If the woman’s afraid to go to HR if you’re the man in that situation and someone’s confided in you, do you encourage them, push them to go to HR, should you go to HR on their behalf?

Femily: No, definitely not going on their behalf because that’s again like another consent issue, right. She’s already had a violation in some form related to consent and just related to her power in the workplace. Let her determine her path. She’s obviously going to be wondering, should I go should I not go, and if you want to be a thought partner in that, but I don’t recommend that men who were just being come to be a thought partner and shoulder that they start advocating for what should happen. Only she knows how much of a risk she wants to take with her career, her personal finance, situation at home, her job stability situation. How quickly she can get another job, how badly she needs this one. Like how much stress she’s willing to incur at a certain point in her life based on the rest of the stuff that’s going on in her life, et cetera.

Shani: Sure. Right, gosh you just rattled off a litany of considerations that not everybody would know to think about as they’re being empathetic.

Femily: No, sure, yes.

Shani: Because I think people’s knee jerk reaction is, “Oh you have to report that.” Certainly in an ideal world, in either work environment when there’s psychological safety, and there’s a history of HR being supportive and all that sort of stuff, you probably are much more inclined to do that. But unfortunately not all companies are woke that way.

Femily: I think you’re asking, should I go to HR, it could be a sign that your company is not that ready right that you said about your culture because otherwise you’d be like, “That person’s a nightmare. I’m going to HR where it’s safe and welcoming and I will not be retaliated against.” It seems more like an easy path if you have that safe environment like you’re describing.

Shani: Right, good. Going back to the mentoring thing, you gave us the statistics which are super compelling, so man you’re 14 times more likely to be falsely accused of murder than sexual harassment. I called bullshit if you’re saying you don’t feel comfortable mentoring more junior women anymore.

Femily: There’s a few tips that can make it a little more easy, so how do I make sure it doesn’t veer into something more, right? That she doesn’t get the wrong idea, et cetera. There’s a lot of reasons people get into mentoring, so you might want to mentor all of your rising stars because as a leader that’s your job and you get it, right? So they could be that. A lot of workplaces now do you have a women’s mentoring initiative or rising junior women are assigned to senior mentors of any gender. Or maybe a junior woman who’s on your team has specifically asked you to be their mentor or has started asking you questions that are mentor-like, you’re clearly entering into a mentor relationship.

To keep it professional, basically the human brain works in a way where there’s a give-and-take expected when you have a relationship with someone, a professional relationship, someone who is doing work for you or in a friendship or anything. People seek out this mutually beneficial equilibrium, so the junior woman is going to get business mentoring from you, right? Then the question is like what are you getting from her? If it fulfills you business-wise to be mentoring your team then that’s something, but to make sure that you’re not accidentally slipping into looking for flirtation or like validation that can get into a slippery slope. You’re going to work concretely like what’s something that this young person, this rising star can bring to you that’s going to feel as professional as the businesses that she’s looking for and as needy, right.

Some of these kinds of things can be a lot of my– I’m thinking of my senior executive males in tech. Some of them are learning a lot about an audience that they’re making an app for. They’re running a tech company and it’s for a younger consumer audience maybe Gen Zs or millennials. They are learning about a certain culture more just by being in the presence of this younger person. Sometimes, it could be more of a hobby thing. Someone is from a different part of the world and the senior mentor likes to travel and learns a lot about this person who has an international background, and that’s deeply interesting to them. It can be that they have their finger on the hottest spots to eat in your town and that’s invigorating to you. Just pick out a thing so that you know what the give-and-take is and it’s more clear to you.

Shani: Right, think of it in terms of reverse mentoring.

Femily: Yes, exactly. Right, in fact I know one senior executive who is calling it that also, and maybe they listen to the LeaderShift podcast. [laughs] They’re getting millennial mentored. They are in their late sixties and they’re getting millennial mentored. They asked their technology like their outside of work technology questions, like how do I find this thing on Twitter, and what’s the difference between using Twitter for this, and LinkedIn for this?

Shani: My kid’s on this thing called TikTok now, how do I get on it, right?

