There’s been a lot of discussion lately about women coming forward to call out men’s sexism, from the blatant—sexual assault—to the more subtle—manterrupting. A common refrain in that conversation is that speaking up can be risky, there’s the fear of retribution, humiliation, and not being believed.
One consultant in Silicon Valley is taking an obvious but little-used approach to get around that problem—she’s taking the onus off women.
At startups and tech giants, Valerie Aurora is delivering what she calls “ally skills training” that teaches people in positions of privilege—namely white men—to change their own behavior instead of expecting marginalized employees to alter theirs. Their privilege offers protection, making them better suited to speak up about sexist behavior and endure the consequences.
“It is the exact opposite of Lean In,” Aurora says.
Her training provides men with specific practical steps—don’t use the term “girls” to define women aged 18 and over—and language to use when calling out sexist remarks—”not cool,” “we don’t do that here.” Aurora says, “Everything has been framed in terms of ‘what can women do to overturn sexism.’ I have reframed it as, ‘what can men do to stop sexism, because it is their responsibility.’”
Aurora’s comments remind me of the shift Anita Hill advocated for at the Fortune MPW Summit when she discussed how to get more women to report workplace wrongdoing. She said the question needs to move from the individual—“why didn’t you come forward?”—to society at large—”why didn’t we do more to motivate individuals to come forward?” Let’s hope even more people catch on.