Emily’s Story: Kevin

“‘I’ll help, but only temporarily.’

There aren’t many executives who would respond to such words from their subordinate employee with as much grace as Kevin Mellen.

My exact words may have been different, but when Kevin, who was VP of Operations at the Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) firm we worked for at the time, asked if I could help out with Recruitment for a while, I was less than enthused.

At any other recruitment agency, that response could have been the end of my journey.

Instead of taking my overt hesitation to mean that I wasn’t dedicated to my work, or wasn’t willing to be a team player, Kevin was curious.  ‘Why don’t you want to be a recruiter?’

Up to that point, I had temporarily worked in Recruitment when my workload was light in the Support Services department. Recruitment was uncomfortable, but only because it was new. My other role in HR felt safe.

My response?  ‘I still feel awkward about cold calling people.’

As much as I understood (and liked) the ‘survival of the fittest’ culture we were in, Kevin never treated me like I was disposable if I showed weakness. I felt like his confidence in me covered us both if I was feeling “First ‘Real’ Job” jitters.

Even with that trust, my response—’I’ll do it, but reluctantly and not for too long’—was bold. I remember the look he gave me. The closest word I can describe it with, is confusion. ‘If you want to be successful in this industry,’ he said, ‘you need to get comfortable with being on the phone.’

As he spoke, I heard the intention in his tone. He told me that because he wanted to share that piece of insight as someone who had been in my shoes. He’d had an extensive sales background in his career before the role that made him my boss.

It sounded like advice from a mentor, more than feedback from my boss. And it was what I needed to both get outside of myself and to shift my mindset.

Kevin helped me push through the fear of rejection and failure that comes with the nature of recruitment. I needed to hear those words from someone I trusted. Otherwise, I might have kept looking for ways around it and potentially stunted my growth.

After a couple of weeks, the feeling of improvement I got from conquering my fear—one call at a time—had begun dampening the sense of dread I used to feel.

After a month, I had indeed become comfortable with the phone and started to feel my competitive spirit kick the remaining insecurity aside.

Eventually my cold calling abilities, and willingness to do it, gave me an edge.

If Kevin hadn’t intervened when I was feeling intimidated by the newness of cold calling, there is a possibility that I wouldn’t have developed the experience and skills that have been so critical to my career as a marketer now.

Because I’m not afraid to pick up the phone, or approach someone new, I don’t feel barriers around my ability to connect with people. Not feeling that barrier has helped me in my career immensely.

For that, and the many things he did that earned my trust leading up to that point, I’m forever grateful to Kevin. He was one of the most significant allies in my career, at a time when I could have easily gone in a direction I wouldn’t have been happy with.”

– Emily, Recruitment Marketing Specialist
Orlando, FL



Chantelle’s Story: Jonathan

by Pinpoint National Photography

“While I’ve had the pleasure of having more than one male ally (my father Greg Grant, and my first boss out of post-secondary, the late Philip Guishard), I would say my #1 fan is my husband Jonathan. As an ex-pro athlete, motivational speaker, and business coach Jonathan has the ability to push people beyond their comfort zone.

When Jonathan and I met, I was in transition period in my career. I needed a break from what I had been doing for the last 6 years which was Sport Administration within the Olympic Movement & Major Games. I was at the time, working a job that was not close to my abilities and was discouraged. Jonathan really showed me just how transferrable all the skills that I had developed were. When I was ready to look for a new job he was beyond supportive, and reached out to his many contacts to help find my new career path.

In addition to that, Jonathan’s entrepreneurial mind is always thinking about ways that my ‘passions’ can be used to earn money. As a fitness enthusiast, I dabbled in the thought of becoming a personal trainer but never committed to it. Jonathan supported me whole-heartedly and pushed me to become certified much sooner than I ever would’ve on my own. One of my first clients is even a dear friend now!

When a prospective job came up that did not align with my experience, Jonathan was the first person to remind me that it wasn’t always about what was on paper, but who I was as a person and that the company believed I could get the job done…and done well. He is always graciously reminding me of everything I have accomplished (and yet to accomplish) when I feel inadequate in my career.

Jonathan guides our family (which is just him and I for now) and always makes sure we are doing what we need to do to be ready for our 1 year, 3 year and 5 year goals both for us personally as a couple, and for our professional selves as well. He keeps me focused, grounded and challenges me even when I don’t necessarily want to be. When I’m nervous about making decisions, my husband reminds me that I’m a force to be reckoned with, and that even if I make a bad one, there will be other opportunities.

He is an ally that knows the world cannot function without women, and shows me how grateful he is that I support his business, and other endeavours.

I love that I have someone in my corner who appreciates me just the way I am, and that being me and my skills are good enough!”