Femily: Is it good? What should I be afraid of? What should know, yes, those kinds of things can be very helpful and can balance it out a little bit.

Shani: Okay. Terrific so make sure that when trying to achieve that equilibrium of a give-and-take relationship, that there’s nothing to be misconstrued.

Femily: Absolutely and to further help that misconstruing don’t do it over drinks, don’t do your mentoring over drinks. Keep your mentoring this works differently for different cultures obviously like I know that you’ve come from finance and that’s pretty big on meeting over drinks and so are certain forms of consulting and different business ones. But meeting– yes go ahead.

Shani: I was just going to say I’m going to Korea next week to do a workshop and in advance of that I asked some of my local contacts over there what do I need to be sensitive to in the Korean business environment and the way people negotiate and develop relationships and so forth. I got some really great tips around that, and they said that one of the ways that they bond over there even professionally is by going to do karaoke together. [laughs]

Femily: Right so yes, you bring up a very interesting point which is like there are some company cultures and national cultures where there’s a very specific way of bonding with business and so what’s happening in this new MeToo era is a lot of women are being left out of those opportunities where you’re with the high-profile clients, you’re doing the easy trust-building bonding at karaoke, for example, or at the chosen Steakhouse at 9:00 PM. right, or whatever, and so that is leaving out women. There are a few shifts that are happening in the American workforce for sure which a lot of male bosses are switching to either power lunches because that has– lunch has less of a romantic feeling, and same linking feeling for many industries and then also breakfast, power breakfasts.

Things that are taking– they’re taking a lot of business by storm and they’re really picking up pace. The important part there is that you do the same mentoring for your junior male employees as your junior female employees. If you feel uncomfortable doing one-on-one drinks with female employees at 10:00 PM, don’t do it with male employees either, because then you’re creating an inequity. That’s one of the tips. Make sure that all of your meetings have a very specific purpose. If a junior employee throws a meeting on your calendar that says like, Thursday drinks or something. I can say, what are the agenda items for this meeting, and then change the name and the calendar to like a mentoring session with Tea Smith as opposed to drinks.

Keep it like that and then also when you go– if you do have to go to a restaurant, even the lunch restaurant or the power breakfast restaurant. Like restaurants are created to be romantic and to bring that out like that’s who they assume is going there. That’s their like client number one so waiters it’s very awkward to be out at a business meeting with someone of the opposite sex and then have a waiter think that it’s a date. Bring a notepad, bring your computer, and put it on the table. Like bring something that is not date-ish that’s a busy thing and have it on the table to say nothing of obviously where your business outfit but like sometimes people still think that it’s a date for sure.

Shani: Right, good and what about, let’s take it even further. Men and women have to take business trips together. I think about– I can’t even count the number of times when I was a junior and when I was an analyst and associate at Goldman when my VP or partner were almost all men and so I’d be the only woman traveling with either a group of men or one man. Of course we don’t want women to not be staffed on out of town clients because men want to avoid that.

Femily: No. I agree. Keeping as many business things around while you’re doing that is really important because anytime someone else assumes that you’re on a date, it creates a weird vibe that then you’re battling uphill against that vibe. Perhaps at the other person they might get the wrong impression. Perhaps within yourself, you might get the wrong impression. There’s a lot of ways this could kind of go wrong.

With traveling, it’s really just if you break it down into micro bits of what the steps are, you’re sharing an Uber together. Make sure you’re talking business talk, quickly curb any conversation that seems like it’s going to be any of those not G-rated conversations that we had before. Sometimes I’ll slip into that when they’re traveling because they want to blow off steam and not have– it’s a natural impulse they want to have not to work on the brain 24/7. Choose work topics, the outside of work topics like sports, like travel that are more of a G-rated topic.

Once you open the door of talking about sexy, romantic dating topics with someone of the opposite sex who’s in a different power differential, it can snowball.

Shani: Absolutely.

Femily: There are always those creeps that are going to snowball it anyway. I’m just talking about trying to just– two good people trying not to get into a creepy situation or try not to have a dating spark fly in the midst of a business situation.

Shani: Absolutely. Okay. Terrific. I’ve got a couple of other social situations to throw out there and just get your best advice. Hugs.

