Don’t Talk the Talk If You Won’t Walk the Walk

By: Michelle Bogan

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There is nothing worse at work than a leader who talks about supporting their people but won’t put their words into action. Male or female, it’s equally bad.

“Do as I say, not as I do” does not fly anymore — particularly on the issue of women’s equality at work, because it makes women feel like the speaker is capitalizing on a movement at our expense. We don’t need PR if you’re not going to do what is takes inside the company to make a difference. And we really don’t need it if you’re going to speak publicly as if you’re supportive, and then undermine women behind closed doors.

[Related: Changing The Game]

We don’t expect everyone to get behind this issue. No one, female or male, should feel forced to get on board. But using the issue and movement for your own gain because of the perceived benefit to getting behind it is a different thing altogether.

Actively marketing your company as “pro-women” and not putting policies and ways of working in place to help women be treated equitably is equally bad. Especially if you are doing that to appease shareholders and attract new hires. It is false advertising, and it comes at a cost to everyone. Real work gets stalled, those new hires will leave, shareholders will lash out at the company, and performance will fall.

I will never forget meeting a prominent female CEO who spoke publicly about family support policies, the importance of creating different paths to the top, and work-life balance. Less than ten minutes later, she privately told me about how she arranged 24/7 childcare so she never had to be home and shared her belief that the traditional path is the only path to success.

[Related: Women’s Advancement in the Law: Small Actions by Male Allies Make a Big Difference]

This was so much worse than hearing only one side of her story. It undermined every speech and PR effort she led around equality in the workplace. It was so clear she had been coached about her public persona and embraced it, even though it was opposed to how she really operated.

We want our leaders to do right by us. If women’s equality at work cannot be your priority right now, don’t say anything. If you don’t know where to begin, ask for help. If it is important to you, take some real action and start making changes.

Be authentic about it. Don’t say what you can’t or won’t do.

[Related: One Thing You Can Do to Be a Great Supporter of Women at Work]

Throughout her twenty-five-year career, Michelle Bogan has mentored colleagues and clients, founded and led women’s groups, and helped promote many women and men to leadership positions. In 2018, she founded Equity for Women to advance the mission of empowering women at work.

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