For too long, the fight for women’s empowerment and advancement in the workplace has been billed as just that — a “women’s” issue. But today, the role of men in ensuring that all voices are heard and experiences included at the office is gaining traction.
Talking about the need for male allyship is one thing. But how can we help more men take on the mantle of advocacy in practice? At Squarespace, men like Jonathan Peters are leading the effort to find out.
Since joining Squarespace in 2013 as a Support Operations Specialist, Peters has learned a lot from the women he works with by choosing to do one thing: listening. And in doing so, he says he’s gained a greater appreciation for what leadership that’s both strong and supportive looks like.
“While I believe that I’m a good manager, there is a relationship that my team members should have with someone like our Director of Customer Operations, Stephanie, because she sets an example for them that I simply can’t as a man,” Peters said. “She’s an incredibly strong role model for male and female employees alike.”
Recently, Peters shared with Fairygodboss a few of the supportive, inclusive things his employer is doing oh-so right — as well as his No. 1 piece of advice to other men who want to advocate for their women-identifying colleagues, too.
How long have you been with your company? What about it made you first want to join?
I started at Squarespace in 2013, only one month after moving to NYC from Berlin. I was looking for a job in a fast-paced company to balance out the often thorough but slow office culture in Germany that I was used to. Once I became familiar with the Squarespace product and dedicated myself to learning about the platform, I grew to love both its functionality and how it empowers customers to follow their dreams.
What are your main job responsibilities, and what about your role most excites you?
I work as a team lead in Customer Operations, which means that I’m responsible for hiring new advisors and helping my current team members to thrive in their roles. I care deeply about everyone on my team, and seeing them succeed is something that fulfills me every day.
While we’ve made progress toward achieving a more gender-balanced workforce of women from all backgrounds, there remains a lot of work to be done. What kinds of actions do you incorporate into your day-to-day routine at work (or beyond) to serve as a male ally?
I constantly work to be a better listener to my women-identifying peers and employees in order to get a better understanding of the needs and challenges that they face on a daily basis. I recognize their obstacles may be different from mine in a variety of ways, and the best way to help is to truly listen so that I can have a more informed understanding of the challenges they’re up against.
I also believe very strongly that my women-identifying team members should have the chance to foster a relationship with women-identifying leadership at Squarespace. While I believe that I’m a good manager, there is a relationship that my team members should have with someone like our Director of Customer Operations, Stephanie, because she sets an example for them that I simply can’t as a man. I work hard to build this connection between employees and leadership, through Stephanie especially. She’s an incredibly strong role model for male and female employees alike.
What kinds of longer-term initiatives are you participating in to advance gender equality at your workplace (whether an employee resource group, mentorship, etc.)?
Fortunately, Squarespace already has some excellent programming in place to support women-identifying employees at the company. One that I look forward to on a monthly basis is called “Women at Squarespace,” and it’s a very simple Q&A format that gives us allies the opportunity to listen, learn, and understand life from the perspective of our women-identifying colleagues. Farah Sheikh, a colleague on the Marketing team, hosts the speaker series in our café where employees are invited to come listen to women-identifying employees be interviewed by Farah and then ask questions of their own. Speakers have included Courtenay O'Connor (our General Counsel), Tanya Reilly (our Principal Engineer), and Kinjil Mather (our CMO). This series has opened my eyes to the various struggles that a woman can face along her career path, and I encourage all new employees to attend and be inspired by those who are willing to share.
Why do you believe your company is a particularly supportive place for women employees?
As a parent, I see perks like a private women’s nursing room at the office and generous company-wide parental leave as a great step in the direction of supporting working women and parents. The company also mandates a regular feedback system so that any employee has the opportunity to share experiences, positive or negative, with leadership confidentially. The hope for me is that this will foster an environment where women-identifying employees can feel safe to speak up about any discomfort as a result of their gender. I also think the open floor plan makes it easier to connect and talk to our women leaders so they can be role models for others following in their footsteps.
What’s your #1 tip for men who want to be allies to women at work but aren’t sure of what to do or where to start?
Stay educated and listen to the experiences that your peers have to share. Take these issues seriously even if you feel that they don’t apply to you. In fact, acknowledge when they don't apply, and ask questions so that you can learn.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
I truly respect the approach of my current manager, Stephanie. She has a very unique skill of protecting her reports from unnecessary stress. At the same time, though, she challenges us in a healthy way, never applying unproductive pressure.
She respects my focus time where I feel most productive to accomplish larger projects by being mindful with scheduling meetings. She also always follows through on the initiatives we are working on to challenge the outcome, and make sure that the success not only helps the department, but also helps us to grow our careers by giving the right amount of recognition.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
Try to be the best at what you’re doing always, and when you’re applying for a new role or a promotion, be critical of yourself and ask, "Have I done everything that I can to make myself a great candidate?" When the answer to this question is yes, then go out there and show it to the world.
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