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Podcast Episode: A conversation with Dr. David Smith on how husbands can be better allies for their wives

A conversation with Dr. David Smith on how husbands can be better allies for their wives

The Modern Husbands Podcast


Welcome to the Modern Husbands podcast, where any combination of Dr. Bruce Ross, Christian Sherrill, and Brian Page host national experts who share winning ideas to manage money and the home as a team.


Today we welcome Dr. David Smith who teaches at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.


A former Navy pilot, Dr. Smith led diverse organizations of women and men culminating in command of a squadron in combat and flew more than 3,000 hours over 30 years including combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.


As a sociologist trained in military sociology and social psychology, he focuses his research in gender, work, and family issues including bias in performance evaluations, retention of women, dual career families, military families, and women in the military.


Dr. Smith is the co-author of Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace.


On today’s episode, we discuss how husbands can be better allies for their wives who work outside the home


Enjoy the show.



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Questions answered during the show


0:00:00 Introduction

0:01:11 Some listeners might not be convinced that women face gender specific obstacles at work. How can you convince those listeners otherwise?

0:06:16 Beyond doing the right thing for their wives, how would husbands and families benefit from women receiving support from home and in the workplace to thrive in their careers?

0:12:28 Let’s assume you want to do more than help your wife, but you want to help all women in the workplace. Could you name two or three key things excellent male leaders, allies, and mentors for women actually do?

0:17:50 A lot of men are concerned about the inequities their wives face in the workplace and are committed to fixing systems that hold back women they care about. What can be done from home by supportive husbands?

0:23:54 Where can listeners learn more about you and where can they purchase your latest book?

0:24:36 What is one simple and actionable piece of advice that you would like to share with our listeners based on today’s discussion?


Resources



Podcast Transcript


Introduction


Welcome to the Modern Husbands podcast, where any combination of Dr. Bruce Ross, Christian, Cheryl and Brian Page host national experts who share winning ideas to manage money in the home as a team.


Today we welcome Dr. David Smith, who teaches at the John Hopkins Carey Business School. A former Navy pilot, Dr. Smith led diverse organizations of women and men, culminating in command of a squadron in combat and flew more than 3000 and hours over 30 years, including combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.


As a sociologist trained in military sociology and social psychology, he focuses his research in gender, work and family issues, including bias and performance evaluations, retention of women, dual career families, military families and women in the military. Dr. Smith is the coauthor of Good God how Men can be better Allies for Women in the workplace.


On today's episode, we discuss how husbands can be better allies for their wives who work outside the home.


Enjoy the show. Dr. Smith, thanks so much for joining us today. We're looking forward to this conversation.


Thanks for having me, Brian.


Question for Dr. Smith: Some listeners might not be convinced that women face gender specific obstacles at work. So how can you convince those listeners otherwise?


Well, it's a great question, and I think there are different strategies, strategies and tactics for approaching different people with this. And I think a lot of people want to see evidence. 


Certainly there's plenty of data, depending on where you work, to show that and to be able to understand what that looks like in terms of the different challenges and how they play out in a variety of different ways. And that can be everything from advancement to retention to pay and other ways that we feel valued or maybe not as much in the workplace. 


So I think there's a variety of different experiences there that companies have some of that data, and that might be through an engagement survey, some sort of data that they do on a more annual basis at the company.


So there is that aspect of it. And I think for a lot of people who want to get in touch with, I think of this as kind of how do we, the logical or the head side of the argument. I think that's a great way to do it. 


But sometimes even more compelling, or just as compelling, can often be the anecdotal, the narrative, the story that goes with it. And often we find that with kind of the personal connection we have with the people that we work with, that we really care about, and we value who they are and what they do. And so sharing some of those specific examples so it's contextualized in a way.


So sometimes the data can be very, in many ways, it's just kind of anonymous or it just doesn't have a face to it in some way. And so putting a face to that and putting somebody's personal experience to it can be very powerful. And also the fact that you have that personal connection to the person can be a great motivator for really thinking about how do I engage in working to maybe help overcome some of those challenges.


So if I were to say, hey, in 2000, 99.4 percent of CEO Fortune 50 companies were men, and in 2023 it's 90%, do you think that maybe that's a problem? Is there a problem with our system? And there's usually people that will kind of hem and haul over it and say, well, no, I think you got to consider ABC.


Our goal here is to kind of work through that and help listeners who have spouses that have high ambitions towards what they want to accomplish in life and to really recognize that in many cases, that women face certainly different obstacles and in many cases, additional obstacles that men don't face. And if we're going to support our wives and their hopes and dreams in the workforce, we need to understand what those are.