Chantelle, Candidate Care Specialist, Stryker Canada, Hamilton ON


Julie’s Story: Rustin

“Undoubtedly, my most important male ally is my husband, Rustin.  A stay at home dad, self-proclaimed ‘manny,’ and my biggest fan, he is all in. Without him, our coaching business and family life would not be possible. He maintains the home, takes excellent care of our amazing girls, helps with our business, and is always there when I need that nudge or to vent about travel snafus. He’s our family’s rock.

When I originally brought my book idea to him about the important role of male allies  and how they support women for gender equality, he coined the book title ONE.  And, this title is completely fitting. Without him steering me, I would have ended up in a completely wrong direction. He’s my guard rails. He keeps me and our family grounded and focused. We’re lucky to have him.

When I think about a male ally, he’s the personification of one. Proudly sharing and celebrating women’s accomplishments, supporting his family in and out of the home, raising our children by showing them what good looks like, and instilling confidence in the women in his life. I’ve never felt a power struggle with him, he’s let be the strong woman I have always been. I have the freedom to be my authentic self.”

– Julie, Coach & Founder of Pivot Point
Indianapolis, IN

This story was adapted from Julie Kratz’s upcoming book, ONE, about the role of male allies and their support for gender equality: together through mentorship, sponsorship, management, and overall advocacy.  

More information about Julie’s work can be found at her website.

Michelle’s Story: Todd

“In the early stages of my career, I’ve quickly learned the importance of having a mentor, especially in the wealth management industry as both a female and a minority in a male-dominated environment.

I met Todd Norris while working for a local Registered Investors Independent Advisor as a Financial Advisor’s Client Service Assistant. Still being fairly new, we brought on Todd as a planner to support our team’s planning needs.

With both of us being new to the firm, I was helping Todd learn the ropes with operational procedures, while Todd educated me about financial planning. In the wealth management industry, it is hard to progress in your role without planning knowledge. Todd always graciously stuck out his hand to help me understand the reasoning behind certain planning tools, and why they were beneficial for the client. It is one thing for someone to “find” time in their busy schedule to help you, but it is another for them to “make” time. Every day I was sitting in a very fast-paced environment with no time to breathe. He always offered to help me with not only financial planning, but also with my own duties.

With Todd’s guidance, he added value to my experience and heightened the quality of my work.  Around the same time, we also convinced each other to take the Chartered Financial Analyst exam, one of the most prestigious designations in the industry. While Todd was already a Certified Financial Planner, his hard-working demeanor, but laid-back personality made it easy to confide in and trust him as I always felt constantly stressed with both work and my studies. He taught me the importance of work-life balance and to worry less.

While we are not currently working together, Todd has made a tremendous impact on my career and work ethic. The industry itself can be very demanding, but with someone’s praise and support, it makes the routine demand of work more enjoyable knowing I have a male ally on my side that I can reach out to when the possible seems impossible.

In the wealth management industry where female interest staggers, I believe having a male ally to help you progress to the top is one of the hidden secrets to success, and I am extremely thankful for Todd’s support as both a colleague and a friend.”

– Michelle, Client Relationship Specialist, Pinnacle Advisor Solutions
Baltimore, MD

Vanesa’s Story: Manuel

“I first met Manuel when I started to work in Group Leche Pascual in Spain. Not many members of my team came to say hello and he was one of the first ones. That is one of the most characteristic things about him, his way of treating people. He is a very welcoming, chatty person; since the beginning, he made me feel part of the group. This was important, because it built a foundation of trust.

I was an assistant inside of a big corporation, the first big company I’ve worked for, and there were many things that were both impressive and daunting. But Manuel, with his natural personality and his sense of humour, always made me think that nothing is impossible and we have to look further, in order to find ourselves.

Soon, there became a moment when I was very comfortable within my comfort zone, but I myself did not notice it. Manuel did. And he started to offer questions and make me think about opportunities that I almost wasn’t able to see for myself… Leading me to the most convenient and strongest path, and opening my eyes when I wasn’t able to do it.

He has been my inspiration many times and the person I have enjoyed my time most with, either working or in my free time. Manuel has helped me to add instead of deduct, and for that reason it is very important to be surrounded by someone like him.
I think we’ve become a very good team through our work together, and now, through our friendship, we still are.”
Vanesa, PR and Marketing
London, UK

Shelley’s Story: Reynaldo and Keyshawn

“I met Reynaldo Spalding in 1993 when he was just out of high school. We became fast friends as I was working on a story about life in inner city Los Angeles. Reynaldo and his fellow athlete, Keyshawn Johnson, who works for ESPN now, hung out with me and offered to do just about anything I needed.