Femily: Oh, I love it.

Shani: Okay. Listen, hugs, it’s not like we have people come into the office and hug all the time, but let’s say, it’s a holiday party. It’s a work holiday party and is it appropriate to hug and kiss on the cheek or if you’re European, the kiss on both cheeks when– and your female, either employees or even your counterparts are coming in that sort of thing.

Femily: I would say– so for the good guys out there, it’s again a spectrum of risk so manage your spectrum of risk, how you feel most comfortable. The best advice I ever give is to stay out of that gray area game, right? We all know those colleagues who are well-loved and they don’t get meshed in that gray area, like a kiss at the holiday party, blah, blah, blah. The most important thing here is really about the genders.

Don’t touch the ladies at work or treat them physically in a way that you wouldn’t treat the men. If you are giving hugs and kisses to the ladies at work, you better give hugs and kisses to the men at work. If you wouldn’t hug a male colleague for 10 seconds at the holiday party or if you wouldn’t touch his lower back as you scoot by him in the coffee area, then don’t do that to a woman if you wouldn’t–

The number of women who’ve told me that they’ve had their thighs pinched under the table because the man next to them thought he was showing enthusiasm for a project or calling her attention to like a weird thing to other teams said on the other side of the table. If you wouldn’t do that to a male colleague– grab a male colleague’s thigh under the table, then don’t do it on a female colleague.

Here are some best safe bets for to still be a great comrade, to have that comradery, to have that holiday spirit or whatever. I mean a handshake can be fun and enthusiastic, right? You can do smiles, cheers, right? A fist bump, a high five like telling someone they’re great, like giving a compliment as your handshaking. There’s a million ways to have a festive happy, a friendly PG or G-related interaction with a worker, but keep that gender balance because once you treat women differently, it’s going off into that gray area.

Shani: Absolutely. Okay. The hugs and any touching really make sure you’re doing it equally across gender. If you’re just a touchy person, people aren’t going to misconstrue it nearly as frequently if you’re grabbing men by the shoulder and women by the shoulder, just as part of like you’re excited for example. If you’re a person who isn’t self-aware about personal boundaries, that’s another podcast. [laughs]

Femily: Yes. As we all know, we’re not in an Even Stevens society yet where it’s actually perceived as the same to do the shoulder rub to the men and shoulder up to the women because we’re in this world where 80% of women do have sexual harassment in the workplace history. You’re coming into that shoulder rub having had maybe one of those before that meant, “I need you to accept the shoulder rub or I’m going to fire you, et cetera.” All of those different things so it doesn’t feel the same to women.

I would say back off and just treat women great, but not physical.

Shani: Yes. Got it. How about just like run-of-the-mill compliments? I’m guessing that women probably get them more than men like, “Oh, that’s a lovely dress or beautiful shoes or your hair looks great today.” I know I give those kinds of compliments to men and women.

Femily: Yes. Which is where you’re going right because the quality of it all puts you in this other category of you’re just a complimenter.

Shani: Yes, I consider myself a stylish person and I notice when someone is well put together regardless of their gender or other orientations and I guess I’m sort of asking is for me and my listeners, should we just stop complimenting anything that isn’t a business achievement or– is it okay to still say, “I like your shirt or I like your tie.”

Femily: Yes. It definitely depends again on how much risk you want to acquire. If you want to be bulletproof, then obviously only talk about business, right? If you want to have-

Shani: Then you’re just boring AF.

Femily: If you want to have a culturally warm environment where people feel good. The point here is for you to feel good and for people to feel good. I’m trying to help you not say weird things to make people feel bad, right? Here’s the thing. Yes, of course, to say to someone, “Great report, good presentation,” that’s awesome. If you want to veer off more into compliments beyond work, definitely stick to those again that are not gendered.

If you wouldn’t tell a man– here’s two things that a man has said to me in the past year that I doubt he’s saying to men. He said, “You look a lot of fun outside the office.” It definitely isn’t anyone I’m not that excited about it’s– and someone said your spouse is one lucky person and that it’s just like a little– it gave me the creeps because it clearly was about romance and he was not going to be saying that to the men in his office. 