And I'm thrilled that you brought up the fact that know what their personal journey feels like and looks like is probably most important. And that was the case for me as well, Brian. For me, it wasn't so much initially the data, the evidence and the broad spectrum, but more about the specific sitting down at the dinner table and

us having conversations about our experiences at work.


We both started in very similar career paths. We both started in the military and just sharing the various experiences we have. And mine were very different from hers. And it was very eye opening in a lot of ways, and shocking, too, that people one, there was just the kinds of relationships and the way people valued and treated each other, but then there was just the lack of access in some cases, or not knowing where this information is or provided to you in some way. And for me, that was just eye opening.


It also really clued me in that I needed to look more broadly with the people that I worked with and to see where this was happening. You think about it, is this very idiosyncratic, it's just a one off, maybe with your partner, or is this something that's going on more broadly?


For me, it turned out it opened my eyes in talking to my colleagues at work that, hey, this is going on in a much more broader, systemic way. There are opportunities here for us to make a difference in the workplace.


Question for Dr. Smith: So beyond doing the right thing for our wives, how would husbands and families benefit from women receiving support from home and in the workplace to thrive in their careers?


Yeah. So it's interesting if we look back across the decades as women really began to enter the workforce in really large numbers and really kind of the late 50s, early sixties, and on really the peak of all of women's labor force participation really was around after 2000, although we're starting to see another little increase above that now that one of the things, women were coming into the labor force in large numbers, but it really didn't change a whole lot at home in terms of it wasn't like men were now suddenly staying home or doing more at home.


There weren't more stay at home dads suddenly or anything like that. There were some small numbers there, but really not in the same way we saw for women.


So now we have both people, both partners, both parents working, doing paid work in the workforce. And that left again all the other domestic responsibilities, the childcare, the caregiving responsibilities that we have to sort out who was going to do what. And of course, the research has been pretty clear that for the most part, women have done two or more times the amount of that kind of work, the unpaid work than we have as dads.


And something that, again, we're trying to work. So we think of it in terms of allyship and being allies at home. And thinking about that, what does that mean? And being equitable allies at home?


Well, it means figuring out, doing your fair share. And what does that look like? That doesn't necessarily mean equal, because again, we all have different requirements, different stages of life, different workforce requirements and career requirements and different things that are going on at home and figuring out some way to balance that in a way that makes sense for your family.


So that again, if women are going to advance in the workplace, they need to have their fair share of time and certainly the resources available to do that. And with doing that fair share, it's not just, for example, the kind of thinking about the day to day tasks that we have and.


But yeah, also doing that emotional labor, that cognitive labor, it's the everyday tasks of just planning and certainly doing some of the keeping track of lists. 


I remember one of the stories we shared in our book from one of our interviewees was talking about how, hey, I had the kids and we were doing some shopping, and it was just him. And he noticed that, hey, there was a sale on winter coats and, hey, the winter is coming up. And at the time when winter was approaching and the kids need new coats, what size do they wear? I'm going to pick up coats for the kids. And he's trying to figure out, all right, what size do they wear? He's like, I have no idea.


What about snow boots? I have no idea. And he's pulling out his cell phone to call his wife and he says, no, don't go there.


Don't do that. But he felt so bad right there in the moment. It's like, I know what I need to do, but I don't have the information. But it just shows you how much of that is being done by our partners at home. And if we could begin to start very deliberately and consciously thinking about that, about how do we take on more of that kind of load, then we can really begin to balance all of this. And how do we make sure that when we're the primary parent at home, we're the one who's supposed to be getting the call when the kids are sick or need something at school, how do we make sure that they've got the right number, they've got our name to call us and not her.


As you bring those things up, particularly just the invisible labor, the emotional labor, however you want to define it, that is really taxing.


So for listeners who are already taking that on and always looking for new ideas for systems, we obviously have other podcast guests like Eve Rodsky and Dr. Kate Mangino, Dr. Coleman, where they share really specific strategies that are essential. So check those podcasts out.


But I think more looking at this through broader lens, I think it's important listeners understand exactly what you're saying is that if we want our wives to be successful in the careers of their choices, then we need to recognize that handling everything at home, or a lot of things at home, particularly things that revolve around kind of the thinking.


Right. The emotional labor, the invisible labor, then it's going to be doubly hard because they already have a lot on their mind from their job. So we need to do that to support them. And I saw a study once that for college educated women who leave the workforce to be a stay at home parent, which is fine if that's the decision that you want to make as a family.


Question for Dr. Smith: That is not a decision that modern husbands frowns upon at all. My wife did that. But if that is a decision, just know that there are financial consequences to that. And that the research found that for every year a college educated woman stays home, that's a $250,000 hit over her career through retirement.


