my company’s leadership program for women excludes men

A reader writes:

The large company I work for has embraced inclusion, equity, and diversity. That’s a good thing in my books, but one of the campaign’s company-wide programs helps women grow in leadership and explicitly excludes men. I’m a male.

The program offers guest speakers, panel discussions, and learning modules to help women improve leadership skills and deal with blockers to career growth. It really sounds like a great program. I am interested in all those things.

This doesn’t seem fair at all. I’d like to believe we can find ways to address systemic issues in the workplace without disadvantaging others so acutely. To be clear, I support the goals of inclusion, equity, and diversity, and have supported many programs to promote these goals — but this seems to cross a line.

I’m concerned about three points: 1) I’m missing out on great professional development. 2) People who take part in this program may receive greater consideration for raises and promotions. 3) I feel personally excluded, like the company is sending a message that my career doesn’t matter. Related, I’m concerned it’s setting the culture of the organization. Any decisions by my immediate managers could take into account these values as implied by this program, which is supported by leadership.

One final nuance: the industry I work in has historically featured more men in leadership positions. This has gradually changed in recent years. My specific part of the company has never been dominated by men — there is no issue with gender equity in my department.

How would you deal with this situation?

I think you’re missing the fundamental point: They are taking a group that has been historically disadvantaged — and still is today — and giving them assistance to close some of that gap. By trying to give women some of the advantages that have been systematically denied to them and afforded to you, they are not putting you at a disadvantage; they are attempting to level the playing field.

It’s an attempt to bring more balance to an unbalanced picture — to level the playing field for a demographic that’s significantly behind in pay, professional opportunities, mentoring, and apparently your field. It will not fully level that playing field because of the broader society we exist in, but’s an attempt to open the door a little wider so maybe more women end up in rooms where they’re disproportionately absent now (ideally high-level, decision-making rooms).

You do not want to look at a program created to offer redress for systemic marginalization and complain that you, a person in a group that’s comparatively advantaged*, aren’t being offered the assistance that’s designed not to put them ahead of you but to close some of the gap.

I mean, imagine that you had a huge basket of delicious fruits and your female coworkers had some withered bananas and one soggy tangerine, and so your company decided to put some more ripe fruit in the women’s baskets … would you look at that and say, “But wait, I’d like that fruit too?” Would you think you were being personally excluded and that the company was telling you that you didn’t matter? Or would you understand they were making an effort to balance an unbalanced situation?

Hopefully you would not try to claim that fruit or view it as a strike against you. Don’t do that here either.

Obviously that’s an oversimplification of a complicated issue, but you are not facing the same systemic obstacles that your female coworkers face. You do not require the same attention to close that systemic gap.

* Caveat: If you are in a different demographic group that is systemically disadvantaged as well, you could certainly advocate for similar help for that and other marginalized demographics.

{ 1,111 comments… read them below }

  1. The Original K.*

    “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

      1. Misty*

        Yep, I love how there are men in the comment section mansplaining why women aren’t disadvantaged.

    1. Rainy*

      Exactly this.

      I really hope that OP takes the response to heart and does some serious reflection.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Yes. I was coming to say the same thing, but not so succinctly. It took me a long time to recognize many ways I’m privileged and I don’t think the LW is quite there yet. We are a fish swimming in the water of privilege, but we can’t see the water all around us.

      These women – because they are women – are not starting from the same place as you. These guest speakers, panel discussions, and learning modules are to make up for everything they missed from childhood through school up to now because they are women and you got because you are a man.

      When fighting systematic discrimination and oppression you can’t compare individual situations. LeBron James is extremely wealthy and successful, but that doesn’t mean here shouldn’t be programs specifically targeting black Americans as a group improve their financial situation.

      1. Shut It Down*

        This. The LeBron James is exactly why saying “MY department has no issues with gender equity” means nothing. First of all, the number of women in any given workplace (and even in high-level positions) doesn’t say anything about pay equity, advancement, sexual harassment, leadership opportunities, and all sorts of other factors. (Google “the glass cliff” for one good example of why pointing to numbers of female CxOs is not evidence of equity.)

        Second of all, as Alison said, these types of programs are trying to make a dent in pernicious and deeply entrenched systems that privilege white men over all other demographics. OP, your department is not magically exempt from sexism, and a program to cultivate women leaders is not a commentary on how much your company values you – in fact, *it’s not about you at all.* That is precisely the point.

        1. Candi*

          “Deeply entrenched” in culture is sadly a bit of an understatement. It’s pernicious.

          To take up another matter, of racism: My family is ridiculously white. Except for an ancestor from a Native American southwestern tribe that no one involved bothered to remember the name of, every bloodline on my side traces back to Europe, and so does my ex’s.

          BUT one of my paternal ancestors hailed from Spain, with a distinctively Hispanic last name. Not quite the equivalent of “Smith” in white culture, but very very common and often used in works that use low-effort Spanish/Hispanic names.

          My son looks white, even when he tans (like crazy in any kind of direct sunlight), but let people know he has a grandfather with a Hispanic last name and cue the anti-Mexican racism. It’s almost reflexive with some people.

          Women face the same sort of subconscious programming. The company in the post is being awesome in trying to overcome that inherent bias by providing equity to bring women up to equal, and it sucks that this guy can’t see that.

          (I know it’s more “try to” bring up to equal, but you can build a staircase out of many small stones, as long as the concrete binding them is solid. Every little effort helps, especially when meant to stay in place and be built on.)

    3. Rach*

      Yep, we have a similar program at work but we aren’t allowed to exclude men because men complained. Luckily, once men were allowed to come, they didn’t because when things are “tainted” by being women, they don’t usually want to be part of it. It is particularly annoying because these events (like most ERG events at my male dominated tech company) are planned and executed by women. We actually had a man show up to our breast cancer awareness event and said “what about colon cancer” to the woman who organized the event, a woman who lost her mother to breast cancer! She replied that she would gladly attend any event he organized. Surprisingly, he did not.

      1. many bells down*

        Ugh those guys. My friend runs a discussion blog on women’s issues and frequently gets “but what about the men??” commenters. Interestingly, when she does post about a men’s issue, those guys are nowhere to be found.

        1. Malarkey01*

          Ohhh this JUST came up last month in a DEI team I’m part of. Someone said we can’t exclude topics that address white men, the organizers said “oh we’re not, next month we have a whole series on toxic masculinity and the harm it does society and how we can help people push past it”. It was gold!

          1. Red 5*

            Please send the person that said that a cookie (virtual or real, your choice) from me because that is the most golden and perfect response I’ve ever heard and I will keep it in my heart forever and remember it fondly next time the cis white guys do their “but the problem is I don’t see color” and “I like women, I’m married to one” dance in our DEI meetings.

          2. raktajino*

            My local community college had a course on whiteness and a white history month. The…reaction was predictable.

        2. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

          i read recently about men complaining about International Women’s Day. they whine and moan about why isn’t there an International Men’s Day? it turns out there is, they just don’t care about it unless it’s International Women’s Day. when their actual day rolls around, it’s crickets, crickets everywhere.

          1. Crivens!*

            “International Men’s Day” is most frequently Googled on…International Women’s Day.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes it’s 19th November. My company does quite a good series of events on testicular cancer and male suicide rates on that date. It’s not a barrel of laughs but it’s quite useful and raises awareness of key issues that are statistically likely to affect some men.

              1. A tester, not a developer*

                Our company does Movember events for the month – fundraisers and guest speakers, etc. for issues relating to men’s physical and mental health. It’s always fun seeing a normally clean cut senior manager rocking a moustache for the month – bonus points if they dye it a fun colour!

              2. Alfalfa Alfredo*

                In case you were wondering, Nov. 19 is also “World Toilet Day.” Really and truly it is.

                1. Retired Prof*

                  But World Toilet Day is actually to a large degree about women who live in poor countries. Imagine having to do your business out in the open and how vulnerable it makes you. It’s also tied up with menstruation issues. I thought it was a joke until I looked it up and learned it’s deadly serious.

          2. Susana*

            Reminds me of when I was in college, and we had some courses in Women’s Studies. Male students complained there was not a “Men’s Studies” program. We had to explain that EVERY OTHER COURSE in the university was a Men’s Studies course.

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                Sorry, that was not meant to be a reply to Susana’s post. Just…ignore it!

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yeah, like the professor who gave a list of books to read in the second semester, and one guy complained that all the authors were women, which surely would skew issues. The professor coolly answered that in the previous semester, the book list only featured men, and nobody had complained that issues might be skewed.

            2. metadata minion*

              And masculinity studies is absolutely a thing! But involves thinking critically about gender in a way I suspect those students would not be open to…

            1. Deejay*

              Women have been getting one day for (googles) about a century, give or take. Men have been getting every day for millennia.

              The British comedian Joe Lycett likes to commemorate International Women’s Day by tweeting “It’s November 19th. You’re welcome”.

              1. Marion Ravenwood*

                On a similar note, there’s another British comedian called Richard Herring who spends every International Women’s Day (or used to) quote tweeting the men asking when International Men’s Day is on Twitter and telling them it’s November 19th, to raise money for the charity Refuge. I think he even did a live stream of it one year as well.

        3. NotJane*

          At the risk of reopening a can of worms, this post and your comment reminded me of the recent post about people who haven’t been working from home this whole time. Despite the fact that a big complaint from the non-WFH folks was that they felt left out of the broader “returning to the office” conversation, and that Alison’s (clearly stated) intent was to provide them with the space and opportunity to share their (minority) perspectives/experiences/feelings, there were still a number of commenters who piped in with, “But WFH has been hard, too!!!”

      2. Lorena*

        Seriously? Just because we focus on one thing, one cause – it’s not that we’re saying other causes are not important, this is a bad way to think and go through life. This is what entitlement is. I’m glad the organizer said she would attend any event he organized! That’s the best comeback!

        1. Rach*

          It was and she’s amazing. She’s an admin so the power imbalance was already skewed in his favor (of course all of our admins are women and the majority of engineers are men) so the thought of his face when she retorted that is priceless.

        2. Sue*

          The people who point fingers & accuse people of trying to be victims are in fact jealous of being a victim. Nobody feels sorry for those poor little guys. I’m sure many women would give up their victimhood to trade career experiences with men.

          1. Æthelflæd*

            I have never heard it referred to that way (they are jealous of being a victim), but I really like that. I shall steal it and give a fist bump to any Sue I meet that day.

      3. Marketing Queen*

        I had the same thing happen to me when I was organizing breast cancer walk teams. “Why can’t we support something else?” You are welcome to organize something else! Shockingly, nobody ever did,

          1. Pants*

            Because they enjoy being contrary and are too lazy to organise something themselves.

          2. mrs__peel*

            Resentment at not being the center of attention, even briefly.

            It reminds me of the well-known meme of a bird saying “I am feel uncomfortable when we are not about me?”

        1. Æthelflæd*

          What makes me laugh about this is that men can get breast cancer as well because they have breast tissue – it just is not called that typically. It’s something like 1 out of 100 breast cancer diagnoses in the United States are given to men. So they may think that breast cancer walks/events are just for “the ladies”, but reality is that breast cancer can afflict men and women.

          1. allathian*

            That’s true. My dad actually had breast tissue removed because of stage II cancer. My mom’s also had breast cancer and so did my paternal grandma. So I check my breasts for lumps regularly and when I get the invitation to my first mammogram screening next year when I hit 50, you bet I’m going.

        2. Tea.Earl Grey. Hot.*

          People fail to remember that any gender can get breast cancer. One survivor I knew was male and had it as a teenager.

        3. Emily*

          I’m in a couple of very niche discussion groups on Facebook that have a fair amount of moderation to keep them on topic, i.e. removing off-topic comments. There’s no penalty for an off-topic comment, you don’t get banned or muted, your comment just gets removed. Something like, “This group is for discussing squids and octopi only. Comments concerning other marine life will be removed.” Someone makes a comment waxing poetically about how much they love whales and it gets removed because it’s off-topic. No big deal….to 95% of the group. The other 5% takes it *very* personally and acts like the moderators are trying to shame them for loving whales, just because they’ve been asked not to talk about whales specifically in this one place.

          A few weeks ago one of these people hilariously made a post that was something like: “Does anyone else feel like this group is super toxic? If anyone wants to start a new group I’ll join it.”

          Without even a hint of irony.

      4. Zephy*

        Men can also get breast cancer (and women can get colon cancer, for that matter, maybe he meant prostate?). But anyway that guy sucks and I’m sorry you and your coworkers have to deal with him.

        1. Rach*

          I may have gotten the cancers mixed up. I love my job and love being an engineer. Most of my coworkers rock, some are… well, stereotypes exist for a reason.

          1. BeenThere*

            Nah you were probably right, this is the type of man that thinks women don’t fart, without that part of the anatomy how would you get the cancer for it.

          2. Batty Twerp*

            Unless the cancers were ovarian/cervical and prostate, cancer is a gender-indiscriminate disease and the coworker is a moron – I wouldn’t know about a stereotype, but I can see a free-range idiot from 200 yards away.

          3. Xanadoodle*

            Even more of your coworkers would rock if you were a geologist. Ba dum bum. I’ll show myself out.

        2. The Rules are Made Up*

          Yup he cares so much about colon cancer and it’s exclusion from the event that he completely forgot that he actually meant prostate cancer lollll

        3. calonkat*

          Women can indeed get colon cancer, my little sister died of it last year. Get a colonoscopy as soon as it’s recommended, earlier if you have symptoms (and if the dr admits you have the symptoms but says you’re too young, get another dr and get the test). If caught late, it’s an awful way to go. However the existence of one type of cancer doesn’t invalidate another type of cancer, people tend to be invested in what they have personal experience with (hence me promoting getting checked for one specific type in this post)

          1. Properlike*

            Excellent point, and thank you for that reminder. Now that I’m vaccinated, I’m motivated to reschedule my mammogram because of the many friends who’ve had breast cancer and their reminders. I speak out about my (non-cancerous) conditions that were dismissed by so many doctors so that I can empower others to get a correct diagnosis. We can’t cover *everything* at the same time.

            I’m very sorry about your sister.

      5. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I really don’t think this program would be as helpful to him as he seems to think it would be. Probably a lot of what they discuss is how to overcome sexism, both overt and unconscious and how to un-program our brain from ways society has taught women they need to be. This isn’t career advice for everyone, but probably mostly career advice for woman working around women’s career problems, which he does not have.

        1. Ginger Baker*

          Heck, maybe it would be: maybe all these discussions about how to address issues he has never faced nor dreamed of facing (and may in fact perpetuate) would be…eye-opening.

          1. Shut It Down*

            Yes, maybe he *should* attend, and commit to listening and learning from the program leaders and the women participants, so he can get a sliver of perspective on what the professional world is like for his female colleagues!

            1. Sue*

              It would be a good idea to allow men as long as you can keep the men from speaking over the women.

              1. Carol the happy elf*

                From speaking at all. As observers only. We have that; each disenfranchised group in my organization has its meeting group, and anyone is permitted to attend, sit in the back, take notes and listen.
                At the start of this, it was women only. Then there was a howl about necessary inclusion, and the few men steamrolled the entire thing, even with the “Women In ___________ Profession” sign, flyers, programs, etc. When the moderator ordered them to stop, they claimed unfair discrimination.
                So the solution was that since it was WOMEN in ___________, men could attend, and even take notes, but were instructed not to speak or disrupt in any way. Their tables were not at the back, but situated around the room, so we didn’t have a delinquents’ row.
                They stopped coming when this rule was enforced.

                1. Walk on the left side*

                  This is so depressingly predictable….

                  I once had a male (engineer) co-worker literally quit his job because a small reorganization moved him to a female manager. Shockingly, the same guy couldn’t handle it when a female QA engineer identified bugs in his code.

                  Thankfully, this individual was the exception in my personal experience as a woman in tech. I’ve been unbelievably lucky.

            2. Sparkles McFadden*

              Well…the men who would get it would never ask to attend and the men who want to attend might very well talk over everyone else to explain why what’s being said is all wrong.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              The increased awareness might actually make help. Women need more allies, this is perhaps the way to do it!

          2. CoveredInBees*

            Or, he would argue with every point, saying none of it was real because he’d never noticed it.

        2. TechWorker*

          Not really intending to defend him, but at my company that’s not what this stuff is like at all. Infact they seem to be trying pretty hard to avoid talking about anything systematic and instead focus on things like ‘making sure you’re putting yourself forwards for opportunities’, and conflict resolution.

          1. checkers*

            This has been my experience as well. Even if they acknowledge systemic issues exist, the proposed solutions are always about what the individual should do. “We don’t have enough women in management, so make sure you apply when there’s an opening and here are some interview tips!”

            1. OhNo*

              As a man, have to agree. So often initiatives that I’ve seen refuse to focus on things that only people with power (read: usually men) have the ability to change, like company culture, and just focus on how if we had more female applicants, surely that would solve the problem.

              Maybe the LW could organize a speaker event for men that focuses on what they need to change to give women more equal opportunities?

              1. TardyTardis*

                Yes, on Quora I’ve heard from a construction guy who seems rather proud that only one woman ever applied for a job there and couldn’t pass a certain test. I was so tempted to ask if all the men he hired passed that same test…

          2. Your Local Password Resetter*

            Which also conveniently puts the responsibility of fixing these problems on the women.
            Instead of the people who actually hold most of the power and perpetuate the problems.

        3. llamaswithouthats*

          That’s kind of why LW is totally missing the point. These types of mentor ship programs are to help women navigate targeted discrimination…which men don’t face. He doesn’t need to be there.

          1. allathian*

            At least not cisgender, heterosexual, white men. Like Alison said, if he’s a member of another minority, the same advantages don’t apply to him.

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              At least not all of them.

              For example, I’m a white woman, so I don’t have male privilege, but I definitely have white privilege.

            2. Brooklyn*

              They do, though. I think it’s important to point out that marginalization is not a one-of situation, where cishet white men have privelege and everyone else is marginalized. The point of intersectionalism is to say that everyone benefits from some combination of privelege and everyone suffers some amount of marginalization. If OP is a man, regardless of anything else, he benefits from that privelege and does not face the discrimination that women do. As Allison said, if he is a part of another marginalized group, he should try to set up events to address that, different but equally valid, issue. But it would be very inappropriate to have a “Marginalized People Event” that everyone except a cishet white male was invited to.

        4. Wren*

          It really violates the sense of a safe space. Women may be reluctant to speak up at the events designed for them specifically because of the men like OP who are present.

          1. onco fonco*

            Yes. Privilege sucks the air out of a room for everyone else. It just does, always, even when the privileged people in attendance are completely on board and well-meaning. Sometimes they need to stay away, end of.

        5. ididthis*

          I was lucky enough to be taken through my workplace’s version of this by one of the female attendees. It was immensely useful to me, as a lot of it was internal reflection and a chance to identify development strategies.

          However, I think that those elements could be built into the general training ‘pool’ whilst still retaining the elements uplifting women as a separate element.

      6. LizM*

        In college, I worked for Student Life and a big part of my job was helping support the various cultural and affinity groups and centers, like the Women’s Center, the LGBTQ Center, the Black Student Union, etc. Every year when we had an open hearing on the budgets, a bunch of straight, white men would show up and ask “Where is my center?”

        Every year, we bit our tongues and didn’t say “It’s the whole university,” instead, we said, “Bring us a proposal and we’ll consider funding it. Here are the guidelines.”

        I’m sure you’d be shocked to know that they never did.

        1. DataGirl*

          In college I worked for the Women’s Center and one of my tasks was planning the Take Back the Night march. It was a long standing tradition that men who participated were asked to march at the back, so that women could have the experience of fearlessly walking into the night and be empowered. One guy who worked for some other campus group, I don’t remember which one, FREAKED out about this and sent me many nasty emails. I replied calmly with statistics and history and blah blah, very boring response, no emotional reaction, which made him more mad, so he forwarded our whole exchange to all the organizations on campus trying to gain support, including the newspaper. Unfortunately for him no one else was offended and the paper wrote an article completely trashing him for being such a whiny brat. It was GORGEOUS.

      7. CommanderBanana*

        …..I can’t.

        We had a kind of similar thing happen at my previous organization – interestingly, it was a woman who complained about a group for professional women. We asked all of the women who attended whether they wanted the group to open to men and they resoundingly said no. This was a very male-dominated industry and they knew that if men were allowed to join this group, they would suck all of the oxygen out of the room.

        The woman who complained also never bothered to attend the group, so.

        1. Red 5*

          I’ve been a member of multiple professional groups geared towards helping women that ended up including men, either they always did and actively made themselves “more accepting” or they switched from entirely female to specifically being “gender inclusive.”

          If they’d done this as a way to include people who are transgender and started a conversation about gender identity then maybe I would have been willing to listen, but every single time it’s a “we don’t want to hog all of these great resources” and “we don’t want men to feel offended/excluded” etc.

          I have dropped my membership in every single one of them within a year of the changes because every single time, every time, the group becomes dominated by male voices and general discussions that have nothing to do with their original intention. It becomes just another general purpose group and those have no utility for me. Some of these are ones with membership dues in the hundreds per year, and I just shrugged and walked away.

          I don’t need another social club, I needed a place for women to share information and opportunities and ask for advice.

      8. CowWhisperer*

        The reply I heard an older female colleague give when I was a newbie was “Sit down and listen. More women get breast cancer than men, but men can get it, too. The difference is that men’s outcomes are much worse because aren’t told to do self-exams so their cancers are caught at a more advanced stage.”

      9. PeanutButter*

        The breast cancer bit is especially painful because AMAB people can and do get breast cancer. The main event at my mom’s workplace is organized by a male breast cancer survivor.

    4. Mac&Cheese*

      I just had this same conversation with my husband after he had finished a meeting about diversity and bringing women & minorities forward in his company. He understands why it needs to be done but I was honestly shocked at the anger he was expressing about how he “was being left behind.” I gave up trying to explain as no matter what, he’ll do fine in his career despite his grumblings.

      1. LKW*

        Wow. It’s like he doesn’t realize that if he has 100 apples and someone else starts with 70 apples, giving the other person 30 apples doesn’t mean he loses any apples. He still has his 100 apples. He has little to no risk of apple loss.

        1. Sariel*

          Ok — this is perfect and so simple. I will now be using this the next time (and there will be a next time) this kind of discussion comes up. Thank you!!

        2. Sparkles McFadden*

          ” But I don’t have MORE apples! If that person is getting 30 apples for NO REASON than I should get 30 apples too or it isn’t FAIR! If she gets 30 apples, that means there were 30 apples I COULD HAVE gotten, so really, you took potential apples from ME!”

          1. Student Affairs Sally*

            Whoooooole bunch of this in the comments section today. Sad, but not surprising (which is even more sad).

              1. Sparkles McFadden*

                Yes…it was sarcasm. I used quotes because I had to listen to that sort of nonsense for my entire life.

        3. Artemesia*

          But of course if you are more inclusive he loses his apples — If you get to go to the head of the line and all the. managers are white men — then being more inclusive and including women and minority men in management means a loss of options for him. And the more mediocre he is, the more likely he is to be one of the ones who loses out. If half the admits to med school are women, that means thousands of white men who don’t get to be doctors. As there are fewer levels of management anyway, promoting women, means even fewer slots for men.

          It is fair, but it doesn’t mean the white men haven’t suffered a personal loss.

          1. Youngin*

            I wouldn’t consider “not being accepted/hired, due to the fact that I was not the most qualified person” a personal loss. Its just how life works and the “poor men” thing is a little silly considering mediocre men have been pushed and promoted way more then what you are describing. “Suffering” because something is now fair is not really suffering at all

        4. Mac&Cheese*

          That is absolutely brilliant, I will use it in the future!

          I think a big reason for his anger is that he came from a poor family who still struggles with money, had to put himself through college and work extremely hard for everything he has. But he still can’t see how his struggles are nothing compared to women and minorities. I love him dearly but he does suffer from white male privilege, I’ll just do my best to continue to try and educate him.

          1. Finland*

            This argument is a common derailing tactic by those with privilege.

            Women and people of color are also born into poor families and have financial setbacks and struggles that are made worse due to their marginalization. They also work very hard to put themselves through college and to gain everything they have despite these setbacks. Installing systems that level the playing field will make it easier for everyone, not just a few, to come out of struggle into success.

            The fact that your husband is feeling anger directly at other people about being “left behind” is telling because he is surrounded by powerful people who only look like him. Why is he not, instead, thinking, “where is everyone else?” There’s something to explore there.

          2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            My husband was very much the same when we got together. However, he’s a gamer, so I used the example of unearned advantages and talked about rolling up a character in DnD. You choose an Elf — ok, you get a racial bonus to charisma. It doesn’t matter if your individual elf won’t be played as a party face. It doesn’t matter if your elf isn’t “pretty.” If you are an Elf, you have an unearned advantage that other players don’t have without spending skill points or feats. You didn’t do anything to earn that, it is just based on what you play. Obviously it isn’t a perfect analogy, but you’d be surprised at how many gamers I’ve used that analogy with and it sinks in in a way that so many others don’t.

            10 years later and my husband has definitely worked hard on and managed to overcome a lot of the reflexive “I’m not privileged” comments.

      2. Jay*

        My husband and I are both trained facilitators and we’ve done some work pro bono for our synagogue. We were debriefing after a session he led, and I said “It was interesting how gender showed up.” He said “Huh. I wasn’t tracking that. I only track gender in work meetings.” I said “That is privilege in action. I always track gender as a matter of safety.” He got it, thankfully.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Ugh. I attended a HORRIBLE ‘leadership’ seminar in which the two facilitators (both white men) failed to realize that the real-life case study they were basing the entire seminar off of had literally no women in it, and they kept referring to the women in group – we were actually a slight majority – as a ‘faction.’

          I also got sexually harassed in the middle of the seminar during a paired exercise, literally while sitting in the middle of the room. The man I was paired with thought it was a good idea to start talking about the size of his genitalia during our exercise. I found out later that the facilitators wanted to bring him on as an instructor.

          We cancelled our partnership with them.

      3. Jack Straw*

        I respond to my partner with, “You can be masculine without being toxic, bro,” often enough that he will say it with me after he says something stupid.

        He is aware of his privilege from being white, being raised in a several generations back college-level educated family where the generational wealth is shared and shared often, but for some reason the fact that he’s a man and gets ahead simply based on that still hasn’t fully resonated with him.

        1. Mac&Cheese*

          Same with my husband. I love him dearly but he does suffer from white male privilege and while he knows it, he just doesn’t get it. I’ll just do my best to continue to try and educate him.

    5. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      Spot on. Also, this quote is far kinder than my immediate reaction to this letter was.

    6. Artemesia*

      I have watched this throughout my career which began in the mid 60s. In my early career women were. explicitly discriminated against in professional schools and careers. One result is that the few women who did get admitted were far superior to most of their male peers. My husband’s law school class of 200 had 20 women. 10 of them made law review (the top 10% — so in a class of 200, there were 20 on law review. My husband was #20 and points out jokingly without that pesky admission of woman, he would have been 10.

      I have personally known of men who didn’t get jobs and were told ‘they have to go with women and minorities — i.e. two were told that by the hiring manager telling them they didn’t get the job. I don’t know about one of them, but I personally knew who was hired in one case and it was a white guy.

      If you always go to the head of the line, then equality means you lose something. So all this white male rage is not without cause — they have lost part of the privilege and many feel it is unfair.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If you always go to the head of the line, then equality means you lose something. So all this white male rage is not without cause — they have lost part of the privilege and many feel it is unfair.

        Yep. I recently had someone explain to me that he’s not in favor of programs that encourage “certain people” because that means other people get left out. I guess it’s hard to suddenly find yourself one of the “other people.”

        1. BPT*

          Yes – a lot of times people try to placate people in positions of privilege by saying “you aren’t losing anything! We’re just bringing everyone up to your level!”

          And I get the impetus for saying that. But the reality is – if we do get to a point where things are actually fair, some people will lose things. There will be fewer white male CEOs and fewer white men in positions of power. There will be men who 25 years ago would probably have gotten a particular position, that will not get that same position in a society where they lack systemic privilege. (And this plays out with all types of intersectional privilege – as a white woman I have to be aware of this too.) We can’t have a system where we have 100 white male CEOs and to even the playing field, end up with a system where we add 100 new CEOs for each individually marginalized population. There just aren’t that many leadership positions. Which means that there will be fewer chances for white men to go into powerful positions than there have been in the past.

          And for many white men, they do see this as losing something, because, well, they are. But what they often refuse to consider is that this is the system in which every other population has been living. If women, BIPOC, LGBTQ, and people with disabilities have been able to survive this long with only a fraction of positions open to them, I feel confident that white men will be able to as well.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            And for many white men, they do see this as losing something, because, well, they are.

            They’re losing the default status. They’re losing “all other things being equal, or anywhere even *close* to equal, we’ll pick you.” And people like that guy don’t understand why it was never fair.

          2. Slipping The Leash*

            What I’d really like to see is the thing they fear the most. Don’t raise me up. Drag the cis straight white man down to the level the rest of us have been struggling under since…forever. Make them wear heels and makeup or be told they’re unprofessional. Complement them on displaying a rudimentary grasp of some concept they would have mastered 10 years and three promotions ago. Volunteer them to arrange the office birthday celebrations.

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            The trouble is that with “you aren’t losing anything! We’re just bringing everyone up to your level!”, it’s clearly not true, when there’s a limited number of places or managerial positions. If you decide that you’ll be choosing from a pool that’s not only made up of cishet white males, the cishet white males obviously have less chance of getting the top jobs.
            Not that I’m crying for them, far from it. If I were organising the course OP complained of, I’d want to organise another, for men, on how to make sure women don’t get squeezed out or subjected to sexist thinking or get excluded because of a bro culture at work.

      2. FedUp*

        So basically these men feel that it is unfair that they no longer have advantages that they were….unfairly afforded. I do not have much sympathy.

        1. Quickbeam*

          My own grandmothers got the right to vote at 30 years old. THIRTY. So yeah, advantages.

      3. LizM*


        When you have two ho hum, mediocre candidates, it’s easy to get hired if you’re a mediocre candidate.

        If you have 5 candidates, 2 of who are fantastic, and three are ho hum, all of the sudden, it’s harder for the mediocre candidates to get the promotion.

