This piece is a piece of original writing from about a year ago. I originally posted it on LinkedIn, but having revisited it recently, I think it’s a great start to the original writing section of my blog.
Every so often, a new colleague will learn about H+K HER, the women’s network where I work at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, and make some comment along the lines of “Why isn’t there an H+K HIM?” When this happens, I’ll admit I’m guilty of letting out a tiny laugh and immediately moving on. What I should say is what I think to myself during those moments: “You’re missing the entire point.”
What exactly is this point that is being missed? Why does H+K HER – and similar executive women’s groups at companies across the country – exist when a complement doesn’t? Isn’t that dismissive of the men of these offices?
Well at the very least it should be noted that HER actually stands for Helping Executives Rise, but that is not the issue at hand. The point is that H+K HIM does exist — and it exists every day, all the time, in offices of companies large and small, across sectors, around the country, and even around the world. Every meeting where a male colleague talks over his female peer is an H+K HIM meeting. Every pitch where only male employees are asked to attend is an H+K HIM pitch. Every email chain where a female employee’s ideas are ignored or overlooked is an H+K HIM email chain.
None of this is to say that men here or in any of these companies are sexist in any way. If these situations come up, we might not even know we’re doing it because they can be an unfortunate byproduct of the complacency of society about issues of institutionalized sexism. But regardless of intent, our actions, our words and our attitudes can be damaging to our office culture if we’re not careful and aware of our impacts.
And so to help with that, we have H+K HER. Providing information, support and inspiration, the program seeks to empower the hundreds of female H+Kers to raise their voices. Because every meeting in any workplace in which a female colleague refuses to be sidelined is an H+K HER meeting. Every time a female peer writes an email defending her ideas in the face of opposition, it’s an H+K HER email. Every time a colleague calls out sexism when he or she sees it, that’s an H+K HER moment.
From speakers that increase the visibility of successful women in our network, to a mentorship program that allows women to learn from each other, to events that celebrate accomplishments and achievements of women around the world, H+K HER is named perfectly. It really is Helping Executives Rise. And even beyond that, aside from the mentorship program, which is all about giving younger women in the company role models to look up to and aspire to be, H+K HER events and activities are open to all members of the H+K family, regardless of gender.
Some might still ask themselves, what business does a male employee have talking about all of these issues? Isn’t that a little bit out of his purview? Well the truth is that H+K HER also serves as a reminder that words and actions matter. H+K HER means asking yourself “How can I be an ally to my female colleagues?” or “How can I make sure the office has a supportive culture?” We all have a role to play in ensuring positive experiences at H+K or wherever we might work.
So H+K HER is really for all of us — and I love it.