So if you include how that missing year is now going to compound because it's one year less of expense of experience and less pay and less into retirement,that's expensive.


It's important that both spouses consider the financial consequences of taking time off or perhaps changing careers to be more flexible.


Question for Dr. Smith: Let's assume that you're listening and you want to do more to help your wife, but you also want to help women in the workforce, wherever you work. So you want to go above and beyond. You want to be an ally. Could you name two or three key things that excellent male leaders, allies and mentors for women actually do?


Yeah, only two or three. Wow. So let's start with how we show up in the workplace. And I think this is a great one, and it has many facets to it. 


But one of the aspects about being a great ally at home, when you're doing it really well at home, it changes behavior at work. And one of the things that we heard from a lot of the women that we interviewed for our books, especially for good guys, was really about how these more senior men, when they had responsibilities at home, when they needed to go, leave early from work, maybe to pick up the kids from school or take a kid to the doctor, something like that.


They didn't slink out the back door all hush hush quiet. They were very public about it. They were very loud, and they talked about it in terms of this notion of leaving loudly, very publicly, about demonstrating what they were doing, not hiding it, being transparent, and making sure that people understood that it was okay. Right.


This is okay to integrate. This is how we integrate work life. This is what it looks like. And a lot of the women told us about how much they appreciated it because, again, it removed some of that stigma around that they felt all the time and normalized it for them.


But what was really fascinating was that a lot of junior men had examples of this and talked about how, because this is where they were in their life as new fathers and thinking about trying to figure out what does it look like to integrate work and life and to have these more senior men role model this for them was really powerful, and it gave them an example of what they should be doing as well.


So thinking about how do we show up in all of our different roles and what does that look like and how do we be transparent about that for others is really important. And certainly we've seen lots of examples around parental leave and making sure that, again, we don't just kind of disappear into the ether out there when we go on our parental leave, but be public about it, about what we're doing, talking about it.


Maybe we've heard examples of how people have used their out of office automatic replies and they've put something in there about their parental leave and all the great things that they were doing and what they were hoping to achieve at it and achieve out of those opportunities. And so there's many ways I think that we can think about how do we show up and role model this for others and remembering that people are watching and people are listening and paying attention and want to know that.


Because I do think that stigma is very rampant still in many organizations today and holds us back from one, maybe even just taking something like parental leave or showing up as that engaged again, all in equitable ally at home because we're afraid of, again, pushback or backlash or I'm not going to get the next opportunity to do this or somebody's going to think I'm weak or I'm not committed at work in the same way.



The reality is that all of us are dealing with it in one way or another. I've been focusing here just talking about kids. But again, as we go through different life stages, it becomes more important to think about for many of us how our caregiver status for our parents, right? And that comes into play even more because again, we're living longer and certainly more of us, which is a good thing.


Now we may be doing caregiving as that sandwich generation for our kids as well as for our parents. And so we have those responsibilities, too. And I would tell you from a personal perspective, for me, just because of where I am in my life, I'm a new grandparent and that has different expectations and what I want and what we want to do as grandparents and how we want to be involved and how we can help and give back as well for our grandchildren and to help our kids again as they're navigating the world of parental leave and childcare.


And where can we be a part of the solution when it comes to caregiving?


So a lot of different ways that we can think about, how do we show up every day to do that? I could not think of a more powerful response for upper management than to show that type of leadership.


And for folks, just the junior leadership or the everyday employee, to see men who are openly doing that and proudly taking a strong role at home, I think would empower them to do the same as you have found.


I wasn't anticipating that answer. And I'm glad that's what you said, because there are listeners who are in those types of roles who can make a significant impact by doing something as simple and as easy as that. 


Question from for Dr. Smith: But it also dawns on me right now that there are employees or perhaps middle management folks who don't, unfortunately, they don't have somebody, a leader like that, or to make matters worse, let's say that they are still living in the 1940s, that they don't even know what paternity leave is, what the importance of it is, and why in today's modern world that there needs to be a team in a marriage approaching managing the home and your careers together. If you're faced with a manager like that who just doesn't get it, how do you handle it?


What is the point where, because ultimately what you're balancing is thriving at work and thriving at home. If your boss isn't allowing you to thrive at home, at what point do you just say this job isn't for me?


So two part question. First, how do you handle it if you have a boss like that?


Second, if it's not effective, how do you know when the time is right to go find a different job? Yeah, and this is a great point because I think one of the things that we're recognizing today is that companies can have all sorts of great policies and programs, and we see lots more of that going on today.


But how they're implemented is a whole nother story. And often that comes down to, again, the lowest level manager who is responsible as a supervisor to these direct reports and how they're going to implement it.


