Womansplaining: Why Women Telling Guys How They Should Act Doesn’t Work

women womansplaining

As you might imagine I get contacted about all kinds of HR and TA products and services. I recently got connected with a company called ywomen.biz, ran by ‘Gender Strategist’ Jeffrey Tobias Halter. (Tim note: I instantly don’t like people who use Jeffrey, instead of Jeff, and what’s up with “Tobias” in the middle? This isn’t a Divergent movie! But, I will say one of the best fake consultant titles ever in Gender Strategist!) Jeff wrote a book titled: WHY WOMEN – The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men.

I mean who to better tell companies how to advance women than a middle-aged white dude, right! Okay, I’m a skeptic, instantly, but I’m also a middle-aged white dude who wants to see women advance in leadership—hell, I wrote my Master’s thesis on it for my HR program! So, I looked into Jeff’s message and I think it has merit.

Jeff’s main point is (my words not his) you can’t “Womansplain” to dudes how they should act and expect results. Sure you can get some great female leaders to come in and tell all of your dudes what they need to do, but the reality is, the message would actually be taken better from another dude, because that dude, speaks “dude”!

Let me back up a step. You probably haven’t heard of “Womansplaining”. I’m sure you’ve heard of “Mansplaining” because it seems like it’s all the rage. Mansplaining is when a man explains something to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing. My wife lives in a house with four males, I know for a fact we mansplain to her and she’s really good about letting us know when we do it!

Womansplaining isn’t as popular, or politically correct. Womansplaining is the opposite of mansplaining: when a woman tries to belittle or shut down a man by gender shaming she is thus womansplaining.

The point of all of this was my initial reaction to a dude telling organizations how to advance women seemed silly to me. It’s like a white dude telling organizations how to recruit minorities better! (Oh wait, I just did that at SHRM Talent!) But, in reality, if your audience that needs to change behavior is mostly a bunch of white dudes, they will actually learn better from someone who is more like them.

How do I know any of this? Oh, yeah, I’m a man. I can tell you how I feel when I’m being womansplained things! Hell, just ask Laurie Ruettimann, every time we talk she’s womansplaining something to me! Dudes, just like women, don’t like to be talked down to, and everyone actually learns better when they feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment.

I’m afraid that too many women in the space of advancing women in leadership are womansplaining to a bunch of dudes. I appreciate the passion and effort, but if it’s not hitting the mark, sometimes you need to try a different tack. I don’t care how we get more female leaders, I just want to see it get done!

So, does this mean I recommend Jeff? No, I don’t even know the dude! But, I also wouldn’t discount him just because he’s a dude trying to advance women. I know plenty of dudes who are great ‘Feminists’ in the HR and TA space (Lars Schmidt, Jason Seiden, Will Staney, Chris Hoyt, Steve Boese, William Tincup, etc.) trying to help advance women every day. I think Jeff is trying to do the same thing, in a much more direct way.

Okay, hit me in the comments and tell me how I just mansplained this all to you!

FOT Background Check

Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy!  After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!  Check out his blog at www.timsackett.com. Because he's got A LOT to say, and FOT just isn't enough for him.

5 Comments

  1. Steve Levy says:

    Simple solution that I learned while failing at my only marriage (and I’m still, 16 years later, great friends with my ex)…

    “When you do THAT, it makes me feel THIS”

    No need to delve into how variations of X and Y figure into the equation.

  2. Pio Castillo says:

    I think it’s the superiority factor that makes one not wanting to listen — like a man refusing to listen to a woman, or vice versa… But it could also be the attitude of the one who is supposed to listen and learn. Take the case of a student-teacher relationship in class (in whatever level of education). If a student intends to listen and learn, he/she will listen and try to learn despite “superiority” of the teacher. In general, as adults who feel adult enough, we don’t like the idea that somebody else is adulting over us. Well, I am speaking for myself probably.

  3. Mike M says:

    Sorry Tim- I’m was out as soon as you said he puts Tobias in his signature. No reason for that!

  4. Steph says:

    Yes, you just mansplained why it’s okay for men to discredit women in the workplace solely based on gender. Which isn’t that the heart of the issue in the first place? If we’re trying to get children or even young adults to learn, I think this could apply. But once again, it’s okay to give grown men a pass on minimalizing women’s thoughts and opinions..? I didn’t find any logic in the explanation.

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