Shani: Then how about– let’s just go there because I have so many friends, men and women who have met their partners at work. We couldn’t finish this podcast without at least touching upon like, “Hey, what if you’re interested in someone you work with, someone you work for, someone who works for you,” what are all the dynamics there?

Femily: Let’s see. What’s true is a lot of people do meet their sweetheart in the office and so there’s a huge percentage of married people and that’s where they work. It’s true that that’s the case. It’s definitely not without loads of risk and awkwardness if it doesn’t work out. Here’s the truth. Make sure that if you are going to ask someone out in the office, it’s more on the life partner potential.

Like really run them through some rubrics in your mind of like, “Is this a life potential partner?” Because if they’re just a cutie, you want to like go on some dates but you’d never marry a person like that or whatever, then just go find a lovely person in yoga or on Tinder or wherever. Don’t go into the office looking, don’t get someone in the office for that but if you’re like, “This person might be my actual partner,” while you really like them. First of all, if they’re your peer in the company, way better than if they’re not. If either of you is the boss of each other or whatever.

Shani: Yes, the power dynamic often creates challenges.

Femily: Situations. Yes, like a power dynamic. Obviously to ask them out soon before either of you gets promoted into each other’s boss. You have took in the company guide that says either you’re not allowed to date your colleagues. In higher ed, there’s a lot of that, professors can’t date each other, can’t take grades. Definitely understand what your company says about that. 

Here’s the important part, ask her out or ask them out, ask the person out at work very clearly and only– because you only get one time to ask the person out. If you ask more than once you’re going into this sort of repetitive creep factor harassment blah, blah, blah. Instead of saying something like, “Hey, do you want to get drinks and talk about spreadsheets,” or something where it’s murky, is that work, is that a date? Ask specifically something like “I don’t want this to be awkward and if you say no I’ll never mention it again but I’m starting to feel like we might have a potential good dating vibe here do you want to, can I take you to dinner? If you say no it’s totally fine and I’ll never mention it again. I might blush with embarrassment for a couple of weeks but after that, I’ll be fine.” That’s a very clear ask. If the answer is no, very much move on. If the answer is yes, look at your company guide to see what that says.

Shani: A lot of companies, I mean some companies forbid it outright but I think a lot of companies just have rules about you can’t work in the same business unit and like I even have a really good friend I used to work with who started dating a guy who, you know, joined our group not long after that and they went to HR and one of them had to move to a different group just so they weren’t working directly together because that is conflict of interest and wouldn’t you know, they ended up getting married, they have two kids and happily ever after.

Femily: I love it. Yeah.

Shani: Yeah. I guess it’s true. You don’t want to like not go there if you really do think like this could be my soul mate.

Femily: Right if you think it’s that serious don’t stop yourself but don’t marinate on it either because you’re being creepy even if you don’t know it. Like just the minute you think this I might need to go on a date with this person. They might be my soul mate, just ask them like it’s not gonna get better the longer you lurk around their desk, and on the other hand the one thing I also will say about chivalry in the office. 

If you think you want to date someone, date someone who’d be a chivalrous, feels like the chivalry of your heart outside of the office. Don’t bring chivalry into the office for other people basically because bringing up chivalry that’s really like a way of men treating women in a certain way that distinguishes them from other men and in the like pulling out women’s chairs in a boardroom, letting women exit the elevator first in a business context, walking on the out– men walking on the outside of the sidewalk for a female colleague or opening doors for women. 

If you’re opening doors for men and women great or if you’re opening doors for people who have their hands full obviously that’s great but if you’re just doing it for women, it comes from the world of them being the weaker sex when we work in the workplace alongside you in the boardroom, and it introduces a genderly way of interacting that most often flows into genderly notions of who should be promoted, genderly notions of who should get the stretch projects, genderly notions of who should give the tricky speech to the high acting client.

