After work, a group of colleagues get together for a socially distanced Happy Hour. The group is made up of males from various departments that routinely got together prior to the pandemic. Caden, still stinging from his conversation with Pat, continues to vent.
“Look, my concern is that we’re pampering these women and hiring people who just can’t cut it,” he confides in Mark, another co-worker. “I’ve got two daughters and I’m raising them to work hard so they can compete in the workplace!”
Mark had heard about the discussion between Caden and Pat earlier in the day and wasn’t sure he agreed with Caden’s point of view.
“And what about Lou over there,” Caden points to Lou, a co-worker who is talking with another co-worker, oblivious to their conversation. “Lou has worked his way from the bottom with no help and now, just because someone’s a woman, she’s going to get a promotion over him. It’s just not fair.”
“Look, man,” Mark starts to reply with a little hesitancy in his voice, “there’s been no indication that the company will value anything over merit or that standards are being lowered. And just because someone needs support doesn’t necessarily mean they never belonged in the first place.”
“How do you mean?” Caden asked.
“Look at it like this, most people get help along the way. And if we’re smart, we accept that help. When we hired Lou, he needed some help adjusting to a professional environment. He was a hot head.”
“He was!” Caden laughed.
“But we started counseling him, showing him the ropes because we believed in him. We knew things could work out with him but that he needed a little help. He needed our support and guidance in a few areas, and we started inviting him out with us after work. Hell, I even took advantage of some of the training the company offered. It’s helped me do my job better and may even help me get promoted over you, Sue, and Lou one day. And if that same assistance helps a woman or anyone else progress or be more comfortable at work, then ’I’m all for it.”
Caden seemed to think about what Mark said, then piped up, “Well, if they’re going to have a women’s group, then I want to start my own group.”
Mark thought he might have missed an opportunity to help Caden. Mark also knew that he might not be the best person to educate Caden. Mark made one last pitch on the subject.
“Okay. Fine. But look around us: we already have our own, de facto group. We meet and consult with, vent to, and lean on one other. We share our common experiences, and it helps us grow. Nothing wrong with others having same level of support."
“Eh, maybe,” Caden said, still considering his options.
“A rising tide floats all boats, right?” Mark said.
Caden considered what Mark said as he went back home. He remembered how he needed to take extra time off and work from home after his twin daughters were born because his wife had complications with her pregnancy.
A few days later, Caden calls Pat again.
Pat wondered how to get Caden to relate to what they were doing by creating this women’s group and thought maybe it could be explained in the context of Paid Parental Leave.
Caden said, “Listen, I’ve been talking to a lot of my friends outside the office, and they really understand where I’m coming from.”
Pat started to grow curious and listened intently, “Okay.”
Caden went on, “I remember when my twins were born, and I needed extra time off and had to work from home. At the time, I know we didn’t have a paid paternity leave policy, and no one worked from home. Not even the co-CEOs. I remember you heard me out and my point that it wasn’t fair that women could take time off and men couldn’t. I told you that I was more than capable of doing my job from home. And you listened.”
Pat smiled. “Right. We tried to meet your need the best we could.”
Caden said slowly, “Right. You...changed the policy so that it became a paid parental leave, instead of a maternity leave policy, and gave men and women the same amount of time off when they had a baby. And you let me work from home.”
Pat could see Caden trying to get it and was grateful for Caden’s perspective, “I’m thinking that this new women’s group is kind of the same thing, right? It will give women opportunities they need to be successful in our organization. Just like I was able to be successful by taking some time off and working from home. I mean, that was a great year for me. I even got promoted after working from home and caring for my kids.”
“I remember, Caden, you knocked it out of the park that year!”
“Yeah. So, I can’t say I understand completely, but it’s helpful for me to relate a bit. We don’t all need the same level of support at work, and we need policies and programs tailored to meet those differing needs.”
“Yes! That is one great way to summarize the difference between equity and equality in an organization!” Pat exclaimed.
Caden went on, “You know what Pat? I remember how I struggled with having newborn twins and working full time. I’ve seen some of the other associates struggling, even when they have just one baby to deal with. Maybe I’ll start a group to help support new fathers that might be struggling with balancing work and kids. I know I sure could have used some support.”
Pat agreed. “That is a really great idea Caden. Let me know when you want to kick off your ‘New Father’s’ group. I would be happy to help.”
When implementing DEI initiatives, your employees will have “offline” conversations. There will be opinions. That is okay. If you want the initiative to be successful, consider reinforcing the ‘why’ behind the initiatives. the ways in which it will reinforce the reasoning for implementing such initiatives.
Consider how to help colleagues understand DEI initiatives and policies by finding related policies your organization already implements.
Explore how promoting allyship can help further difficult conversations.
Would you like additional resources to learn more about support based on need?
⚙ Are you a TriNet customer? Learn about DE&I Training, click here
📖 Read more about employee resource groups from this Forbes article entitled How to Foster Workplace Belonging Through Successful Employee Resource Groups
📖 Read about myths and realities around affirmative action from these great webpages, Affirmative Action Myths and Realities from the University of Oregon and Affirmative Action Frequently Asked Questions from the U.S. Department of Labor
📖 Article from Harvard Business Review entitled “Why Some Men Pretend to Work 80-Hour Weeks
📖 Read more about allyship from this Forbes article entitled How Allyship Makes Workplaces More Inclusive
Listen to a podcast from the Harvard Business Review called Helping Men Help Us
Legal disclaimer: Resources provided in this story is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice. This story may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such websites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks on this site does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.
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