I needed babysitters. So the two of them would alternate taking care of my then 6-year-old daughter. Keyshawn went on to play football at USC and then to the NFL and Spalding, aka “Skeats” went to Iowa and then began working with Keyshawn.

Skeats ended up living with us for a while and worked his way into becoming a football coach at Mission Viejo High School. I went to his state championship banquet just after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. He said it was his turn to babysit me. My daughter is now 31. How about that?”

– Shelley, Bureau Reporter, ESPN
Los Angeles, California


Shelley’s Story: Jack

Jack McCallum is a writer, formerly senior writer of Sports Illustrated.

I was a new, young reporter for SI assigned to the NBA finals in the late 1980s. I was terrified. Jack, whom I had never met, took me under his wing, showed me the ropes (who to talk to and how and where and when) and, most of all, showed me how to treat people. He was the most laid-back male ally I know — Hawaiian shirts and humble. During the next few finals, he gave his courtside seat to our intern, who was younger and greener than me, which was wonderful to see.

He is a hero in the NBA world and continues to be an inspiration to me as a budding author. I’m at the 2017 Finals right now and guess who I saw? Jack McCallum. Still at it strong.”

– Shelley Smith, Bureau Reporter, ESPN
Los Angeles, California


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Lindsay’s Story: Ken

“From the time I could speak, my dad taught me education equated to opportunity. He pushed me to be the best I could be and get good grades. Most of all, he told me to never believe in limitations others would put on me.

When the school told me taking all honors classes wasn’t wise, he encouraged me to rise to the challenge. When I was the only female trumpet player and the only student not taking private lessons, my dad encouraged me to practice on my own until I got to first chair. When math class got hard and I thought I couldn’t do it, he pushed me to keep working.

He taught me that, in many ways, failure was a mindset. I came to learn that no matter the obstacle or the critics in my way, If I set my mind to it, I could do it. Being a woman or being of a certain social class or being any classification at all was never deemed as a valid reason to back down from my goals. My dad taught me to ignore ceilings and strive for my personal version of accomplishment.

I am thankful my dad is the dad he is. We need fathers who are willing to teach their girls to ignore the limitations society tries to attach to genders. We need fathers willing to teach their girls to be tenacious and fearless in the pursuit of their dreams. We need fathers who teach girls that they can do anything and everything boys can do.

I am thankful that my dad taught me to achieve my dreams, not in spite of being a woman, and not even because I’m a woman.

He taught me to achieve my dreams simply because. Period.

Through that simple difference, I learned the strength of a woman.”

– Lindsay, Author
Hollidaysburg, PA

This featured story was adapted from Lindsay Detwiler’s article, My Dad Made Me A Strong Woman on Huffington Post.

Christin’s Story: Dr. M.

“‘Would you like to go to Cornell?’

It is the question that helped shape my entire career. If you would have told me 16 years ago, when I was an undergraduate student with a 2.7 GPA, that someday I would have a Ph.D. and be a professor of sociology, I wouldn’t have believed you. No one would have. Yet, I have an incredibly fulfilling career largely because of the many formal and informal mentors who’ve helped me along the way.

This post is about one of my male mentors, a sociology professor named Dr. M. who was particularly influential early in my career, who asked the question I would never have asked myself.

My academic background as an undergraduate had been tenuous. I had majored in English Language and Literature, and my GPA made it difficult to land a job. I eventually got a job doing social work at a local domestic violence shelter; the position didn’t require a college degree, the hours were long, and the agency was underfunded. The work was exhausting and emotionally draining, and paid less than my waitressing job in college. It was a humbling and eye-opening experience.

It was a dear friend, Heather, who had suggested I go to grad school. Actually, she first suggested (with a perfectly straight face) I become a senator. I didn’t know anyone who had gotten a Ph.D. or run for public office. Yet, Heather encouraged me to think bigger. So, I took a graduate-level course in sociology at a nearby university. I loved it and it didn’t take long for me to know I wanted to become an academic sociologist. I applied to a Master of Science program in sociology and I worked hard to build my credentials and compensate for my undergraduate record. I took classes and worked on my thesis during the day and I continued doing social work full-time at night. I applied for scholarships and awards, attended conferences, and volunteered.

Everything I did during those two years was with one goal in mind. I wanted to have a competitive application when I applied to Ph.D. programs. I knew that the kind of academic job I wanted was increasingly difficult to secure and, consequently, it would be important for me to get into a top-ranked program. Dr. M. helped make that happen.

