PROMOTE Leadership: Supporting Mentorship of Women in US Special Operations Command

It is a privilege to serve on the Board of Advisors for PROMOTE Leadership, effective January 2018.

Our mission is to promote mentorship and leadership development of women in the US Special Operations Command.

PROMOTE’s work is in the true spirit of cross-gender mentorship: men and women serving as mentors for our nation’s women military leaders.

If you would like more information please contact me or view more of PROMOTE’s great work at their website.



Photo Courtesy of Sonali D’Silva

Sonali’s Story: Selvan

“In 2003, I walked into the office of a senior leader at one of India’s leading Information Technology organisations in the city of Bangalore. I was a young leadership and management development facilitator aiming for a big job.

Back then, gender diversity and equality weren’t popular terms, and men weren’t being called upon to support women as they are now. Plus, I didn’t know the importance of a male ally in a male dominated world for a woman.

I found myself sitting in front of an unassuming, calm and approachable person. He sat behind a wooden desk and with team photographs and trophies lined on shelves all across a wall. He smiled reassuringly at me, and I instantly felt comfortable.

That was Selvan; head of a large training team that undertook a range of people development programs and projects for our global organisation. At the end of my interview, he walked down a set of stairs with me, asked if I wanted lunch and then led me to the nearest on-campus café. He even made a menu suggestion! Selvan then explained and wrote out directions to get to my final HR interview. This gesture of thoughtfulness and care has always stayed with me as one of his great leadership qualities.

I got selected and stayed on for six years with the organisation, and Selvan remained the head of our team and my skip level manager through that time. I can confidently say that his mentorship steered my career in a far better direction than if I had met a leader who didn’t focus on crafting a young woman’s career and providing her support and guidance through those crucial years.

Selvan shared his intention to be a mentor and sponsor right from the start. We would often meet in our pantry, and instead of nodding and moving on with his coffee, he always had a question to ask. Through these frequent and informal interactions I grew in my confidence to be myself and not try to fit in.

While he was my manager’s manager, he never talked down, patronised or brushed away a concern, instead, he was a great listener. Selvan truly had an open door policy. He engaged in a way that I knew I could walk in and talk to him. This helped me understand how things worked, which in the natural course of male dominated corporate life, rarely happens for a young woman starting out.

Selvan always pushed me to think bigger and not hesitate to share brave ideas about how I saw my career growing. I now understand the significance of those conversations much better.

Another great leadership value I saw exemplified in Selvan was his sense of fairness. He made sure I got my due credit even when I would be the most junior person in a task force to have contributed. Instead of ignoring my share, he paid close attention to the quality of my work and I always knew how I was doing and what I could do better. To have merit, initiative and competence rewarded in this manner proved crucial for my future career.

I hope this story helps someone identify if they have a male ally in their lives. Selvan has set a high bar for me ever since on how I engage with men. I’ve used his example several times as I’ve taught leadership skills across levels over the years.”

– Sonali D’silva, Founder and Principal Consultant, Equality Consulting
Adelaide, Australia

Sonali D’silva is author of Corporate Nirvana and is in the process of writing her second book ‘25 Practices of Inclusive Leaders‘. Sonali has spent two decades of her career in leadership and management development; her current work involves helping organisations build Inclusive Leaders, expand the influence of women leaders, and involve men in Gender Equality efforts.

View the original post at The Corner of the Court Project.

Article | Passing Shots: Reflections on a Year of Storytelling & Male Allyship from The Corner of the Court Project

by Rachana Bhide

This article first appeared on LinkedIn December 29, 2017. 

December 30th, 2017, marks our first anniversary at The Corner of the Court Project! One year ago, Megan, our first brave voice, submitted her story about her male ally, Dave, as a step to encourage men to play an active role in gender equality.

I say Megan was brave for two reasons: Megan is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy and currently manages the airfield at Tyndall Air Force Base. But Megan, and the other women who were early submitters to our project, also showed tremendous courage in submitting a story, having had no idea what the project would become. They simply believed in our concept and stepped up to share a personal story – of a father, a boss, a mentor – to help explore how positive examples of male allies would resonate.

Since then, we’ve published 30 stories from diverse, successful women, and the impact that our featured male allies have made are just as diverse and impactful. Whether a man of great positional influence like an NFL coach, or a man of great familial commitment like a husband or father; the male allies in our stories represent the capability of every man to be a strong supporter of women and gender equality.

What We’ve Learned

Reflection is an important part of being a good ally, and in the spirit of role modeling that behavior, here are The Corner of the Court’s reflections on our first year – or as I affectionately sum them up, the “Three P’s.”


After we posted our first story at the end of 2016, at the start of 2017 I (perhaps somewhat boldly) wrote, “Now that 2017 has kicked off, I am sharing a personal resolution to make an impact on strengthening the support for male allies.” One year ago, I, like many of us, had no idea exactly what 2017 would bring in terms of visibility to gender dynamics, abuse of power, and the role of men: as perpetrators of abuse, but also as allies in the workplace and at home.

Particularly as the #MeToo movement raised important awareness of widespread abuse, we carefully examined how our project could support women’s voices alongside the painful stories being shared. We tested our message and found women were still very interested in sharing their ally stories, with strengthened resolve to encourage men to be positive influencers of change. We were hopeful when women readers continued to submit their stories of allyship, and specifically encouraged men in their lives to read the stories for examples on how to be a positive male ally.