        I know a number of men who assumed they’d get promoted because the person in their job always got promoted. They are fine at their job, but the promotions are going to women who are working their butts off to succeed, because that’s what we need to do to keep afloat. As a result, they’re actually spending time building the skills and excelling in their fields, and it’s finally getting recognized.

        So the promotions not automatically going to the man who’s just floating by with no effort and it feels unfair to those men because they were told all they had to do was show up. They then assume that the promotions are going to women because they’re “diversity candidates” and not because they’re actually better for the job.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          OMG this.

          I never had any interest in a management track myself, but from a lifetime of observing those who do, for a woman to get promoted, she had to pretty much fart rainbows, crap unicorns, walk on water, and raise the dead. A man has to be alive, past a certain age (35-40 depending on the workplace), and not on a PIP I suppose? and he’ll get one no problem.

          1. anonymath*

            This is half-true.

            What I have seen is there’s a guy of the right age, not on a PIP, of a certain color, and he’s observed the same thing — but he’s not getting the promotion. Maybe he’s even getting laid off. And the rage that comes out of that….. He’s seen this work for all these other guys and he’s not getting “what he deserves” and it’s really emotionally hard to handle and some guys manage to work it out and others become workplace shooters. This is just my observation.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              You are right. At the end of the day, there are still more guys of the right age, not on a PIP, of a certain color, than there are management positions. And some of the management positions do go to the people, regardless of their gender, color etc who actually qualify for those jobs. So there will be people left thinking that they had been denied what is theirs by birthright. Which, yes, is not great.

            2. Æthelflæd*

              It is neither my responsibility or obligation to manage the emotions of grown-ass adults who refuse to acknowledge that white men are supremely privileged. I’m sorry if that sounds like a rude response to you, but I am just so sick of hearing how emotionally taxing it is for men for minorities and women to receive assistance in overcoming the structural inequity that impacts their lives. Many white men are so conditioned to receive every advantage that when they don’t get one, they lose their damn minds about it. Personally, my response to those men is a giant middle finger.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                The prime example in today’s world: Prince Harry, whining about his Dad not taking him out on bicycle rides. Now, I wouldn’t want to be part of the royal circus, it must be exhausting, but for one of the most privileged males in society to go on a pity party like that is completely beyond-words ridiculous.

                1. Idril Celebrindal*

                  Ok, so, in this specific example I disagree with you. Yes, white male privilege is a huge issue, but what Prince Harry is talking about is child abuse, not lack of privilege. He has been very calmly and diplomatically talking about his experiences with generational abuse and the lengths he and Meghan have had to go to in order to break the abusive cycle and protect her and their children from racial abuse on top of that.

                  Please don’t conflate speaking out about abuse with complaining about not having as much privilege, because these are two separate issues.

                2. Finland*

                  So, because Prince Harry is privileged, he doesn’t deserve the love of his father as a child? Your comment is not about white privilege at all.

                3. anon78*

                  Just chiming in to say I agree with you… the bar for what constitutes “child abuse” is apparently, any time a child is unhappy or disappointed. Like, my mom never took me out for bike rides. I don’t think she knows how to ride a bike. I don’t think my dad did either for that matter – because he was working most of the time. How in the world is that abusive.

                  IMO, Harry and Meghan’s “poor me” media circus is a perfect example of the clueleness of privilege and entitled people. While your example is not specifically about white privilege or male privilege, it is certainly about the need for people in a privileged position to be able to recognize it.

                4. Idril Celebrindal*

                  @anon78 I’m guessing you won’t see this, but in case you do, I wanted to respond to you. If that specific example was the only thing he talked about, then that might come across as a bit out of touch. However, I’m talking about the whole of what he and Meghan are saying, and how they are saying it. They are very carefully framing it in the way that people do when they are talking about abuse, but know that if they say the “a-word” then people will stop listening to them. Generational pain, distance and coldness, lack of love, the examples that show the framework of what happened without baring their deepest wounds for the world to see, all of that is there.

                  If you’ve ever listened to someone who you know was abused try to talk about it with someone who is defensive about the topic of abuse, then you will have heard a lot of or all of the ways Harry and Meghan are talking about their experiences now. They are putting it right out there for people who are willing to listen.

        2. Sparkles McFadden*

          I was in charge of entry-level employees for a department. I got them training in a variety of areas and, talked to each employee about career aspirations and found assignments that would give employee relevant experience in the area of interest. The female employees eagerly took me up on this. The male employee complained I was making him do more work and he refused to go to training. The two women applied for open positions at non-entry-level jobs and got them. The male employee complained to me that he had been in the department for ten years and the women had only been there for two. He never even APPLIED for any of the open jobs. He thought the managers should go to him to recruit him because he’d been there the longest. He told me “That’s how seniority works.” Then he went to HR to file charges against me for “gender bias and creating a hostile work environment.”

          So that was a fun trip to entitlement-delusion-land.

          1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

            That’s one of the many situations where “Goddess grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man” must have originated.

      4. The Rules are Made Up*

        Yup! People do the same huffing and puffing about affirmative action being “unfair” and seem to not realize that “This person took my spot and that’s unfair!” is wildly presumptuous because that job wasn’t yours for someone else to take, that spot in the school wasn’t yours for someone else to take. It’s not like you were offered the job then they called back later to say sorry we actually need to give this to an Asian woman because of affirmative action. They didn’t come to your house and steal your acceptance by force. You never had it. You just assumed it was yours, you feel entitled to it and you aren’t used to being denied what you want.

      5. Youngin*

        They have not “lost” anything, they are just no longer getting things they do not deserve, just because of their gender.

      6. Koalafied*

        men who didn’t get jobs and were told ‘they have to go with women and minorities’

        I do think it’s important to acknowledge that letting representation be a factor in hiring is a legitimate business practice. If the company has underrepresented groups, it’s talking about of both sides of their mouth to first say, “We know that our company will be stronger if it’s more diverse,” and then turn around and say, “But it would be wrong to take someone’s demographics into account in a hiring decision.”

        But that’s the whole idea behind affirmative action – that it’s not discriminating against a member of an overrepresented group to decide that a candidate from an underrepresented group has added value specifically because your company has admitted it badly needs more employees from underrepresented groups . We can’t just say, “Yes, we know having an all-male C-suite is a problem, but we’re confident that it’s somehow just going to fix itself without us making any conscious hiring decisions to correct it.”

        If you have 5 above-average final candidates who exceed the job requirements, and four of them are white men and one is an Indian woman, even if the Indian woman is only the 5th best in some kind of hypothetical measurement that boils careers down into a single objective number on a scale (which almost never exists, anyway), it’s perfectly reasonable for the company to decide it will benefit more from hiring the Indian woman, because we’re currently walking around with a big blind spot that can only be filled by diversifying staff, and she’s more than qualified.

        For anyone who comes back with the “reverse discrimination” line, just tell them: “We’ll start give bonus points to white men as soon as the company releases a public statement that having a white male staff is important to us. Oh, the company would never make a public statement like that, but they’re more than willing to make a public statement that having a diverse staff is important? I wonder why that is!

    7. Claire*

      This. Also, the OP should study up on the difference between equality (everyone gets the same thing) and equity (everyone gets what they need to thrive.)

    8. Clisby*

      Yeah, I first heard the term “reverse discrimination” in the early 1970s. That’s what I heard – what I saw was a bunch of white men whining that every once in awhile they didn’t get the automatic preference they thought they were entitled. to.

  2. not all karens*

    Oh, boy. Are there no leadership programs in existence offered for both men and women (offered by your company or outside it)? Why not seek out those? Let the women have this.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, I’m confused why LW thinks the only way to get professional development opportunities, etc. is through this program. If your company isn’t able to offer you PD opportunities in general, then that’s a problem with your company, not this program.

      1. not all karens*

        And as someone else pointed out, the LW says it’s “one of the programs offered”. I also think it’s wild that he thinks the women who take the LP will be given preferential treatment/consideration for promotions, etc. and he’ll get overlooked. LOOK FOR YOUR OWN PROGRAM, SIR, IF THAT’S YOUR CONCERN. It looks good on anyone’s resume to have taken LP, so find one for YOU!!

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          “LOOK FOR YOUR OWN PROGRAM” … ok, what would your reaction be if a “men’s group” formed in the office with the aim of providing professional advancement advice?

          If “YOUR OWN PROGRAM” excluded women? hoo, man… I can imagine the reaction.

          1. anti-gotcha*

            Leadership programs historically excluded women, so making one that excludes women would just perpetuate that historical inequality.

            On the other hand, if you had a leadership program for (e.g.) black men, or gay men, it would be more than reasonable to exclude white women or straight women (and white men and straight men) because the program ISN’T ABOUT THEM.

            Then again, your comment is just trying to “gotcha” against women having any sort of mentoring for them that doesn’t center men, and not legitimately engaging in the discussion, which is about how men shouldn’t try to hijack programs that aren’t for them because it hurts their feelings to not always be centered.

            1. Anon for this*

              This. There’s definitely differences in the way women are socialized compared to men, and this causes many women to self select out of even applying for jobs because they don’t match all the criteria.

              I’ve recently started running job listings by my male coworkers so they can translate what the listing says into actual speak. It’s fascinating how things THEY read as being either exactly what we’re doing now or one step up from what we’re doing now look like I have no qualifications for them whatsoever.

          2. Ash*

            Did you even read Alison’s response? “Men” as a group have not historically been disadvantaged in workplaces. Women as a group have been.

          3. Zephy*

            It already exists, baked into the broader corporate culture nationwide, which is why the program specifically aimed at women exists. Nice try, though.

          4. The puppies are all right*

            Yes it’s easy to imagine something when it’s been happening for literally decades in most, if not all, fields. As Alison said this is leveling the field. Perhaps you missed where OP said this is one of the programs available. Why can’t he use another program that’s available to all employees?

          5. Nanani*

            Haven’t leadership programs for men usually consisted of the leadership already being mostly, if not entirely, male and promoting younger men who remind them of themselves?

            “Blu blu blu I’m excluded by equality” is not a good look bro

          6. Forrest*

            The chances are that there is an “open to all” leadership programme which just ~happens~ to be 80% male and that’s why the women’s programme was invented. And there’ll be a few more women who did join that course, but then ended up leaving because:

            a) there were men treating it like a dating opportunity and making it weird
            b) there were a ton of sports metaphors and it was hella alienating
            c) every single image of “a good leader” that the speaker used was a man, and some of them were also famous as abusive assholes to their wives / girlfriends / partners / female staff (spoiler: I’ve been in the audience at this seminar!)
            d) that gross sexist joke the speaker made five minutes in (spoiler: I’ve been in this one too!)
            e) the guy leading it / another man there was someone who’d actually sexually harrassed her and she didn’t want to be in the same room as him.

            Part of the point of women’s leadership seminars is to avoid all of these things (though to be clear, many of them focus on cis white womanhood in ways that are ALSO weird and gross!) I’ve been involved in equality seminars which took an “open to all” approach, and that can work too (you just rely on men’s natural reluctance to get involved in anything with the W-word on it to keep it female-dominated!) But sometimes you do actually need to make it exclusively women (or better yet, all marginalised genders) to create the atmosphere where women feel comfortable discussing the kind of issues I’ve described above and to keep those issues outside.

            1. LKW*

              You forgot the reframing of women’s issues from the men’s perspective. For example if you are discussing a household with two careers and children are you discussing trying to “do it all” or are you discussing giving your wife a break because “she can’t do it all”?

              See: Co-workers complain when woman leaves work early to take child to doctor. Co-workers praise man for leaving work early to take child to doctor.

            2. Jay*

              I went to a talk on humanism in medicine where the presenter looked at various famous pieces of art and lamented the fact that medical students couldn’t hang out in bordellos (not the word he used) like the artists did and med students used to back in the early 20th century, because that was a perfect way to learn about human nature.

              All the way back in 2009. Yeah.

              1. Forrest*

                I will put this one next to the published and highly-recommended book on working abroad as a doctor, which contained the advice, “go to a pub and drink 3-4 pints— not enough to get drunk, but enough to be honest with yourself— and then write down your career goals”.

                1. Cooper*

                  I can get through approximately one and a half glasses of wine before my career goals stop being “get a higher-level developer position in an industry that is interesting to me” and start being “become a cat owned by cottagecore lesbians” or “re-enact Stardew Valley”. This advice is WILD.

            3. Paige*

              Another possible option for your list: the LP was worthless because it focused on things men traditionally suck at that women have been doing for millennia. The number of “epiphanies” about active listening, emotional regulation, and empathy that I have seen at “groundbreaking” MBA seminars…

              (Obviosusly I am painting with a very broad brush, #notallmbas etc.)

              1. Lora*

                No, this was a thing that stood out to me when I started my MBA – that people had to be explicitly told How To Chill Out, and how amazing! insightful! it was that you get better results when you try to give a single crap about other people and how they’re more likely to follow you and do what you tell them when you say it respectfully in the context of how it helps everyone…

                Of course, there was a nonzero worship of Jack Welch who did none of these things, so.

                1. Clisby*

                  You’d almost think this advice came from mothers who had figured out that yelling at your child gets you exactly nowhere. And that talking to children calmly calms them down.

            4. AnonToday*

              Shout out to the trainer at my competitive entry leadership course who used as their example of ‘staff who don’t want challenging assignments or promotions’ a woman just back from maternity leave, who probably wants to take it easy for a bit.

              The class started while I was a couple of weeks back from my maternity leave and absolutely gunning for promotion. That trainer was brought in for that session specially, for his extra awareness or something, and so missed the group intros – this was a year long cohort assignment for high potential leaders in the company. The rest of the room turned and looked at me while he talked. I wanted to die.

            5. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Or talked about their “hot wife.” Please excuse me while I barf in my laptop bag.

            6. bookworm*

              This took me back to the training I was in where the trainer kept saying our organization should have our “lawyer guy” do a presentation on something. I gritted my teeth through the first few times he said it, but finally couldn’t take it anymore and informed him that our lawyer was a woman. Trainer’s response was, “Oh, I just meant it as a generic term!” As a relatively new and junior person in the training that was mostly men, I swallowed the retort that there’s a perfectly good generic term for lawyer… lawyer. But definitely didn’t absorb as much in the training as I might have if I hadn’t been quietly seething.

              1. Artemesia*

                years ago saw a bumper sticker touting a special program for youth for developing ‘leaders and leaderettes’. I mean who says ‘lawyer guy’ — I have literally never heard anyone say that, while people referring to ‘lawyers’ who might speak is commonplace.

            7. bopper*

              I was at some sort of leadership training and noticed that all the little “motivational videos” featured men…I asked the female facilitator about this and of course was tasked to find some myself.

          7. pleaset cheap rolls*

            ‘If “YOUR OWN PROGRAM” excluded women? hoo, man… I can imagine the reaction.’

            I’ll give you 5 points for the hubris of this, but -5 for total lack of originality. So 0/10.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              Also, the men’s room.

              Also, the strip clubs.

              Also, the beers after work.

              1. Anon for this*

                Lol. The idea of beers after work is funny to me. Mostly because a manager in our (extremely nerdy. This is relevant) department kept trying to organize Friday night drinking after work camaradarie and bonding. Except. He kept scheduling these nights (he was at least smart enough to know that if he did them more than once every few months we would rebel) on the same Friday a Marvel movie was scheduled to release. Conversations about these events typically went “was the event fun? I missed it, family thing, hopefully no one noticed” “how should I know I was at the movie too”

                It never quite occurred to him that if he wanted to book a private theater for everyone to drink and watch the movie, he would have gotten literal 100% attendance at every event he held.

                1. Anon for this*

                  This was supposed to end with “making sure you aren’t choosing an activity that unnecessarily excludes people is important.”

              2. Retired Prof*

                Also the basketball league. My thesis advisor only gave research positions to guys he played basketball with. And one of the administrators in my university is notorious for only mentoring his basketball pals.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              As a tag FB group’s name goes, “I came here to say this, but I knew it in my heart that it has already been said.”

            3. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yep. I once worked for a company where the male leadership would go on hunting trips together, and these trips would include execs at the very top and managers several levels down, which made them good networking opportunities and a chance to get one-on-one time with the higher ups. I imagine that the relatively few women in leadership positions would not have felt comfortable going on those trips, but who knows how they would have felt because they were never invited.

          8. Red 5*

            Not sure how much I’d care if a men’s group started but considering the gender balance at my company that basically is just the monthly management meetings.

            1. LaLa762*

              OMSweetJesus – this!!
              I can’t tell you how often I’m the only woman/only woman left standing at any management meeting I’m in.

              1. Artemesia*

                I am in a profession that had significant female participation; I remember sitting around a table with a dozen people — 8 men and 4 women listening to a visiting speaker who was speaking in Japanese with his daughter loosely translating — so my mind wandered. And it occurred to me that every man at the table had children — in this case between 3 and 6 kids. I was the only woman at the table who had a child. Even where women had opportunity, there were other prices usually paid.

          9. Jules the 3rd*

            Every company with development programs has a general interest program. That’s the one for white men – they show up, they do all the talking, all the questions are geared around them. Been there, seen it, still see it.

            Specialty group programs do usually have specialty interest topics. I attend some general, some women’s, and some BIPOC groups, though I make sure I don’t talk during the BIPOC group meetings, I’m just doing it to learn about the specific issues they face (like ‘professional’ hair, etc). The only reason for people not in the interest group to attend is to learn about the unique blocks faced by these interest groups. Everything else is duplicated in the general interest programs.

          10. biobotb*

            I mean, “by and for men” are what leadership programs have historically *been* (and in many places, *still are*). Leadership programs that cater to women *are* a reaction to that. Hoo, man indeed!

          11. Sparkles McFadden*

            Um…dude…white men excluding everyone else is the default. That’s kind of the point here. The whole office is the “men’s group”

          12. Ruby*

            You’re right, a program specifically designed to exclude women would indeed be unfair in most cases and probably would not get a great reaction!

            More importantly, though – who says the LW’s “own program” would have to exclude women? There are plenty of leadership conferences that welcome all genders, and I’m sure the LW could attend one of those.

          13. May*

            You’ve clearly yet to be introduced to the term “old boys’ club,” have you? Lots of of groups have existed and still exist that explicitly and implicitly exclude women. Do better.

        2. sunny-dee*

          One of the programs offered by the diversity and inclusion campaign not by the company generally. If there is no similar program that is open to everyone, then that is a really bad choice by the company.

          1. anonymath*

            Here’s one of the bad things that happens, though: leadership (of the demographics one might imagine) decides that “leadership development” is a thing “for those minorities” and then pushes all education, career development, mentorship, etc to “those DEI people”, adding work to their plate that doesn’t lead to advancement and tracks “those people” into support roles, the “diversity track”. Ask me how I know.

            So yes, there should be leadership dev for everyone. That is cognizant of the importance of equity.

            1. TardyTardis*

              Ah, the famous couch in Animal House–“Here’s Abdul, Kareem, Billy the Crip and…you.”

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        This, this, this. Maybe the OP’s company is in general crappy with development opportunities *except* some rare programs that happen to be not targeted to the OP.

        The way to react to this is not to say “I feel disadvantaged compared to the women” but to say “I’m thrilled [company] subscribes to developing women in leadership but I think our overall offer of professional training could be better – for example, a program on [X – something specific, general, needed, and different from the stuff offered to women] would be a great opportunity for all of us in [my sort of role] who [encounter specific sort of obstacle]”.

  3. A Poster Has No Name*

    I’m just going to go ahead and leave this here (if it passes moderation, because link):

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        My most liked post on Facebook ever was ‘I’m a disabled woman, I play LIFE on hard mode so don’t knock me for playing games on easy mode’

      2. Harvey JobGetter*

        +cis and +not differently abled. Trans and disabled increase the difficulty setting for straight white men and we probably don’t want to get into a “who’s more oppressed” debate.

        1. Marika*

          Sure – although Scalzi does address some of that in his follow-ups. He freely admits that the analogy isn’t perfect, it’s a stab at something workable while avoiding the ‘make people froth at the mouth’ word Privilege. And let’s note that the author is, as he says ” I’m still me, and me is pasty, and Y-chromosomed, and very very fond of the opposite sex”. He’s also a rockin’ Sci-Fi author and a solid non-fiction writer as well.

          Frankly, the fact that he’s willing to put this out there and take some pretty serious heat from his own fans (which can directly affect his income) and stand by it… I’ll take that kind of support!

          1. Properlike*

            He also did a wonderful post about what it *really* means to be poor, with examples, that made me re-examine a lot of my privilege.

            I think listening in on the affinity groups (with no talking) could be extremely helpful for the listeners, if they were truly open to it, though it would likely have a quashing effect on the conversation between the active participants. And this is what I try to explain at our school where the rich, white parents whine that “they’re splitting up students BY RACE to talk about race — how is that equitable?!?!”

            1. Anon for this*

              I am in a yearlong mastermind about seeing social justice through the eyes of spiritual transformation. I’ve already noticed that it is hard to process my own white guilt, privilege, etc. without causing unintentional harm to those in the BIPOC community who are appapp the to learn and grow. I wish we did break up into white & minority groups at least occasionally so I could do my processing without causing harm.

      3. I Didn't Want To Come*

        As a cis white female, this helped put it in perspective for me too.

  4. Just Here for the Cake*

    Honestly, I read the first three sentences and saw red. If OP truly wants to embrace diversity, they need to research why these programs are put in place and do some self reflection on why his knee jerk reaction to center himself.

    1. DigitalDragon*

      Yeah, that first line which included a ‘but’ gave me an ‘oh boy, here we go’ feeling about the rest of the letter, he didn’t need to tell us he was male, that very much came across instantly. Like you said, some self reflection, and hopefully taking on board Alison’s response will be a good start.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Somewhere today, I read the line “if there’s a ‘but’ in a statement, there’s not actually important to the speaker before the ‘but'”. I’ve seen a lot of places where it applies well. This is one of them.

    2. Scarlet2*

      Especially since it’s “one of the campaign’s company-wide programs”. Presumably there are many other programs accessible to men.

    3. Kramerica Industries*

      This. Promoting diversity and inclusion isn’t always like the obvious examples you see in training seminars. It’s not that Joe is asking Sarah to fetch coffee or that he won’t hire Pam because she’s pregnant. There’s so many more subtleties and nuances and understanding them is the BARE MINIMUM of truly being an ally in diversity.

    4. JJ*

      OP, you need to understand that you are on a completely different playing field than the women you’re working with. If you are white, please also examine whether you feel the same way about racial equality measures (like Affirmative Action) because it’s the same thing. A woman in your exact same position (education, experience, etc) will simply just not get as many advantages as you will. It’s the way the system is built, and why programs like this need to exist.

      I am a woman who is an extremely high performer, and at literally every job I’ve held, there’s been a moment where I discover I’m being paid significantly less than male coworkers who are worse at their jobs/less hard workers. Literally every job. Repeat: EVERY. JOB. I’ll retire with tens of thousands less in my pocket than you, and have to fight at every job to get even a little bit closer to parity. It’s exhausting and you should thank your lucky stars you don’t have to do it, because the system is built for men.

      1. Pheebs*

        Same. In my last position, there was a new guy that joined our group straight out of college. My boss took a strong liking to him because “he reminds me of myself.” Um, yes, that’s the problem. He got to take on projects and sit in high level meetings that I never could, simply because he reminded my cis white male boss of himself at 22.

        1. Mimi*

          The same thing happened to me and that new hire right out of college became my supervisor 2 years later.

      2. lailaaaaah*

        Same here. My assistant at my last job got promoted over my head – and every single person at the company who had to interact with him professionally regretted it. Meanwhile I nearly got fired for *his* mistakes, because they made me look bad.

    5. Shut It Down*

      This forever. Also, I wonder why OP is only bothered by this program among all the DE&I initiatives the company is running. If OP is white and there is a leadership program for POC employees, would he insist on being included in that? Why not? What is it about the women’s group that is so threatening?

      OP, not every space is for you or about you – something that women, people of color, LGBTQ, and other marginalized groups are messaged every single day. And really, you can’t say that you support DE&I and then object to a professional development program for women. What you’re really saying is, “I support DE&I as long as it doesn’t touch my privilege.”

    6. Well...*

      I’m so impressed AMA has the patience to answer this question in 2021. After years of this nonsense, I am frankly tired.

    7. tamarack and fireweed*

      I think it’s not uncommon for people to subscribe to a set of values in principle but then balk if it requires actually stepping back, or occasionally having to share or step back. I mean, on a large scale we all do it when it comes to collective choices about exploitation of the people in some poor countries, or the environment. And for some who are used to being eligible for every imaginable development problem it kinda hurts to be told “no, not for you” – especially in competitive fields. So even though I would be very much pitted against the OP in a workplace, in a pseudonymous forum I’m willing to display a small amount of empathy and explain.

      I’m not taking the OP by his word that indeed there is no problem for women in his department regarding gender equity. In a historically male dominated field this is … well, possible, but extremely unlikely. Taking other fields that have become less male-dominated over time (say, medicine, or project management) it is easy to see that sexism and misogyny are alive and well. Even if this very minute his company is a haven for women, with fully equal pay and recognition, this is unlikely to be the case over the career of these same women. And that’s what development is about.

      But let’s say there is no access to similar opportunities for the OP that he recognizes, no feeling of male bonding (golf trips, BBQ socialization…), no support for professional development other than programs he doesn’t qualify for, no opportunity to attend a professional convention…

      … then that’s not a problem with the women getting something they shouldn’t, but with him and all his coworkers regardless of gender getting something (DIFFERENT) that they should.

      And that’s a general principle!

      Just because (hypothetically) children get full dental care that only privileged adults have access to it doesn’t mean there’s a problem with the program directed at children – it means there’s a problem with general dental health provision.
      Just because my there is funding for my indigenous students to attend extremely well funded and supported “native Americans in STEM” conferences and some non-indigenous student doesn’t get the support he or she would deserve it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the offer for indigenous students – it means we still need to be attentive to generally developing our students.
      Just because a fast food worker earns $15/h and you, after long studies, barely earn more it doesn’t mean there’s a problem with paying a fast food worker enough to not be homeless – there is a problem with compensation levels overall.

      Envy is never a good guide when it’s directed at people from groups that are already statistically more vulnerable than you are.

      1. Krabby*

        Yes! Those last few paragraphs in particular hit the nail on the head. It’s not about women getting something they shouldn’t, it’s about your company failing to provide basic developmental opportunities for everyone.

    8. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I read it with my eyes closed because it was that damned predictable.

    1. Fran Fine*

      That was my exact thought when reading this. “Your mentality is exactly why these programs exist in the first place, sir.”

      Good lord.

  5. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I get a free parking space out the front of the office. This is something that other staff don’t get – they have to pay to park their cars in a public car park further away. I dare say in some of their eyes I’m getting a real financial benefit that they are denied – parking round here isn’t exactly cheap.

    I do have a setback they don’t though: I’m disabled. I NEED these accommodations to level the playing field so I can operate alongside the majority.

    I’m not equating being female to being disabled (although as a disabled woman with a long career in male dominated fields it’s hard for me to separate out my various setbacks) but when you look at a benefit a disadvantaged group is getting; try thinking ‘how life would be if I was routinely denied an advantage that I take for granted?’ instead of ‘they’re getting more than me it’s unfair!’

    The disabled parking spot is my favourite analogy btw, and I’ve had people tell me it’s not equality that I get for free something they have to pay for.

    1. ROS*

      It’s not equality! But that’s because equality doesn’t work in these cases when one party is significantly disadvantaged compared to others. This is equity, and I think it’s more important.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        And some of my staff are white, cis, straight, able bodied young men who will never understand just what kind of systemic oppressions I’ve had to fight against to get to my current role in IT management. All they’ve seen is me come down like a ton of bricks on them when they’ve questioned why do we have an LGBTQ+ group at work, why can’t there be a ‘white employee support’ forum on the intranet etc.

        (First time they come out with stuff like that I try to educate them gently as to the need. Subsequent complaining gets them the aforementioned bricks)

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Whenever someone brings up fairness, I say fair is not the same as equal. It may not be equal to give KoG a free reserved space, but it’s certainly fair.

    2. Web Crawler*

      “I’ll trade you- you can have my parking spot if you also take my pain and my medical bills.” I’ve never actually said this out loud (substituting the parking spot for different accomodations), but I’ve always wanted to.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        One particularly vocal and annoying guy several companies ago demanded that he get one of those disabled parking spots because it was discriminatory for him to be denied it – even threatened lawyers (no, he wasn’t disabled).

        I offered to get him the same benefit as me in exactly the same way I’d got it: by backing my car over him twice (I was injured in a car crash 22 years ago, and worsened by a near fatal one 5 years ago). Weirdly he declined the offer.

        Management btw told him basically ‘bring it on’. The lawyer never materialised…

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            That guy was…shall we say not highly respected by the rest of the team anyway and that little incident did not help. There were more people than I laughing that day :)

            1. Esmerelda*

              Goodness! This is laughable but astonishing – I guess I am sheltered on how entitled some people can be. I don’t think it has ever occurred to me to complain about someone else’s parking spot in general, let alone a spot that is an accommodation! Good on your management.

        1. Hi there*

          Keymaster, I always love your comments, and this one is absolutely hilarious. I soooo wish I could have seen his face when you said that!

      2. Lecturer*

        An idiot said ‘I would trade your Bipolar to be as slim as you are’. You literally could not make it up.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          “I’d give anything to get those strong painkillers you’re prescribed! They sound like such fun”

          Okay mate, you can have the fun of screaming in level 10 pain at 3am as well. And lemme tell you, when you’ve been on them for as long as I have you don’t get a single high from them…

          1. Lecturer*

            I think if there was a high from my meds people would probably chase it….

            People can be so dumb.

          2. lailaaaaah*

            “Oh man, you get stimulants? I could do so much on those!”

            Yeah, well, my brain chemistry means that I just about function as a person when I take them, and can’t function when I don’t. Do you want to take that part too?

          3. EchoGirl*

            Not to go too far off on a tangent, but I feel like this is something that people just Do. Not. Get. about controlled substance medications. They always seem to assume that the experience of taking it once/occasionally is what people who take those medications regularly experience all the time. No, people, when you take it regularly, your body adapts to it and the most potent effects (the “high”) pretty much go away. That’s why actual addicts (those who take it for the high rather than for medical reasons) will keep taking bigger and bigger amounts — because they can no longer get what they’re looking for from the lower dose.

