Recognize What You Want to See Happen Again
If you are lucky enough to have an ally, let he or she know they are your ally. An ally is someone that acts as a mentor, a sponsor, an advisor, an advocate. They could be a peer, a leader, a direct report, anyone that stands beside you in the fight for equality. An ally does not exert their power. They choose to be vulnerable, and step outside their comfort zone to help another that may be underrepresented or have less power.
We need more allies
I was fortunate in my career to have entrusted many allies. Mostly men. It is important we recognize our allies. It models the way for other allies and encourages our allies to continue and grow as allies.
Here is my story
I met Ryan Volk my first day at my first real job at Caterpillar. He was from Michigan, I was from Ohio. It could have been ugly. Luckily, he was a Michigan State graduate. I was the only woman amongst 11 of the leadership rotational program trainees and he made me feel right at home. I remember him asking me a lot of questions, listening intently, and sharing stories about his past successes and challenges. He was so real with me. We instantly clicked as friends and became roommates. In fact, I introduced him to his now wife, advocating to her, “you just have to meet this guy – he is perfect for you!”
Ryan and I went through a lot personally and professionally. I still remember his tears and embrace after my mother’s funeral. Because he was my friend and ally, I was asked to do a lot of things I might have otherwise not been asked to do. I got asked to go out for drinks with the guys, go to baseball games with our co-workers, and was included in meetings I might otherwise have been left out of. Leaders commented that I was surrounding myself with good people, noting Ryan. I know now how important it is that women feel equal to men, are included equally, and feel a sense of belonging. By having Ryan as an ally, I really felt equal. He made sure I belonged. Thank you, Ryan.
Jason Barnaby is a fairly new ally of mine. We met him nine months ago and I feel like I have known him forever. And he is a Firestarter. He told me, “I don’t know why I am so connected to your message, it just resonates with me.” A father, a husband, a change maker, and an ally, I know he will be one of the first to comment on my social media posts, support me when I feel less than confident, and send a note of encouragement just when I need it. I am so thankful for his support and allyship. I saw him speak recently, and was so inspired by his message. He even wore a male ally T-shirt and paused to share it on stage. Now, we are co-facilitating events together. Our messages really align about being brave. He has helped me stay committed to our mantra. We are stronger together. We are ONE. I am thankful to know you, Jason.
JT Metzger, ally, mentor, leader, sponsor. He has done it all for me. As my former manager, he took chances on me all the time. He put me in a position to do things I had never done before because he chose to see my potential over my past performance. He hired a coach for me to be a better leader, invested in my own coaching certification, and was the first to recognize my gift of facilitation. He believed in me and saw things in me I had yet to see in myself. I now call him for advice when I have a difficult situation with a client, or need some sales coaching. He inspires me to take risks and be brave. Recently, we were able to celebrate success together, and I was thankful that I had the opportunity to share with him and his wife the impact he has had on my career. I shared the story when I was pregnant and was looked over for a promotion, he asked, “how do you feel about that?” Just him asking meant so much to me. He has intuition to know when to ask vs. when to tell. I appreciate him listening to me. Thank you, JT, for being my catapult. I know I would not be here without you.
And I would be remised if I did not share my husband and ally, Rustin. A stay at home dad, our family’s rock, and glue that keeps me going, he’s unlike most men I know. And, I know that is hard for him. I know he feels less than appreciated at times. He is managing our 4-year old and 15-year old daughters. He is the shuttle bus driver, the caregiver, the cook, the host, and the rock. It is a lot to ask of a man. And, he handles it with ease. The extreme patience he has is incredible. I could not do what he does. And, I could not grow this business without his allyship. I am thankful to have him and his support. Proud to be a part of his #lifeofamanny. Thank you, Rustin. I appreciate and respect you.
So, who are your allies? Recognize them. They need to know the impact they have had.
Gender equality is a tough conversation, but it does not have to be.
That is why we have the Five Questions to Get the Gender Equality Conversation Document. This is not easy. This is the tough stuff leaders have to do. Engage with your team. Have a dialogue. I promise you will not regret it.