Being a Male Ally is an Important Part of My Role as a Senior Director — Here’s Why

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Photo Courtesy of Columbia University Information Technology.

Photo Courtesy of Columbia University Information Technology.

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Fairygodboss
April 15, 2024 at 8:32AM UTC

As Senior Director for Business Intelligence at Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT), Jose Garcia spends much of his time strategizing about the CUIT Business Intelligence mission. But one thing he has never had to strategize is whether or not to practice male allyship. To Garcia, being a male ally also means acknowledging male privilege exists and using it to change behavior that encourages inequality, period. At CUIT, Garcia’s dedication to gender equality has been met by a workplace culture that values gender diversity — a recipe that has allowed Garcia to grow and lead a diverse team while empowering women across the organization. 

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Recently, Garcia shared a bit about his career in Business Intelligence, how he is practicing allyship, and advice he has for men who want to do more to achieve gender parity. He also spoke to how CUIT is supporting women, what makes a great boss, and the career advice he got that set his path to Senior Director. 

How long have you been with CUIT? What about it made you first want to join?

I have been with Columbia University for just over two years. After working at another Higher Education organization for nine years, I was ready for a new challenge and to apply my experience in a new environment, while also learning new business intelligence technologies.

What are your main job responsibilities, and what about your role most excites you?

In my role as the Senior Director for Business Intelligence, my main responsibility is to define and implement the long-term strategy, vision, and roadmap for the Business Intelligence mission at Columbia University. Working with a team of 15 talented developers, I am also responsible for ensuring that the day-to-day operations run smoothly and that our clients receive excellent customer service and continuous improvements to our business intelligence offerings. 

The most exciting part of my role is having the ability to shape the future of technology at the organization and to use technology to improve the lives of many people. Each day is a new adventure and there are endless opportunities to grow and learn.

While we’ve made progress toward achieving a more gender-balanced workforce, 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?

Day to day, I try to be mindful of being inclusive in all-team activities and group decisions. It is important to ensure that the voices of all team members are being heard and solicited. As an example, in a meeting situation, I keep track of who is speaking up and ask those who have not spoken up to do so, regardless of gender, so everyone has an opportunity to contribute and shape the discussion.

What kinds of longer-term initiatives are you participating in to advance gender equality at your workplace (whether an employee resource group, mentorship, etc.)? 

I partner with my recruitment colleagues to ensure we are recruiting women candidates and that we speak with as many female candidates as possible. I also make certain that my team engages in best practices around recruitment to ensure a strong female talent pipeline and to give any female candidate a fair shot at an open role. In my two years with Columbia University, my team has grown by four members, two of whom were women.

Why do you believe CUIT is a particularly supportive place for women employees? 

My experience working with our Talent Services team has often demonstrated we’re an organization that’s very supportive and mindful of diversity and inclusion. The University’s Office of Work/Life provides valuable resources to all employees going through various stages of life, such as flexible work arrangements, a generous paid-time-off policy, lactation rooms, elder care assistance and much more.

Additionally, Columbia University organized a Women in Technology group some time ago that CUIT, in partnership with Barnard and Teachers College, and Columbia University Irving Medical Center, later revitalized. It’s composed of three committees -- focusing on community outreach, professional development, and providing a great place to work for women -- and the only one on campus. Last year, CUIT co-sponsored the University’s first Women in Technology Information Security conference. This all-day event brought together women, and men, at every level from student to senior executive to share ideas and discuss important trends in information security and technology; as well as explore ways organizations can attract and retain more women in these sectors. 

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? 

When work opportunities present themselves, try to recommend a female colleague for the role.  When staffing a project or major initiative, ensure that there is female representation on the team, and try to always be mindful of soliciting the expertise, opinion and perspective of female colleagues.  

In addition, when you are a witness to gender inequality, call it out for what it is. Acknowledge that it takes courage to call out your male colleagues for inappropriate or insensitive behavior, or when they engage in gender inequality. Use your male privilege to change the behavior. Being a male ally never stops and there is always an opportunity to do more.

What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?

It’s difficult choosing just one. I would say the best quality of my best boss was being a great listener. My best boss had the ability to listen to and value my ideas, solicit my feedback, and learn from my experiences. They taught me that to truly listen means to be open to having your opinion changed. In times when it would be easier to dictate next steps or “the right answer,” they would take the time to genuinely listen to my point of view and have a mutually respectful dialog and exchange of ideas. The two-way dialogue made for a stronger and more collaborative relationship.

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?

The most memorable piece of career advice I ever received was about leadership and managing people. The advice was to always display the characteristics of a great leader in every interaction you have at work, big or small. Not only should one demonstrate leadership during difficult times or a crisis, but also in the small day-to-day interactions with your team. It is in the many brief, daily exchanges with your colleagues that you are building up (or eroding) your reputation and effectiveness as a leader.

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