        2. VI Guy*

          “I would trade being able to drive for a large computer monitor like yours”

          Uhm really? If so then I don’t think you have ever taken public transit.

          Next time I plan to offer them the monitor, no questions asked, in return for them driving me in to work every day and when I need it on weekends.

          1. metadata minion*


            (And if he really thinks he’d be able to do significantly better work with a big monitor, they’re not *that* expensive and if you search around you can get used ones pretty cheaply. Make a proposal and bring it to your boss, dude!)

      3. Marika*

        I said something similar once – I’ve got PCOS and Endo and some days my body simply doesn’t co-operate. I was teaching in an Engineering faculty and one of my co-instructors on a course called a meeting for something that could be handled over email and I basically said “I won’t be there, I’m headed home the minute I’m done lecture” and he made some crack about “Manning up and dealing with pain instead of whining”. I literally turned around in the hallway, pulled up my shirt, undid my pants and said “See these scars (I have five from various surgeries – not counting the lump of scar tissue in my belly button from the six laparoscopies they’ve done through there)? Every one was for cutting me open and literally scraping tissue from places it doesn’t belong. When you need to have your guts cut open and cauterized every two years, come at me. Until then, do me a favour and stick to mechanical engineering – because you’re shite at the human interaction”.

        To his credit, I got an ACTUAL apology, not a half-assed one, and I did not hear another word out of him about the subject for the three years we worked together. It also DRASTICALLY increased my standing with the students – apparently the fact that “Ms M has bad-ass scars and dropped trou to prove it” counts with 18 year old boys….

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Ahh yes, the mangled middle of multiple laparoscopic surgeries – I’m more scar tissue than belly in some areas.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          I take my hat off to you. I’m currently in recovery from my first and it is NOT FUN. The cat walked across my stomach yesterday and I will never forgive him.

    3. LCH*

      Wow. I feel like the disabled parking space is the easiest accommodation to understand but people still want to be an ass about it?

      1. Lecturer*

        As soon as something involves money people become toxic. Go onto the Guardian ‘Money’ thread (the questions about purchasing or owning a house). It doesn’t mater what the question is, there are just a bunch of toxic comments because someone is asking about buying/owning a house.

      2. Cranky lady*

        But you should see the dirty looks I get when I get out of my car in the accessible parking space. It’s my son’s placard (which I only use when he is with me) but even his disability isn’t apparent.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’ve got a nifty sticker on my car that says ‘not all disabilities are visible’, I used to have days where I could actually walk without the cane and yeah, to the average bystander I probably looked able bodied.

          What they couldn’t see was the sheer amount of effort and pain it took to walk that short distance unaided. Nowadays though I use the cane all the time, but I haven’t changed cars so the sticker is still there :)

    4. Neon Wavelengths*

      For many many years I required a handicap parking placard. In fact mine is a life long one in this state so I could actually go down and get a current one. So many times, I was told how lucky I was to have that placard. I was not lucky. I am disabled. I would instantly give up any disabled parking placard to have a functional body. And it doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to know that not one of those people would take the challenges I face with my body for a closer parking spot!!

      1. Exhausted Trope*

        So so true! There’s nothing lucky about it. I used to enjoy parking in the back of lots and walking long ways to the doors. Now after two injuries, I can no longer do that. I park in disabled spots. I would give anything to go back to the days when I could easily walk.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’ve spent longer disabled in my life than I have able bodied now, which is depressing. I’d love to remember what not being in pain 24/7 feels like.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Yes. I’ve got another couple of years to go before I reach that point, and I suspect I am in a better position than you in terms of severity – I don’t normally class myself as disabled , as I can mostly function well enough that people who aren’t me don’t know what adjustments I’m making, but I’ve suffered from chronic pain for the past 23 years , since a nasty car accident, and I can no longer remember what it is like to not be in pain.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      Fairness is not always equality, and equality is not always fairness. Different needs = different solutions.

      If we all were the same, it would be boring, but that means we have to *think* about how we interact.

    6. In my shell*


      THIS. I’ve encountered many staff members who believe equitable means equal and they refuse to accept that accommodations are reasonable and equitable. It feels like a stubborn willfulness to refuse to accept that it isn’t favoritism or a handout.

      One thing I didn’t fully understand in the days before my mother started to physically decline was how extremely physically taxing parking and getting to the actual location can be when you’re dealing with physical limitations. She can be physically worn out by the time we *arrive* at the doctor’s office entrance and she’s like a limp noodle by the time we make it back to the car. I’d guess it is the same for many people just getting into the office before they even start their shift if they have to park any distance away – ?

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I tried explaining it to my sister (who is able bodied) why I really can’t handle walking – it’s like having a permanent leg cramp but in your spine while at the same time trying to walk through red hot concrete. So I’m not out of breath because I’m weak or need more exercise; I’m panting because that just took a lot of effort and a lot of pain.

    7. Stinky Socks*


      Many years ago I “qualified” (yay) for a temporary parking placard. That placard was the thing that allowed me to get through a grocery shopping trip– I only had to make it a short distance until I could get a cart that then functioned as my walker for the remainder of the trip. And golly, I would have gladly given up that placard and parked at the far end of the parking lot if it meant I could just take a walk all the way around the block.

    8. Ellie*

      That is a brilliant way of putting it, thank you – I am stealing your words and your analogy every time someone complains to me about these initiatives (which as a female in IT, happens a lot… Alison’s words are fantastic as always, but won’t get through to the fingers in ears brigade, they’ve heard them before. They’re not listening.)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Fellow woman in IT! And yeah, I adore my career but it can really attract some right stubborn and unlistening types.

  6. old curmudgeon*

    There’s a writer named John Scalzi who did what I think is a pretty good illustration of this issue. It’s written in the context of computer gaming as a way to explain the impact of power and privilege to those who enjoy both. I’ll put a link to his post in a followup comment.

    I should add here that while I am not male, I definitely have my own privilege, and it has been an ongoing learning process for me to recognize/internalize it, and to alter my actions accordingly. I completely get that it doesn’t come easily or intuitively for most of us. Asking questions is a great way to start, though – as long as you listen to and internalize the answers.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        What I like about this is that it also underlines another aspect of this: It is really really not useful to look at these things on an individual basis. I have no problem believing that there may be a woman in the OP’s company who benefits from these programs but is less deserving than the OP may be.

        BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER. These are not things that are attributed on a basis of complete individual fairness in order of deservedness. (Because it’s impossible. Because nothing works like that.) These are programs that address whole groups of people to, as the boldfaced part of Alison’s answer says, contribute to an overall more equitable playing field.

      1. old curmudgeon*

        Oy, realized that after I posted mine – oops! But it’s a good enough essay to be worth posting twice.

  7. anonymath*

    As someone who has spent time over the last 15 years organizing programs for women in a heavily male-dominated field, I’ve had to deal with this thinking/think carefully about how to address it many times.

    My conclusion is that actually no one wants to hear what Allison says (sorry!) because most people are more interested in their own career development than systemic patterns, and that includes women and people who belong to other minoritized groups. It’s a human thing.

    My personal response, then, is to in general allow anyone to women’s events (I’ll stick to binary gender for simplicity here, but obviously it’s more complex, and can be applied to cultural/ethnic/racial workplace groups as well). I try to design events “for women” so that the events benefit the intended main audience (and nonbinary folks feel welcome) and also allow men to come. There are benefits to having men be minorities in these events, and there are benefits to having men listen to women’s voices and leadership. Careful management is necessary so that “that guy” can’t show up and mansplain women to women — yes, unfortunately you have to proactively plan for that and take steps to make sure it cannot happen, because it truly ruins the event for everyone.

    It’s also important to have some targeted events that are specifically “safe spaces” in which to grapple with tough stuff. Those in general should be much smaller and have tighter boundaries all around, for many reasons.

    In math education, it’s shown again and again that teaching techniques that improve outcomes for minoritized or disadvantaged kids improve outcomes for *everyone*. Remarkably, good teaching is good teaching! I don’t have a problem with that. One should remain clear & focused on the goal, though. Sure, men can come to some of these seminars and listen in. Given the dynamics of our society, it just takes careful attention to make sure that the focus continues to be on leveling the playing field for women rather than catering to the two guys who come and “just have some helpful suggestions”.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Genuinely interested: how do you deal with guys who do show up and try to do the mansplaining women to women thing? Would love to know.

      1. Nesprin*

        I would ask anyone who did that to leave. But then I’m a well established #angryfemale or whatever the slur-adjacent term is these days.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          My walking stick just got a whole new use…

          (Imagine hooking them out the room like an old style vaudeville show)

      2. Brett*

        At least in our orgs, the leaders of the event have no issue with asking them to step aside and leave if necessary. I’ve seen this happen, and they also made sure that the incident went back to the managers of that guy.

      3. Andy*

        Woman working in tech: answer assertively. Ask how he knows. Ask why whatever woman told him that trumps whatever other women are saying.

        Basically, address exactly what he says head on, kind of treating it seriously.

        It is just rhetorics most of time. If yoi treat rhwtorics seriously as arguments, people dont know how to react.

        1. a sound engineer*

          Woman who went to school for tech and works in a different (but even more male) industry: seconding this. Addressing head on and asking the hows and whys of what he’s saying is the way to go.

      4. anonymath*

        The only way I know how to do it is to have very clear structure set out beforehand. So for instance (one type of event) you’ve got the speaker and then you’ve got the question period, and you ask every one to keep the question to 2 minutes or less, and then you are willing to literally cut the mike off if someone goes longer. You also need strong moderation that can redirect or rephrase questions. “I hear Jason asking What about the men? and I want to expand the question — how do you deal with intersectionality in these situations?” A strong ability to say, “I’d be happy to discuss that later but the focus of the event is X, so we can’t take that on right now” is also necessary.

        It’s a combo of setting the tone, having ways to keep focus (concrete ways like turning off the microphone and strong moderation skills), and sheer numbers — humans, regardless of socialization, do tend to be influenced when “the pack” is going a certain direction, but I notice in male-female dynamics (again being simplistically binary here) it’s got to be quite lopsided or guys start to take over.

        1. anonymath*

          Right, that’s the other thing, someone below mentions being sexually harassed in the middle of a training in the middle of the room by a dude — that’s hard to avoid but can be headed off to some extent by not having pairs for discussion but groups of three in which at least 2 are women.

      5. Forrest*

        I (white) ran a panel recently with professionals from Black and Asian backgrounds talking to students. I advertised it to everyone, working on the (depressing, but it turned out, correct) assumption that white students wouldn’t attend anyway. But how to avoid a white student turning up and derailing the session with racist nonsense was part of the planning process from the beginning.

        What I did:
        – asked students of colour whether one of them would chair the session (usually I chair myself, but didn’t think I was qualified to chair this one, and I was delighted that a student stepped up)
        – had an anonymous MS Forms open for three weeks beforehand where students were encourage to submit questions
        – worked with the student Chair to select (and write) some questions, which we sent to the panel in advance for them to check and say whether they were happy answering them. (This worked really well, and one of the panellists also added something he wanted to talk about to the questions.)
        – told the students who attended on the day that they were welcome to put questions in the Chat (it was all online.) That meant any questions would be visible to both the Chair and the panel, and anyone could pick them up if they wanted to but also ignore them if they didn’t!

        We actually didn’t have any students asking questions on the day– this is pretty normal for this group of students though! So it also worked really well to give structure for our student Chair, who hadn’t chaired before.

        You absolutely have to have a plan to shut it down, though– it’s intensely tedious and time-consuming for the rest of your audience if you don’t.

    2. Brit*

      At Girl Geek Dinners men are allowed to attend and listen to the talks, but only at the invitation of a woman, not on their own. Which is is an interesting set up.

      1. Zephy*

        Oh, I like that. It requires a man wanting to attend to have at least one female acquaintance (if not an actual friend).

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        I remember these from my time in the UK!

        In the US there’s a really nice state-run program called “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” (BOW). It’s based on some sociological research that looked into obstacles that lead to fewer women participating in outdoors activities than men, and addresses some of them. States are, however, not allowed to organize women-only events (discrimination! ha…) so they’re open to all genders – anyone can become an outdoors woman. (Usually there’s maybe 5% men in the ones I’ve attended, and enough quite assertive women that I’ve not observed mansplaining, though I wouldn’t exclude the possibility.)

    3. Cat Tree*

      In the Before Times, we had occasional work events where women in leadership would have seminars aimed at other women. Fortunately we have a good work culture so it was rare for a man to show up and take over the conversation. I liked it when men came just to *listen*, and occasionally ask a good faith question. The way to be an ally is to start by understanding before trying to fix.

    4. Aly_b*

      In some ways I agree, and certainly acknowledge your superior expertise of many years of focus. But as a woman in engineering and construction I do feel my chest tighten as I walk into a “women’s” event and see the men I run into everywhere else in the industry too. The point of these events, for me, isn’t mostly the programming. That’s good, of course, but I can get much of that anywhere – which I think is what you were saying about good teaching being good for everyone! But at a women’s event or group, I want to deepen connections, not worry about being talked over the same way, build solidarity, and complain about the fact that there are more mikes than women on the board without apologia about how they’re all super qualified though. I want to talk about which companies walk the walk, and which talk a big game and suck to work for. I want to not have to code switch for a minute. All of that is a much higher degree of difficulty with dudes around. These are dudes I like a lot and want to spend time with! But I do notice a lot of events trending towards having everyone at the same events. Fine for some stuff but I do see the value of giving women like 10 gosh dang minutes to themselves, for once, in a male dominated world and especially in male dominated industries.

      My industry is about 85% men, so it’s not that uncommon that a bunch of random people will happen to be standing together and be men. On the very rare occasions that a meeting is all women, we make note of it (out loud). I have NEVER had a group of people standing together at an industry event be all women if it is more than 3 people, and honestly even for that third person I’m trying to think of examples where that’s happened and nothing is springing to mind. So maybe more than 2. That seems weird?

      1. Aly_b*

        Sorry that may have come off as coming at you, anonymath. It’s meant only as generalized grouchiness at my industry. And some longing for having events again, honestly. If that’s what’s working for you, I support it! I will go hang out over here and put my own thing together and maybe learn the same lessons and land in the same place.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        Yeah, I agree that there is benefit for men to sit in on women-centric events, but if it’s happening at the expense of women it’s not women-centric anymore. I can see making the “women in (field)” or “facing sexism in the office” guest speakers open to all, but if I went to a women’s group discussion and there were men attending, I would probably leave.

      3. TechWorker*

        Yeah totally agree that the main benefit of these events for me has been *meeting other women* particularly more senior ones. That benefit doesn’t completely go away if there’s a few random men that show up, but if it ended up at ‘normal’ proportions (maybe 70-80% of my meetings I’m the only woman in the room?) then it defeats the point somewhat.

      4. Texan In Exile*

        I was preparing a speech for a VP about how lack of diversity leads to bad product design. I suggested she use the FitBit example – that they didn’t include a period tracker until about two years ago.

        She laughed and said she was not going to talk about menstruation at work.

        But I bet if it had been an all-women audience, she wouldn’t have minded because it’s such a great example.

      5. Mimi*

        You want an affinity group. That’s legit. There are studies that providing affinity groups for Black students in a white-dominated school lead to better learning outcomes and more racial integration overall (I don’t have the source handy, but it was in WHY ARE ALL THE BLACK KIDS SITTING TOGETHER IN THE CAFETERIA, 20th Anniversary Edition), and it makes sense to me that affinity groups for women in male-dominated fields would have similar benefits.

      6. anonymath*

        I totally get what you’re saying, Aly_b! And that’s why I do want smaller events that have really strict boundaries. Those are generally only-female+, for instance, but the way I felt like I had to deal with that was essentially make those non-marquee events — keep them quieter, essentially, and also do them after 2-3 events that men were ok to attend so that the guys would be bored & disinterested by that part let’s be honest.

        I do still wish for more serious networking & discussion with women in my field. It can be tough.

    5. Nicotene*

      Yeah, I recall seeing research that sometimes the organizational backlash among people who *felt* excluded was worse for overall equity in the organization than the boost to the group you’re trying to help. And honestly it does quickly get murky – why are women more deserving than this or that other disadvantaged group, etc. It’s easy to jump all over this LW but I think back on times I (cis female) wasn’t always my best self when I got the sense others were getting something I wanted badly.

      I think the best practice is to have the panels be open but heavily weighted towards issues of interest to marginalized groups (eg the panel is open to everybody, but the topic is “Fostering Diversity and Equity in Leadership” and have excellent moderation to shut down white and or male fragility the moment it rears its head.

    6. Charlotte Lucas*

      I can’t remember the exact term, but there is an unintended (but positive!) consequence when equity initiatives are enacted. The example I remember is that after the ADA required accessible bathrooms, it benefitted groups that were never thought of. Anyone who’s had to use a public bathroom while corralling small children knows this. (Why do you think the diaper-changing station is often in an accessible stall?)

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yes, and those sidewalk cut outs for wheelchairs and scooters are also super useful for strollers, bikes, suitcases, etc.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Carts of stuff for my convention booth, because more often than not I have to deal with street-side parking. Sometimes blocks away. Kind of an esoteric use, but I silently bless the inventor of curb cuts every time I have to push a cart with a wobbly stack of computers, crates, rolled-up banners, and whatever *is* in that thing that somehow got perched on top and shouldn’t have, across several streets to the exhibitor entrance.

          Also good when my bum knee is having a bad day, because stepping down is much worse than stepping up.

          1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

            The sidewalk cuts are great until it’s icy – I fell and slid under a bus as I disembarked onto one of those. Luckily, other people screamed at the driver to stay put while I rolled out by from under.

      2. TiffIf*

        I was watching something recently that pointed out something similar about the curb cuts that became required for accessibility were to the advantage of a lot of other groups–people with strollers, people with wheeled bags etc.

      3. Miss V*

        I think you’re talking about the curb-cut effect.

        The curb cut is that ramp built into the sidewalk at crosswalks so you don’t have to step over the curb. It was created for people in wheelchairs, but it had the unintended effect of helping lots of other people. Parents pushing a stroller. People pulling a wagon or cart. Runners who don’t have to worry about adjusting for suddenly uneven ground.

        But I don’t think that quite applies here. That specifically is referencing when a accommodation for one specific group ends up having a positive benefit for people from a different group. This I think is more about trying to appease people who complain about those accommodations being made because it doesn’t directly and positively impact them.

        (If I’m misunderstanding your point or you’re thinking of something else I apologize.)

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          That’s what I was thinking of! It’s specific, but I remember when the ADA passed & a bunch of business owners were mad that they would have to make things more accessible if they did any renovations. But it’s turned out to be for the benefit of many people beyond those who it was aimed at. I feel the same way about these kinds of initiatives. I’m straight, but it benefits me also if my employer supports the LGBT community, even if they attend training not meant for me.

          1. Cooper*

            Yeah, it’s not quite the curb cut effect, but it’s something similar, I think, in that it reveals a lot of the priorities of the parties involved. I’m emphatically child-free, but it’s still a good sign to me when a company has generous maternity leave and takes care of parents well; that indicates to me that there’s a lot of value placed on making sure employees are doing well, and understands that employees exist outside of work.

    7. squirrel zombie*

      Thank you, I think this is a helpful comment because it is important to communicate this in a way that men listen and accept. All the ‘outrage’ shown by various commentators here is absolutely not helpful in winning over men, who are mostly not evil, just normal people. In our large company, most of the sponsors for women’s leadership events are men (because they are in existing positions of power to make these things happen). The events don’t exclude men, but are women-dominated, and the dynamic this creates is indeed not a bad thing. I’ve never seen a ‘man-splainer’ disrupt these events, even though we’ve been having them for many years, I don’t know if my colleagues are just more self-aware than average, but most people can read the room well enough … I actually think it’s good for more men to recognize what women have to go through, and can see no problem with them attending. And frankly, the kind of men who genuinely want to learn about how the world looks from women’s perspectives will become better leaders themselves (I’m a woman btw).

      So for OP: I think it wouldn’t come across badly if you write to the organizers asking if they would let men attend (at least some sessions), just so that men can understand the issues women face. You could add you don’t intend to say anything but would be there to learn. I think this is far likelier to work than complaining that it’s unfair to have women-only events. But if the organizers say no, at that point you should let it go.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Nobody here is suggesting men are evil.

        The issue is when you’ve been told, for years, that you have to be nice and welcoming and friendly to people with systemic privilege over you in order to get anything done in your disadvantaged group….you see it not work a LOT.

        Also why I gave up being the nice friendly approachable disabled woman years ago. Being nice and considering the feelings of able bodied men had got me precisely nothing because while I was being nice they didn’t think there was a problem.

      2. pancakes*

        If we were collectively waiting on winning over the people who object to more a equitable society we’d still be waiting for the civil rights movement to get started.

      3. Scarlet2*

        1. What Keymaster of Gozer said.
        2. If I had a dollar for every group conversation I’ve had around feminism or sexism that was derailed by guys who were making it all about themselves and whataboutthemens-ing, not to mention talking over women and mansplaining like it was going out of fashion, I would be the female Jeff Bezos.

      4. TechWorker*

        That’s 100% not why the LW wants to attend though? They want to take part for their own career development. (Which, I agree isn’t totally ridiculous, but means that showing up and not participating is likely not what they have in mind.)

        1. Fran Fine*

          This. OP should definitely not write asking to attend primarily because he’s not interested in learning about the systemic challenges his female coworkers face, he just thinks that’s a pathway to promotion.

      5. Mimi*

        I’ve definitely seen… not out-and-out mansplainers, but talkative men taking up MUCH more than their fair share of the air in a room at an even that’s supposedly intended for women, or an issue affecting women.

        There’s definitely a tipping point; men from co-ed universities who think they want to take classes at women’s colleges rarely stick it out for more than the first week or two — it just isn’t the dynamic they expect. (But I would argue that that’s potentially different from an established work dynamic where the man in question is already in a position of relative power.)

        1. Ms Frizzle*

          Oh my god, I went to a women’s college with a few guys who attended regularly (trans folks who were great) and a few guys as guests from nearby colleges. Some of them were great. A few were really good examples of why I chose to go to a women’s college. One tried to explain menstruation to a room full of women!

      6. Æthelflæd*

        Your comment is actually quite offensive in that it places the responsibility to change the minds of men on the women. It is absurd to expect a woman to talk to a man “in a way they understand” that the woman is a human being.

        Basically, what you are saying (in other terms) is that black people have an obligation to change the minds of the racists white people. The discriminated people are responsible for “converting” their oppressors. That’s just plain absurd.

    8. Some dude*

      I think there are advantages to having women only (or black only etc) events, but I also worry that using exclusion and discrimination to address exclusion and discrimination is…not the greatest? Or at least not ideal? I know we are all piling on this guy, but there is a potential issue in what he is pointing out. You could get to a place where it would be much harder to advance because you hold a majority identity and the powers that be assume that you’ve already had enough privilege and opportunity. Which isn’t the same as women being systemically excluded, but also kind of sucks in its own way.

      1. pancakes*

        We’re nowhere near that point of it being “much harder” for white men to advance in their careers. I think you should try re-reading Alison’s answer, which explains the differences between discrimination and redress for systemic marginalization.

      2. HarrietVane*

        Uh, this seems like a slippery slope argument …

        I am 100% okay with eating my words about women-only events being necessary when you can show actual evidence of “someone with a majority identity finding it harder to advance” happening due exclusively to there being women-only events.

      3. anonymath*

        As a math person I’m happy to put some metrics on it. When women are 1% more likely to advance to the C-suite than men (measuring from first job to C-suite), and they’re paid the same, let’s absolutely cut out all this woman-only stuff.

        Shake on it?

      4. lailaaaaah*

        There *are* no places where it’s harder to advance because you hold a majority identity. They open doors for you everywhere you go, even if you’re not aware of it. That’s rather the point.

        1. Forrest*

          And a thing that’s really fascinating is how “men entering a female-dominated industry” is the exact opposite of how “women entering a male-dominated industry” works– it’s extremely well-established that men in nursing and education are likely to get promoted more quickly to leadership positions, and praised and rewarded for their bravery, selflessness, etc in joining a “less prestigious” (= feminised) career track.

          I was absolutely gobsmacked the first time I was talking about career aspirations with a man who wanted to go into primary education, and he just said absolutely casually and confidently, “And I know it’s a female-dominated area, and there’s a shortage of men, so I reckon my chances of making headteacher are pretty good.” Just the absolute exact opposite of what any woman going into a male-dominated area knows to be true.

          1. onco fonco*

            This is absolutely true. There are just two male teachers at my kids’ primary school. They’re decent teachers, I genuinely like them both, but god do people fall at their FEET for ‘how great they are with the kids’. They just interact with them! Warmly and supportively! Like all the women do! Like primary teachers are supposed to! It’s weird and extremely depressing to watch.

      5. armchairexpert*

        Since ‘the powers that be’ are still, by an overwhelming margin, white cis dudes, I don’t see this as an imminent threat, somehow.

    9. Brett*

      Something that might be IT specific…
      I’ve found that it is important for peer leads (even if men) to be able to _attend_ (but not necessarily participate in) such events because often times the women on the team are reluctant to take time out of their work day to attend events.
      Being able to say, “Hi co-workers, I’m going to this event. I think you could get a lot out of it too,” is important. In my experience, this is true for _all_ IT workers, not just women.

      This is different from OP’s situation though. OP is talking about specific training that people would presumably enroll in rather than attend on a more ad hoc basis. That doesn’t need someone to set an example or take a lead to get people to go. That’s where managers (and maybe team leads or peer leads) need to step up ahead of time and say, “This would be really good for you.”

    10. ekt*

      Wondering if you can say you are welcome to listen to the speaker, but you can’t ask questions or take over the meeting. You can sit silently and listen if any of them would come.

      1. Mizzle*

        Hmm… that sounds a lot like certain religious gatherings (actually, I can think of multiple examples), only with the genders reversed.

        1. HereKittyKitty*

          I mean, it also sounds like being in school, or being in a keynote too? Idk what this religious comment is supposed to mean lmao.

    11. Lizy*

      I worked for a professional organization (like a membership-type organization) that was founded on giving women a foot up in a male-dominated industry. As it’s grown and changed, the organization does allow anyone to join. However, its mission still resolves around the idea that it’s an organization to promote women (minorities), and the majority of the membership is female/not straight white men. Because membership is not granted automatically, the straight white men who are in the organization are VERY dedicated to true diversity. There was a chapter in a large city that had a male president one year. He honestly was a fantastic president because his work set up those following him and the chapter overall for success. He got it – it’s not about him. It’s about the overall organization (or company or industry), and by promoting/supporting minorities, it helps everyone. I would be willing to bet a lot of money that a lot of his success is because of that mindset and reputation.

      When I left the organization (about 2-3 years after his term as president), the chapter was one of our strongest and frequently used as an example of a successful chapter in the organization.

    12. Hmm, yeah, no.*

      Honestly, the way this letter is framed – and its explicit points – show that this is a not a guy who’d just come and listen, or even mansplain a couple of times. This is a guy who gives the impression he’d talk over others and make it all about himself. To claim to care about systematic inequities yet segue into feeling threatened and disadvantaged by a seminar series, within any critical self-reflection, is just… next level.

      The point here is that while your accommodation is understandable, it’s ultimately still yielding to men’s precious feelings of unwarranted exclusion. That seems really problematic, because it means that they never have to consider the root cause of why women’s even exists. Do we need to keep doing that?

    13. The Rules are Made Up*

      I get that there can be benefits to having men there but even so, it would be incredibly off putting for me to go to an event intended for women and see men there. Just like I don’t want to go to an event for POC employees and see non POC people there. It’s like even in our own events it’s not our event. People who are routinely excluded are still expected to include everyone else when that street never went both ways. I’m not a fan of the underlying message of that. “This event is for women… unless you whine enough then okay you can come too.” Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? If it’s a general professional development event then it can just be that, but why call it an event for X group if it’s really for everyone?

      When I encounter people like this I ask them “Why is it that you care so strongly about being in THIS meeting or at THIS event? Is this the only event that addresses this topic? Is there a reason you can’t attend one of the other ones?” because the answer is really just “You told me no so I want it even more now.” which is not a good reason.

      1. anonymath*

        You’re not wrong :)

        It has always been a fine line for me in the workplace — I have not been able to afford purity, so to speak, and have had a hard time figuring out what’s accomodationism and what is practicality. I only hope that I can make compromises in the right places to accomplish the goals I truly have (with regards to hiring, retaining, and promoting women + otherwise minoritized people in my fields of STEM). It has been a very difficult struggle for me, as I went into my STEM field to do STEM stuff, not be “the woman” or do “woman stuff” just because of my secondary sex characteristics. By some measures I already have lost one of the games as I left my industry for another, due in part to gendered discrimination, often in very well-meaning ways (being pushed into education rather than research by well-meaning ppl who want women to have more role models, for instance).

      2. Ellie*

        I think its got to be balanced. We had a women in engineering conference here that had all sorts of industry leads attend, and I remember feeling quite ashamed that we were the only company that sent a male representative. It felt stupid and backwards – but I do believe that men have to be part of the conversation if we’re ever going to get true equality. Things like parental leave and unconscious bias are really important and can’t just be fixed by educating women. Some people just can’t be reached though. I wish there was a mix of activities with men involved but women leading. Let the men get a small taste of what life is like as the only women in the room.

        1. BeenThere*

          For software engineering I’ve found the men who attend the GHC get first hand experience at what is like to be a minority. Within the first day the mens restrooms are no longer for men and by the end of the week it’s a revelation as to what this m use be like to live day after day.

        2. The Rules are Made Up*

          But I think that would essentially be a completely different program. A program for women to get tools and training and leadership experience in order to close gender gaps is not a place for male identified people. An event FOR male identified people to be educated on gender discrimination and equity can exist, I just object to the tendency to lump those things together as if inviting men to the former would be the same as the latter. These events should be intentional. So if the intention is to bolster women in a particular field then do that, if the intention is to educate men then do that, but an event for women does not need to automatically be a teachable moment for men.

    14. Rinkydink*

      If you ever write an article on this, I’d love to see it! I’ve been in lots of settings where this is not as deliberately and thoughtfully handled (including ones where I was doing my best to facilitate). Your concrete advice, including on how to plan ahead to handle disruptions, is really helpful to read.

