I work in a male-dominated field and was leading a small meeting of three people to address some work safety concerns. Two of us were safety experts (I’m a woman, let’s say my name is Jane, and the other person is a man, who we will call Joe) and we were there to work with a third person (a man, who we can call Tom) to find ways to improve the safety performance of his team after several dangerous violations. I knew already that he had a hard time with women in authority. For example, in a previous meeting, I’d asked him several questions and he’d turn to the other man in the room to tell him his answers to my question, looking away from me. As before, Tom was more comfortable talking to Joe than to me. Tom said his piece and then turned to Joe and asked “How do you plan to proceed?” Joe didn’t bat an eye and said “Jane has a plan laid out and she should speak for herself” while turning the floor over to me with his body language. It was the first time I’d ever had an ally intervene on my behalf and it was so helpful.

I talked to Joe about it after the meeting and he said Tom will sometimes treat him as though he’s invisible so he felt prepared to intervene.