Shani: Yes. Funny I interviewed a woman on this podcast, gosh, last year at some point and she’s a restaurant consultant in New York City. She has managed the back of the house for lots of big restaurants and lots of famous chefs in New York City and now she’s got her own consulting business. We were talking about one of the ways that restaurants are training their wait staff now is to not always presume that the woman’s going to order first like because that’s another piece of chivalry and I hadn’t thought about it but I was like oh yes that’s really interesting and so newly trained wait staffs at top restaurants now are not defaulting to asking the woman first what she wants.

Femily: That’s great. I never even realized that. That’s interesting therefore here’s a new tip hot off the press is if you’re out on a business outing with a man who is your peer, just a man in your workplace and the waiter comes and asks you the woman to order first, be like I’m still looking. He can order and it’s like it upsets the gender applecart a little that it’s not that “datey” atmosphere. You can do that. It is definitely much more helpful.

Shani: Good. Well, super. Thank you for sharing all of these valuable tips around what to do if you’re a good guy in this era of MeToo. Folks, just a couple of summary points here take action if you’re a man that you know even if you’re not so it might not be a sin of commission, there still could be sins of omission if you’re not standing up for what you see as inequality in the workplace. If you’re not redirecting folks who have been interrupted of any gender, if you’re not redirecting conversations from places that might seem to be more R-rated or beyond back to G or PG focuses. Give people the benefit of the doubt that they know things instead of going right into mansplaining. All of these things, continuing to advocate for all of your talented people including your high potential women. Don’t not do those things now, please. It’s more important than ever now to advocate for anybody who’s talented regardless of what the walk of life is.

Please don’t stop mentoring, right? It’s a business imperative to continue to mentor women and just use your common sense. Keep it professional and I love it’s a good best practice that if you wouldn’t say or do that with a man then don’t do or say that with a woman whom you’re mentoring. Another thing that I’ve said to people is you know what, if you wouldn’t want your daughter or your wife or your sister spoken to or treated that way then don’t do it to a woman in the workplace. To me, that’s another way to conceptualize what may be right and what may be inappropriate. Support women who come to you if they’ve been harassed. Don’t push them but be supportive. Have their back and of course keep it confidential, and last but not least with hugs and touching and restaurants and all that stuff again just use your common sense if you’re going to do things, do things equally and don’t just single out women because you think that that’s the way it’s always been done.

Femily: Right. As I tell my clients just take the of these that we’ve talked about today that fit your personality and your organizational culture and then maybe challenge yourself to do some of the ones that felt a little trickier and just try them on for size because that’s part of the growth, that’s where the learning happens, right. In my experience the women who I surveyed in my survey about the good guys they all said we’re not expecting the good guys to be perfect or immediately flawless; we’re just expecting them to help us create that inclusive and fair atmosphere to get in the trenches with us and to work at it with us as we figure it out together.

Shani: Absolutely because three-quarters to 80% of women having been harassed in the workplace is not okay, right? Do you happen to know off the top of your head what this like statistic is for men being harassed in the workplace just out of curiosity?

Femily: It’s in the below 10%. Yes.

Shani: Yes, not okay and I would love to 20 years from now be having this conversation and hear that there’s more parody that you– because there’s always going to be the inappropriate idiots– but 20 years from now or sooner I’d love to be able to get on a podcast with you and say, gosh, look at all the progress we’ve made but since 2019, now only some single-digit number of women are being harassed in the workplace. God wouldn’t that be wonderful.

Femily: Right. Like the same number of women and men who get their wallets stolen by a colleague in the workplace. Just a small like someone’s going to do a bad thing in the office like, but I want it to be that kind of weird low not expected number, not a universal experience.

Shani: Yes, absolutely. Okay. If people have other questions or want to bring you in to help them with gender and inclusion in the workplace, how can they reach you?

Femily: You can find me at my website which is

Shani: Love the creativity behind that. Thank you for joining us again today. This is so valuable and so critically important, and Leadershifters, you know how to reach me and all the various social media platforms and let’s hear from you like if you have a question shoot it to me and if I don’t think I know the answer that Femily would give you, I’ll troubleshoot it with her on your behalf.

Femily: Perfect. Happy to help.

Shani: Until next time, have a good one and mwah, and that kiss is directed to everyone equally.

Femily: I love it!

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