Male Allies Key in Curbing Sexism & Harassment at Work

I’ve always believed men have an important role to play in establishing the kind of society where women can wholeheartedly thrive and be equal.

I came across this poignant article on HRDive about a recent conference in the United States where a lawyer held men in attendance accountable for supporting women who are victims of sexism and harassment. Below is a recap.

Men attending the Society for Human Resource Management’s conference in Chicago received a call to action June 19th, with attorney Jonathan Segal asking them to be affirmative partners in standing up and speaking out when they witness sexism.

Male allies play an important role in addressing workplace discrimination and harassment based on sex because the challenges are too great for half the population alone to solve them. In these situations, there’s something that would be tragically ironic if the responsibility to prevent and remedy harassment should be left to women when women are, more often than men, the victims.

What does it take to be an ally?

It’s not a pin you wear and it’s not something you put on your social media profiles. Being an ally begins with the fundamental belief that we have to make sure that ‘equal employment opportunity’ and ‘non-discrimination’ are more than just buzzwords.

2018 needs to be the year when men make sure that harassing behaviour doesn’t survive. In many organizations, men have disproportionate power, which comes with a huge opportunity to do what’s right, especially during day-to-day operations.

As men, it’s important to send a cultural message that women are equal partners. This includes putting a stop to talking over women in meetings, or giving a male employee credit for a woman’s idea. This doesn’t mean you can’t have disagreements at work, but they have to be civil and professional.

This also includes refraining from excusing others’ sexist behaviour. For example, if a male employee makes a sexist joke, it’s not appropriate to turn to the lone woman in the room and say, “He didn’t mean it.” This signals that the joke wouldn’t be a problem if she wasn’t there. In truth, you don’t have to be a woman to be offended by sexism.

Much like any form of bullying/harassment, doing nothing when you witness this behaviour can make you as guilty as the person who’s bullying/harassing.

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