    15. Ellie*

      I like this – as a woman in IT, I’m sick of having to attend these seminars where I’m made to feel like women are the problem, and need to be changed. Include the men and maybe change a few minds.

    16. Mid*

      Honestly, from reading your comments, it sounds like even in events not centered on men, they still end up being centered because you have to put in effort to corral them into behaving, and that sounds like a disservice to everyone.

  8. CeeKee*

    I would love to hear some of the women in this man’s department weigh in on whether there’s really no issue with gender equity in his department.

      1. londonedit*

        See also: ‘Well I don’t see any of this street harassment happening, I don’t think it’s as big a problem as these women seem to think it is’.

        1. Camille Chaustre McNally*

          Oh yes… and then “And I’d be flattered! No one ever pays me compliments like that!”

        2. Virginia Plain*

          That’s such thing isn’t it. I am white, with no health/mobility/pain issues and I wouldn’t dream of denying that a racist or ableist act etc is afoot because a) who am I to deny someone else’s lived experience and b) as a person outside those groups it is not for me to comment/give an opinion on them (beyond perhaps, I’m so sorry that happened to you, is there any support I can offer?) only to listen, think, and address my own actions as needed. I’m helped, in a way, by being female – I can empathise with how I feel about people who deny the existence of sexist actions* or say feminism is unnecessary. Imagine what it must be like to be on the advantaged side of every group, to the extent that anyone else getting help feels like an attack. OP is basically so lucky he can’t believe in the concept of bad luck. (I’m using luck as shorthand here for a whole host of complex stuff). It’s just never happened to him. So of course it means it never happens….

          *raging, obviously. I once related an incident of mansplaining that happened to a friend of mine (a man did the old “I think you’ll find..” at her over a historical fact, when she had researched, written and had published an academic book on the subject – he had done no such thing) on a small online forum and more than one man actually mansplained to me that it was not actually mansplaining. It was like, mansplaining squared! Distilled concentrated mansplanation! Inception mansplaining! Almost funny really – if it were a conversation irl I’d have been looking for hidden cameras.

      2. Finland*

        I had a white woman (an acquaintance) say to me, “Do you know what, I don’t think racism exists anymore; I just don’t see it.” I had to tell her that, as a white woman, she would never see it. She thought about it for a second and then said, “you know what, you’re right!” So I guess that’s a win? Not even two weeks later, we learned about George Floyd.

    1. Manon*

      Yep. Gender equity isn’t just having the same number of men and women in comparable roles. Are women paid the same? Promoted at comparable rates? Given equal opportunity for desirable projects? Do they deal with sexism from coworkers/clients?

      1. JG Obscura*

        When they are promoted, are they as respected as their male counterparts?
        I see this a lot in my technical field. Female managers are seen as “organizers” whereas male managers are seen as “leaders”.
        I forget what it’s called, but there’s a phenomena where when a field/job becomes more female-dominated, it loses it’s prestige and is seen as less impressive. And vis-versa; jobs that become more male-dominated are now more widely respected.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I just call it sexism.

          Being a secretary used to be a highly respected position. Then typewriters came along, & women’s strong manual dexterity made them better typists, which became an important part of the job. Suddenly the pay & prestige of being a secretary fell.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            When I was a kid I was so confused about why high up jobs in the Government had titles like “Secretary of Defense”. Like, secretary wasn’t an impressive job, why did they use that name for someone with a ton of power? But, this is why, secretaries used to be men when the job title was created and seen as something impressive. Then women took over the field and the respect for them dropped like a stone.

            1. LizM*

              There was a profile of the Secretary of my department a few years ago, and she commented about going into a bank to set up her new account and direct deposit. She put “Secretary of ___” as profession, and the bank teller assumed she was a clerical/admin type secretary at that agency. That always stuck with me, that she was a cabinet level official and that was still the assumption.

          2. Worldwalker*

            A “secretary” was once a confidential clerk — you know, one who dealt with their employer’s secrets. It was a highly respected position. And, as you pointed out, almost exclusively male.

        2. A Non E. Mouse*

          I see this a lot in my technical field. Female managers are seen as “organizers” whereas male managers are seen as “leaders”.

          OH MY GOODNESS that’s right on the nose.


          I’m going to have to sit with that a moment, I’ve noticed “something” in my transition to manager I couldn’t put my finger on and I think this is it.

        3. FD*

          So you’ve just blown my mind and I never noticed this even though you’ve literally just described my entire career.

      2. Brett*

        Or is there no gender equity issues in _this_ department, because it is being packed with women who should have roles in other departments with higher pay or better paths to promotion?

    2. nonbinary writer*

      Thought the exact same thing. I have nothing other constructive to say, only rage.

    3. EPLawyer*

      I’m gonna bet that there are a lot of problems. Just because they are in leadership roles and the majority in ONE department doesn’t mean even that department has its problems. Is it seen as the “women’s department?” Do they point to that department and go “what problem, we have this department right here with all the little ladies in charge.” Do employees in that department make remarks about “the wimmin” in charge? (I am betting heavily on this last one based on the letter).

      But LW will never see that. HE doesn’t see them being discriminated against, so therefore they aren’t.

      1. JG Obscura*

        Do you work at my office? Because that is *exactly* what I see.
        I work in as a software engineer, primarily in testing. The testing group is about 40-60 men to women. We’re belittled, seen as less than compared to the dev side, which is 80-20 men to women.
        Once, I created a tool to automate part of our process and did it single-handedly. (Which is impressive and I was very proud of myself!) When I showed one of my dev coworkers he said, “Wow! Why aren’t you working for us?” It felt like a slap in the face. His tone absolutely implied that my job was “lesser” to his, and that obviously if I was in testing I must be incapable of development. (Buddy, the only skill you have that I don’t is Jovial. And I’m pretty sure the vast majority of the people in your group hired within the last 15 years didn’t have prior experience with it either.)

        1. TechWorker*

          To be brutally honest I don’t think this is (just) a gender thing. Our test org also seems to be mostly men and they are paid less/the roles are definitely respected less in that if someone shows talent in development they will likely eventually move to the dev org. There are also different expectations on them – it’s a different job with different skills needed.

          1. Walk on the left side*

            This is an instance of the phenomenon mentioned above where any time an industry or in this case a position within an industry starts to become female-dominated, it is devalued. It’s still definitely a gender thing.

            The same is happening with front-end development (UI dev, particularly JS/websites) and it’s seen as “less technical” and a “softer” entry to software development.

            Be extremely wary of someone who claims their engineering department has some great gender ratio, but then when you look the tiniest bit deeper, all the non-men are in entry-to-mid-level individual contributor roles in testing and UI development. Also, be extremely wary of anywhere that specifically titles test automation engineers and/or UI engineers and then considers “software engineer” to be a promotion from either of those positions.

        2. Worldwalker*

          Even in sub-fields where it’s almost entirely men, testing and QA gets no respect. Devs are always the fighter pilots, QA “merely” the ground crews.

          Try flying a fighter plane with no ground crew….

          1. NeptuneKangaroo*

            I’m a developer and coincidentally a women. I totally agree that the testers and QA are always looked down on by the devs who generally consider them less skilled, though in reality they are highly skilled. However in the 20 years or so I’ve been a developer, in a variety of companies and industries, only for about two of those years have there been any testers at the company I was working for. It’s wonderful to have testers as we produce a much higher quality product, but it’s also not the norm in the jobs I’ve worked in. So being a fighter pilot with no ground crew is basically 90% of my career.

        3. Andy*

          The devs get paid more tho. If you can, it makes sense to transfer. We have some developers who started as testers and it always made sense to me.

      2. lailaaaaah*

        Also, I distinctly remember one job where this one department was made out to be a feminist department bc the area manager was a woman- except she had a HUGE amount of internalised misogyny, and would fire any woman she saw as being ‘too good’ at her job. She basically built herself a little workplace harem of handsome, young white men.

    4. Smithy*

      Yes….I work in a field/department that is heavily staffed by women. While there are often many women in leadership roles, it’s also very common to see the few men who are in the field advance rather rapidly. So it’ll be a department that’s 90% women, but will have 25-30% representation of men in leadership roles.

      And in a number of cases men in more junior roles will see some early fast advancement and then jump into leadership roles on other teams that have those traditional male dominant histories. Whereas it’ll be far less likely to see those leadership advancements for women looking to switch sectors and they’re faced with lateral move opportunities.

      1. DeweyDecibal*

        This is how my industry is too- we’re 80% white women, but with a very high concentration of men at the top level.

        1. Nicotene*

          Yeah, and I watched the one white male coordinator on my staff leapfrog up and out at a pace none of my much stronger female coordinators were able to do. Strangely the leadership just really saw something in that guy. (He reminded them of … themselves …)

        2. ThatGirl*

          The last company I worked at was majority (white) women (maybe 70%? not sure) but the top leadership were mostly men; I think the single woman in an SVP role was the head of HR.

          1. Forrest*

            My team has 3 men, 16 women, my manager’s a woman and then it’s men all the way up to the CEO.

        3. Smithy*

          Yup….I was once on a team of about 30-40 staff, only 3 men who were all in junior to mid level roles. After two years all of them had left for Director positions. One in the organization but on another (mostly male) team and the other two in different organizations. To say the least, the whole team in no way experienced movement opportunities at the same rate.

          A key part of these types of programs when connected to “feminized” industries is that even though they have high representation of women – the few men who do enter the field often experience accelerated growth. So these programs aren’t just about advancement at one employer but rather in the field.

      2. Shan*

        This is a bang-on description of my particular field. Predominantly women, but the few men who enter always seem to be “rock stars” who rapidly ascend into leadership positions that are strangely elusive for women.

        1. Smithy*

          *Using fake jobs for this* – but being on a team with one male kindergarten teacher and then learning that because leadership saw his rockstar quality with small children, that he’d be perfect as the VP of a bank.

          And hearing people say those things deadly seriously about men, whereas with all of the amazing women kindergarten teachers that they had clearly found their correct niche and certainly had no management experience to reference.

      3. dePizan*

        This exactly. I’m a librarian, where the field is something like 82% female, and it’s been skewed that way for well over 80+ years. And yet men still manage to hold a disproportionate percentage of leadership roles for only being 17% of the field (43% of management across both academic and public libraries). And they typically have been paid more than women for it too. Or elementary schools also have a similar issue, where the vast majority of teachers are female, but when it comes to the principals and other management, it’s largely male.

        1. HereKittyKitty*

          Yup, I was just thinking this exact thing. It’s a huge thing in education.

        2. BubbleTea*

          This is true of midwifery in the UK as well. A very very small number of male midwives exist, and they often get promoted faster than would be statistically probable for the average midwife.

        3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Thinking of my field, where the senior roles are 50:50 … but most departments are 90% female.

      4. WhoKnows*

        “While there are often many women in leadership roles, it’s also very common to see the few men who are in the field advance rather rapidly.”

        +1000000000000 to this. Promoted so fast it’ll make your head spin. “Would be great to get a guy’s voice in here for diversity.”

      5. Julia*

        When I worked in in-house language services, we were 90% female, and actually had 80% female leadership, but the second a new guy joined our team, at my level (individual contributor) he got invited to lunch with the male big bosses, which never happened for any of us women. I guess they felt sorry for him being surrounded by women?
        He was actually a very decent guy who respected all of us, but it still stung. And even some of my female colleagues were all, “finally, a strong MAN!” Same with some people on the teams we provided services to.

        1. Worldwalker*

          We have met the enemy and she is us.

          Many years ago, I was at a friend’s tiny little airport. (not much beyond a flat spot that they mowed) A woman looked at a hangar door for a moment, then asked my then-boyfriend to open it for her. I was closer; I slid it open instead. She looked at me with utter *shock*.

          My own mother told me “Little girls don’t grow up to be…” (fill in the blank for all the things I wanted to be) I was one of the women who watched Sally Ride’s first launch both cheering and crying — cheering for her accomplishment, and crying for our own broken dreams. (though in my case, I couldn’t have been an astronaut candidate anyway, as they have this requirement that one be able to see beyond the end of one’s nose without glasses) My mother also repeated “boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses” … as if the only success in the world was to have boys make passes at one, and that required conventional physical attractiveness.

          It’s parents, and primarily mothers, who dress their infant girls in pink, pink, and only pink, who direct them into “appropriate” activities, who criticize them for doing the same things their brothers are praised for. Parents, day-care staff, teachers … most of the adults a young child is guided by are traditionally female, and they’re the ones who push girls to be “girly” (and much more so now than a generation or two ago, oddly).

          Walk through the “pink aisles” at a toy store. The toys — in 2021! — are themed around fashion/beauty, child care, pets, and household tasks. These are being bought by parents. Mostly mothers.

          There is a distressingly large percentage of the female population with the “finally, a strong MAN!” point of view. I’ve run into them a lot. I find it much easier to raise the consciousness of sexist men, actually.

          1. Ellie*

            I am fighting the ‘pink is for girls’ thing as hard as I can, but unfortunately my mother in law is extremely traditional, and my daughter is her only granddaughter (five boys came before my little girl did). I spend much more time than I can afford to looking for non-pink clothes and toys, and then she comes and visits with a pretty new pink dress and then gets all smug when my daughter loves it. She claims that all girls love pink, and that I’m fighting nature. Yet she completely ignores my son when he asks for the pink potato chips, the pink lollipop, the pink lego friends sets, the Skye paw-patrol set… she did the same thing to her first born grandson, whose favorite color was also pink. You cannot see what you cannot see.

          2. Julia*

            I’d maybe get that if we had been doing hard labor, but you don’t need a ton of muscles to provide language services. Stamina and brain power, sure, but not muscles.

      6. lailaaaaah*

        Sounds exactly like my old job. It was female dominated, but somehow all the white men managed to snag the fast track opportunities for advancement, even though there were women as skilled as or more skilled than them on the same team, with the same managers who were offering the men one-on-one coaching and offering them nothing.

    5. Andy*

      I have been in teams where I think situation was equal and ones where it was not. And in situation where I concluded that people doing for women programs are to be avoided as they create more sexist situation then was previously. I would personally never participate in women only program.

      People in comments do take issue with OP massively.

      But I as a woman would mostly say that he has little to fear, as these programs rarely achieve much – they typically skip the “look at what issues women actually have” step and go for “do something visible”.

    6. Generic Name*

      Right? Here’s an interesting article with tons of links showing that what men perceive as “equal representation” between men and women is actually when women still make up less than half of the people in a room. When there used to be zero women in boardrooms, a boardroom with 2 or 3 women out of, let’s say a dozen people, seems to have “a lot” of women to many people.

    7. Cat Tree*

      I can’t think of what it’s called, but there is a bias that people that people tend to think the gender representation is equal when women reach about 33%. I’d like to know if OP has ever actually counted the women in leadership.

      I work in a male-dominated field (engineering) and my current company has significantly better diversity than every other place I’ve worked. So this even affected me. But one time I counted and it was right around 33% women in leadership. It’s still a huge improvement over the lone token woman, but it’s not as equal as it seems at first glance.

    8. Cranky lady*

      “there is no issue with gender equity in my department.” This was what made me lose it. I mentioned to colleagues that a vendor in an earlier meeting was talking down to all the women on technical issues. All the men were shocked and the women just nodded.

      1. Maree*

        I’ve tried explaining to my male boss (45) why I found an email from a colleague who is lower on the org chart than me so incredibly offensive. This also middle age man stated in his email to the directors and myself that I suck at my job, he is better suited to my job and has more training than I do. He has no idea what training I have or what my actual job is – just parts of it. My boss was a bit dumbfounded and responded “Well, we know he didn’t mean it that way”. My response was “Yes he did, but moving on..”.

    9. Bostonian*

      The fact that this guy thinks he’s an authority on discrimination against women says everything.

  9. AndersonDarling*

    I don’t want to dump on the OP because on the surface, this does look like a situation where one group is getting support while another is being left to themselves. What I think is missing is how women have little access to leadership activities that are naturally available to men.
    In my world, when a male colleague runs into a problem, our male manager immediately sets up time to work through the problem with him. When I have the same blocker, I’m told to figure it out.
    When I started a job at the same time as a male co-worker, male leaders all reached out to have lunch with my co-worker. None of them spoke with me.
    When my team won a national award, my male teammates were all invited to receive the award in person. I was told that I needed to “man the fort” and stay behind.
    When put into perspective, having a few lunch-n-learns doesn’t even seem like an advantage.

    1. Lance*

      A lot of this, the OP definitely needs to consider. Also to consider: just the sheer amount of such presentations and groups and etc. over (even recent) history that have male speakers and leaders, or maybe the rare one that isn’t male. I know it can feel tough being the one on the outside, but we’re still a ways off from actual equality, and it needs the push where it can find it.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      The OP says he works at a large organization. Unless his definition of large is 50, I seriously doubt he is lacking for professional development opportunities.

      1. Brett*

        You would be surprised at what happens with some large organizations. I work for a company with over 100,000 employees. Less than half of those employees are not authorized to take any professional development training of any type. Since we went to work from home, they are now locked out of personal development open events (because their accounts are not authorized to join the virtual meetings, where they could at least show up in person before). For a manager of any of these people, they can advise their reports on professional development, but cannot give them any requirements, draft any goals for them, or even recommend specific classes or training to them.

        And it gets worse in some departments (like mine). On my team of 60, over 90% of our employees are barred from _all_ company professional development activities because of job role based restrictions.

        1. Brett*

          Argh, that should read “Less than half those employees are authorized”. (So more than half are not authorized.)

        2. pancakes*

          Are they contractors, or . . . ? I’m not trying to suggest that the situation you describe would thereby be fair or sensible, but it’s not clear what divides the employees who have access and the ones who don’t.

          1. Brett*

            There are multiple dividing lines, including contractors, but all tied to job role. For the most part, hourly workers are the ones locked out.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Good thing hourly v salary doesn’t correlate with historically disadvantaged groups, then.


              1. Brett*

                It’s not quite the way you are thinking. These are more like consultants, contractors, directed individual contributors with no managerial responsibilities (so not salaried), but earning three figures per hour. Since they are non-managerial roles with no career paths to management, they don’t get professional development.

                1. Brett*

                  (That said, I think women are overrepresented in these roles compared to managerial path roles. Other historically disadvantaged groups tend to be about equally represented on both sides.)

    3. Lora*

      Oh my gosh, do we work in the same place?

      This morning: Bigboss, I know you sent out an order to do Project ABC, but Senior Manager in other department has not been sufficiently forthcoming. He did like two of the 10 things you asked for. I and others have asked for information and not gotten enough. What else can we do here?
      Me: Okaaaayyyy, just keeping you up to date, have a nice day.

      When a man escalates a problem, same Bigboss is all “I’m going to get on top of this! I’m going to solve this problem for you! They can’t treat us like that! They can’t just not do their job” and throws his weight around until things get done.

      Same on the introduction to the new team, team building exercises, invites to planning meetings etc. I’m not considered important enough to get those things. I’m supposed to do my job invisibly and write a report that they ignore…then when things fall apart and they actually read the report, they realize there was zero connection between me and the team, I was completely ignored. Then they’re shocked that their boys came to the wrong answer when they didn’t use the information I gave them.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Oooh, how about this gem!
        “You need the team all on the same page and you know what they all need to do? Great! Set up a meeting, and have Bob, George, and Mike give presentation on what your team needs to do.
        And order lunch for everyone.”

        1. Lora*

          We DO work at the same place! Did you also get “and by the way we had Panera at the last one, can you order from somewhere else next time?”

      2. lailaaaaah*

        Also- managers expecting you to do the whole ‘throwing your weight around until things get done’ shtick, except that that doesn’t *work* when you’re a woman, or costs you way more social capital than it would for a man. Working in a male-dominated IT team, I get this one a lot. My male colleagues get to be angry. I have to be sweet.

    4. Nicotene*

      I did think, do these women really want this training seminar, or do they want … to be promoted with pay equity …?

      1. Ground Control*

        Right?!?! I roll my eyes so hard (SO HARD) when my company hosts any type of women’s leadership seminars or panels to discuss LGBTQ or racial issues. It’s so transparently a way for them to pretend to care while doing nothing to actually address structural inequalities.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Exactly. It’s a form of victim blaming.

          “We need to teach women how to do things right. Then if we don’t pay them fairly, promote them equally, listen to them, whatever, it’s all *their* fault.”

          Doesn’t matter how well you can talk if they aren’t listening.

    5. Toasty Bacon and Eggs**

      I have seen this as well. The companies I have worked at ( not many, 3 major ones over the last 15 years), all seem to have an informal “boys club” in which if you are a white male, the senior leadership will work with you and give you anything hand over foot. Money, training, position, you ask you get. Where as someone of color or a female will need to provide copious amounts of proof and reasons to get the same results. Those senior leadership members also are the ones that don’t understand why women/POC leave after so many years for other jobs; jobs that are better paying and further up the ladder.

      “It wasn’t something we did, was it?” No, it wasn’t. It was something you didn’t do.

    6. Anonymous tech writer*

      My company is in a heavily regulated industry with legal requirements for shipping documentation with product, and that documentation must have been reviewed and approved by an outside party.
      It was a very big deal ~10 years ago when a product-development team award included the technical writer for the first time. It has not happened again.

    7. NotRealAnonForThis*

      How many letters have we seen here stating something along the lines of “my (male) boss won’t have closed door meetings/business lunches with women and its holding me back”? I’m certain its greater than two.

  10. Trisha*

    And even if it looks like leadership is balanced between the genders, it doesn’t mean that the next generation is. In my (government) organization the top 4 positions are currently held by women which is great. Except that they seem to be bringing up men to the next level. Of the 12 Directors in our organization – 2 are women, 10 are men. In my career, I’ve been told I need to smile more, I need to “go along to get along”, and to “play nice”. I have been called various gender slurs behind my back. I can’t think of a male colleague who has been told any of those things or been referred to by a gendered slur. And I work for an organization that promotes equality, fairness and transparency.

    1. mreasy*

      The president of my company is a woman, and she is fantastic at her job and tremendously experienced. She is still continuously condescended to by her peers, the c-suite, and even men that report to her. It’s not just putting women in leadership positions, it’s doing so without begrudging them the title and with legitimate support and resource equity with men in similar roles.

  11. Ready for the banhammer*

    imagine that you had a huge basket of delicious fruits and your female coworkers had some withered bananas and one soggy tangerine, and so your company decided to put some more ripe fruit in the women’s baskets … would you look at that and say, “But wait, I’d like that fruit too?”

    Yes, if they stopped providing the fruit for my basket. The letter writer doesn’t say what opportunities are available for guest speakers, leadership modules, etc outside that affinity group. If the women’s affinity group is the only one that exists and is company sponsored then how is that not a problem? Note that I am not saying there needs to be a men’s affinity group. But if there’s a larger company mentoring program and then also this women’s group, that’s great. If the only group is this women’s one…that does seem problematic.

      1. Pret a Manager*

        He specifically said it was “one of the [DEI] campaign’s company-wide programs”. You assume DEI campaign is providing a program for LW?

        1. Le Sigh*

          Maybe not the DEI program, but LW didn’t say what was already available outside of the DEI program as well.

    1. Colette*

      Existing in the world as a man has advantages that cannot be taken away by leadership opportunities for women.

      1. WellRed*

        In what sense is it illegal? I’m guessing you are just making a knee jerk blanket statement…

        1. JM60*

          In what sense is it illegal?

          IANAL, but what might make legally questionable is that it “explicitly excludes men”, which is discrimination on the bases of gender, and discriminating based on gender in business is usually – but not always – illegal. Sometimes such technical discrimination based on gender can be legal if it’s spirit and main affect is to undo the effects of discrimination. Good intentions might not necessarily mean that it passes legal muster though.

    2. Empress Matilda*

      It’s right there in the second sentence:
      one of the campaign’s company-wide programs helps women grow in leadership

    3. Spicy Tuna*

      Just to continue with the fruit basket analogy – the reason that they’ve stopped providing fruit for the men’s basket is because the men have already eaten their fill. They’ll be good for a few hours and can survive on their own, while in the meantime the women are going hungry so they actually need the fresh fruit.

      Due to the systemic issues that exist, men can still get the opportunities they want just by existing as men, while women need the groups to help develop their skills and learn how to navigate the world that was created to keep them at a disadvantaged position.

      Let’s first make sure everyone is fed. Then we can come back for seconds.

    4. Observer*

      Yes, if they stopped providing the fruit for my basket.

      Except that it does NOT look like they did that. The OP notes that it is ONE of the programs in the company – in a field that is male dominated. All of the rest is pure speculation and what he personally wants.

    5. Nesprin*

      … You’re kidding right? In a society where women are paid 3/4 of what men are paid (because there is no more perfect encapsulation of bias than systematically undervaluing women’s work) you can’t see the value in giving women a leg up? It’s a good idea for a company to invest in women because diverse teams are more efficient and successful, and investing in plugging up a leaky pipeline means that there’s more high quality candidates for senior positions.

      And yes, men are left out of this one. But think of it as balancing out the systemic sexism, like old boy’s network that is apparently invisible to the men I work with, despite their active participation and benefit from it.

    6. SomebodyElse*

      I had the same thought. I think the key to these types of programs is to supplement an existing structure of professional development that is inclusive to all.

      IMO it would look something like this:

      Open to All:
      Guest speakers -General focus aimed at most
      Panel discussions – To include a broad range of focus including those that affect targeted groups
      Learning modules to help employees improve leadership skills and deal with blockers to career growth – General focus aimed at most

      Open to members of targeted groups:
      Guest speakers -focused on target member issues and challenges
      Panel discussions -focused on target member issues and challenges
      Learning modules to help employees improve leadership skills and deal with blockers to career growth -focused on target member issues and challenges

      I’ve always viewed it as my job as a manager to provide professional development for all my employees, I can’t imagine saying … “Oops sorry you’re not in my targeted group and historically your group has had the advantage” Because that isn’t how the world works, all of those ‘groups’ are made up of individuals who may happen to be in an advantaged group, but on the micro-level that doesn’t necessarily mean that individual has the same advantages.

      1. Rach*

        I would be really surprised if this large company didn’t have a set-up similar to the one you describe as OP says it is just one of the opportunities. My huge, global tech company has a set-up similar to this, except everyone is allowed to attend all meetings, even if the focus and marketing is to a particular group (the group is the one who organizes the events).

      2. Jack Straw*

        Except that “[g]eneral focus aimed at most” is rarely helpful to the specific audience they are trying to level the playing field for. The default or “general” is always white and male.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          Hard disagree on that.

          I’d argue that most professional development topics are universal. For instance let’s take a “New Supervisor/Manager” course. There are going to be things that all new supervisors and managers will face, getting authority levels right, how to have effective coaching sessions, how to give feedback etc.

          Now you can take that same course and tailor it for different groups: Young (age) professionals, non-technical managers leading a technical team, or women in management and discuss certain things that are unique to their situations.

          1. Jack Straw*

            By universal, you may not realize it but you mean white male centered management. The way I get authority levels right as a woman is not the same as a man. Should it be? Yes, but it isn’t. The way I deliver a coaching session differs from how a man would do it and so does how I give feedback. Should it be different? Again, no. But it is.

            The parameters that women in management work within are very different from men. Teaching me to assert myself in the same way a man does could seriously tank my career. The management skills I need as a woman differ, sometime sin small amounts and sometime sin large amounts, from what they teach men/the standard.

          2. hbc*

            I think “How to deal with someone who dismisses your skills because of your background” is more universal than not, but that’s never covered in those classes. And I think it’s hard to argue that your white male employee has never been specifically advantaged when your equivalent black lesbian employee has to attend three additional leadership classes to deal with issues specific to her three minority categories.

          3. Super Anon For This One*

            ’d argue that most professional development topics are universal. For instance let’s take a “New Supervisor/Manager” course. There are going to be things that all new supervisors and managers will face, getting authority levels right, how to have effective coaching sessions, how to give feedback etc.

            Hard disagree on this one.

            My company has a “Leadership Program” that I was slotted into when my promotion was imminent. This was a multi-month program.

            The training was heavily geared towards men, white men at that (I was the only woman in attendance this round, out of about 15 participants). Most of the videos used, and all the in person presenters, were white males.

            And until I pointed it out in one session, absolutely no one noticed that in all the training videos – including those supposedly talking about gender and other diversity issues – every single woman was wearing a skirt, heels, and makeup. And that every woman “manager” in the videos was used in the examples of a manager handling something wrongly – they were cast in the “don’t do it this way” role.

            It’s like they took extra care to make sure every woman was represented as a Caricature of Woman.

            So yeah sure, New Manager training is technically a gender neutral topic, but the available training material (this was all sourced from a national source) still has bias and when you are the only woman attending, boy do you stick out like a sore thumb.

            1. Super Anon For This One*

              I was so mad I forgot something else that stuck out: of the videos from “experts” that were included, the women all talked about how they had to balance everything but the men had specific, work-only topics they covered. It just reinforced that women SHOULD have to worry about balance, and men were experts on Topics.

              I actually felt worse after taking the program, and yes I passed that feedback along.

            2. Worldwalker*

              But is the problem in this case that the actual information being presented was white-male-only, or that the presentation was utterly horrible?

              1. Super Anon For This One*

                I actually think that’s where the blindspot is in all this – there were white and male biases baked into the material, that no one even saw until I pointed them out.

                The words being used, the situations being presented, the buy-in and energy being put towards the program within our company? All on point. You can tell they tried, very hard, to put together a good program and that they are trying to include more women in things.

                So it’s easy to say “they mean well” or “you should look past these small things…” but in truth I’m just too many decades into my career to buy that these small things will get better. They haven’t yet. Because (in my company at least) the current leaders are all white males, and are picking the material and the participants.

                I don’t think they are consciously doing this by the way – I think it’s literally a blind spot and the only way to clear out the bad is to put it in the sunshine.

          4. Observer*

            There are going to be things that all new supervisors and managers will face,

            And there are going to be specific things that women are going to face that men won’t – and those things will never be addressed because everyone is going to be busy addressing the “general” needs, unless these are women centered sessions.

            getting authority levels right, how to have effective coaching sessions, how to give feedback etc.

            And the specifics of all of this are going to be different for men and for women. Because men don’t have to deal with being called “bossy” or “aggressive” for behavior that gets called “assertive” or “leadership” in men. So, even though the CONCEPT may be universal, how to deal with it is NOT universal.

