When men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, research shows 96% of organizations see progress – compared to only 30% of companies where men are not engaged. Now, that’s a huge difference!!
Still, many organizations today are missing the mark on gender equality issues by focusing gender initiatives solely on changing women – from the way we network to the way we lead. This approach reinforces the perception that these are women’s issues – effectively telling men they don’t need to be involved.
But, as The Magical Unicorn Project clearly notes, without the avid support of men, significant progress towards ending gender disparities is unlikely.
This article brings to light some terrific food for thought on how both men and women can improve collaboration and work towards promoting gender equality.
What can women do to better encourage male allies?
Women who want to dismantle sexist systems are well-served by appreciating the wide variation among male allies and the factors most likely to help them get better at collaborating with women to shrink gender disparities.
“Allyship” dedication from men can be broken down into four main categories:
1. Apathetic – Clueless and disinterested regarding gender issues
2. Aware – Has some grasp of the issues but not at all active or engaged in addressing them
3. Active – Well-informed and willing to engage in gender equity efforts, but only when asked
4. Advocate – Routinely and proactively champions gender inclusion
Although we may not wish to dedicate time to recruiting apathetic men to attend gender-inclusion events, we’re delighted to get in a room with the other three varieties, taking a shot at spurring their internal motivation and sharpening their ally skillset. The evidence is in. The more positive interaction men have with women in professional settings, the less prejudice and exclusion they tend to demonstrate.
What can men do to become better allies?
Here are some tangible recommendations for men who are invited to participate in women’s conferences or other initiatives as allies for gender equality in the workplace:
1. Listen! Listening to women’s voices in a way that inspires trust and respect is a fundamental relationship promise you must make, and then keep, with women who invite you to participate around equity.
2. Remember, it’s not about you. Ask women how you can amplify, not replace or take over existing gender parity efforts.
3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Developing psychological standing requires a commitment to learning and advocating for gender equity. Learning about the professional challenges of women may produce feelings of self-shame or self-blame that cause anxiety. The solution is more interaction and learning, not less.
4. Engage in supportive partnerships with women. The best cross-gender ally relationships are reciprocal, and mutually growth-enhancing. Share your social capital (influence, information, knowledge and organizational resources) with women’s groups but ask them – don’t assume – how you can best support their efforts.
5. Remember the two parts to allyship. Keep in mind that committing to express as little sexism as possible in your interactions with women is the easy part of allyship. The hard part requires you to take informed action. Use your experience in women’s events and initiatives to learn how you can best become a public ally for social justice around gender. When the time comes, this may require you to upset the status quo.
We’re surrounded by supportive men who are making a difference every day to help promote and advocate for gender equality. And we welcome more men to join in and be a positive voice for change!