Gender bias in the workplace is a touchy subject, and James is an advocate who knows a thing or two about the power that female leaders can bring to the table. Through his professional experiences and as a father to his 3 ½-year-old daughter, Lucy, he has a vested interest in advancing opportunities for women.*
Here are some of his insights:
What can men do to support women’s advancement?
1. Men need to become brave where they use their authority. It’s really about male leaders practicing courage and using their power to speak up and create respect when they see discrimination in the workplace.
2. Men need to encourage women to go for it. Some women do not apply for [top level] positions because they don’t think they have the experience. But that’s not true, they do. They’re just as qualified as their male counterparts. We can be great coaches, mentors and sponsors to these women and encourage them to take that next step.
3. Men need to acknowledge that empathy is a strength. Emotional intelligence is sometimes looked at as “soft,” but it’s not a weakness. Guys are so used to people saying you can’t show emotion at work—no crying, no open affection—and I think that’s malarkey. There are a lot of things that require empathy, especially with being a dad.
What can women do to engage male leaders?
1. Step outside of your comfort zone. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to have fear and move through it. When you’re uncomfortable, that’s a good place to be because it requires you to work and struggle—to be brave and have vision, to center yourself in who you are and what you value.
2. Dance with those who want to dance. Engage with more power players. It’s about finding men who understand the business benefits of having women at top levels in the organization. Find the people willing to be your advocates. I want my young daughter to understand that there are going to be people out there who just don’t think the way she does. So she’ll need to find the ones who are willing to help.
3. Address the elephant in the room. Some women may work for organizations that have major blind spots. You have to be brave enough to say, “This has to stop” or “we need these initiatives” (pick your issues). It takes a lot of moxie to do that (my job as a dad is to create a young woman who’s got lots of moxie!)
(Pictured: James with his young daughter, Lucy)
* James is part of the EDGE Program (Education and Development through Group Experiences) to help FedEx leaders be more inclusive.
- Who saw something in you when you were growing up, that you hadn’t seen in yourself?
It was a stellar hockey coach that saw some unique talent that I had and helped me see that I really was good at something –in this case skating and playing hockey, and being a team player and being a leader.
- What was the greatest challenge you have faced personally or professionally, and how did you get through it?
I was playing trumpet at a show in New York City and doing what I set out to do from a young age. Being a musician is hard; it’s hard to make a living. How do you reinvent yourself? Do you continue on and get better? I realized that wasn’t able to sustain me anymore, so I changed professions from being a musician to becoming a corporate trainer.
- Describe your family—
My daughter is very well-spoken and is into the arts just like I am. She is expressive, clever and—for being almost 4—the most philosophical person I’ve ever met. She is difficult in all the best ways and challenges me to be a better parent, a better dad.