            1. SomebodyElse*

              So you missed the part where I suggest there is general and targeted content?

              I’m pretty sure I suggested this:

              Open to All:
              Guest speakers -General focus aimed at most
              Panel discussions – To include a broad range of focus including those that affect targeted groups
              Learning modules to help employees improve leadership skills and deal with blockers to career growth – General focus aimed at most

              Open to members of targeted groups:
              Guest speakers -focused on target member issues and challenges
              Panel discussions -focused on target member issues and challenges
              Learning modules to help employees improve leadership skills and deal with blockers to career growth -focused on target member issues and challenges

              1. Been There*

                I think the point is that those “open to all” sessions tend to be geared towards white men.

            2. Æthelflæd*

              I had a manager at one job that said “women shouldn’t be seen as ASSERTIVE, and I’m only telling this because I respect you and I don’t want to you destroy your career by getting tagged as that.” This was after there was a major fuckup that required I take charge of the situation and delegate out what needed to done. He’s lucky we were a fully remote organization, as I probably would have drop kicked him into a volcano after he said that.

    7. Rusty Shackelford*

      LOL the analogy literally says you have a huge basket of delicious fruit. It doesn’t mention a lifetime supply of fruit, or taking your fruit away. Just, look, you have tons of fruit, so let’s give some fruit to other people.

      (And as others have pointed out, it’s very apt because the LW does say there are other programs.)

    8. hbc*

      If you’ve been getting delicious fruit in your basket for years, and you’re *now* piping up that it’s not fair because someone else gets a few pears that you didn’t get, please don’t pretend that you’re actually concerned about fairness. You were fine with the lack of fairness up until this point–what you really care about is that you have at least as much as everyone else in every single instance.

      1. Pheebs*

        Exactly this. He was fine with the unfairness as long as it was skewed in his favor.

    9. mreasy*

      Counterpoint: if there are multiple mentoring programs but none of them focus on straight white men, that is fine. Business as usual IS a mentoring program for straight white men.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, I think this is the crux of it. The LW doesn’t see the leadership training he’s been exposed to and mentoring he’s been given because that’s just business as usual to him. If he could compare his own experience with the average woman’s experience in his same industry, I’d bet it would look a lot different. And it would make more sense to him why there’s a program specifically for women to formally get the kinds of experiences he’s already had, informally.

        And the other thing is… even if this particular guy has not actually been given mentoring or leadership training or any of that, it still wouldn’t matter. This kind of program is about addressing systemic issues — averages — and it’s not always going to come out exactly perfect when you look at individuals. Being an ally is recognizing and accepting that it’s not all about you.

        AND, just because there’s a leadership/mentoring program specifically for women doesn’t mean he can’t also get that type of training, he just has to seek it out himself. If the company were only approving leadership training for women and denying all requests from men, then sure, that would be a problem. But just because it’s not handed to you on a silver platter doesn’t mean you can’t get it at all.

  12. Green great dragon*

    If you feel you need leadership training, ask! If the *only* professional development offered by your company is this program which is only for women then I (female) would agree it’s unfair, but it seems pretty unlike that’s the case.

    1. JessicaTate*

      THIS. LW, I’m going to use the language right there in your letter. You stated the program is to “help women improve leadership skills and deal with blockers to career growth.” OK, so are you saying that you need help with that too? (If you don’t struggle with those things, then the PD wouldn’t much help you, so this entire discussion is moot.) Go to your boss and say, “Boss, I feel I need help to improve my leadership skills and deal with blockers to my career growth. Can you help me identify some PD opportunities that would help me with those weaknesses in my skill set?”

      If you can find actual evidence for your assertions that women get promoted because of simply participating in this program [as opposed to because of their skills, merit, and competence], then by all means bring that to your leadership.

      But for now, that sounds like an unsupported conjecture of your fears. I suggest you identify your own weaknesses, make efforts to work on those and be a stronger and more inclusive leader, and position yourself to truly be the best qualified, skilled, competent, inclusive-minded candidate to be primed for future promotions.

      1. Walk on the left side*

        If you ever actually find a straight white cis-dude who would actually say something to his boss that non-ironically references “weaknesses in my skill set” I will fall out of my chair in shock.

  13. Fruit Basket*

    Just because the letter writer is part of a demographic that has traditionally had huge baskets of fruit doesn’t mean *he* has a huge basket of fruit.

    1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

      Yes, duh, and white privilege doesn’t mean that all white people have neve experienced hardship in any way. But he’s had more opportunities to accumulate fruit than women have. If he’s white, or from a wealthier family, or straight, he’s had fewer obstacles to fruit-accumulation in his way. Heck, I’m willing to bet that he’s so used to being surrounded by fruit that he doesn’t notice it at this point; it’s practically invisible fruit, from his perspective. And yeah, maybe he doesn’t have as much fruit as other folks with his advantages, and maybe you could find a woman of color who’s got even more fruit than he has. None of that changes the fact that there is a systemic problem with fruit acquisition opportunities, and that systemic problem impacts every individual who’s after that fruit.

      Turns out that the more you type “fruit,” the less it looks like a real word!

      1. EPLawyer*

        It’s “invisible fruit” hit it spot on. He literally doesn’t see the opportunities he does have. But he can see the fruit that others are getting because it’s been spelled out. It’s visible fruit. If he opened his eyes, he would see the fruit he does have already.

        I HIGHLY doubt that there are NO OTHER leadership opportunities in this company than the ones for women. He just doesn’t see them as opportunities because it’s not spelled out explicitly “Hey guys come get your leadership opportunties” so they are invisible to him.

        1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

          Ha, exactly. It reminds me of the answer to the “But how come there’s no White History Month/Men’s History Month?” complainers…because (at least in the US) when we talk about history, when we teach history, when we look at the canon of historical figures, it’s all through the lens of whiteness/masculinity. White Male History is our default setting; you just hadn’t noticed it, complainer!

          1. trekkie*

            That’s an interesting analysis. Let’s see how it works: are you suggesting that if an employer had certain beneficial programs that were available only to men, that would be OK under Title VII, so long as they had other programs that were available to both men and women?

            Remember that Bostock held that Title VII is to be interpreted textually, and it prohibits discrimination against any *individual* on the basis of sex.

            1. generic employee*

              Except that men and women are, all else being equal*, not in the same position, so the choice of group to promote is not arbitrary. To continue the fruit analogy, the men have a full basket of fruit, the women have a nearly empty basket. it obviously does not promote equity to set out another basket just for men and then a basket beside it for both men and women, which second basket will usually be emptied by the men who are told about it first and get to it first. But it does promote equity to have a basket of fruit for everyone and then another basket for women so that the women can make sure to have as much fruit as needed.

              *: we could definitely have a discussion of intersectionality but that would be a slightly different discussion.

              1. trekkie*

                You may be right as a matter of morals, or policy.

                But, in coming to a result that many of us applauded, that Title VII protects LGBTQ people, Bostock held that Title VII is to be interpreted in accordance with it’s text, not presumptions of policy. And the text of Title VII, which is the law that must be complied with, protects *individuals like OP from being treated differently on account of sex.

                1. Æthelflæd*

                  And yet, hundreds (if not thousands!) have development programs like this! Run by giant companies! Run by companies with lots of lawyers who vet this kind of thing! Amazing how none of them have had a successful EEOC complaint brought against them! Just shocking!

                  Or, maybe you aren’t qualified to comment on the legality of something?

        1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          And a large number of them are being made by you, so yeah, thank you for acknowledging that. It’s great to see your openness to understanding and growth, cheers.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Yep. White privilege doesn’t mean you never have any problems in life; it means you don’t have them specifically because of your skin color.

        1. Nicotene*

          Yeah, I think this is the nuance we’re missing when people say, as commenters here have, “being a white male means playing the video game on easy setting.” Now, I understand the context there, but I think it’s more accurate to say that being a part of a marginalized group is adding a harder setting to everything we’re all already doing. It’s a small thing, but when someone is struggling and feeling like they’re working hard, which almost everybody does, peer to peer messaging like this doesn’t make them want to join the movement to lift up people who have been traditionally disadvantaged; it makes them defensive and combative. I think that is missed branding by the left (and I consider myself part of the left and do appreciate the many, many unfair advantages I have received in my life). Also I’m mostly talking about how white liberals talk to other white people when I say this; BIPOC should feel free to articulate their own experiences of course in whatever words suit them.

          1. MissedBranding*

            Yeah, something like “white neutrality” is easier to grasp than “white privilege,” which is harder because white people don’t see any privilege they’re getting.

            1. Nicotene*

              Also I feel like “privilege” is a weird term if we’re talking about, say, not getting profiled by police, or not being discounted applying for jobs, or not being hassled and misjudged by authority figures; those are basic standards I’d like to see all people get, and some people are unjustly not getting now – not some nice-to-have extra perk, IMO. I have been able to explain the concept to my parents better if I don’t use that phrase term. Now, there is an element of “privilege” in the idea that white people get more second changes, get offered more stretch roles, are considered to have more potential, etc – but a lot of what we’re talking about is more fundamental than that.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                That’s an understandable way to look at it, but maybe if you think of it as “taking something that’s currently a privilege and turning it into the standard” it won’t feel as off. Kind of like how it used to be that learning how to read was a privilege of the wealthy, but now that particular level of education is now part of the standard (though as a teacher’s spouse, goodness knows there is MUCH to be fixed in American primary and secondary education).

              2. Worldwalker*

                Very good point.

                The ideal is that everyone should be treated the same way: not being profiled by police, for instance. Having everyone have privilege is like everyone being tall. “Privilege” is comparative. “Neutrality” is better — it implies that people who don’t have it are treated *worse*, rather than just neutrally, which is certainly true, and it’s something that a society can aspire to for everyone.

                And it just might help get the point across to the people who say “I don’t have any special privileges” … they might more easily accept that they’re treated neutrally while everyone else is treated badly, and be more willing to support the idea of treating everyone the same.

              3. Forrest*

                >> not getting profiled by police, or not being discounted applying for jobs, or not being hassled and misjudged by authority figures; those are basic standards I’d like to see all people get

                This is precisely why I like the “privilege” framing. As white people, we are conditioned not to see our whiteness, and to assume that what we have is what everyone should have, and the problem is just that it’s not equally spread. The point of “privilege” is that points out that that is not the case– that’s not simply that what we have is the baseline “normal”, and some people are systematically denied that, but that what we have is an artificial creation, a bubble of wealth, safety and privilege, which is created by systematically denying the same wealth and opportunities to (Black, Indigenous and otherwise racialised) others.

                What if it’s not that “the police” exist to make things fair and to deal with any problems, and we just need to make them more fair to Black people– but specifically exist to be violent to Black people and make life easier, safer and more comfortable for white people by literally taking things away from Black people and giving them to white people?

                What if the reason we have our jobs is not because we earned them, but because those jobs were deliberately created and reserved for us to justify our greater wealth and security, and that has nothing to do with our individual merit?

                What if the point of those authority figures is not to preserve justice and peace, and they’re just doing it badly because they are accidentally racist, but to preserve injustice, and hassling minority figures is literally what they are there for?

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            But of course, what Scalzi and others have mentioned is that just because the game is on the easier setting doesn’t mean you’re innately good at the video game. Being a straight white cis man doesn’t mean the world is totally automatically your oyster. It means you don’t have disadvantages in terms of your gender or race or sexuality, but you could have other disabilities or have been born poor or what have you.

            1. BelleMorte*

              Interestingly, even in disability communities, white males will always have an advantage. I’m looking at the Deaf communities and Deaf white men are predominantely in “leadership” positions with women and POC always trailing behind. Unless of course, work actually needs to be done within these committees, and then that is predominantely women.

              1. lailaaaaah*

                The same goes for the gay community, and for men within POC communities. Maleness gives you an advantage that is universal, though it will look different depending on other factors involved.

          3. anonymath*

            I talked above about inviting guys to events for women in my STEM field and this branding issue is part of it. It is a bit of jiujitsu or aikido that takes the defensive guy from whom something is being “taken away” and instead invites him in, says, “Oh, please do come in! We are appreciating women’s voices today. You can absolutely do that too.” For those inclined to learn, learning happens! For those inclined to fight, the correct posture leaves them nothing to fight against, and they go find something else to fight about.

            Is it an unfair burden to the organizers? Of course. But is there any way to avoid these unfair burdens? Our culture is unfair. There’s no place to hide from it: it’s in the cradle, in the daycare, in the home, in the workplace, in the bathrooms, in the grocery stores, in the nail salons, in the C-suite.

            So my choice is to advocate for true equity and to try to make it vaguely attractive for those who have been privileged, while trying to hold efforts accountable to actual success and actual impact (rather than simply having more time-wasting meetings required for The Ladies or The Minorities). I do think these things are synergistic, as we all went into our fields because we like the topic, the mission, the work, not to be A Symbol or A Token.

        2. UKDancer*

          This so much. We had a session at work talking about racism, discrimination etc and one of the most interesting parts was discussing privilege and looking at some of the markers of privilege. We all have some privileges and some disadvantages. I am a white woman so I’ve never had the police racially profile me, or been followed around by a store detective (unlike one of my black, male colleagues). On the other hand as a woman I have other problems, i.e. feeling unsafe in darker streets and suffering discrimination on the grounds of gender.

          For me the the key thing is to be aware of what privileges I have. For example one of the markers of class privilege on the list was growing up in a house with more than 50 books. I never considered that privileged. I considered that normal because my house and my families’ houses were all full of books and my idea of fun as a child was visiting the library. Now it’s been demonstrated, I appreciate the advantages that gave me over someone who grew up without access to books.

          1. Nicotene*

            Yeah that one that was interesting to me was, “did your grandparents own their home.” Lots of advantages that come from that but you don’t necessarily notice it. I was really moved when we learned about African American GIs being denied the use of the GI bill to pay for college; that was a huge factor in lifting my family up after they lost everything in the 30s and had to start over. An inheritance I never would have really considered, but definitely a racist legacy I benefited from.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      But that doesn’t mean he is entitled to the women’s fruit. The solution to missing out on his basket is not to steal someone else’s.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I think the question from the OP was “How do we get more fruit from the company” instead of “How do I get some of their fruit”

        1. Yorick*

          That’s what OP’s question could have been or should have been, but I don’t think it was.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            The OP provided an update in the comments which did clarify the companies opportunities a little better. I agree that it wasn’t very clear in the letter.

        2. Jack Straw*

          “I am interested in all those things. This doesn’t seem fair at all.”

          OP doesn’t want more fruit for the company; he wants the fruit being offered to the women.

      2. Worldwalker*

        Everyone should have a basket of fruit.

        The women shouldn’t have bad fruit for any reason.
        The men shouldn’t have bad fruit because they used to have good fruit.

        Everyone should have good fruit.

    3. twocents*

      Someone posted a link below about being a Straight White Male being the easiest difficulty setting. You may find that the metaphor used there is helpful to understanding this issue.

    4. Lizy*

      So go grab a piece of fruit from your basket and let us have our own. It’s ok – we know how to use a knife and cutting board since our place is in the kitchen, so we can cut up the few pieces we have and share.

      1. StudentA*

        She didn’t. I even reread the sentence to try to see where you are coming from and I don’t. Perhaps you misunderstood.

  14. Sans $$*

    OP, stepping out of the banana metaphor, it might help you to remember that this is not a situation where “we are all at the same early career level and could all use improving leadership” – which is certainly true, but remind yourself that your female colleagues probably need help in SPECIFIC ways that you do not, because of this historical disadvantages and socialization that we experience which potentially hurt our career prospects. Some things that seem obvious to you are not always easy or taught to your female colleagues – a big one frequently mentioned here on AAM is how to negotiate for salary or address maternity leave. Historically, women do it less or suffer after requesting it for so many reasons that probably don’t apply to you. That’s not to say these seminars are all about these issues, but those are two examples that are easier to explain in a single sentence. There are a LOT of more complicated, nuanced, and unspoken issues and socializations that they are probably trying to break down in this program as well.

    So again, remind yourself, this is not “just” cool, general training that they’re excluding you from. This is likely specialized training that doesn’t really apply to you in the way you think it does.

    1. NYWeasel*

      Not just “not trained” but also “gets different outcomes”. I’ve worked at places where guys get at least part of what they negotiate for while girls are told to take it or leave it.

    2. mreasy*

      Also things like, how to deal with sexual harassment, when business contacts try to date you, when you’re talked over in meetings, when you aren’t given a raise because of your “attitude” despite more abrasive men being continually promoted…could go on for ages here.

    3. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Agreed with this framing.

      My company held a Women’s Leadership Seminar a couple years ago, attended by 90% women and the “executive panel” at the end were both men and women in high level positions at our company. During the Q&A at the end of the session I asked “given that women who advocate for themselves are often seen as aggressive, pushy and so on – how do you as leaders make space in your organizations for women to feel empowered about speaking up or pursuing opportunities?”

      One of the male executives responded: “There’s no special secret on our end really. I just want to encourage everyone in my organization to champion yourselves. Put yourself out there!” blah blah blah. I think I felt the entire room exchange an uncomfortable glance. They moved on to a different question, but then later one of the female execs came back to my question. She addressed the original responder directly by reiterating that women can’t/won’t “put themselves out there” because of all the reasons discussed, and then gave examples of how she helped foster a culture of both self-promotion as well as assigning mentors and such.

      So yes – to the LW and others who think they’re missing out on some kind of benefit: very likely the advice “just put yourself out there!” would work for many male-presenting people in my office, or has worked in the past. But it’s certainly useless advice for many female-presenting folk.

    4. Ursula*

      Studies show that men and womens’ pay is pretty equal coming out of college in a lot of areas, and then after that the disparity starts to widen and never stops. If he’s only looking at the first part, then yeah, it might look unfair, but his pay is going to go up without help, and theirs will need assistance to keep up with his.

  15. Czhorat*

    The leadership program for women excludes men.


    Joking aside, I’m a cisgender heterosexual white man approaching middle-age in a male-dominated. Whenever there have been opportunities for advancement or interesting assignments I’ve been considered for them. I’ve never had a problem getting a recommendation, or a job interview. I’ve always been given a chance – even at times that I probably didn’t much deserve it.

    I’ve also always seen people who look like me in various positions of leadership.

    Women don’t get this. Many minorities don’t get this. Neuro-atypical people don’t get this.

    So yeah, if there’s a “Leadership for Women” initiative then I’ll be glad to signal-boost it, glad to recommend it to my female colleagues, and I’ll hope that it gives the women in my industry the same chances I’ve had.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Exactly this. I detect more than a hint of entitlement in OP’s letter.

      Nope, OP, you’ve already got yours.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I appreciate your perspective, but I observe that you have already benefited from the unfair advantage, whereas LW (thinks he) hasn’t.

      I’m always impressed when for example A-list actors take a pay cut so their relatively disadvantaged co-star can be paid the same – eg man on $10m offers to be paid $6m so his female counterpart can jump from $2m to $6m. It’s admirable but less impressive when he says she should be paid more.

      A great thing men in leadership positions can do is to mentor women. Often there aren’t enough women in senior roles to mentor all the women who deserve it. Maybe you could look at ways you can contribute to leveling the playing field yourself, rather than only signal boosting other people’s work (which is still a good thing for you to be doing).

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        “It’s admirable but less impressive when he says she should be paid more.”

        That is, when that’s all he does, without risking his own job, paycheck, helicopter, etc.

      2. Czhorat*

        LW absolutely has benefited. Every man in a male-dominated industry has.

        IT’s just not as obvious when the benefit is part of systemic biases rather than direct action to fix same.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Oh, certainly.

          It’s just that it’s easier for someone who has already personally had all the benefit they need to say an unfair system should be dismantled, than a privileged person who is earlier in their career or lower on the ladder. People don’t typically give up the advantages they’ve unfairly gained, because in their particular case it was “earned”, or “luck”, and not a fix.

      3. tamarack and fireweed*

        I think intersectionality can help inject a little nuance here. It can be simultaneously true that a) the OP has benefitted in ways that he doesn’t perceive in the same way a fish doesn’t perceive the water he swims in and b) the OP has missed out on early career development opportunities that in an ideal world would be available to him.

        Obviously any individual white male *can* have experienced systemic negative bias in ways invisible to the observer. The solution, though, is not to try to take away from, or just gatecrash, the programs put in place to redress the bias against people that the OP is NOT part of.

  16. Flautist*

    I really want to write a nuanced, intelligent response but in truly flabbergasted at the lack (or is it abundance!!) of self awareness.

    Not being able to understand the positive action required to level the playing field should be innate by now. OP isn’t missing out, they’ve already had these opportunities through subconscious bias.

  17. Web Crawler*

    When I first transitioned to male, I felt the same way. There’s a lot of support at my company for women in my position. It didn’t help that the leader of the women’s development network wouldn’t let me opt out of their emails because they don’t technically exclude men, so I should join them.

    It took me a while to realize what I actually wanted- more support for trans people at the company. The LGBT development network is comparatively tiny and mostly focused on cis gay men and lesbians. Which means their workshops aren’t very helpful- like, I didn’t have an option to not come out when my legal name was on every webpage, and nobody knew how to change that.

    (I wish I had the energy to plan events for other trans people at the company, but I’m overwhelmed as it is.)

    1. Oatmeal*

      Yeah, I felt this after my transition. Trans men who pass as cis get some of the opportunities cis men do (it’s so weird to walk into Lowe’s now and not get mansplained to, even though my abilities haven’t changed!), but many of us have decades of socialization to overcome, or indeed trans-specific needs, and no real place to engage with them. The T is often the odd person out in lgbtq events, from pride (love is love slogans are great, but not super relevant to trans people facing legislative attacks in many states over who they are, not who they love) to workplace things (names, gender neutral bathrooms, taking ‘maternity’ leave as a man).

      1. Anax*

        Yeah, same here. I’d love to have a space to unpack this stuff, especially because it overlaps pretty heavily with the issues facing women in the workplace – I don’t pass, likely never will, so I’m treated like “a woman” 99% of the time, and most of the advice would probably help me! (Plus the fun trans-specific stuff, like “what do you have in your pants?”)

        I’d love it if there were, I don’t know, “leadership programs for women and woman-adjacent people”, without being overrun by mansplainers. There just usually aren’t enough of us to have a strong trans-specific support network, even at larger companies, and that’s… tiring.

        Being in a marginalized group is tricky, news at eleven, I guess.

    2. HereKittyKitty*

      The “energy” comment brings up another thing I want to point out- in my personal experience groups that are created for specifically women, LGBQT, POC, etc are typically fought for, promoted, organized and managed by people in those groups for no extra pay! In my experience it is never a company saying “Oh, we should create this thing and hire people that do that work” it’s always a group of people in a demographic requesting permission from a company to organize these groups and then doing the work for the company FOR FREE and the company get’s to benefit by slapping these groups on their diversity page to attract new candidates.

      1. Anax*

        THIS. It’s a wonderful thing to have, but the energy cost coming from people who are already statistically likely to be marginalized and overworked is not great! And in theory, I could work on this stuff on the clock… in theory, but I’m already drowning in work and it wouldn’t slow down just because I wanted to also work on DEI.

      2. Anon for this*

        Yup. Not only for free but sometimes in addition to overly full-time work (like doing a full-time job and covering an open position), plus having to justify any expenditures to the ridiculous N’th degree because everything has to “promote the business”.
        After 3 years as a leader of an employee affinity group (and never having heard anyone ever mention being involved in these groups in a positive manner during year end performance calibrations, only negatively mentioned) I got it. And when I tried to get someone to replace me, no one stepped up.
        This was for an LGBTQ group, and I am a straight white woman acting as an ally. Still, no one else stepped up (in a huge organization). And they guilted me for it.

        I didn’t do it for the props, but really heaping abuse on people who actually care, is such bad business.

      3. lailaaaaah*

        Exactly this! I keep seeing men complain about a lack of [insert program here] for white men – and it’s just like, okay, what are you doing to set one up? Because every program out there for marginalised groups exists because those marginalised people fought tooth and nail for them, often for years.

      4. onco fonco*

        This, so much. Do complainers think this type of programme gets put together as a beautiful gift for marginalised people because the powers-that-be had a sudden dawning realisation out of nowhere? People have to fight for these needs to be acknowledged at all – to be ALLOWED to do this work for THEMSELVES. It does not get handed out.

  18. Bust A Leg*

    You even acknowledge that your industry is male dominated and you’re still missing the point. That’s a truly impressive amount not getting the message. People in positions of privilege shouldn’t get to judge whether there or not an issue exists.

  19. Kes*

    I think you’re missing the point that you aren’t being disadvantaged – they are being advantaged in order to compensate for the fact that historically such advantages and development have been mainly flowing to the men in the company, hence the fact that leadership has been predominantly men. You may not be aware of ways in which you are advantaged that your female coworkers may not share. If they were behind and are now being brought forward, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are now behind. The reason they have talks about blockers to career growth is because this is something women are more likely to face.
    Rather than focusing on this program, I would just focus on what you actually want and talk to your manager about how to make that happen. Ask about what resources the company provides (in general) for professional and leadership development that you could use. Express that you are interested in developing and moving up. Focus on what you want rather than complaining about benefits to others.

  20. Oryx*

    To add onto Alison’s fruit basket example: they aren’t taking fresh fruit from your basket. They are providing the women with fresh fruit from a different source. You still have all of your fruit, the same delicious fruit you’ve had access to for years.

    You aren’t losing anything in this situation. But the women, who have historically been behind you, are being given tools to help them catch up. Which may never happen because we are often so far behind.

    I’d also suggest you reexamine your idea that gender inequality cannot exist in your department just because your department has never been dominated by men.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      And to torture the fruit analogy a bit more:

      LW is dangerously close to announcing that he is bored with the perfectly excellent fruit he has and wants access to the fruit put aside for the women just to see if there’s anything there that might be interesting to him. Oh, no, he’ll still keep his fruit (that the women can’t have) … he just wants to be able to go through theirs too, to make sure there isn’t one mango in there he might want.

  21. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

    I would encourage OP to look up equality vs. equity vs. justice. There are a lot of infographics that, for visual learners, do a wonderful job of explaining why a level playing field is a crucial step towards justice.

    Also, a kind request for folks not to litigate on whether women- especially those from minoritized and marginalized communities- have been denied access to crucial tools necessary for an equitable workplace just because they haven’t personally witnessed it (or because their workplace doesn’t have those issues). First: you probably have seen it but maybe didn’t recognize, and second: your workplace potentially does have those issues, but again, you might not be privy.

    Sorry, feeling a little salty because I had to deal with misogyny before I even drank my coffee. I need a mug that signals when I can actually stand up for myself so that people wait before spewing their nonsense.

    Signed, a woman who makes 15K less than her male counterparts, has presented on these issues, and is exhausted.

    1. Cj*

      I don’t know what they discuss in these seminars, but the things you mention would be *good* for men to hear.

  22. Gresten*

    It does rather sound like the program you describe is designed specifically to enable women to overcome systemic biases against them. OP, are there really no other development opportunities you can engage with? Training and development isn’t a zero sum game in which if someone else is getting trained, you’re having competence sucked out of you.

    I’m a man in a field where initiatives like this are thankfully becoming more common – I think it doesn’t really achieve anything to feel threatened by them or perceive some sort of slight/loss. Better to be grateful that they give more opportunity to people to develop – ultimately giving you better people working around you. Surely it’s better to have colleagues that are better trained and more able to fulfil their potential – you might even learn something from them!

  23. Hamish the Accountant*

    I’m also pretty skeptical of OP’s assertion that “there is no issue with gender equity in my department.”

    You’re not the best person to judge that, OP. Maybe you see equal numbers of male and female faces around you – that doesn’t mean that everything is hunky dory.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      And OP admits that the company has disparities overall and that it’s a company-wide program!

      1. J!*

        Not to mention if there’s a company-wide gender equity problem but his department has an abundance of women in it, I’d be willing to bet that it’s a department that’s seen as providing “women’s work.”

    2. meyer lemon*

      Numbers definitely don’t tell the whole story. Even in fields where the majority of workers are women, it’s pretty common for women to still be under-represented in leadership, get lower pay, get stuck with a disproportionate amount of grunt work and have to deal with sexual harassment.

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Yep. When I worked in HR- a female dominated field- people often wouldn’t take no for an answer until a man said it to them, regardless of that man’s position on the ladder.

    3. Hazel*

      This reminds me of a comment made by a white male city councilor in response to a Black woman city councilor in my town. She had been relating stories told to her about racism that was experienced by people in the town. The male city counselor said that no one ever told him about racism in the town so there probably isn’t any, or at least very little. [jaw drops]

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Yeah, this!
      This is the equivalence of my dad telling me that indigenous people don’t have any problem with the police in our home town. I looked at him and asked him whether the police or the indigenous people had told him that.

  24. a heather*

    I kind of expected a repeat of a recent phrase Alison used that I can’t find now!

    Oh yeah. Fair doesn’t always mean equal. Some people may need different things to be treated fairly.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      The example of 3 kids of varying height all trying to see over a fence to watch a baseball game is a great visual for equality vs. equity. I remember feeling like a light bulb had switched on the first time I saw that.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yes! I only saw that graphic a few years ago and I wonder why it took that long for it to be in front of me.

    2. Miss Muffet*

      Totally this! I think anyone with kids understands this – fairness/equity and equality are not the same things, and they don’t need to be. Different situations – or systemic issues – require different solutions.

  25. TWW*

    I can report from my own experience, simply being male has given me more “help to grow in leadership” than I’ve actually earned.

  26. Dark Macadamia*

    I find it VERY hard to believe that a company with apparently a pretty great investment in this leadership program offers NO panels or classes that are open to everyone. This letter reminds me of how google searches for International Men’s Day always peak around International WOMEN’S Day, not Men’s, because people care more about undermining something for women than they do about the actual day.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes I like comedian Richard Herring’s approach when people complain around IWD and say “when’s the International Men’s Day.” He always points out to them that it’s 19 November.

      My company does quite a good event for IMD as well as IWD. The men’s day event usually focuses on male suicide rates and testicular cancer. Not precisely jolly but useful.

  27. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP wrote:
    1) I’m missing out on great professional development.
    2) People who take part in this program may receive greater consideration for raises and promotions.
    3) I feel personally excluded, like the company is sending a message that my career doesn’t matter.