Dr. M. was influential in many ways, but two things in particular stand out. First, he agreed to chair my thesis committee, at a time when I was frustrated to find professors to take on the role. I had excelled in my graduate classes, yet I feared professors didn’t want to work with me because of my previous academic record. (I now know that faculty know little about their students’ beyond the work they do in class. Rather, the job is voluntary and time-consuming.) I had come into the program to demonstrate I could do graduate-level work and to build a network of sponsors who could write letters of recommendation for me. I needed someone to take a chance on me and Dr. M. did.

Second, when it was time to apply to Ph.D. programs, Dr. M. changed my life with a single question. I had narrowed my list down to 9 schools, all of which were reasonable places to pursue graduate work, but Cornell was not on the list. Truth be told, I thought such a place was beyond reach. Yet, Dr. M. suggested I apply to Cornell. I remember the moment clearly. He was sitting at his desk and nonchalantly asked, ‘Would you like to go to Cornell?’

I remember thinking the question was silly. Of course I’d like it, but it didn’t seem possible. Yet, he suggested that I apply in such an offhanded way, as if getting in was not the problem, but rather which school I preferred to attend.

This question set in motion a career trajectory beyond my wildest dreams. Had he not suggested Cornell, I wouldn’t have applied and I certainly wouldn’t have been accepted or graduated. I am keenly aware that academia is not a meritocratic system. Opportunities beget opportunities. Because of where I did my graduate work, I was able to learn from some of the most renowned sociologists in the world. I got to stay in graduate school—and was fully funded—for 8 years. I took on an ambitious dissertation project, which helped me land a prestigious postdoc at Stanford. The postdoc eventually led to my first academic appointment and now my current position which is, in every way, my dream job.

In retrospect, Heather and my male mentor, Dr. M., both did something similar. They were confident in my abilities and introduced me to possibilities I couldn’t imagine for myself.”

– Christin, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT

Chelsea’s Story: Scott

“I worked for my uncle Scott the summer after my freshman year of college, as his home renovation ‘apprentice’ :  a medieval word, but really there’s no better descriptor. A retired architect, Scott bought a sprawling house on the side of a ravine in Bayside, Wisconsin and committed the rest of his life to making it absolutely, painstakingly to his taste. He was — and is still — a perfectionist of the most maddening order.

My job was to do the kinds of character-building tasks you read about in fables.

One morning I showed up to his house to find six square yards of manure and a wheelbarrow in the driveway. (Imagine a four-foot tall mountain of poop filling a small bedroom.) “I’m leaving for the day,” he said, “When I return at 4pm, I want to see all that crap carefully placed into the flowerbeds down the side of the ravine. If you spill any of it along the way, I’ll know.” After precisely eight hours, he was back to criticize the twenty-five yard trail I’d inadvertently carved into his lawn. Much yard-tending ensued in my days ahead.

He had me sharpen all the pencils in the house so that when we measured and cut wood for his handcrafted window frames and baseboards, our incisions would have surgical accuracy. If he ever caught me using a blunt pencil, he’d either stuff a new one into my hand or threaten to make me clean the basement — which, despite my many efforts, never sparkled quite to his liking.

As the summer progressed, I realized that in allowing me to work on his projects, he was trusting me with his most beloved possession. His house represented his life’s work. He let me select the matting and framing for all of his artwork. He consulted my opinion on wall paint and hardware. He encouraged me to care about a project by embracing its minutia, and demanded that I raise the standards for my own work to meet his. “God is in the details,” he liked to say, though I’m pretty sure he was an atheist in everything other than home renovation. That he expected me to even come close to his level of artisan care was a high compliment — and a huge vote of confidence in me.

The most important thing he did was choose me to be his apprentice. It sounds simple. As a professional woman I can tell you it’s not. I knew that the job he expected me to do is primarily done by men. The fact that my gender never came up — not once, not even hinted at as the reason for my many, many shortcomings during my renovation learning curve — is so significant to me.

I’ve had countless bosses in the thirteen years since I worked for Scott — most of them older males, all of them a cake walk following that summer apprenticeship. Few have had such a lasting impact on my professional character. The voice of Scott’s exacting manner rings in my ears on a damn near daily basis — it motivates me to push things a little further, and to demand a little more of myself and those around me. His standards for me have since become my standards for myself. Sometimes people struggle not to judge my work through the lens of my gender. But I never question my drive or my pride in a job well done, because that’s what he taught me:  to judge my work only as a professional.

Men: you should never underestimate the influence you can have on the women you invest in,  and the positive impact of treating them as you would anyone else in the workplace. We carry your empowerment with us throughout our careers, throughout our lives. With that kind of foundation, women can just focus on doing good work. That’s as simple as it sounds.”

– Chelsea, Marketing Director
San Francisco, CA

This story was adapted from Chelsea’s article My uncle, the unconscious feminist on Medium

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