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Guest Opinion: What men need to know about working with women


By Tiffany O’Donnell | CEO, Iowa Women Lead Change

Ladies, ever brought an idea forward in a meeting only to be greeted with… (insert cricket sound here) 

Fast forward 10 minutes or so, and a male colleague brings forth a similar idea — perhaps maybe even the same idea with a pound of a fist and a louder voice that is met with … (insert  “Interesting,” “Hadn’t thought of that,” “Great idea!”)

Her idea is never heard. Her idea — spoken by him, thus credited to him — is suddenly “brilliant.” 

(Insert “UGH!”)  

That is precisely the experience that prompted Joanne Lipman to write “That’s What She Said: What Men Need To Know (And What Women Need To Tell Them) About Working Together.”   

Lipman, former chief content officer of Gannett and editor-in-chief of USA Today and the USA Today Network, is one of the keynote speakers at the 2018 IWLC Conference in Des Moines. In an interview with Montclair Times last month she said, “My feeling was that women talking to each other is half a conversation, and at best, gets us to half a solution. If we want to get to a whole solution, we need to bring men into the conversation.”

Lipman’s journey to bring men into the conversation began with a 2014 essay that appeared in the Wall Street Journal called “Women at Work: A Guide for Men.” In it, she gave some context to issues like the one mentioned at the top of this article. 

She also offered the following to male managers trying to grow the number of women in their leadership pipeline with the following tips:

  • She’s ready for the promotion; she just doesn’t know it. If she doesn’t have all of the qualifications for the job, she won’t apply. You know he will. Go find her, and encourage her to apply. She may not get the job, but just know she needs a nudge.

  • Don’t be afraid of tears. Tears from women at work tend to be out of anger or frustration, not sadness. And not all women cry at work. If you don’t give us feedback, we’ll never get better. 

You get the idea. These are concepts that women can talk about with one another all day long. But to what end? Who are the ones who need to hear it? You guessed it: men. 

The other interesting coincidence is that Lipman reportedly said it was on a flight to Des Moines that the need for this book became very clear to her. She was having a very cordial conversation with her seatmate. Once she mentioned she was traveling to speak at a women’s leadership event, he then apologized for being a man and suddenly became quiet. Awkward silence filled the rest of the trip. 

No more silence. Ladies, grab your favorite male ally. Awkward or not, invite sons, brothers, partners and husbands to be a part of the conversation.

Tiffany O’Donnell is CEO of Iowa Women Lead Change, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development, promotion and advancement of Iowa women, their organizations, and to impacting the regional economy. Contact her via email

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