As a primary source of pay, position, and ultimately power, the workplace plays a vital part in achieving gender equality. But with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reporting a clear disparity between men and women’s level of pay and position in the workplace, it’s clear we have work to do — work that requires the support of male allies.
What is a male ally?
A male ally is a man actively supporting gender equality, which means they believe all genders should be able to access the same opportunities and resources with the same level of ease. To help more men become the best male allies they can be, we reached out for first-hand advice from 14 men actively supporting equality in the workplace and beyond. So be sure to read on for a wide range of guidance, as well as some great tips on how you can start making a difference on a daily basis.
How do you believe men can become better allies to women?
Jac Price | SVP for Supply Chain and Manufacturing Operations, Abcam One of the most important actions men can do is to become better educated on topics that impact women in their professional lives. Becoming much more aware of societal, structural (internal and external), and unconscious behaviors that impact women in the workplace will bring more actions oriented at systemic change. I think it starts with more awareness and then moving on to role model better behaviors.
Michael Stange | Global Head of Product Engineering, Iress To be better allies to women, men need to consciously and actively champion gender equality, diversity and inclusion, and leverage their position of influence particularly over other men to drive behavioural and cultural change. Male leaders in particular have an obligation to address symptoms of a “climate of silence” that has been found to stand in the way of people’s confidence and likelihood of speaking up and addressing sexist behaviours when seen in the workplace.
Sjoerd Leenart | Global Head of Corporate Bank, J.P.Morgan All men, including me, have to double up their efforts to be a true ally to women. The majority of leadership positions remain filled with men so we have both the ability and the obligation to create an environment where each person, women and men alike, feels at home and believes they have an equal opportunity to progress and succeed.
Danny Vaughan | Head of Metrolink, Transport for Greater Manchester By challenging the stereotypes that unfortunately still exist in the workplace. Also, by helping women colleagues identify and take opportunities to further their careers.
Rob Boland | Chief Operating Officer, Reward Gateway Accept that the world we live in is not an equal world for everyone and as a male, you consciously have to challenge yourself to acknowledge this and deliberately engage in dialogues focused on gender equality. The more men that become actively involved or even better, start conversations around gender equality, the better. By starting or being part of these conversations, walls get broken down and voices become louder.
Robert Hicks | Group HR Director, Reward Gateway So many different ways; mentor, include [women] in meetings, give development opportunities, take an active role in how you can help. Talk to your HR team about what they are doing in the gender equality space, and what you can do to help. Take a stance by declining to sit on any all male panels, and challenge your team to make sure they interview with female representation on interview panels, not just male interviewers.
In short, raise the bar in what you expect from others, lead by example yourself and keep on asking what more you can do. My final piece of advice is that it may take a while to get things going, and things may stall, and this is fine. Don’t let striving for perfection get in the way of making progress.
Terry Durkin | 4P Director UK & Ireland, Lenovo UK Men have to recognise that they have an advantage over women in the workplace. The conventions, policies, ways of working have largely been developed by men and so have a bias towards them, even if that is not intended.
Then I think men need to take a pause and listen to women and what they think about the workplace they share. How can it be enhanced for all? They must be prepared for answers that are not what they expect or agree with and ready to make changes on the basis of the input they receive. Men also need to keep working at it over time, every day, to give women confidence to say what they really think, not just what the men in the business want to hear.
Finally, I think men need to be prepared to take risks and lead. That means make changes for the good of the women in the business even if they know other men will ask them why. Every man can do that whatever their role. Don’t accept the status quo; challenge it.
What can a male ally do on a day-to-day basis in the workplace to drive gender equality?
Neil Cooper | Head of Change Delivery, Vaultex An ally should always focus on keeping gender equality at the top of their thinking and actions. I’m fortunate to manage a function that I believe is inclusive and fair, I have built this through conscious thought and decisions. However, as important as that is, it is equally important that I champion equality outside areas of direct influence and challenge actions and behaviours where not being applied appropriately.
Rob Boland | Chief Operating Officer, Reward Gateway Call it out when it is not happening — if you see gender inequality on any level you have to call it out and not let it happen. Also, keep educating yourself and the people around you.