    This is how I felt in my early and middle career development as a woman entering the workforce in the early 80s – and I had it much easier than women in the workforce in the decades before me. There WAS NO development for women, except maybe advanced typing and steno classes. I can’t imagine how people of color felt and still feel.

    OP, your organization is trying to improve things for a group of workers who have not had a fair shake in the workplace for literally decades. That’s not a slam at you, personally, or men in general, it’s simply a documented reality.

    Also, you can still get career development and advancement, just not through this particular process. Please, rethink your response to this initiative.

  28. AnonEMoose*

    Alison’s advice is spot on, here. Complaining about this would be incredibly tone-deaf and out of touch. I would also suggest that you do some reading about male privilege, and some on the barriers women still face in the workplace. Read the accounts of women being hit on when they’re trying to network, the ways we have to consider whether every coffee or lunch or drinks invitation is a networking opportunity or a stealth dating attempt. And how, if the latter, we may have to strike the delicate balance of turning him down firmly enough to get the point across, and yet politely enough that he doesn’t get angry.

    Just because YOU don’t think it’s a problem in your department doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem…and even if there isn’t a problem in your department doesn’t mean it’s not a problem in the company as a whole…and your company is not isolated from the rest of the world. I will say this as kindly as I can – it is so, so common for people to have the mentality that if they don’t see a problem, that problem doesn’t exist. I see it from men All. The. Time. It’s exhausting, demoralizing, and frustrating. I’m trying to use that experience to work on myself in terms of really listening to what people of color are saying regarding racism. It’s hard, it’s painful, and I know I’ll never get it quite right. But I’m trying, because it’s important.

    Instead of complaining about what you think you’re not getting, try thinking about why people might feel this is a necessary thing to offer to women in particular. And if a woman you know shares some of her experiences with you, DON’T jump in with “well, maybe he didn’t mean any harm…”. Really sit with it and think about it for awhile, and try to think of it from her point of view. Understand that she is trusting you; these stories are often not easy to share. And if that makes you uncomfortable…if it makes you think of things you may have done or said that may have looked very different from the other person’s point of view…try to learn from it. I am not saying that you have definitely done or said anything that made a woman uncomfortable…or that it was malicious if you did. Only that it’s a possibility I wish more men would consider and reflect on.

  29. AskAnEmployee*

    Allison’s response may be true and people may think that this kind of a program is totally fine generally, but if a workplace is indeed offering management training programs and other advantages only to women and not men, they have a Title VII problem and can be sued for sex-based discrimination.

    I also don’t really think the fruit analogy works here. While men writ large may (and do) receive lots of benefits throughout society that women don’t due to systemic sexism, the OP is saying he did not and cannot receive this type of specific, formal on-the-job type mentorship at his job — and so he isn’t complaining that he had a huge basket of delicious fruits and now women are getting those fruits too, he’s complaining that women are offered those fruits and he is not.

    1. Green great dragon*

      OP isn’t actually saying he cannot receive this sort of mentorship – as far as I can see he hasn’t asked for it. He is saying it isn’t being served to him in this particular packaging.

      1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

        Right, it’s not falling directly into his lap, and that feels unfair to him. The fact that it feels unfair is a good indication that he’s used to having access and influence and opportunity by virtue of his privilege, not through his own efforts.

        1. AskAnEmployee*

          If he isn’t being offered the same program, then it is discrimination under Title VII. Everyone in the comments seems to be OK with that, and I understand the impulse, but there are a lot of assumptions being made about what opportunities he has and all we know is that he wants the opportunities offered by this program and his employer is denying them because of his gender. And regardless of whether or not people think that is morally OK, it is illegal.

            1. trekkie*

              The document represents the EEOCs views as of 1981. It acknowledges that some courts insist on a prior finding of discrimination by the employer to justify an affirmative action plan (though the EEOC disagreed). And, it requires a self-analysis showing discrimination by*that employer*, and a plan. It is not at all clear that OPs employer followed the required steps.

              But all of this must be viewed in light of the current state of the law, which is set out in Bostock. That case raises serious questions about the legality of affirmative action, except perhaps as a specific court-ordered remedy for discrimination by a specific employer.

              1. Misty*

                STEELWORKERS v. WEBER discounts that since employers CAN use affirmative action for remediate past failures to for minority employees.

                1. trekkie*

                  There are two problems with that analysis:. First, Steelworkers involved a plan to remedy specific discrimination *by that employer* (not systemic discrimination). There is no indication that OP’s employer concedes any past discrimination.

                  Second, and more importantly, Steelworkers held in 1979 that Title VII should be interpreted based on its purpose. Bostock held, in 2020, that Title VII should be interpreted based on its literal text. The later Supreme Court case controls.

          1. 4CeeleenLV*

            The company may be required to have an affirmative action plan and maybe this is part of the plan to get more women in leadership. It’s not required to have a special program for the non-oppressed group in order to have special interest programming for specific minority groups. I think what you’re referring to is whether this employee is allowed to ATTEND the program – if he asked, would they let him attend this or some equivalent programming? If no, he might have a case, but a pretty weak one. If so, then the company is fine… they are not required to offer him this specific program for woman, they can offer any equivalent programming, which could be anything. I’m very much not convinced that they would even need to do that, but if they’re worried, that could satisfy their compliance requirements under the law.
            No one is making assumptions about the opportunities OP has. I assume OP has the same bad options as everyone else. If OP wanted to start a men’s special interest group, he could do so. The existence of a program that someone else took time to put together doesn’t guarantee OP access to that program.

    2. Rachel*

      From the first paragraph: “one of the campaign’s company-wide programs helps women grow in leadership and explicitly excludes men.” – there are other programs. OP wants this one, not the others that are available to him.

    3. Mental Lentil*

      OP didn’t say that, though, did he?

      I agree, if the all the development opportunities at OP’s company were available only to women, this would be an issue. (Remember when the only organized sports available in public schools were available only to boys? That’s why this is an issue.)

      OP didn’t say he had no access to development opportunities. He’s upset that he can’t have what’s in his bowl and what’s in somebody else’s bowl, as well.

    4. Observer*

      but if a workplace is indeed offering management training programs and other advantages only to women and not men, they have a Title VII problem and can be sued for sex-based discrimination.

      That’s a pretty big IF, though. The OP doesn’t say that this is the only program available for people. And also, the OP has no evidence that people who take part in this particular program will get greater consideration than men who don’t have the choice to participate. Now does the OP show any reason to think that the company is going to start discriminating against men in hiring, pay and promotions. Just “I want this class too. They are not letting me have it so that means that they are going to be discriminating against me in all sorts of ways now.”

    5. generic employee*

      It’s kind of interesting how many people in this discussion are deliberately eliding OP’s own statement that this program is only ONE such.

      1. Mophie*

        Op said this is one of many company initiatives, not one of many development programs.
        OP also said in comments there is nothing like this for anyone else.

        1. Sigh*

          Except there’s everyday life and networking for white men.

          I can’t say it better than mrs__peel did above:
          As many other commenters have pointed out elsewhere, these kinds of leadership programs are not the way advancement usually happens. Historically, men have advanced at work through informal opportunities– e.g., being mentored by a male boss or senior colleague, informal conversations with higher-ups, all-male golfing trips, etc. The “old boys’ network” in many industries still gives white men more access to these sorts of informal opportunities to network, to the exclusion of others.

          Although I can add that there’s no practical reason to want to take this away from women besides maintaining and reinforcing the current sexist status quo.

        2. Finland*

          If this is an initiative, it’s highly likely that this was developed by an employee (a woman) who saw a need and put a proposal together. Initiatives only become programs when they are shown to be successful over time, in my experience. So not only is this going to be used as an example of future initiatives of this nature being worthwhile, it’s also a lot of pressure on the person who created the initiative in the first place, particularly if it’s a woman, because if this fails that means that future ideas from this person (and, sometimes, women in general) aren’t gonna be taking as seriously.
          If the OP is passionate about having leadership and development opportunities available to him, he should do what a lot of women in my organization do and submit proposals for what he would like to see and experience at the workplace.
          Lastly, the fact that his workplace is majority women increases the likelihood for programs like this to come into existence anyway, in my experience, because it’s only when women feel supported and acknowledged that they tend to contribute bold ideas, like leadership initiatives, to management. When they’re in the minority, they tend to get steamrolled (or their ideas stolen), which I have also experienced.

    6. Jack Straw*

      OP never said he was in the US.

      But let’s say he is, and the centering of a US experience was accurate, Title VII is employment discrimination, so it deals with decisions about recruitment, selections, terminations, etc. not restriction to opportunities. I’m not sure it would apply here.

    7. Lucky*

      That is simply not true. Title VII does not prohibit an employer from instituting an affirmative action plan, which may include offering trainings or other programs directed at increasing gender or racial diversity in the workplace comparable to local demographics.

    8. tamarack and fireweed*

      Even if this were the case – and it clearly isn’t as tons of women leadership programs do exist without being sued out of existence, so there is a way to implement them without running afoul of Title VII – you’d have to admit, though, that your mechanistic view (“we can’t *ever* provide anything to women that is not *equally* accessible to men”) would amount to hewing in stone the historical disadvantages.

      If a historically disadvantaged group can never get extra resources beyond what is provided to the already-advantaged group has then discrimination will proceed forever. (Group A starts out with BASELINE, Group B starts out with BASELINE + ADVANTAGE. To redress the disadvantage, Group A gets EXTRA… but we also have to provide EXTRA to Group B, so we end up with Group A at BASELINE + EXTRA and Group B with BASELINE + EXTRA + ADVANTAGE… now I know these things aren’t pure arithmetic and maybe the EXTRA for Group A introduces some beneficial noise, but still…)

  30. twocents*

    Is this really the only potential opportunity for advancement available in the entire company? The references to the different departments suggests to me this is a company of some size, and you’re ignoring other opportunities that you could readily take advantage of, but haven’t. ‘

    To illustrate, my company has a network for women, which I can say has helped me with understanding and navigating the company to get to my current role. I can also think of at least a dozen other programs I’m aware of that feature different types of networking, mentoring, internal internships, and special programs/projects. The company also recently created a program specifically to help neurodiverse individuals be more successful and have more avenues to career advancement; if I were to cry that I am not ND and this program doesn’t benefit me* while ignoring all the other programs that ARE open to me, then that’s on me. If I’m too lazy to apply to a broad mentorship program, I don’t get to complain that there is also a mentorship program that’s available specifically to the ND.

    *I’d add that programs that are not targeted toward me still benefit me, because they increase the diversity of the people I work with, which adds more viewpoints to help my projects be more successful, and because the accommodations that help them out, ultimately may benefit me as well, such as more flexible schedules or dimmer lighting.

  31. Orange You Glad*

    I just want to say that the program at OPs company sounds wonderful. My company has a women’s leadership development program but it is open to everyone. I understand why but there have been some issues at our in-person events where men would completely dominate the conversation/activity. The same men that we often have issues with for their comments and attitudes. Their presence doesn’t add anything to the program and the equality message just goes over their heads.

  32. i babysit adults in the sky*

    ::heavy sigh::

    This reads like it was written by a bot. A predictable, Privileged and Oblivious White Male bot.

  33. Zoe’s mom*

    Hey, he has the answer, he KNOWS what he’s talking about since he works there and sees all so there’s no need to go bugging other people!

    1. Zoe’s mom*

      Sorry guys I was trying to respond to someone then got a call. I own my snarky smart ass ways.

  34. Spearmint*

    I guess it’s my tendency to assume LWs are reasonable until proven otherwise, but when I first read the title I thought the letter was going to describe something really over the top, like that participation in this program was essentially required for advancement, or that in-depth training was provided that was not available anywhere else in the company. Those would be worth complaining about.

    But a few guest speakers and workshop to make it a bit easier for women to overcome the disadvantages they face in the workplace? That’s so utterly reasonable that I think the LW must either be incredibly naive or a troll. LW, your career is not going to be sidelined because there are a handful of women-only leadership workshops.

    1. Observer*

      I was thinking about the mess in Chicago, where the Mayor (Lori Lightfoot) decided that she’s not going to give interviews with any white reporter. She’s been sued and I’d bet she will lose.

      She DOES have a valid point that the press corps is unbalanced and seriously unreflective of the city’s demographics. But refusing to give someone access to government, which is essentially what she is doing, based on race is a problem.

      1. Nicotene*

        To me what’s uncomfortable about a policy like that is that it’d be hard to decide who is in and who is out without some really weird questions. And honestly, same thing with gender these days.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Just to add some context to this – what she said was that for the two year anniversary of her inauguration, she would only be granting solo interviews to black or brown journalists. That occasion specifically. She’s not going to refuse to answer white journalists at press conferences or media events or for the rest of time.

        I have a lot of problems with Mayor Lightfoot, but this is a whole kerfuffle over not much.

        1. Nicotene*

          This is a good way to do it because it’s not like anyone has the “right” to a one-on-one sit down with the mayor that they’re being unfairly deprived of!

          1. ThatGirl*

            It also might (maaaaybe) wake up some local media to the fact that they don’t HAVE any BIPOC journalists… which is the larger point.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              “You’ll only talk to BIPOC journalists? But that’s so unfair to our station, which has none!”

              Yeah, I kinda like it.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      In no world will the OP will be competing for a promotion and the other candidate is a woman who has participated in this program and the panel will say, “Well, Jane saw 2 guest speakers, she automatically gets the promotion!”

      1. Yorick*

        You’re right. Honestly, it’s laughable when you put it that way.

        Now, I guess it’s possible that the general leadership program has sort of become weak because no one cares to organize it or something, and the person in charge of the women’s leadership program is really into it. That might make it seem like there’s only stuff for women and men are missing out. OP, if that’s the case, you can talk to the people in charge of that general program about meeting more regularly and even offer to help organize.

      2. Worldwalker*

        No, but “actively participates in professional development programs” can definitely be a thing, even when those professional development programs aren’t available to you or your department, location, or whatever. Someone in the llama grooming department who goes to the llama grooming workshops might well be given an edge in promotion to “Head of Grooming” over someone in the sloth grooming department, even though there aren’t any workshops on sloth grooming. Companies can be remarkably stupid that way.

      3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Not really “because Jane saw 2 guest speakers” as such, but I did take from it that in that scenario of 2 “similar” candidates they’d be more likely to pick the woman rather than whoever was objectively best for the job.

        1. generic employee*

          As opposed to picking the man because he needs to support a family/he won’t get pregnant/he probably has a better head for technical knowledge/whatever other sexist reason people cite, which is the current situation and thus seen as normal and neutral.

          1. onco fonco*

            Yeah – we’re talking as if ‘picking whoever was objectively best for the job’ would definitely otherwise happen. Ha.

      4. Aron*

        I was thinking this as I read through the thread to this point.

        As a woman, seminar and professional development workshops for women are fantastic, truly. But I don’t know that professional seminars necessarily give women the “tools” to succeed in the workplace. When I graduated from an advanced professional licensure program and went into the workforce, I had the same “tools” and knowledge and arguably more ability and innate talent than many of my male peers. The problem is that I wasn’t given access to the same opportunities to use those tools as my male peers. Attending endless conferences, workshops, and speaker series doesn’t open the doors being blocked by male leaders who think similarly as the OP, and that’s where systemic issues really need to be addressed. A workshop for women only is a pat on the head for optics and show, and it actually limits professional networking with the people who control workflow, promotions, and opportunities. Completely bogus.

        Overall, I find it somewhat insulting for a lot of this comment section (not the comment I’m replying to) and even the original response to seemingly suggest that women need a ton more professional development to be able to be on the same playing field as men. No, I can play just fine – I need the white men at the gate to stop blocking my access onto the field, and/or to stop telling me to go serve concessions while the real people do the real work. (Leadership programs with real results and promotions is a different story.)

    3. generic employee*

      One would think, but look at how many people in the comments are defending OP, and multiply that by all the female coworkers all of those posters must have and all the ways they likely don’t support them or even undermine them. It’s a microcosmic look at society, and a depressing one.

  35. NYWeasel*

    As a woman who’s participated in many opportunities like this, the development provided is usually tailored to specific issues women face. For example, it’s highly unlikely that you deal with having your male colleagues mansplain the work you are an expert in, therefore you likely have no use for hearing about ways to address it when it happens. There is also a need for women to be able to discuss their concerns as a group without having to immediately debate or defend it against someone who feels differently.

    That said, our company has started expanding certain guided development sessions to men as well, to start to build allies in the workplace. That may be worth proposing. And almost every speaker is open for all to attend, except for some very clear situations. (Ie we had an AAPI speaker talking with our AAPI colleagues recently on specific things they had to deal with)

    1. curiousLemur*

      Or what if they have a meeting about what to do if a customer says he wants to work with a man? Not something the LW is likely to personally experience, although maybe he should be prepared so he can help if it happens in front of him.

    2. hbc*

      I can think of a couple of men in my life who would enjoy attending those sessions as-is. They are already allies, and they would be going with a mindset like “Maybe I’ll be able to learn about what issues affect my female colleagues, and be able to help cut out bad behavior in myself and my male colleagues.”

      I know that they would be perfectly content to be excluded, because they are aware that many other men would be going in with the mindset of “How can I use this training to advance my own career?” Those guys will show up to a couple of meetings, NotAllMen/NotAllCompanies when there’s talk of discrimination, and eventually complain that the topics are too narrow.

      1. Nicotene*

        Also it’s so, so hard not to center yourself in any kind of training or meeting. Especially people used to being in charge; they guys are going to want to talk. It takes very adept moderating to get people not to do this. I have even fallen guilty of it myself, and I still feel terrible looking back at it. This racism/sexism/classism runs so deep.

        1. mrs__peel*

          I was thinking of a Milgram experiment-like scenario, where people are told in advance that they’ll receive a mild electric shock if they have “More of a comment than a question…”

  36. Mophie*

    I am male but a POC. We don’t have full context here. I’d like to know what professional development opportunities are available to everyone. If there are none, it’s not unreasonable to want what the women are getting. If it’s in addition to others opportunities, then I agree he’s not being reasonable.

    Not all men are created equal. In my particular profession, women have made many strides and there is an acute awareness of inequities. That being said, as a black male, there is not nearly the attention to this, mostly because there are so few of us in the upper ranks of these professions (for example, look at how many black men graduated from medical school last year. It’s shocking). I look around and don’t see much of an advantage to being male.
    I don’t want to pit one disadvantaged group against the other. But I say this to bring awareness to how some might be feeling.

    1. Littorally*

      The OP stated that the program for women was only one of the programs offered by his employer. So, yeah, in this case, he’s being unreasonable.

      1. Mophie*

        I read that as it’s one of many general company wide initiatives, not one of many devoted to career development. But I admit I could have read this wrong.

        1. MissElizaTudor*

          I think you’re right. The “one of the campaign’s company-wide programs” part is pretty clearly about one of many programs related to the DEI initiative (i.e., “the campaign”), not that there are necessarily multiple programs related to career development. A lot of commenters seem to be missing that.

    2. Persephone Mongoose*

      Alison addressed this at the end:

      “* Caveat: If you are in a different demographic group that is systemically disadvantaged as well, you could certainly advocate for similar help for that and other marginalized demographics.”

    3. Observer*

      Not all men are created equal. In my particular profession, women have made many strides and there is an acute awareness of inequities. That being said, as a black male, there is not nearly the attention to this, mostly because there are so few of us in the upper ranks of these professions

      Allison did address this. I would be willing to bet a lot that he’s not Black, though. Either that, or there are actually opportunities designed for Black people. Because otherwise he would almost certainly be mentioning that lack of similar opportunities for Black people or POC in general.

      1. Mophie*

        I noticed Alison’s comment, and appreciate that she thought of that. It kind of read to me me as, “you’re welcome to ask for your own program,” which not everyone has the standing to do and isn’t always feasible.
        But thinking about it, Alison is usually so spot-on about almost everything else, that I probably read too much into it.

        1. Yorick*

          Women have this program because some women got together and asked for it or created it themselves. OP can do that if he wants a similar program not geared specifically toward women.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            Let’s see how far he gets if he gets a group of people together and they ask for a “men’s career development opportunities” group….

            1. Mophie*

              I specifically referred to me in other marginalized groups.
              In this case, it would be “ask for a POC career development group.” I am not sure why anyone would have a problem with that. Would you?
              And like I said earlier. In some places, POC may not have the standing or the bulk necessary to organize this. Sometimes it has to be organized from the top, because of lack of POC leadership, etc.

              1. Observer*

                it would be “ask for a POC career development group.” I am not sure why anyone would have a problem with that.

                I would hope not! I mean, given the responses here about how terrible and unfair the OP’s company is being I’m pretty sure that some people would have a problem. But I have no sympathy for the complaints in either case.

              2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

                Yes, sorry, I meant the OP as “he” not your parent comment! A POC (etc) career development group would be more similar to a women’s one I would think in that it’s for a marginalised group. I meant more that if OP asked for a “men’s” (= majority in some sense) group it would get short shrift.

            2. Yorick*

              I didn’t mean a “men’s group” but a group that is focused toward another marginalized group, or a more general group if one doesn’t exist.

        2. MissNomer*

          In many cases, I don’t think it was a matter of the women “asking for” a program. My current and previous workplaces both had women’s leadership groups that grew from small networking groups into larger, recognized groups with budget approval. Regardless of the size of the group, it was always the women coordinating their own events, organizing their speakers, etc. We sometimes host a firm-wide event, but if we were expected to invite everyone to all events, it would feel like a step backwards – I don’t think people necessarily realize that demanding that everyone be allowed to attend the events the women’s group puts on is perpetuating the same tired problem of women being responsible for event coordination.

          My current workplace also has a group for BIPOC employees where the events are planned by the employees who participate in that group. Maybe your workplace doesn’t have something similar now, but is there a group that would be interested in taking it on?

    4. meyer lemon*

      If women are the only marginalized group who are being offered extra support, that is a problem. But the existence of the support isn’t a problem in itself. If the LW wants to take this opportunity to draw attention to other groups in need of similar initiatives, that would be great, but it doesn’t really sound like it, based on the letter.

    5. tamarack and fireweed*

      It is completely reasonable for you to want the iniquities of being a POC in the workplace recognized and addressed. I also am fully with WOC who aren’t super happy about some of the women’s leadership offerings that go predominately to white women and entrench rather than even out, the racial divides.

      What I don’t think is super useful is to pit you getting what you need against getting women (even predominately white women) what they need. Or at least, that’s more of a strategic decision. Starting an argument from envy or resentment against a group that is not doing you any wrong is rarely a good idea! If your company is sponsoring, say, participation of women in women in engineering conventions it’s totally fine to go and say “hey, there’s this great POC in engineering summit – I’d like to go and/or there to be a program for some of us to be sponsored to go”. If you get pushback, *then* pulling out “well, you sponsor women in engineering, so…” is a strong argument. A much better tactic than to lead with “they’re getting something I don’t”, because the reason you want them to sponsor it is because you want the opportunity, not because you’re envious of the women’s opportunity. I hope…

      1. Mophie*

        No I definitely don’t want anything women have for them to be taken away. I was just pushing back against the idea that if I wanted something for POC I should do it myself. This is something that seems organized by the company.
        Every place I’ve worked has had company sponsored development opportunities for women. Few have had something specifically for POC. I think a lot of people think that male privilege is conferred to male POC, and I think in many ways it’s just as bad or worse for black and Hispanic men. In my profession there is simply not the bulk of people in leadership or even at lower levels for it to be organized on its own.

        1. Another Big4 Accountant*

          I don’t think that organizing these events is as clear-cut as you seem to think that it is. At my company, every single “company-driven” women’s initiative in the past 6-years has been driven by a woman (sometimes 2 women) who proposed, agreed budgets, developed the content, and organized the event. They worked through many hurdles to do so.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          FWIW, I think you’re probably not wrong in general here. There are a number of reasons, ranging from numbers (a lot of companies have much larger and deeper pools of women even in male-dominated fields than POC, at least counting the most educationally oppressed POC) to the contribution of white women to racial oppression (which is I believe a lot more acute than the contribution of men of color to sexist oppression). And when it comes to involvement in and organization of DEI projects it seems to me that POC and especially WOC tend to be particularly over-subscribed.

          I, for one (*), am 100% happy to speak up in favor of a substantial portfolio of initiatives that benefit a whole raft of groups, not just the ones I happen to be in.

          (*) white queer able-bodied unathletic woman immigrant first-gen university graduate in sought-after field in an temp academic role

        3. Sigh*

          Racism is absolutely horrific for Black and Latino men.

          And yet, you do have male privilege, at least as compared with women of color.

          As a woman of color, when I go to an initiative “for women” I have to be prepared that the default is “for White women”. and yet, I can usually get something out of it, with regard to being assertive without being seen as “a bitch”, with regard to dealing with different levels of sexual harassment, and so on.

          Meanwhile, I’ve gone to more than one initiative for POC where the default not only was pretty much for men but that the men, of color, pushed the WOC back, talked over us, made jokes about us not belonging, etc.

          Based on your comments in this discussion, I have to ask — would that be a feature of the initiative for POC that you want?

  37. Heidi*

    I really hope LW isn’t sharing these thoughts with his female coworkers. I would feel so uncomfortable if I were on his team and I heard him spouting off these thoughts.

    1. mrs__peel*

      Same here! Especially if he talked about wanting to become my supervisor eventually. I’d be keeping my eye out for other jobs in case that happened.

  38. DoomCarrot*

    I’ve always wanted to learn to skateboard. I think it could improve my health, save me time and make my commute easier. And I’ve never had anyone offer to teach me.

    Is it therefore unfair that I, a fully-employed adult, am not invited to the summer skatepark camp for youths from families on social welfare support?

    1. Web Crawler*

      Of course it’s unfair. You need to get in there, eat that free lunch, and knock into some children who are also learning how to skateboard. Show gumption. Don’t take no for an answer. /s

  39. Fernie*

    LW, I will try to see past my red hot anger, irritation and impatience with your childish message, to comment that a similar Women in Leadership group at one of my former employers faced similar ridiculous and tone-deaf criticism, and ended up inviting men to their meetings, and it was no problem. The men had free and equal access, not many actually took advantage of it, and it was beneficial to them to hear from senior women leaders about their careers and experiences. So, whatever. I hope you are invited to be included, and I hope it opens your eyes to the real issues that the group is trying to address.

  40. Crivens!*

    I wish “I’m all for equality as long as I don’t decide it effects ME in a way I don’t like” wasn’t the way so many cis straight white dudes seemed to treat efforts towards equity.

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      This. OP says he “supports the goals of inclusion, equity, and diversity” but I’ve got to wonder…how, exactly? By thinking they sound like kind of nice ideas? Because he’s got an opportunity here to show support and what’s being asked of him to to literally do nothing. Nothing at all. Not a thing. And he can’t do it. Just can’t. Way too difficult.

      Hey, OP, if you’d like to support said goals, maybe you could organize and lead some training on gender issues in the workplace specifically for men? Then men could be included and educated and you might learn something about why leadership training for women is necessary and isn’t an insult or an attack on men.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      This. This cute little equality and equity and allyship and anti-sexism and anti-racism business is all well and good, and they want to be seen as a nice person who supports justice and believes in an appropriately level playing field … until they think it’s getting in their actual, personal way and someone else gets the thing they expected to get. Or until they get a taste of being treated the way the minority group has been treated for generations.

      (It’s even worse when it gets in their kid’s way. See: college admissions).

      It’s like it never dawned on them that when there were finally five men and five women at the table, they could be man number six.

  41. Empress Matilda*

    OP, could you provide a bit more context for us? I’m interested in what other leadership programs your company has available, as well as their intended audience. If this is one program out of a dozen that has a targeted audience, it’s a different story than if it’s one program out of two.

    To be clear, even if it’s 1/2 programs, I still don’t have a problem with it. But I’m curious about the scale here – to what extent are men actually being systematically excluded from these sorts of programs in your workplace?

  42. Mrs. Vexil*

    My company has a “Women at (Company Name) Network” series, open to everyone. My co-workers who’ve attended say they don’t feel like they can speak freely and that there’s a fair amount of mansplaining going on. Just another pointless “we are trying to help you people” offering mandated from the C-suite.

  43. Binky*

    I’m going to come at this from a different perspective. Most of those affinity working groups are useless anyway. They try to teach women/minorities how to succeed. But the barrier to success isn’t the women/minorities themselves, it’s the systems/people in place. It doesn’t matter if you have the best elevator pitch in the world if you’re never going to be in the elevator with the big boss/client. You can’t get leadership opportunities if someone doesn’t give them to you, or at least acknowledge what you’re doing. Heading a big project can be seen as Leadership! (when done by a white cis man) or just organizing (when done by anyone else). The only way to unblock advancement is for the people who have power to be willing to give women/minorities a chance. All these self-help seminars for empowerment are just “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

    Affinity groups for solidarity can be fine, but they cannot take the place of the work that needs to be done by leadership to stop barring the gates.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Let’s change

      Most of those affinity working groups are useless anyway.


      Most of those affinity working groups that Binky has attended are useless anyway.

      I have attended some that have been quite useful to me.

      1. Binky*

        I should have been more specific. I think the groups can be fine, they are simply not an answer to addressing inequality in the workplace. At least from my experience, nothing I ever did in those groups ever lead to any sort of career advancement, and I never saw it having results for anyone else either. Because the issue wasn’t something a workshop aimed at us could fix. Sure, you can learn how to do an elevator pitch, or hear about a woman who did manage to succeed, or learn about how to best navigate maternity leave. But none of that did anything to help my career progression – it didn’t get me exposure to decision makers, it didn’t get me on big projects, and it certainly didn’t get me a promotion.

        If you’ve taken part in truly useful programs, can you describe them? I’m certainly interested.

        1. Web Crawler*

          Not OP but:

          When I was in college, I learned how to enter the working world from those kinds of workshops. “How to dress” was a huge one. Other workshops offered resume checks, mock interviews, the basics of a lot of niche areas in my field, and how to navigate sexism.

          At my company, there’s some generic “how to advance your career if you’re gay” where the official presentation is basic, but people get the chance to ask questions and that’s where I learn a lot. At the very least, I learn about people and resources that I could use if I ever have an LGB-related problem at work.

          On the disability end, most of the workshops directed at disabled people (most are about raising awareness outside the group) are about advances in accessibility technology or accessing accomodations if you need them. Both of those topics are complicated and subject to change- I wish there were more workshops.

