Men – we need you!
Gender inequality continues to be a pervasive issue within the workplace despite the tremendous efforts of many. Women supporting women has long been the strategy to tackle the gender-based barriers within the workplace such as: the glass ceiling, pay-gap, scarcity of mentors or role models, unconscious bias, sexual harassment and more.
Whilst these efforts have been instrumental in many of the changes we have seen towards a safe and equitable place for women within the workplace, the gender gap remains persistent and changes have become somewhat stagnated. For the progress to continue with momentum we might need to consider switching gears on our strategy.
Herein lies the solution, we must encourage men to become active allies in the fight for gender equality in the workplace, let me explain why.
The brunt of responsibility should no longer be placed on women to solve a system that is structurally biased against them. By ignoring the importance of men’s role in closing the gap we are ignoring the systemic nature of gender inequality. Sure, men benefit from the current status quo, but they will also benefit from an equal workplace, as will women (win-win).
Gender equality affects all of us, so that means equal responsibility in attaining it.
However, whilst ‘men as allies’ is certainly not a new concept, there continues to be an issue with engaging men as active allies. Active male allyship is the exception rather than the norm. So how do we engage men as active allies?
Active allyship is not simply about being unprejudiced and notionally supporting the cause, it is taking on an active role in the pursuit of gender equality. Active allyship includes taking personal responsibility to be informed on issues facing women in the workplace. Active allyship includes challenging the systems, practices and culture in place that cause or sustain inequality. Active allyship is consciously championing your female colleagues to ensure they receive equal opportunities and investing in their career trajectories.
Engaging Men as Allies: WE NEED YOU!
Here’s what you can do as a man in the workplace and in society…
In order for men to be active allies we firstly need to ensure that there is a collective understanding of the problem at hand and we all understand our role. There are three key elements to this pursuit.
(1) Get personal – take the time to listen to women’s perspectives and stories and ask appropriate questions about the daily barriers they face as a women in the workplace.
Getting personal can include mentoring relationships between men and women where personal life experiences are shared and respected. It can also include speaking to people who you feel are successfully demonstrating active allyship and asking for their advice.
(2) Educate yourself – do not solely rely on others to teach you about gender inequality, do your own research, read, watch and listen to the many resources that are available about this topic. Educating yourself places the emotional and cognitive burden off women to educate you.
Educating yourself can also include participating in training and workshops dedicated to unconscious bias or women in leadership. There are a plethora of resources available online, books to read and podcasts to listen to, take advantage of these to develop a foundational knowledge of the topic or to further your prior knowledge.
(3) Acknowledge your privilege – as an ally you may never understand this topic in the way women do, acknowledge that and be open to constantly learn and grow.
Acknowledging your privilege can include asking for feedback, this might be from your female colleagues or friends. Be open to receiving criticism about your knowledge and conduct. Let women know that you are an ally and that you want to do better.
…and it’s about time this responsibility gets taken seriously”.
To the women reading this, remember this – to achieve equality we need to share equal responsibility.
If you are open to sharing this responsibility consider how you can encourage male allyship through the three key elements listed above.
This might mean being open to discussing your perspective and experience, if you feel comfortable. This might mean suggesting your favourite podcast or book on the topic. Lastly, this might mean having difficult discussions with men and providing them with feedback.