Advancing women in the workplace and gender equality are topics I’m passionate about. One of the most effective ways that we can make progress in both these areas is when men actively support women. That means, not just talking the talk, but actually doing something to make a difference.
I spent three years on my company’s Global Women’s Alliance committee, and I’ve had many conversations with men about allyship. I noticed one common theme – most of the men I spoke with truly wanted to help, but they didn’t know how to. Their intentions were good – they didn’t want to get involved because they wanted women to have a “safe space”. They didn’t know they were “allowed” to speak up on the topic, and didn’t want to “steal the spotlight”.
Another theme I’ve started to notice more is that most of the men who have become successful allies to women are in leadership positions. There is an emphasis on managers and leaders to advocate for their female employees and peers, but there is no guidance for men who are individual contributors to do the same.
Today I’d like to share 3 really easy ways that men can becomes allies to women. I know most of my readers are women (feel free to share this with men), and to the few dudes reading – I salute you, and hope you find this helpful!
1. Ask how you can support
It may feel weird to start this conversation out of nowhere, but that’s ok. Asking how you can best support someone rarely has any downside. To make this specifically about allyship, reach out to your women’s committee – if you have an enterprise social networking platform, you’ll most likely be able to find a group there.
If that feels like too much to take on, then show up to one of their events so that you can learn more. If you’re uncomfortable, you can always send a note to the organizer and ask if you can attend!
Outside the workplace: ask the women in your life what they’re struggling with, and truly listen. Then, instead of trying to fix the problem or explaining what you think would work, ask how you can support.
2. Call out bad behaviour
This is something I feel really strongly about, and I don’t think it’s done enough. I understand why. Confrontation is hard, and humans are wired to try and fit in and belong – voicing an alternate opinion takes courage and effort.
I am so incredibly fortunate to work for a leader, a man, who isn’t afraid to speak up to defend gender equality. He’s not afraid of being seen as “less manly”, “too liberal”, or “insert other dumb patriarchal reasons here”.
If you hear someone say something you know is offside, call it out. A simple “hey, that’s not cool” will do. If you notice a woman is being spoken over in a meeting, you could intervene with “I believe Jane had an idea, let’s kick it back over to her” It takes a little bit of bravery, but goes a long way in levelling the playing field.
Outside the workplace: The same strategies apply. I’m so proud to have a husband who doesn’t participate in sexist locker room talk, and wears a t-shirt that says “FEMINIST” without any qualms. I’m so proud to have a father who hired, mentored, and promoted women throughout his entire career. I’m so proud to have a brother who always speaks up for what he believes in.
3. Pitch in with the chores
Yes, I am talking about chores in the workplace! My first corporate job was an entry-level role, and I had an equal number of men and women as my peers. One thing we did every month was organize a lunch meeting.
We’d order takeout, it would arrive in a meeting room, and the women would set out the plates and food while the men filed in and sat around the conference table. Every. Single. Time.
Until one fateful day, when my colleague spoke up. She dropped the cutlery she was arranging, whipped around to face our manager (a man), and said “You could help, you know.” He sheepishly sauntered over and helped us set out the rest.
I was so in awe of her, and so mad at myself for not saying something sooner.
Guys, it’s proven that women do most of the administrative work in the office. Whether that’s setting out lunches, planning meetings, being the notetaker, remembering teammates’ birthdays, etc. This has a lot of implications (it takes up valuable time and can hinder women’s careers, over time if they decline these tasks they’re seen as “difficult” or “ungenerous”), but at the end of the day IT’S JUST NOT FAIR.
So, pitch in. Send that meeting invitation yourself. Volunteer to be the notetaker. It’s as easy as noticing and then taking action.
Outside the workplace: Let me direct you to this article.
I hope you found this post helpful! If you have any other workplace topics you’re interested in, please let me know – I love reading and writing about them 🙂 Thank you so much for reading xox