How Women Can Help Men Be Their Allies
When it comes to creating fairness in the workplace, it’s not all on the guys.
“Women talking to each other, it’s half a conversation. We need the men to join us. There are a lot of men who are ready, willing, eager but don’t necessarily know what to do,” says Joanne Lipman, former editor-in-chief of USA Today and author of a best-selling book, “That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (And Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together”.
For women, building a strong workplace partnership with male allies includes finding a balance, owning relationships, and taking leadership.
Finding A Balance
There’s a sweet spot between living in constant “rally cry mode” for fairness and succumbing to grim resignation that things will never change.
How to get there? Assume goodwill while remaining proactive.
It’s tempting for women who have been marginalized to confuse shaming men with passionate advocacy for equal treatment. Good intentions among men are more common than many women might think. A Fairygodboss survey taken this past summer found that when men were asked if they wanted to help women advance in the workplace, over 87 percent said yes.
Fifty-six percent of the respondents to the survey said their biggest barrier to helping women advance was being “unsure of how to help.”
“Women can help men notice disparities in the workplace,” says Lipman. “Once their [men’s] eyes are open to it, they change.”
Men as allies initiatives accelerate when men step up to mentor and sponsor the women they work with. But mentorship and sponsorship “are a two-way street,” Steve Pemberton, divisional vice president, and chief diversity officer for Walgreens, told Diversity Woman in 2016.
“Don’t wait to be discovered,” he says. “Always be actively seeking a mentor.” As women engage mentors and other men to be their allies, it’s helpful to recognize that, as diversity consultant Jennifer Brown says, “Not all male allies are equally evolved.” Brown encourages women to “get in the room” with not only experienced male allies but also those who are just starting to recognize the need to be one.
Not all the managers and executives in position to be allies are men. Some—happily, a growing number—are women. As managers, they have a key role to play in building a culture of ally-ship for women. In a blog post, “Male Allies in STEM,” Leading Women urges women managers to take concrete “ally-actions” including supporting other women with “contacts, skills, an occasional pat on the back,” ensuring “their collective voice is heard,” and “tackling the uncomfortable truths she may hear about how another woman is perceived.”
Speaking up for each other—and for yourself—is ally leadership.
In The End, It’s All About Empathy
Women are understandably anxious to close the gender gap and achieve the workplace equality they deserve. But steps to enlist men as allies should reflect long term goals. Paolo Zeppetelli, HR COO of Barclays, urges both men and women to have empathy, “take time to understand and think from the perspective of the opposite gender. This is the key to gaining trust, understanding and mutual respect for each other when working together as allies.”