And there either is a lot of flexibility in terms of how they implement or maybe in some cases a lack of knowledge or a lack of awareness of these policies and programs and what they should be doing.


And so one of the things we see a lot of companies doing today is spending more time developing and


training and educating their managers and spending more time on thinking about what are the options I have in terms of implementing these policies and how can I work these to best fit the needs of my employees.


Because, again, everybody's different and everybody has a different situation on their home front. And the fact that maybe my partner has, maybe she gets twelve weeks of leave and parental leave and I get twelve weeks of parental leave. And we want to think about how we schedule that in a way that best fits for our caregiving arrangements that we need in doing that.


So do I have flexibility as a manager in terms of when or how can I break it up in using that leave. And so I think one of the challenges we have is really making sure that from a company perspective, that we are educating and training and working with our managers so they understand that you have a variety of different tools in your toolbox in terms of how you're going to implement these different policies and programs.


So that you can, one, help your people, but also, two, help us to get the most out of these policies, the way they're designed, so that, again, we still need to be successful and effective at work.


I think that's certainly an entering argument for me as far as helping when you get to that situation where you have one of these managers who isn't getting it, I think some cases, when you're comfortable, if you have the ability to be able to share what's going on so that you can make that back to that personal connection, if you can open up and share the impact or what you're trying to accomplish so that they can understand that might go a long ways toward that.


The other thing is also using examples of other managers or other employees around you. Right.


As examples of how this is being done in a way that might support you.


Again, these are not always easy conversations. Sure, they can be very challenging, and we understand that. But I think that what we see in terms of the evidence is that there are lots of dads in this case, and moms, too, that are making choices because of that, because of, in some cases, it might be a single manager, and they feel like they just don't have another option within the company to find a solution that works for them. They feel like maybe they've exhausted the avenues that they're willing to take or able to take, and now they're looking for a different workplace or a different work situation that does implement that.


We do see evidence of that.


I think certainly Boston College's Center for Work and Family did some great studies there on millennial dads. And we see that there are a lot of these millennial dads out there who expect and want and have agreed to with their partners to have these very egalitarian relationships and equitable sharing of responsibilities.


They're looking for how to do that in the workplace. And when they don't find it, it leads to a lot of negative outcomes from a work perspective. But also on the family side, too, because you see a lack, there's a lower satisfaction.


We see lower retention, lower engagement at work, high levels of know. We've talked about burnout with moms and with women a lot in the news, but there have been studies recently, too, like with WK, Kellogg foundation.


They did this reset study for men. And again, finding all this research about men, there's a lot of burnout going on with dads, and a lot of it has to do with work life integration and how the fact that they're not able to find that or work with their managers in a way to achieve that in the workplace. And so that leads to people leaving, and we certainly don't want that.


As employers, you want to retain your talent and you want to keep them satisfied. That's how we know they're going to lead to more productivity and engagement. So helping them define some of that might be the way.


But again, I think individually, we often look at other solutions outside our current workplace and look for another arrangement that might be better for us. 


Question for Dr. Smith: This is obviously a complex issue. So for listeners who want to learn more about you and how to manage issues like this, where can they turn?


Yeah. So my co author Brad Johnson and I have a website, workplaceallies.com. Workplaceallies.com is a great place you can go and you can see some of the tools and resources that we have and what we're working on out there.


And we've written two books. We're in the process of working on our third book, our first book was Athena rising how and why men should mentor women.


The second book was good guys, how men can be better allies for women in the workplace. And we would encourage you to look at those as the toolbox, as the ways that you can take action today to make things better.


Question for Dr. Smith: Now, based on today's conversation, what is one simple and actionable piece of advice that you want our listeners to walk away with?


The first thing is to, I think we need to do some more listening. And I think that as dads, this is the collection of evidence, of information that we need to see.


One, how are we showing up at home? And so having that very hard conversation, maybe with our partner, we think of this as the domestic audit.


I'm sure Eve Rodsky talked to you about this a little bit, maybe in one of your sessions. And we're fully on board with that, to have that hard conversation of sitting down at the kitchen table and let's do the domestic audit about who's doing what.


Let's look at does it make sense based off of, again, our family life stage, our career stages, and let's do that and truly listen and not push back. And when we get the feedback on how we're doing, let's think about, all right, so what are the things that we can begin doing to make that better?


Then also, I think listening at work, listening to our employees, if you've got direct reports and checking in with them and see how things are working out for them, also maybe with your peers and thinking about how you can share and I think there's a lot of different ways that we can do that.


And if you have a new parent working group or a dad's group at work to get engaged, and again, go listen to see what's going on.


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