Welcome to GenderWorks’ November 2019 newsletter.
We’re excited to share our video The Hopeless Generation???, an exploration of the ups and downs that women experience in their struggle for gender equality. Don’t miss the surprise in the video’s second half and look for our companion video highlighting men’s experience of gender inequalities in our January 2020 newsletter!
Our article The Power of Storytelling is part of our Neuroscience Nuggets series that illuminates how organizations can strengthen their diversity and inclusion work through employing neuroscience.
In our FAQs Recap, we’ve done a brief review of the topics covered in recent months. Please email if you have questions you’d like considered for future newsletters.
First Impressions in GenderWorks in the Family shares how inaccurate snap judgements can be.
As we do on many nights at dinner, on Thanksgiving we’ll be both sharing our gratitude and acknowledging the many struggles in our country and world. Enjoy Thanksgiving and let the eating begin!
All the best,
Lisa D’Annolfo Levey & Bryan Levey
The Hopeless Generation???
Take a look at our video, The Hopeless Generation???, mirroring the ups and downs and let us know what you think.
The Power of Storytelling
Long before written language, the primary means of communication was the spoken word. Storytelling was the vehicle for passing down wisdom from generation to generation. Our brains are primed to listen to, and learn from, storytelling. Think of a group of young children, sitting quietly and listening with rapt attention as their teacher reads a story to them. It’s no different for adults, drawn in by a Ted Talk or a favorite podcast.
Storytelling is so powerful because it fuels our imaginations as we form pictures in our minds. That’s why seeing a movie, after reading the book, is so often a disappointment; books are the ultimate custom experience where the reader provides their own visual narrative versus having someone else – the movie maker – do so.
According to marketing research, the structure of ads may have as much to do with their effectiveness as the content, with the plot drawing on age-old storytelling techniques.
It turns out storytelling is an excellent tool for engaging men in gender diversity work.
Stories are effective at translating the theoretical into the concrete. Men hear that women confront discrimination in the workplace yet they often don’t clearly understand what that means. Based on GenderWorks’ research with male allies, it’s the stories men hear from females in their lives that make gender discrimination far more real.
A male ally said that listening to multiple female graduate-school classmates share their individual stories,
- being told she was accepted to business school because she was a woman
- having a male colleague explain her original idea, back to her, in the most demeaning way
- having a senior-level male at her company, many years older than she, asking her at a work conference if she’d like to come back to his hotel room
made crystal clear what the problem is and how it manifests.
Stories provide context and when information is linked, it proves far more memorable. That’s why you can think of a song from decades ago and in no time be transported to another time and place as your mind fills in the details. Likewise, stories about women’s real-life experiences are far more likely to be remembered and shared than charts and graphs in a PowerPoint deck.
Exploration to understand the neurobiological underpinnings of the brain’s attraction to stories found that in identifying with the characters, we often share their feelings. This helps to build empathy and understanding, not only in the moment but also going forward.
Sharing stories of one’s experience, and feeling heard, is also a means to build connection and trust. Among a group, shared stories can become a bonding experience and part of the group’s identity. Working with co-horts of men and providing a safe space to share their stories, helps them to open up, ask their questions and share their confusions about gender in the workplace. It serves to engage both their minds and their hearts.
A member of a male ally group candidly shared the difficulty of seeing his father walk out, leaving his mom – who had not worked outside the house in many years – terrified about her ability to find work and support the family. Now a father himself, this dad felt passionate about communicating to his young daughters, as they got older, the importance of financial self-sufficiency. His story resonated deeply with other men in the room.
GenderWorks is passionate about hearing from women, who’ve benefitted from men’s career support and guidance, and sharing those stories of male allies. Our Male Ally Story Project seeks to move the spotlight from the men behaving badly to the many men who have made, and are making, an important difference in facilitating the development and advancement of women’s careers. Please email Lisa@GenderWorks.com if you have a story to share.
Over the last several months, we’ve:
- explored what it means to be a male ally
- defined what it means for men to develop a gender lens
- discussed why gender diversity is a powerful entry point for engaging men in diversity work
- shed light on why so few men become involved in gender diversity work
- begun to answer the complex question, how do you define gender equality? (we’ll continue to explore what gender equality means in future FAQs)
Feel free to share a question or issue you’re struggling with in your diversity and inclusion work and we’ll be sure to consider it for a future newsletter. You can email us at info@GenderWorks.com. We’d love to hear from you.
GenderWorks in the Family
The excerpt below was the introduction to a talk that Lisa gave this summer, Fighting Against Bias: Seeing the Forest Through the Trees.
When I first met my husband Bryan, I worried that he was a yuppie, a 1980’s term for young upwardly mobile professionals. To me that meant someone who was materialistic, shallow and self-absorbed.
Bryan was 45 minutes late on our 1st date (during prehistoric times before cell phones), drove a fancy car, owned his own town house and worked long hours managing a team upwards of 2 dozen people. He was 27.
Thirty years later, I laugh at how inaccurate my snap judgments turned out to be. Bryan operates on what I describe as military time – the 3 choices include early, very early or very, very early – pick one. His tardiness (the result of a meeting that ran over) was a complete aberration.
He bought an Audi because it was a discounted model on a fire sale and great bargains are something Bryan just can’t resist. He bought the town house as a way to build equity and had a roommate helping to defray the monthly mortgage payment.
He managed a large team because the start-up he worked for was growing by leaps and bounds and nearly everyone was in their 20’s.
It turned out, Bryan could not have been less like a yuppie. He had simple material needs, was very thoughtful and a terrific listener and could not have been less pretentious. I found him to be all substance and a great match for what was important to me.