There are a lot of extraordinary people and teams who are committed to gender equality in the same spirit that we are – to build capabilities of men to be better mentors, bosses and allies.

Our partners have done so much for us in our first year. They’ve given our work visibility and critical dialogue through podcasts and television interviews. They’ve expanded our reach through conferences and various platforms online. They’ve given us tools to educate male allies in workshops and over dinner conversations. They also believed in us and have helped share our mission; often, they’ve referred great women to share stories on our site.

Here are some of the partners, friends and supporters we are proud and grateful to have leaned on during our first year:

Athena Rising (David Smith and Brad Johnson)
Better Male Allies
Bloomberg LP
Columbia University
Jennifer Brown Consulting
J.T. O’Donnell, Work It Daily
Julie Kratz, Pivot Point
Lean In NYC
Men Advocating Real Change (MARC – Catalyst Inc)
MeTyme Network
Protege Podcast
Ray Arata / Better Man Conference
State of Mind
Women in Sports & Events (WISE)


A number of our stories are those of “where I came from” – women talking about the first boss who became a lifelong mentor, or sharing the first lesson she recalls her father teaching her. One of the real gifts I receive from doing this work, is the opportunity to continue learning as a psychologist and researcher. I would be remiss if I didn’t say every story touches me in a unique way. One of the most vulnerable articles I wrote was a personal story about male depression and suicide; discovering that our project also supports men by acknowledging their positive contributions – it is through the stories that our women willingly share about a loved one, that I have been able to witness the importance of letting men know they can make an impact.

Positivity (and positive psychology) is a recurring theme of our project, and it’s because it’s so important to reinforcing and repeating good behavior. And it’s the very foundation of the relationships we reference when calling men gender partners and good “allies” (see: Unconscious Advocacy).

What’s Next…

More stories. More tangible behaviors that help men be better allies. More partnerships and gratitude for those committed to gender equality. These are how we will serve up the “next set” of stories and articles in the new year.

Wishing you an ally-filled New Year and great start to 2018!



“I like to tell people when they work with me, they are getting a ‘two-for’. I’m a Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. My husband, Todd Saxton, also teaches at the Kelley School, as a Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship. On many projects, we are both involved – either formally or behind the scenes: we are true partners in that we share ideas and seek the other person’s input. Most people and projects then, get both of our ideas, rather than just one person’s.

Todd is an ally in many ways. I am lucky to have him. He watched the struggles his mother faced in her generation, and can spot inequality early. Metaphorically, if I’m pushing a stone up hill, he’ll push with me… or will back up when I say, ‘I need to do this myself’ and be my biggest cheerleader. We have listened to ‘Lean In’ together. But, he also holds my feet to the fire. If I am being biased against other women (hey – we are all human), he’ll call me out on it. We make each other accountable for advocating for women and minorities.

One role Todd plays very well is anticipating and raising issues on my behalf if needed. The research shows that if a woman or minority engages in gender/ethnicity balancing, they are penalized. But, men gain respect when they advocate. If I raise a statistic or gap about women’s representation, for example, it may land with certain stakeholders as, ‘There goes Kim again.’ But Todd recognizes the situations in which his voice could hold more influence, and proactively addresses issues head-on. He will say things like, ‘What are we doing to support the women?’ Or, ‘we all know that these performance metrics may be gender biased…’

When I’m happy and successful, Todd is too. Said differently, he doesn’t sacrifice himself to help me. He helps me when doing so is something that brings him happiness and in his best interests. That way, he never resents the help he’s given. Our ‘two-for’ partnership shows how gender equality can greatly amplify the impact we make in our careers.”

– Kim, Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
Indianapolis, IN

Read this story and others at The Corner of the Court Project


“I had a great boss, Shawn, when I worked as a Technical Consultant in Market Research at Eli Lilly. Shawn did two things very well: he knew how to navigate the company culture to build influence, and he showed his advocacy through a behavior I call signaling.

Shawn hired me to create change by developing the technical expertise in marketing and market research for the organization. If you value a person, you want to make them successful; at Eli Lilly, they highly valued pedigree. When Shawn introduced me, he used my full name and credentials, leading with “This is Kim Saxton, she has a BS from MIT and her MBA/PhD in marketing and statistics from IU.” In doing so, he was setting me up for success immediately among the senior team and other staff.

He would also display a powerful behavior, signaling. When I was to serve as his delegate at a meeting, he’d go in with his coffee cup, say hi to those already there, and then leave as the meeting began. Everyone then knew that I was his delegate. Then as any initiative was getting started, he would introduce me and let me run the meeting or presentation. One initiative, he set up 33 presentations that I managed on his behalf. The intentionality he showed certainly reinforced his commitment to me, and to his overall role as an advocate.

Shawn and I had a great working relationship. This was in the pre-laptop days. As a technical consultant within Lilly, I was working with 10 different brand teams and on several organization-wide initiatives. We had a big presentation on one initiative to the top management team – the top 13 executives at Lilly. Shawn came in over the weekend to help me prep the final presentation. But, he was color-blind. So, as we were changing graphics on the slides, he would ask me which color – which row and column? When I finally took a vacation and came back, he noted, ‘Holy moly. I had to get on your computer to find a file. I was shocked. I had no idea how much you’d been working! I’m glad that so many teams are asking for your help. Thank you for just taking it all in stride.’

It seemed like a win-win-win situation. He helped me be successful, he made the organization better, and he demonstrated how to be a great male ally.”

– Kim, Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
Indianapolis, IN

Read this story and others at The Corner of the Court Project