          And on the trans level, there’s nothing official at my company. But I wish there were workshops because I see the same questions over and over- about clothing, dress codes, how to come out, how to report transphobia, how to present yourself in an interview, and more.

      2. Lora*

        I’ve attended some useful ones and a lot of useless ones such as Binky describes. It’s a big reason I don’t participate at all in the local professional organization’s chapter of Women In Pharma, it was all targeted to “how can you be a more effective communicator through thinking happy thoughts” type of crap which was beyond useless.

        If a company wants to make big strides in how people are treated, there is a lot they can do about that *as an organization*: salary surveys followed by bringing people up to equity who were being undercompensated, reviewing advancement and promotion opportunities for equity, making sure that when a promotion or development opportunity comes up the “nomination” process is fair, documented, and not heavily reliant on an Old Boys Club, blinding any information on resumes and CVs that could cause the hiring manager reading the document to assume a particular ethnicity or gender, assigning projects by rotation rather than by favorite employee, train managers in conflict management and how to shut down racism and sexism and come down on employees acting badly like a ton of bricks and not fear conflict on that front, enacting a truly zero tolerance harassment policy as opposed to playing the “oh you misunderstood, he was just joking” game every. friggin. time… These are all things management can decide to do, tomorrow. Bringing salaries to equity takes some money, but the rest is something you can order done, if you’re senior management. You can just declare it a new rule and send a memo.

        The fact that companies don’t do these things speaks a lot more to their priorities and feelings than any DEI new hire. *Senior management thought so very little of you, that you weren’t even worth a damn memo or a Conflict Resolution offsite training for a half-day of their time.*

        1. Texan In Exile*

          One of the few females VPs at an old job thought a great topic to present to the women’s group – women were about ten percent of the company – would be how important self care was. I think she even may have referred to essential oils.

    2. Web Crawler*

      Ideally, both things would happen because they serve different purposes. The workshops help people level their skills up to take the place of informal teaching systems that are common among people with privilege. Then leadership has to open up the opportunities to everyone, with a focus on levelling the field.

      To put it this way- to get hired, multiple things need to happen. First, I have to know how to present myself. I can’t submit an application where my resume is just a series of memes. Then, the company has to be open to hiring somebody who looks like me.

      And one more thing- you’re a reader of Ask A Manager. Of course you’re gonna know most of the stuff they teach

    3. Nicotene*

      Honestly, I agree. I’m not sure I’d be eager to attend “women in leadership” training or whatever; the main problem is subconscious bias on the part of decision-makers IMO. It’s like so much of the “self defense” trainings I was offered in college, and the warnings to watch my drink, never walk alone, stay in when it’s dark, monitor my friends etc. I’m not saying it’s entirely useless but I feel like it’s coming at the issue from the wrong side.

    4. mf*

      I’m the leader for an affinity group for women at a Fortune 500 company, and I agree 100%.

      Affinity groups provide a nice support system to people of minority or underrepresented groups. They can provide opportunities for connection so that women can support and advocate for one another. They make for a nice “leadership” bullet on your resume.

      But ultimately they do little to change the number of women being promoted, because the decision to advance women needs to come from the people in power.

  44. Butterfly Counter*


    It’s infuriating that white men think they’re allowed in the room based on only their qualifications. Hint: if 95% of the people in charge are white men, THEY ALREADY ARE SELECTING FOR RACE AND GENDER!

    Also, better decisions are made when there are a diversity of people making decisions. How many times in the past few years have we heard, “If they had at least one person of color/woman in the room when they made that decision, we wouldn’t be facing our current PR nightmare.”

    1. The Original K.*

      Not only that, but I’ve been in rooms with white men in leadership roles who straight up admitted that they DID NOT have the qualifications for the roles into which they were hired, and they did so without a hint of chagrin. “I’ve never made a widget, I don’t have a degree in widget-making, I have no experience in the field of widget-making, and now I run a widget-making team! Isn’t that a hoot?” And meanwhile there were a bunch of women and people of color who had made widgets, had advanced degrees in widget-making, had led big widget projects, and had been passed over.

      1. Mophie*

        I’m a man of color. This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn in my career. Apply for jobs you think you may less than qualified for, but still would be good at. I used to be embarrassed or self conscious about doing so, and I still am to some degree. But I’ve learned so many of my colleagues have applied for, and gotten, jobs they were so under qualified for it’s shocking.
        So now I apply for reach jobs.

        1. The Original K.*

          So do I (Black woman), and so do most of the non-white men and women of all races I know personally. It’s just that it seems to be far more common for white men to be hired into reach jobs than anyone else – white men are often hired for potential in a way that other groups are not.

          Having said that, it’s true that men tend to apply for more reach jobs than women – I’ve read research that indicates that women only apply for jobs where they meet 100% of the qualifications, and men will apply for jobs where they meet half of them.

        2. Nicotene*

          Yes sadly I’ve observed that it’s not entirely a lack of gumption on the part of the non-white-males that’s holding them back. I think it’s systematical inequality.

        3. Tau*

          I got this advice from AAM and it’s so good! For my second job, I didn’t fully match the job requirements (IIRC it was something like “3-5 years experience with programming language X” when I had 2 in programming language Y and a few things like that) and probably wouldn’t have applied if I hadn’t seen Alison mention this as a disparity and a way women shoot themselves in the foot.

          Not only did I get the job, at some point in the interview my interviewer said something like “you’re a perfect match for our needs!” I was like ???? your own job description disagrees with you!

      2. Pheebs*

        My partner was selected to lead a new team whose sole focus was widget-making, despite not even asking to, not having any background it in whatsoever, and not really understanding how widgets work or what they do in the first place. Meanwhile, my female teammate had just completed her Master’s Degree in Widget Making and was actively searching for roles where she could put her knowledge to work, with no success. I tried to calmly explain to him just how ridiculous that was but it had never occurred to him that maybe he kept getting promoted because he was part of the GOB club, not necessarily because of his skillset.

    2. Lily*

      My husband worked at a community college that hired a [white, male] president whose professional experience was… managing gas stations.

  45. EBStarr*

    I like Alison’s metaphor and would even extend it… let’s say that every day there is a fruit distribution and you have a 90% chance of getting fresh fruit while the women have a 10% chance of getting fresh fruit; then one day they announce that men will have NO fresh fruit that day and it’ll all go to women. If you look at just that day, it does seem unfair. But … it’s just one day and you need to look at the situation with a broader perspective.

    But — for different reasons obviously — I’m kind of on OP’s side here that those programs shouldn’t be open only to women. It’s true that penalizing people for not having implicit knowledge of white-collar norms is non-inclusive when some groups are more likely to have access to that knowledge–but that’s why it seems odd to do it just for women instead of opening it up to everyone who might need it.

    But also, along with basically every other woman out there, I’m soooo sick of programs that “address” gender inequity by giving women career advice. It always implies that there are no/few women in leadership because we don’t know how to do basic professional things like sell our contributions and it’s like, gee, maybe it’s that we do sell our accomplishments, but no one currently in power is buying it?

    Offering career advice as an official program to everyone, on the other hand, is so much better: it means that people who don’t have access to this knowledge via their networks or previous experience, including women, all have access to it, so it evens the playing field in that way–while not falling prey to the appealing but wrong (and offensive) notion that teaching women professional skills will somehow address a problem that’s actually caused by systemic sexism.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Your first paragraph is great, but it goes downhill from there.

      Part of the reason that we offer things just for women, or just for African-Americans, or just for Latinos, or just for LGBTQ folks is that when you offer something to EVERYONE, those under-privileged voices will get drowned out.

      Part of the point of these is that we create a SAFE SPACE for groups that have traditionally not felt very safe in most environments.

      1. EBStarr*

        YMMV here for sure, but as I said, I tend to think professional development geared specifically to women is often insidiously sexist itself, which is the opposite of a safe space.

        I definitely value safe spaces for specific groups, I think you’re reading more into my comment than was there.

        1. hbc*

          I think you’re mixing some things here. Even if I allow that the reason for having women-geared development classes is sexist, that does not make it an unsafe space. For example, I’ve been hit on exactly never in a work environment that’s only women, and so many times in mixed environments (and I’m not particularly attractive.) “How to Dress to Find a Man at the Office” could be a safe space even if it’s an abomination in other ways.

          But then, I disagree that women-geared is necessarily sexist. The above example is awful, but it’s not sexist to acknowledge that women face different hurdles than men and talk about those hurdles. It’s not sexist to help women figure out the line between being a team player and becoming an admin, because when men and women get different reactions when they make coffee or take notes.

          1. EBStarr*

            Yeah, again, seems like people’s mileage really varies. For me, having a space where women can talk and exchange tips about dealing with sexism is so important and valuable. But I would be overcome with rage if I attended an official workshop where my company sunnily “teaches” me how to advance in the workplace, even if the content were the exact same, you know? Because it would annoy me so much that they are acting like that would solve my problems. It would just make me disaffected and mad at my workplace in general. But I guess some people can still get value out of the content, or out of the experience of being in a women-only space.

            I lol’ed at your “How to Dress to Find A Man At the Office” idea.

            1. Another Big4 Accountant*

              I don’t get what you’re saying…in your original comment you’re saying that these initiatives should be open for everyone, and now you’re saying that actually you do think that women should have a space. Which one is it?

              1. EBStarr*

                What I’m saying isn’t contradictory at all! I’m shocked that my original comment was misread as my saying that *no* spaces should be only for women. This is just about ONE type of initiative, one.

                And my reasoning is entirely based on the fact that sexism is systemic and this kind of event, in my opinion, essentially turns the blame on individual women not knowing enough. That’s not safe to me. I have nothing against actual safe spaces. (I’m a woman, for the record, and I do take advantage of women-only safe spaces at work.)

                I really am surprised that my comment was read in this way by so many people, but hopefully this clears it up.

      2. londonedit*

        Absolutely. To use an analogy from a completely different sphere – we offer various programmes in my running club for people at various levels. Every time we try to launch a new programme for a specific group, people who are in that group will say ‘Brilliant! Great idea! Thank you for thinking of us – this is going to be so useful!’ But then it ends up being taken over by people who should never have been in the group in the first place. We recently had it with a group we tried to launch for ‘midpack’ runners – people who are neither beginners who need support to complete a couch-to-5k or a 5k-to-10k programme, or people who are trying to get into the elite club runner category. The midpack has been historically overlooked – people assume runners in the middle are happy just bimbling along and don’t have any real goals. So we set up some dedicated coaching sessions and a Facebook group for people who were in this traditionally overlooked group. And then people who were not in the midpack started saying ‘Hang on, how come I’m not allowed to join this group? I want to join these training sessions!’ And because the committee wants the club to be inclusive, they ended up allowing anyone who wanted to join to do so. And that led to the Facebook group being taken over by people saying ‘Hi, I can’t run at the pace needed for this track session, can I still come along?’ and ‘Does anyone have any advice on how I can build up to 10k? I only started running three months ago’ and ‘I want to come along to the track session but I’m currently training for a 3hr marathon, will the coaches be able to offer me a targeted session for this?’ And all the actual midpack people faded into the background and just got on with it as usual, while the moderators and coaches tried to deal with the ‘I shouldn’t really be in this group but I want you to tailor it to my needs’ people.

    2. PT*

      ” gee, maybe it’s that we do sell our accomplishments, but no one currently in power is buying it?”


      If I say, “Llamas eat hay, they do not eat french fries. We are almost out of hay and need to order another shipment for next week,” and people jump down my throat demanding citations and telling me I’m being negative and do not know how to do my job and accusing me of creating all sorts of obstacles to having a llama barn that operates smoothly and on budget, but they immediately fawn all over Fergus for being a genius when he says, “We need to order the llamas organic hand picked artisanal hay imported from the Andes that costs five times what the normal hay costs,” there is nothing a woman’s workplace leadership seminar is going to do for me.

      1. Observer*

        If I say, “Llamas eat hay, they do not eat french fries. We are almost out of hay and need to order another shipment for next week,” and people jump down my throat demanding citations and telling me I’m being negative and do not know how to do my job and accusing me of creating all sorts of obstacles to having a llama barn that operates smoothly and on budget, but they immediately fawn all over Fergus for being a genius when he says, “We need to order the llamas organic hand picked artisanal hay imported from the Andes that costs five times what the normal hay costs,” there is nothing a woman’s workplace leadership seminar is going to do for me.

        Actually, the program might do two things for you, depending on where you are in your career. If you are in a program with men, and this comes up you will probably hear a lot of people explaining how this is an outlier and Fergus is just SOOOO good at selling his ideas, vs you who come off as “strident” etc. In a women’s only group, you won’t hear that. You’ll hear whether this is an ongoing pattern in the wider industry, company or department. Which can be very helpful to know.

        And from there, you might ever get some useful advice in how to combat it, which can’t happen if you have a bunch of guys in the room claiming that this really is not a thing.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I was on a call today where a man was speaking random thoughts on a topic and dominating the conversations. I am the actual expert with 10 years experience and was trying to give the exact directions the team needed. The conversation ended with the leader thinking that everything is up in the air and that it needed more discussion.
      I can be told all day that I need to be more assertive, but if no one knows how to listen, then I am equally silent.
      I’m venting on how sucky it is to be a woman fighting to be heard, but it ties into how you can teach women communications tools, but it really is a systematic problem that needs to be addressed at the same time.
      But I applaud the OP’s company for getting the ball rolling. Hopefully, they will move into the company wide bias later.

    4. Worldwalker*

      “It always implies that there are no/few women in leadership because we don’t know how to do basic professional things like sell our contributions and it’s like, gee, maybe it’s that we do sell our accomplishments, but no one currently in power is buying it?”

      Quoted for truth.

      If two people, one male and one female, say the exact same thing (“We need to do X on this project”) and it’s accepted from the man and dismissed from the woman, this is not the woman’s fault. It sounds a bit like victim blaming, actually. The problem is not how the woman presented it (they said the same thing) — it’s how the listener received it. That is something that *really* needs to be addressed, and IMO isn’t addressed, or even examined, nearly enough.

      1. Observer*

        This is true. But it’s also true that as long as this problem exists, women need two things.

        1. A reality check. Too often it’s not clear where the problem is. When women know that this is a thing it is an important step. And it can take a very long time for someone to realize that this what is going on unless they hear about it (not just once) but in real world discussions about the pattern and how it plays out in many contexts.

        2. Strategies for dealing with this / minimizing the fall out / combating it. Yes, it should not be necessary, but if a woman is going to be stuck with the problem, any strategies that help are useful.

      2. Mophie*

        In an ideal world this wouldn’t be necessary, true. But in the world we live in this is really a thing. It helps to make women aware of it and have some ideas of how to deal with it.

    5. Teapot supervisor*

      I’m kind of with you here on not really liking ‘woman only’ courses – or at least when they’re not carefully done. I think you’ve got to tread carefully to not homogenise the group. A few of the ones I’ve been on seem to go ‘You’re a woman so this is your experience and these are your problems’, ‘Actually, I’ve never experienced that and I’ve got more of a prob…’, ‘No, you’re a woman so THIS is your experience and THESE are your problems!!’

      For example, I’ve never had a huge problem with mansplaining. What I have had a problem with is ‘admin syndrome’ – the whole ‘oh, you’re a woman – can you get me Fergus’s calendar/photocopy this/do this data input task which has nothing to do with your actual role?’, ‘No, because I’m the teapot supervisor’, ‘….’, ‘That’s not my job’, ‘…’, ‘Wakeen handles the admin for the teapot team. Please ask him’, ‘….You’re being really difficult, you know? It’s just a quick job!’ (Oh, and more often than not the asker tends to be female – the most recent time I’ve had a man do this to me, he was very quickly whisked aside by another male colleague and told that, no, ordering the stationery was most definitely not the teapot supervisor’s job!).

      But, no, because I’m a woman, some training courses would like me to know the problem I’m experiencing is mansplaining and male colleagues who don’t respect me. Sigh.

      1. Tau*

        I hear you. I’ve actually been lucky enough to avoid pretty much all the things people talk about in my career so far. There have been a few points where I went “um… would this guy be pushing back so hard against what I’m saying here if I were male?” or “huh, this guy sent an e-mail addressed to ‘dear gentlemen’ and has also now multiple times left me off e-mails/meeting invites I should’ve been on” but it’s never been blatant and never happened particularly often. I’ve also never had people ignore me/only accept something after a man has said it, never had someone try to turn me into an admin, etc. etc. I feel awkward when people try to universalize these things, and actually have some sympathy for OP because I don’t really think I’ve been held back so much in my career compared to my male colleagues that I deserve to have extra opportunities they don’t. All these things are statistical, and using population statistics to make inferences about the individual is a well-known fallacy.

        (That said, I’ve heard enough stories from female colleagues that I’m pretty sure it has in fact been luck on my part, and I live in mild worry of when my luck is going to run out.)

  46. Squirrel*

    Wow, the balls on this guy! Lol! Like others have said before, this is what’s soooooooooooooooooo frustrating about being female or from a historically disadvantaged group. As soon as someone hands you a “fruit” (to borrow Alison’s analogy) some dude comes busting in crying about “equality”!
    Its all just……too much. Sigh. Sorry OP.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Equality is you both get fresh fruit.

      Inequality is you get bad fruit while someone else gets good fruit.
      Inequality is also you get good fruit while someone else gets bad fruit.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        Equality can also be noticing you *already have* a bowl full of fresh fruit and giving this fruit in this moment to the person with the bad fruit/no fruit.

        Equality can be noticing your fresh fruit is all apples while dude over there has mangoes, pineapple and grapes as well, and giving you a mango and him an apple.

        Equality can even be noticing they keep giving you grapes even knowing you’re allergic to grapes, and passing grapes to others while you get a mango.

        Equality is realising nobody but nobody should be getting bad fruit, even if they have a lot of good fruit already, why the hell would anyone be passing around bad fruit at all?

        (I think the bad fruit in the original analogy could be interpreted as the person who can’t count on getting any fresh fruit predictably trying to make theirs last as long as possible to stave off starvation, not that it was bad when it started. Just like some people cling to jobs that started good for them for too long because management keeps promising better “someday”).

        Equality is a lot more contextual than JUST what you are given in this moment and this place.

        And this metaphor has been stretched to breaking, I’m sure. But so far I can think of matching situations for all of the above.

  47. Beancounter Eric*

    LW, how should you deal with this situation???

    Your career is YOURS, not your employer’s…..take ownership of it, show some personal initiative and seek training on your own, rather than being subservient to your employer for the skills needed to advance.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Removed. No devil’s advocate here, please. The devil doesn’t need further advocates, and it doesn’t advance the discussion. – Alison

      1. generic employee*

        Does the Devil really need advocacy?

        And would this be the extent of your advice to a woman at your workplace who comes to you for career help? (I can probably guess the answer to the latter, really.)

        1. SomebodyElse*

          Actually, I already stated my position on advice and professional development to my employees in the comments. I think they all deserve them and should have access to them regardless of what group they do or don’t belong to.

          I’m not going to specifically comment on my moderated comment (I’ll admit it was flippant and don’t disagree with the moderation).

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The devil doesn’t need further advocates.

        That made me smile and is going into my quiver.

  48. Rusty Shackelford*

    The fact that your specific part of the company is not dominated by men does not, AT ALL, mean there are no gender issues, either in your area or in the company as a whole.

  49. rr*

    LOL reminds me of one meeting we had at my old company just as they were starting to wise up about EDI. Our dept had a meeting and went over a bunch of the findings from a company-wide study into barriers women in the company were facing. After we reviewed it the male managers in our department all patted themselves on the back because “look around the room, we actually have more women in here than men, so we clearly don’t have any of these issues, we are one of the better pockets of the company for equality” somehow not recognizing the fact that not a single woman in the room had a leadership role and only two of the ten men weren’t managers.

    I have been recommending the book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez to so many people. It’s a masterclass in unconscious/systemic bias that really seems to resonate well with men since it is simply all about the data. My husband said it completely shifted his perspective and made him understand what was truly meant by unconscious bias as he had never really felt it was explained properly to him before. I would highly recommend this book to the OP.

    1. Hedgehog*

      I have also been reading Criado-Perez and can’t recommend her highly enough to get people to really examine their perspective on things. Her other book is also excellent. It should be compulsory reading for managers and supervisors!

  50. jenny*

    Please find your own program. If there aren’t any you can attend, advocate to get them. In addition to what everyone else has said, trying to get a women-targeted group is just a bad look. It will harm your professional image and probably make a lot of your coworkers feel deeply uncomfortable with you. Do you really want that?

    1. SomebodyElse*

      To be fair if a white man went to his company and said, “I think we need white/man leadership opportunities” I’m sure he’d get the same reaction as this comment section. So this isn’t exactly helpful to the OP.

      I think one thing we can’t assume is that the company is doing a good job with their diversity program, we’ve seen some shockingly questionable diversity programs in the news lately

      1. jenny*

        I don’t think he needs to say “I need white/man leadership opportunities,” he can say some of what he says in the letter: I am interested in the topics this professional development group covers, can we establish one open to everyone?

      2. Metadata minion*

        A white/men’s leadership group would look terrible, but a more general one wouldn’t be a bad idea, assuming there isn’t already something like that in place.

        1. The OP*

          Yikes, a white/men’s leadership group. Sounds like a legit Michael Scott idea.

          OK, so follow-up question: has anyone seen examples of organizations providing both general leadership programs and programs targeted to specific groups? Any tips on what this looks like in practice?

          1. ThatGirl*

            Both my last company and my current one have leadership development programs; I’m not 100% sure since I didn’t take part, but I believe the idea is that your manager (or *a* manager) nominates you to take part in it and then you do a little “class” and get a certificate and it’s a way to signal to the company that you’re interested in moving up to leadership positions. While there were only a certain number of spots available each session, it was open to anyone who had a manager vouch for them.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Yup, my company (a large utility) does this. Additionally, we have multiple D&I groups that do their own programming that frequently include general leadership/mentorship/expand your career series as well as separate general leadership/mentorship/expand your career series that are run by HR.

          2. hbc*

            Sure. In my experience, they’re not labeled as Leadership Programs so much as individual presentations on topics that might be valuable for advancing.

            I’ve also been on a kind of Rising Star (blech) list, that had a multi-year plan for taking certain external classes and moving around to different roles. That’s much less common. I think some people perceive the targeted group programs as more like this rather than what they are: just a seminar series with a narrowed invitation list.

          3. Jules the 3rd*

            Yes, my current employer (US based, international, Fortune 100 tech co) has multiple tiers of programs. (I’m white, female, cis, neuro-atypical)
            1) All employees are asked to log 40 hrs of training / programs each year
            2) The company offers free company-wide training available in many topics, from Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to company-specific strategies to useful skills (eg, Visio or Excel; C++ or Python).
            3) Different divisions usually have 1 – 2 days / year of division-specific programming. We just had our Supply Chain (and larger org) day last month, where they covered how our work tied to specific company strategies, and had break-out sessions on new tools. Some of the more strategy-central groups have had live conferences. Anyone can go, but these are dominated by men. In North America, by white men. The company does work hard to have women and BIPOC presenting, but the audience participation is 90% men, even when the audience is only 60% men. People look at me funny when I speak up the same way the men do.
            4) Multiple special interest groups, based on countries, gender, ethnicity, LGBTQx, new employees (<5 years), have conferences / programs. LOTS of virtual sessions, where anyone can watch but people who are not members of the interest group are specifically asked to limit comments / questions, to ensure members are centered. There is usually a session near the beginning on 'how to be an ally', that talks about when not to center yourself.
            5) The largest groups (gender, some ethnicities, LGBTQx) may have real life meet-ups or meetings, and most people are encouraged to join external interest groups (eg, Nat'l Society of Black Engineers). These may be funded or hosted by the company, and I don't think anyone is excluded, but they are mainly organized by people in the groups, and usually mainly attended by people in those groups.

            So, if you have access to any general org or division specific programs, those are the ones that are used by white men in the same way that the women's leadership programs are used by women.

            Couple of exercises for you:
            1) At your next dept meeting, count how many times women vs men speak up unprompted. Not the 'going around the room' comments, not the person leading the meeting, but the rest of the team.
            2) Look up your mgmt chain and count the men v women, and where the women stop and the men take over.

            1. a heather*

              I think the participation discussion is big here. This is an important reason to limit attendance to things like this; with men involved, they often take over the conversation and direct it to themselves and their own ends.

              So, OP, if you do manage to get an invite to some of the speaking events you would so like to hear (though I don’t think you should push for that at all if it is not open to men), KEEP QUIET. Listen, take notes, but please don’t speak, no matter how incredibly insightful you think your question is. Please.

          4. Qwerty*

            They generally are not specifically called leadership groups when they are for everyone. Look for programs or presentations that are more educational or topic-based. Lunch and Learns are popular in the tech field. Book clubs can also be popular – we’d rotate through topics like business, tech, communication, etc so that various departments would be interested.

            The more general ones also can be tougher to keep going and tend to die out due to a lack of participation, available speakers, or people (outside of HR) who are willing to plan, so you’ll want to help volunteer for those. I’ve run a few of those in the past and usually the only time I can keep them alive is (1) when we highlight our minority focused groups and men get jealous or (2) when I get credit for my work running them and men get jealous and try to take over.

            If you need to start something from scratch at your place, start by polling other people on what topics they are interested. Try to get speakers from different departments and backgrounds at your company.

          5. MCMonkeybean*

            My company has a Women in Leadership program, and I don’t remember what it is called but I believe there is also a similar space offered for black employees.

            There are also toastmasters groups and things like the yellow belt/six sigma trainings that are open to everyone. And heavy emphasis on “individual development plans.” And a lot of things available online. If your company has an intranet I would recommend exploring that and maybe even just typing in various keywords like “leadership” or “development” and seeing what comes up. There are all sorts of trainings available to me when I do that. Or you could look for outside programs and ask whether that is something your company would pay for.

  51. Forty Years In the Hole*

    Oh, OP, just …bless your heart. This is not a micro-aggression AT you. I once asked a CO about attending some “CareerTrack”-type training for women, and he actually understood that women would need/want something different presented differently, in a comfortable space. It was my male colleagues who were all “it’s not fair, how come she gets to have special treatment/if she were a real leader she wouldn’t need this, etc.”
    Slightly OT: This was the same bunch of not-particularly-woke guys who didn’t understand why we had to undergo dept-mandated harassment training (think sexual harassment [and worse] in the military). Guess who – as the only female officer (because, female…) – got to give the training to hundreds of pouty (male) soldiers. Didn’t think it applied to them – at all. Now I know how stand-ups feel when working a crowd with new material…

  52. Anonymooose*

    Oh this….

    Righting a wrong by doing the exact same thing but calling dibs on the moral high ground.

  53. Lecturer*

    ‘I support equality until it stops suiting me. Really I do!’

    Did you not stop and think after writing your post? At that point I would have thought sense would kick in but nope. You are clearly not suited to leadership so forget about it and get on with the day job.

    1. D3*

      Right? Anyone who does not grasp the concept of programs designed to close gaps only open to those who are in need of said programs is someone NOT leadership material.
      So OP, here’s your professional development opportunity: Shut up and listen to others. Do not interrupt, do not engage in “whataboutism”, do not dismiss as “not that big of a deal”, or “I’m sure that’s not what they meant”. If you say anything, it should be validating their experiences. Believe their stories. The point is to understand that your viewpoint isn’t the be-all, end-all. That there are problems, issues, and gaps to be closed that you cannot (or will not) see from where you are.
      Grow in maturity and work towards increased empathy. That takes working on yourself, and being proactive. Learn that not all things must be to your benefit, and that you are not entitled to all the things that other people get.
      There will be a test later in your career in some form or another. The feedback you’ve gotten here shows you clearly missed the mark on the pretest. Go work on yourself and maybe someday you will be leadership material.

      1. Lecturer*

        Precisely. This company is doing something to address systematic discrimination. Why would they promote someone whose values do not match that? Someone who will make things go backward.

  54. The OP*

    Hey everyone – it’s the OP here, and thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. It definitely adds context to understand the intent of the program, and as a guy I don’t often hear first-hand the personal challenges women face due to systemic issues. I should add that I really wasn’t trying to make a political statement. I’m just trying to build my career, am facing an individual roadblock, and reaching out for advice.

    As background, my company actually doesn’t have general leadership or mentor programs. This program is really the only one of that type.

    I do get the feeling that my department may differ from that of most people reading this. In addition to being about 70% women including in leadership roles, it’s also not uncommon to hear things like “women get things done.”

    1. Cant remember my old name*

      Honestly if there’s a particular speaker that is of interest to you, I don’t think there’s any harm in reaching out to HR and seeing if they can have them come back to speak to the entire group. There’s nothing wrong with being invested and proactive with your own PD, I just wouldn’t try to infringe on an opportunity specifically designed to rectify the gender discrimination women have faced for..ever lol.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I’m sure HR will record the sessions and they could be made available to OP to watch later. It would be valuable to hear first-hand stories and advice being given to female co-workers. (as long as the participants know it is being shared. I’d hate to give a detailed story of bias that would get back it’s source!)

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      it’s also not uncommon to hear things like “women get things done.”

      {Sigh} This is not about leadership. Trust me.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        It’s so gross that this is still considered complimentary. “You did your job while being female, good for you!”

        Until you hear things like “our leadership gets things done” AND the leadership is 50% female, your company hasn’t normalized female leadership, they still consider it a novelty and that is the crux of the problem.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Honestly, to me it sounds more like “Give the dirty work to a woman and she’ll get it done, while the men sit around leading.” Or “Oh, honey, I’d take notes in this meeting but you’re so much better at it – you know, you get things done!”

          1. JessicaTate*

            This. Yes, I am so sick of this. The men get to have jobs, prestige, and salary for sitting around and having ideas — and surround themselves with a team of highly competent women who actually 1) figure out what the heck the guy actually means, and 2) get the shit done in a reasonable and productive way.

            Maybe that’s not what it means in OP’s department — I truly cannot speak to that. But, in my field, this is 100% code for (old, white) men get prestige and pay and promotion, while women actually do the work (and get none of those).

          2. Lenora Rose*

            I was thinking it sounded like ringing a change on the Hamilton quote about “immigrants – we get the job done” which is about two men, one of whom has just been put in charge, the other already in a leadership position. If that’s the context, then it’s not about damning with faint praise.