Clive Evans | Head of Customer Management & Technology, Air Liquide UK On a day-to-day basis it's essential that men are proactive in giving women appropriate credit for their work. It's also important that when men facilitate business interactions such as workshops and video calls they make interventions if necessary to ensure women's voices are heard and their ideas are captured in the same way as men's are.
Patrick Ahern | Vice President of Client Success, Reward Gateway Being vulnerable and being willing to examine what behaviors I do that do not support an environment of gender equality. These may be unconscious where I don't even recognise I am doing them but they are counter to creating an ally-based work environment. Asking myself and the women members of my team to share the aspects of my leadership that are getting in my way of truly being a better ally to them at work?
Stephen Rhodes | Customer Director, Transport for Greater Manchester By ensuring all voices are heard, challenging bad practice.
Anthony Murden | Deputy Head of Projects Group, Transport for Greater Manchester Be conscious of unconscious bias. Be available and willing to listen and be flexible to respond to individual needs and requirements as they occur. Be mindful of ensuring any opportunities are provided on an equal basis, recognising individual strengths and weaknesses. Treat everyone as you would want to be treated.
Nick Gorton | Procurement and Supply Chain Director, Spirit Energy I think allies need to keep an eye open for any unconscious, or indeed conscious bias. We need to make sure that gender is never a selection criteria and that evaluation and assessment are inclusive. We should also not avoid the conversation if it is needed.
For me, it is as much about setting an example and role modelling the right behaviours, challenging the wrong behaviours and encouraging others to speak up and do the same, as well as becoming comfortable with learning about the challenges women face and the role that men play in them (whether intentionally or not). And of course being respectful, empathetic, supporting and understanding of the challenges that women face.
Why is being a male ally important to you?
Jac Price | SVP for Supply Chain and Manufacturing Operations, Abcam While many people will point to business results as a motivator, for me it is more ingrained in my growth as a person over the last three decades. I came from a very homogenous culture with virtually no diversity. Women were generally expected into certain roles and treated differently. Whether it's been family, strong personal friendships, exposure to a very active Society of Women Engineers (SWE), or numerous professional encounters over my professional career — I’ve observed how structural norms impact women’s ability to contribute. I’ve seen how much harder some women have had to work to get similar recognition. I’m compelled to help be an agent of change to improve.
Clive Evans | Head of Customer Management & Technology, Air Liquide UK Being an ally to women is important to me because when the potential of women is realised then the performance and resilience of our business will inevitably be improved. From a personal point of view it's great to play a small part in removing the legacy prejudices and raising women's expectations in what they can achieve at work. This includes helping women advance in terms of people leadership and enter areas where women are often under-represented such as technology.
Paul Hayler | Resourcing Manager, Southeastern Railway The railway industry is male dominated and 80% of women have never considered working in rail, therefore we are missing out on a huge amount of talent. I aspire to change this perception and promote that our career opportunities are open to everyone. By attracting a diverse applicant pool I can support the creation of a diverse workforce which truly reflects the communities we serve.
Michael Stange | Global Head of Product Engineering, Iress Being an ally is important to me as I believe that gender equality is fundamentally important to the realisation of human rights for all. I share a responsibility to create a society in which women and men enjoy the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all spheres of life.
I am also concerned by the underrepresentation of women in the STEM industries and the leading causes contributing to this. I see this as a serious problem because of the ever-increasing social and global impact these industries are having and how they are shaping our world. The underrepresentation of women means missed market opportunities, less innovation, and less diverse products and services being produced.
Danny Vaughan | Head of Metrolink, Transport for Greater Manchester I have a daughter. I have seen how women can be held back because of old fashioned attitudes and have witnessed how hard it can be for women to rise through the ranks at work compared to male counterparts, especially when often they are expected to take the lion’s share of domestic tasks as well.
Neil Cooper | Head of Change Delivery, Vaultex I firmly believe in equality in every aspect of life without exception. People are people, regardless of gender or upbringing. Equality of opportunity and reward should be agnostic, but based purely on capability and achievement. I have many female friends and colleagues who are more talented, insightful and smarter than male colleagues, but faced disproportionate challenges or obstacles to have their potential developed or rewarded appropriately. This cannot continue.
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