7 ways to let colleagues know you’re one of the Good Guys

By Madeleine Clark

“Okay, I’ll stop calling them girls, but do I still pull out their chairs for them at the table? Should I hold the door open or give a woman my seat on the bus?” In the wake of the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s, it wasn’t uncommon for men to ask questions like these (usually accompanied by a derogatory snicker). Many were frustrated by not knowing what was considered to be chauvinistic, let alone the thought of exploring a behavior change. This attitude was often met with ridicule or outright hostility from a “women’s libber.” A new game in the industry had arrived, but there was no playbook to be found.

Fast forward 30 years and reams of case law later, the conversation happening around the “women’s movement 2.0” is engraving in stone exactly what is and isn’t acceptable. There are the obvious violations that have been made public by many brave women—sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other horrific acts of crime. There’s nothing ambiguous about the intentions of those Bad Boys who are falling from their office towers à la Mad Men. But men still take missteps, which may not lead to a fall, but slips in the mission of gender equality in the workplace.

Whether it’s because of leftover habits or plain ignorance, we have some Good Guy advice to keep men on the path to progress:  
1. Choose words wisely when commenting on a woman’s appearance

When a Good Guy notices something new about the way a woman looks, they mention it in a way they would to any friend—Is that a new haircut?”, Awesome shirt!”, or “That’s a great color on you!”. They never use words like “hot” or “sexy” in reference to something a female coworker wears or does.

2. View women with equanimity 

Good Guys do not filter a woman’s intrinsic value based on her attractiveness. They’re mindful about their behavior and do not get wide-eyed in the presence of a gorgeous woman, or subtly roll their eyes at or insult someone they deem unattractive. They see women for who they are—colleagues that are essential to the business and company culture.

3. Acknowledge spouses and significant others with respect when at work

Good Guys do not try to downplay their committed status around women, and they certainly do not troll for sympathetic shoulders on which to unload their dissatisfaction with their partners and personal lives.  

4. Treat younger women with dignity and respect

Good Guys don’t see younger female co-workers as potential conquests, spending excessive amounts of time trying to impress them. In fact, Good Guys take on the role of mentor for younger employees, and do their part to bring gender equality into their workplace.

5. Don’t go to strip clubs with work colleagues or clients

Can you believe guys still do this? Not Good Guys. Not on lunch hour. Not after hours. Period. This act alone contributes to a hostile workplace and can seriously tarnish one’s reputation.

6. Mind your pronouns

Believe it or not, many conversations still default to “he” when referring to people in the abstract. For example, “When we hire a new VP, we’ll make sure he makes this a priority.” Modern minds always say “he or she,” and may even only use “she” to make a statement.

7. Call other guys out on their bad behavior

Good Guys shut down others’ inappropriate comments and behavior. Even if other men in the office still may have ignorant or sexist thoughts, making it clear that it’s not tolerated will make them less likely to act on their inclinations. Why has referring to women as “girls” just about gone the way of the dodo bird? Because a new generation with a new vocabulary replaced the old timers who never read the memo.

There are many behaviors that still need to go extinct in the workplace ecosystem. We strive to do our part in evolving our society to where we do not even have to decipher the Good Guys from the Bad Guys, and where women are there to do what they’ve always been best at—being good, period.

About Madeleine Clark

Madeleine Clark is the founder of HerWerk. She has a proven history of sourcing diverse candidate panels and a longstanding commitment to women’s advancement in the industry.
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