          1. Idril Celebrindal*

            In my experience, that statement comes with an unspoken subtext of, “because we have to since the men aren’t pulling their weight and they leave it all to us and we know that we have to be twice as good to get half as far.”

            It is absolutely not a statement that the women on your team feel that things are equal. I would bet my annual bonus that if they thought things were equal, they wouldn’t feel the need to say things like that. Also, I would challenge you to consider that you haven’t heard about inequalities because the women on your team don’t trust you to listen to them.

      2. a sound engineer*

        Yeah, that is definitely *not* a sign that things are as great as the OP seems to think. Showing up to work and being told “Oh, we’re so happy you’re a woman, in our experience the women engineers get things done and are way better at this than men” feels just as weird and frustrating as showing up and being told “Oh, no, we were hoping for a big strong man”. (Both are true stories)

    3. Tara*

      Women being empowered does not disempower you. If you’re not hearing about women facing challenges, when you work in a team that is predominantly women, then it sounds as if you’re not listening and honestly, likely being willfully ignorant. This comment makes me feel like you haven’t taken the lessons the women in these comments have patiently and thoughtfully written out to heart. I really hope you do.

      Assuming you are junior in your career, there are lots of ways (probably many of which are explained on this website) you can reach out to people more ahead in their careers and build relationships, network and gain mentoring. As a male you have privilege which will make it easier to do that. Don’t attempt to step into a place where you have not been invited, or pretend that you’re somehow the victim of a system which essentially revolves around you.

      1. (insert name here)*

        “If you’re not hearing about women facing challenges, when you work in a team that is predominantly women, then it sounds as if you’re not listening and honestly, likely being willfully ignorant.”


        You could reach out to the group to see if they would be willing to do the occasional event that is for the company as a whole. That might help address some of the toxic mentality you seem to have internalized.

        My company’s women’s leadership group does both women only events as well as guest lectures that are open to the company as a whole. The women only vents are normally about things like dealing with imposter syndrome, self defense, or how to avoid the perception of being bossy when you are in a leadership position as well as networking events that are just better without dudes trying to dominate the conversation or pick up women. The ones that they have opened to the public have been more like inclusivity training led by a minority.

        Then the regular training department did one on unconscious bias where the middle aged white VP tried to each us about something he didn’t understand himself and it was a cringe-y disaster of invalidation and white fragility. Actual examples included:
        “I’ve been oppressed because the young white dude doesn’t think I skate board since I’m an old white dude.”
        “People were mean to me as a kid because of my red hair.”

        Dude, that is not the same as hundreds of years of systematic oppression.

        This is why we do it ourselves and don’t invite you. The invalidation is exhausting. These women have made a safe space. Don’t take it away from them. Don’t be that guy. Just do better.

        1. Tara*

          Our CEO is invited to talk at a lot of diversity things (he seems honestly, like a nice, well meaning man but hasn’t left his straight cis rich white male privilege bubble) and uses an anecdote that when he started working in the City, he was a diversity hire because he went to Bath (a very good UK university) instead of Oxford or Cambridge. It’s incredibly cringe, but somewhat reassuring(?) to hear not unique. Solidarity.

        2. lailaaaaah*

          Oh man, the red hair thing. I once told my ex boyfriend (6’2, training to join the army, built like a brick shithouse) about the harassment I’d experienced, including men who had stalked me for hours through public spaces. His response? “Oh, I get comments about my red hair all the time. You shouldn’t let it get to you!”

          1. onco fonco*

            I got bullied for having red hair. I also got sexually harrassed and assaulted because I was a girl. Both were crappy, but…I was able to tell the difference between the two.

    4. Lecturer*

      Serious question: are you heterosexual/in a relationship with a woman? If not, do you want to be/plan to be?
      Do you have children? If not, do you want them?

      So, on to my point. If you do want a female partner and you do want children why wouldn’t you want your partner and daughters to have opportunities that try to address the systematic discrimination they experience? It’s not like a program like this is going to do it but surely you would want something that helped them narrow the discrimination gap?

      I’ve always wondered this about men. Or is just a case of as long as I am ok it doesn’t matter?

      1. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

        Honestly, these comments make me cringe. I realize it’s an attempt to get folks on board, but I find the whole idea that ‘you should care about this because it might happen to someone you care about’ cringy. The whole subtext of you shouldn’t care about this unless you have women that you care about is just peak toxic masculinity to me.

        1. Lecturer*

          It is a serious question. Countless people don’t care about strangers/colleagues (in fact that is fine, but not the case in this letter). But they do care about their family. So I seriously want to know why men want their wives and daughters to be discriminated against. The issue is no one has the balls to answer the question.

          1. Misty*

            Because, historically (and currently in some countries still) men have always had women in their lives. Men still treated women as below themselves. Men can love women in their family and still think they are lesser than men, it’s a thing you can still see in many parts of the world.

            I agree with HerdingCats, it is cringy to equate equal rights with “you should care because of this person in your life is affected by it.”

            1. Lecturer*

              No, I don’t agree. Part of loving someone includes wanting them to do well and achieve a lot. So I want men to answer the question: why are you part of something that does so much harm to the people you (supposedly) love the most?. As a parent are you going to be happy your child will face systematic discrimination? Women discriminate too, so I will pose the same question to them (but it is a man writing in).

              We can talk about things historically but I am not talking about strangers. I am talking about the family men and women create. You know, the people you are meant to love most in the world and the people you make sacrifices for?

              1. Jack Straw*

                “Part of loving someone includes wanting them to do well and achieve a lot.” This is absolutely not true for all people. I speak both from personal family experience with my own parents and as a teacher who spent years watching parents threatened by their child’s intelligence and grades.

                Should it be true for everyone in an ideal world. Yep. But it’s not.

                1. Lecturer*

                  Obviously I was not talking about abuse! My mom abused me, what’s your point?. It’s like saying ‘hey some people are paedophiles’. Abusers cannot be compared to non abusers. It should be glaringly obvious that I was referring to people who are not abusive.

                2. Jack Straw*

                  I’m not talking about abuse. Not mental or physical or emotional abuse. Nowhere did I say that or use that word. I’m talking about not wanting the best for someone you love. That’s not abuse or even neglect. It’s just being a crappy human.

                  I’m talking about parents genuinely bothered and upset that their child might be more successful than them.

            2. Lecturer*

              How many people are involved in things that directly relate to them? I’ve donated to charities who work aboard since I was a teenager. Plenty of people aren’t interested in specific issues and that is fine. My question is why are you not concerned when it harms the people you love? Once they can answer that question we can all stop beating around the bush.

          2. mf*

            Agreed–thanks for posing the question. I agree that no one has the balls to answer the question. I think that may be because the answer is “they can about their wives and daughters but not as much as they care about themselves.”

            1. Lecturer*

              I’m being attacked by other posters when the question would be obvious to a child. Burning building: do you save the neighbour or your child? All I want is for people to admit what you’ve picked up on: these people are not important enough for them to care. People might love their partner and child but can’t be arsed to deal with the issues their child would deal with in the real world.

                1. Lecturer*

                  Removed — I told you two days ago to move on from this and you acknowledged that at the time so I’m not sure why you’re back into this today. – Alison

            2. Lizzo*

              100%. They don’t care enough to be deeply uncomfortable and/or have their privilege inconvenienced to make this world a better place for their wives and daughters. It’s such a disappointment.

          3. pancakes*

            I don’t at all agree it’s fine for people to only care about their own families. At best it’s an insular mindset and at worst it’s antisocial. It’s also been tried before, à la Margaret “there’s no such thing as society” Thatcher.

        2. Jack Straw*

          Agreed. It’s reminiscent of the sign that says “She’s someone’s mother, daughter, wife, friend” with roles and ‘s crossed out so it reads “She’s someone.”

          Lecturer–I understand, based on your second comment that you are attempting to get people to care about what happens to others, but this isn’t the greatest way to do it. It perpetuates the idea that women are only defined by their relationships to other people instead of a full person on their own.

          1. Lecturer*

            I am attempting to do no such thing. I want an answer: in England the vast majority of the population identifies as heterosexual. Most people have children. I am not talking about what you are commenting on. I want an actual answer: if you love your partner and children why would you want them to face such horrible shit? Imagine daughter coming home to talk about discrimination at work’ and the parent responding ‘DON’T YOU DARE DEMAND SOMETHING FAVOURABLE THAT MIGHT MAKE MEN UPSET’
            I am asking a very specific question and people are responding with their own points. Respond to what I am asking, or is that too hard? Is this the life you want for your partner and children?

            Answer that question or why bother responding?

      2. Koala dreams*

        I dislike that framing, because it’s paternalistic and feeds into patriarchal ideas. As if men should only care about women that “belong” to them. I take your word for it that you mean it differently, but you should be aware of the sexist connotations of that type of phrasing.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      I know many people share the same initial thoughts and I’m grateful that you submitted the question. I’m betting this article will be shared A LOT and will help others resolve similar feelings.
      But I will add, that as a woman having to deal with an immense bias barrier, it’s something that cannot be spoken about with my male co-workers. If I was on your team, you would never know how frequently I’m denied my successes, how my ideas are claimed by my male colleagues, and how every day someone talks over me until my words are drowned out. You probably have witnessed it in meetings but never realized that it is happening because it is standard behaviour.
      If I were to bring it up to my make teammates then they would become defensive, and it would become another thing that I would have to deal with. So I absolutely understand that things seem equal in your department, but I’m sure they aren’t. I have to endure the battle on my own and your female co-workers likely do the same.
      This may be the beginning of an awakening for you!

      1. Jack Straw*

        This comment literally made me tear up because it is so accurate.

        I’d also be curious to see the salaries of the “70% women including in leadership roles” as compared to male counterparts. Equity isn’t just about getting women into power; it’s also about making sure they are compensated the same way as their male peers.

        1. lailaaaaah*

          Also he notes that he’s in a female dominated department of a larger male dominated company. What’s the betting it’s something like HR, where there are more women overall and thus more get promoted (but still not fully equally to men)?

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        “and it would become another thing that I would have to deal with.” +10000000

        If you are not hearing about these issues from the women in your life, it’s because (1) you have shown yourself to be someone who would make the conversation exhausting and pointless, or (2) you have NOT shown yourself to NOT be that person.

      3. Le Sigh*

        Yup. I’ve run into these issues a lot in my career but tried to address them head on exactly twice. Both times I was polite, tried to be clear about the issue, and that all I wanted was different behavior going forward (e.g., no I wasn’t going to HR or putting them on blast). It resulted in defensiveness and getting yelled at both times– which would be awful at any age, but esp. when I was in my 20s and just starting out.

        While I’m a lot more confident now, those experiences taught me to be very careful about how I address these issues with male colleagues.

      4. TIRED*

        I really like this: “that as a woman having to deal with an immense bias barrier, it’s something that cannot be spoken about with my male co-workers.” This is how I feel about talking to white people about racism in the workplace. White co-workers are too defensive, I have to assume they won’t react well if I bring racism up – so I cannot. Even when they ask their “share your trauma story” questions.

    6. Spicy Tuna*

      So, what I’m getting from your comment is this:

      – You’re a guy so you don’t often hear the challenges women face
      – Your company is 70% women
      – You hear things like “women get things done” and appear to be tired of it and see it as a personal attack

      These things together indicate that you actually DO hear the challenges women face and likely witness them firsthand, but you’re just not listening and internalizing them. In my first read of your letter I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt that you’re just inexperienced, but you clearly have the resources around you to be a better advocate and are choosing not to do so.

      1. Boof*

        I think any gendered comments are out of place at work, unless they are actually purposely about examining gender in [thing]. I am a women and I hate ” women ___” or ” men ___” comments.

    7. Esmerelda*

      If your concern is that you want more professional development/leadership development or mentorship opportunities, have you brought this up with your manager? Sometimes you have to ask to have needs met. Perhaps your manager could suggest a mentor within the company or suggest a leadership conference to attend, but many managers might not think to mention these opportunities if they don’t know that you’re interested. (Or they may start looking for new development opportunities for you if they know that’s what you want.) Heck, if the type of leadership organization you want doesn’t exist at your company, maybe you should take the initiative and start it. If you have a need that’s not being met, by all means, find ways to pursue your need. Being bothered that someone else’s career needs are being met isn’t going to help (you or them).

      1. Smithy*

        I think these are the points that really resonate. If you’re facing roadblocks with advancement or leadership, then those are likely issues that will need to be embraced directly.

        I do understand that being directed to find or create leadership or training programs when you are relatively new in your career is daunting and overwhelming. So maybe it’s about identifying a mentor who can give advice on how best to grow within your sector or organization. It may be more about networking to see what’s worked for peers or even organizations better designed to support growth.

        I will say that no matter what leadership program you get to take – if your boss is the one throwing up roadblocks – any program alone will not bring those roadblocks down. I was on a team where a number of staff with no direct reports were approved to take a management course. A lot of people perceived the invitation as an indication of being put on a management track – but in actuality leadership was under pressure to show that the course was desired and to get as many people as possible into the course. After completion, I know a number of those staff felt used and that their time was wasted when they heard that no one had them in mind to be a supervisor for at least a couple of years.

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      “facing an individual roadblock” – This is not what a program for a systemically marginalized group is for.

      “women get things done” – This is not the pro-women attitude you think it is.

      It’s unfortunate that your company doesn’t have a more general support system for all employees to access, but removing or changing the women’s group is not the right solution. Consider that this group exists because someone saw a need for it (even if you don’t) and took the initiative to make it happen. Your company apparently supports this kind of thing, so maybe you could be the next person to take the initiative on a new program!

    9. D3*

      I do get the feeling that you’re still probably wrong about your department.
      And if you’re facing a roadblock in your career, look at YOURSELF, not the programs in your company.
      Have you considered that your entitlement and failure to understand others perspectives might be a roadblock to you?

    10. CJ*

      Unfortunately, you belong to a demographic that has historically seen privileges and benefits that were denied to others. It’s unfortunate for you – on a personal level – because you didn’t choose your sex or skin color but still have to live with the consequences of having them. In this case, the consequence is exclusion from certain career advancement programs. That people who happen to look like you received and still receive other advantages is all that matters – you cannot expect to be judged on an individual level.

      Most people view the world through their own individual experiences. I suspect that’s why commenters feel free to assign attitudes and attributes to certain demographics wholesale (they may have been denied opportunities through no fault of their own and are rightfully upset) and why you look at what opportunities are withheld from you and wonder why you have been excluded (immutable demographic characteristics are a poor reason to deny individuals career building opportunities).

      This isn’t a fight you will win while the larger culture fights discrimination in one direction with discrimination in the opposite direction. Better to just move on and find other career-building opportunities.

      1. Allegra*

        Giving historically marginalized people opportunities to access education and opportunities systemically denied to them is not “discrimination in the opposite direction.”

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        It’s unfortunate for you – on a personal level – because you didn’t choose your sex or skin color but still have to live with the consequences of having them.

        I’d love to hear more about the unfortunate consequences of being born as a white male…

        1. ThatGirl*

          The song “Rockin’ the Suburbs” by Ben Folds is echoing in my head here…

          1. UKDancer*

            Interestingly I have William Shatner’s cover of “Common People” running through my head.

    11. Anon for This one*

      As others said, if this is the only program/opportunity for professional development offered by your company then there is an issue. I would suggest that you ask about professional opportunities that are open to everyone.

    12. TWW*

      Leadership training and mentorship doesn’t have to come from an official program. In my experience (as a male) it usually doesn’t. I’m 20+ years into my career and I can report that 100% of the leadership training and mentorship I’ve received has come out of informal relationships with my bosses and coworkers.

      In theory, both men and women should have equal opportunity to develop these types of relationships. In reality, that’s not the case, in ways and for reasons that many commenters in this thread are discussing.

      As someone above pointed out, if you want leadership training, just ask. If for some reason that doesn’t work for you, *that* would be an issue worthy of writing to AAM about.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, exactly this. I think the visibility of the affinity groups and special programs grates on some folks who may not realize that most mentorship, advancement and learning opportunities are “built in” or happen through informal networking and organic relationships forged in the workplace.

        And the formalized, highly visible programs are seeking in part to redress the fact that marginalized groups have been excluded from these informal means of career growth (e.g., golf outings being the classic example).

      2. Smithy*

        It’s absolutely this.

        My most uniquely frustrating job when it came to growth opportunities was when my boss once said “let me know if there are any trainings you think would be helpful”. At that time I’d just returned to the US after living/working abroad and really had no clue where to start asking or looking. When I asked him for opportunities he’d recommend, he shrugged and say he’d think about it but I should lead the research.

        After a while it came apparent that a) all of the well known trainings and workshops were nice but added nothing for true professional growth; b) my boss knew that and c) he also knew that the real growth opportunities were in attending a few sector conferences that he was well aware of. The kindest explanation is that he knew the organization wouldn’t pay for both of us to go to those conferences but he could get money for the trainings. So he’d rather I focus on the trainings vs even knowing about the conferences.

        It may be that at the end of the day, the OP just doesn’t have a great relationship with his boss and is hoping for an end run in getting more support. In which case there are just better ways to focus on mentorship and networking while keeping an eye out for new jobs in different departments or employers.

    13. Allegra*

      “I should add that I really wasn’t trying to make a political statement.”

      I find it concerning that you didn’t consider the cultural systems at play here, and now that you’ve been made aware of them that you consider it “political”. You’re making excuses for your personal situation. The personal *is* political, but especially systemic discrimination and inclusion that men like to convince themselves only happens somewhere else.

      I’d encourage you to stop seeing yourself and your situation as a default, and anything that’s not that as “political”. If we were colleagues and you considered women getting specific women-focused leadership training as a personal “career roadblock”, I would…really not be comfortable working with you. It shows you see the business world through a very narrow lens and don’t understand systemic issues. If you feel you’re hitting a roadblock, maybe you should consider expanding your horizons and looking at yourself as a collaborator before saying “the women are taking the opportunites”.

      1. Lils*

        “I’d encourage you to stop seeing yourself and your situation as a default, and anything that’s not that as “political”.”

        Love this!

    14. twocents*

      I’m a wee skeptical that a company that is large enough to have devoted programs, mentorships, panels, and guest speakers for women is also so small that there doesn’t exist a single other path to advancement outside of this program. I’d really encourage you to ask your manager what paths exist for you to engage in professional growth opportunities.

      As I type this, I’m reminded of a coworker of mine who complained to management that they had no avenues for passing along ideas, and management reminding her of multiple methods of opportunities to raise up ideas… three of which are specifically documented and linked to in our department-wide yearly performance objectives,

    15. Domino*

      “As background, my company actually doesn’t have general leadership or mentor programs. This program is really the only one of that type.”

      That’s unfortunate. But if your company has a limited budget or bandwidth for this kind of thing, it does make sense for them to allocate it to a group that is made up of historically marginalized people.

      Even if your company doesn’t plan on organizing a program for a broader range of participants, does that mean you can’t access professional development through your work at all? Like others have suggested, you should approach your manager and see if there’s a possibility of you taking a course, being mentored, etc. based on your *own* needs (do NOT bring up the existence of the women’s program in your argument, for the love of God).

    16. Observer*

      I’m just trying to build my career, am facing an individual roadblock, and reaching out for advice.

      It’s worth noting that as a man, you probably have more sources of advice and mentoring outside of your company than most women of similar background. That’s a good part of the reason why your company would target women.

      it’s also not uncommon to hear things like “women get things done.”

      ~~sigh~~ Yeah, your company almost certainly has DEI problems.

    17. Joielle*

      Wait, is the individual roadblock not being able to attend these specific leadership trainings? Have you tried…. asking to attend a different leadership training?

      I’m not actually trying to be snarky. I think people get really hung up on one specific thing they can’t have and don’t necessarily think of other things that could get the same outcome.

      This is a program set up to give women easier access to leadership trainings because, as you note, your industry is historically male-dominated. Just because it’s not being handed to you on a silver platter doesn’t mean that no opportunities exist. Have you tried Googling other leadership trainings (inside or outside of your company) and asking for approval to attend them?

      Also, you seem to be taking this WAY more personally than is appropriate. If you want to be an ally to marginalized groups, you have to really understand and internalize that it’s not about you as an individual, it’s about addressing systemic issues. That’s not an attack on you.

    18. (insert name here)*

      The reason these formal leadership programs exist for minorities is because the traditional career development paths are often closed to them.

      The traditional path is informal mentorship by your manager or another more experienced mentor. Reach out to your manager for career development opportunities just like everyone else does. And you don’t have to worry that your boss will think you want to sleep with him when you go to coffee. You don’t have to worry that when you get married all your opportunities will dry up because your boss will assume that you’re about to have babies. You don’t have to worry that when you do get promoted people will assume you are either an affirmative action hire or you slept your way into the position. You don’t have to worry that when you speak to someone from a place of expertise some young white man will try to correct you.

      If you really want to be in a program like the one at your work, go join your local rotary club, key club or toast masters club. Despite that women are now permitted to join these organizations, I bet you $10 that the groups in your area, wherever you might be are still 70%+ male.

      Also… Is your company really 70% female or is it just your department? Really look into it. I work in tech and my department is 70% female. There are 4 departments in my company that are probably 70% women or even more: Accounting, Marketing and admin. Despite these 3 departments being mostly women, the company as a whole is 80% men.

      Even if your company really is this mythical 70% women company, look at leadership. Did you know that something like 83% of Librarians are women, but men account for 40% of the director positions? And even in such a women dominated field, there is still a sizable pay gap where women’s salaries are just over 80% of men’s salaries on average.

    19. yala*

      “am facing an individual roadblock”

      This isn’t a roadblock though. You can do just as well without it.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        ding ding ding. “I’m not getting a thing I might like when and how I would like it” =/= roadblock.

        The road is not blocked to LW at all.

        He just sees others getting a tiny bit of needed help to get over THEIR actual roadblock and wants help too… despite, again, not really having a roadblock.

    20. Flora_Psmith*

      “…not uncommon to hear things like “women get things done.” ”

      Let me translate this for you –

      It means that when a group of engineers is on-site, Keisha, the only woman on the team, is the one who ends up organizing the lunch/ rental car return/ thank you gift.

      It means that when the group needs to summarize their work in a memo Keisha ends up doing it because all the men just looked around the room, each of them thinking they shouldn’t have to do anything that’s ‘not my job’. After five minutes of awkwardness, Keisha sighs and says she’ll do it. She knows none of the men will step up to do anything they see as beneath them and she will probably get ‘asked’ (read: assigned) to do it anyway.

      1. BelleMorte*

        I would suggest reading “my wife left me because I left a dish in the sink” or the “magic coffee table” to really understand the breadth of emotional labour that women are expected to do in terms of “getting things done”, both in households and in workplaces.

        Who are the people that arrange events, manage the birthday parties, the networking, the company social events? Who are the people who even arranged the leadership group? My bet is it’s going to be a woman.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          “Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado-Perez is a great book from this perspective. I would recommend it to the OP.

      2. FD*

        Yeah, honestly this is…very much how this read to me.

        Even as a woman, it’s a sense of “I sort of hate it but I’d rather handle this crap myself than let other people bungle it because the average man doesn’t feel the same level of responsibility to make sure things turn out well that I do.”

    21. Le Sigh*

      “It’s also not uncommon to hear things like “women get things done.” — I just want to point out that even if this gets said a lot, it means almost nothing. There are entire industries built around marketing and commodifying feminism with tote bags, coffee mugs, and cute tag lines. But it doesn’t take much to scratch below that to find it’s nothing but meaningless drivel. The founder of Thinx, a company built on period products, was famously all about being a “girlboss” and “women get things done” and it turned out she was running an incredibly toxic company, got sued for wild sexual harassment allegations, and was forced out.

      My point being that when you’re looking for markers to indicate a company’s true support for DEI initiatives, taglines are pretty meaningless.

      1. J.B.*

        During the pandemic, moms have taken on much of the burden at home. My boss and I are the only moms in our group and we get things done. We may give each other looks that are really “why can’t these others working here get the same amount done”? But we don’t say it because it would be ignoring what other stuff they might have going on. It would feel condescending for others to say it to us.

    22. mrs__peel*

      “as a guy I don’t often hear first-hand the personal challenges women face due to systemic issues.”

      If you’ve never bothered to put *any* effort in to investigating this (widely available) information, then I really have to question whether you’re suitable for a managerial position. You could do a lot of harm to people you potentially supervise.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, if you want to hear the challenges women face in your organisation first hand then they have to trust you enough to tell you. To be honest I don’t particularly want to spend my time explaining how things are more difficult for women, my personal experiences of the gender pay gap and the time my boss invited me to a strip club. For one thing it makes me miserable and I may not have any faith in your willingness to believe me. Also I may not trust you enough to talk about it. Hence why safe spaces for marginalised groups can be important.

        Failing that, there’s enough research and information on the issue out there. Just do some research.

    23. meyer lemon*

      I would suggest you take the project of understanding the challenges that women face as a professional development opportunity in itself. I mean this sincerely: you’ll be a much better colleague, employee and potentially manager if you take it upon yourself to learn about the realities that your female colleagues deal with and that the system is designed to keep hidden from you. Being open to Alison’s advice and the comments here is a good first step.

    24. FD*

      Hi, OP.

      I can understand why it’s really frustrating to feel like there are no opportunities for you out there and I can see why that feels kind of unfair.

      When people talk about privilege, it tends to bog down because it’s really hard to see it in your own life. After all, if you’ve only ever lived as male, you can’t really know how people would have reacted in the same situation if you were (or were perceived as) a woman. In addition, humans tend to focus more on the areas where we aren’t happy with how things are going, so a lot of time, if you’re frustrated with a dead-end in your job or with being paid badly, and then someone says you have privilege, it feels ridiculous or insulting.

      In addition, people are generally reluctant to talk to people outside their group about the systematic discrimination they face. If you’re already at a disadvantage, you don’t want to be seen as ‘difficult’ or a ‘social justice warrior’. In addition, it can be very tiring to try to explain your experience to someone who often times isn’t sympathetic or who will see it as an attack on them rather than as you sharing a something personal and painful. So it frankly isn’t surprising that you’ve never really heard about this from people you know. Honestly, I love my dad dearly, and even with him, there’s only so much time and energy I can spend on trying to explain my experience as a woman in a male-dominated field to him. A coworker? Yeah, probably not going to even try it.

      It’s true that these days there are very few men-only mentorship groups officially. However, I bet if you think about it, you’ve seen some of these things:

      1) Senior leadership at many companies take an interest in younger employees who remind them a lot of themselves. If the senior leadership in most companies in your field is mostly men and they mostly sponsor young men, this often creates a de-facto mentoring program that tends to be men only.

      2) Many traditional business activities are either traditionally male or are activities that may not be comfortable for women to participate in. For instance, while women can play golf, it excluded women (and POC) for a really long time, so there are far fewer women than men who can play. Or for another example, while women certainly can drink, to be honest, getting ‘beers with the boys’ tends to get uncomfortable once people start getting a bit drunk. (From personal experience.) Because a lot of important business gets done ‘off the clock’, this often means that women end up getting excluded from many opportunities.

      3) Women generally have to be more competent in the same technical skills to be seen as equal to their male peers. This has an odd effect that you rarely see just average women in leadership roles–you generally need to be noticeably better than average to get the same effect. Have you noticed your female colleagues going out of their way to prove themselves, especially early on? That’s why.

      I’m not sitting here to tell you that you’re wrong to be frustrated at the lack of opportunities for development in your job. That’s a reasonable thing to be frustrated about and it would be a good idea to go create or find those opportunities. But please try to remember that for a lot of people, the program you’re talking about doesn’t come close to making up for the invisible opportunities they won’t get.

    25. tamarack and fireweed*

      Hi OP! Well, you clearly pushed some buttons including mine. I’m glad if you are able to keep a constructive perspective about the whole conversation – a whole forum coming down on you can feel a bit much.

      Advocating for your career development is fine! The problem is pitting it against efforts that just don’t apply to you. The whole “I’m being excluded” just opens completely unnecessary cans of worms.

      It is quite possible that your company thinks, correctly, that the general (maybe informal) development opportunities are fine and give men adequate mentorship AND it is still appropriate to provide “women in leadership” seminars to women. It is also possible that they’re a bit complacent about general development, but some energetic women in sufficiently influential positions have made sure that valuable women-only opportunities stay active.

      In *either* case it’s totally fine to go to your boss or HR and discuss development. But think about how these arguments sounds:

      – Myself and the whole [XY] team could really benefit from the training offered by ABC Inc. on “Building your career in [XY]”. I think a lot of people would value that.
      – Penelope came back from the Women in Leadership seminar and raved about the talk given by Alison Green. You know, she has this popular blog “Ask a Manager” and has written books about it. Do you think it would be possible to invite her some time to a company-wide event?
      – [After having had a discussion with your manager about future career directions and having her buy-in.] You know it would really be helpful and beneficial for all of us if I could get some training on this kind of role, and all the pitfalls and strategies about how to be a good X. I haven’t seen anything offered company-wide but as far as I know other employers in our industry send employees to workshops sometimes. Do you think that would be possible. [This is a good approach even if you KNOW that the women-in-leadership thing covered it!]
      – It would be good to have occasional company-wide seminars about career building. [Boss: Really? What topics are you thinking of?] For example, some role-play about how to best make a convincing argument in team discussions, or presentation techniques or something about balancing career and family life. [Really? That’s something you’re interested in?] Well, Penelope was really positive about a panel discussion she had attended, and I think a lot of us will run into all of these. I sure am thinking about these topics in my future career!

      Compared to…
      – I think it’s unjust that the women get opportunities I don’t get! Like the panel discussion that apparently Penelope attended about how to negotiate advancements and salaries! [Me, as your female boss: “Is he asking because he feels he should have more opportunities or is he just envious of something others have? Does he have any understanding of bias in the workplace? I mean, we’re really quite egalitarian HERE, but he’s already in the top half of his salary band and in any salary negotiation probably would automatically get offered $20k more than Penelope, who’s at least as good as he is. So sheesh, what do I do now?”]

      1. Lizzo*

        I’ll add to that first list of suggestions by point out that when women do better, EVERYBODY does better.

        OP, maybe instead of the “what about meeeeeee?” attitude, you can try this one on for size: “Women are at a disadvantage in the workplace. I believe this to be true. What can I personally do to rectify this–to lift them up to success?”

        More bluntly: generosity towards others will get you much farther professionally than selfishness.