Having a voice is power. So what happens when you can’t get heard at work? When people talk over you in meetings? When men get actionable feedback and women don’t?
In this episode, I talk with Thomas Page McBee, the first transgender man to box in Madison Square Garden and the author of the moving new memoir Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man.
It’s a conversation that starts with the voice. And what happened when Thomas’ voice changed. How people suddenly listened to him in meetings. How it became easier to get a promotion. Easier to get a raise. Easier to command a room.
Jumping off from there, Thomas and I talk about the implicit gender biases that we act out at work, how you can create more balanced power dynamics, and why what irritates us most about others offers us a unique window into our “shadow self.”
Key takeaways from our conversation:
- Understanding the implicit gender biases we have at work, and how can we push back on them
- How to balance the power dynamics of work meetings to create a safe space for everyone to speak up
- Why asking for help, being vulnerable, and bringing up questions are viewed as “feminine” activities that men should avoid
- A revealing difference between how Americans and Scandinavians think about masculinity
- Why you should confront your biases and your “shadow self”
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“I started testosterone and six months later I had enough physical changes that people started treating me differently. Suddenly, it was much easier to get a raise. I didn’t really have to ask. I got promoted very quickly and I could see that, compared to the women around me, I was experiencing a different kind of privilege.”
“In performance reviews with men, we’re much more likely to use very concrete feedback, which obviously leads to actionable change. With women, the feedback is much more vague which means you don’t know what you need to improve, and how do you then become better at your job and get promoted, earn more money, etc?”
“I think the older we get, and especially for men, you’re not supposed to have questions. You’re supposed to just have answers.”
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A cheat sheet to the ideas and research that come up in our conversation:
- Thomas’ memoir, Amateur: A True Story of What Makes a Man
- Vague feedback is holding women back
- Precarious manhood in US versus Danish Men
- Tyson Smith’s Fighting for Recognition
- Testosterone can make men feel generous
- Robert Sapolsky’s research on testosterone and aggression
- How American masculinity creates lonely men
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
- Carl Jung and the shadow self
- Follow Thomas: Website | Twitter | Instagram
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