Gender inequality still exists. And to work towards a more equal future, we must all play a part in elevating women by being better allies.
Keep reading to see how YOU can play a role in choosing to challenge inequality and be an ally to all women!
What is an Ally?
According to Aspen Russell, a research assistant from the Association for Women in Sciences, an ally recognizes “unearned privileges in their personal lives and in the workplace. Allies act on inequalities by taking responsibility to end patterns of injustice. Allies do this through supporting others, using their position(s) to bring visibility and tangible changes to the systemic issues that differently impact individuals, groups, and communities… Being an ally is not an identity, it is a role.”
This is an awesome definition that touches on what an ally should do and what they must recognize!
How to Be an Ally
We can all be allies to women by helping to ensure their voices are heard, challenging biases, speaking out against acts of discrimination, and allowing women the freedom to express themselves without the expectation of gender normative stereotypes. Even encouraging the women in your life to pursue their interests and take more risks is a significant act of allyship; supporting and uplifting the women in our lives can have a powerful impact! By supporting each other, making a seat at the table, and bringing other women along with us whenever possible, we can make an incredible difference.
Men can also be incredibly impactful allies.
Gender inclusion must go beyond focusing on women’s actions and activities. Gender parity efforts are more effective when allies believe they’re truly playing an important role, and when they’re accepted by the disadvantaged group. It becomes an internal motivation to support gender equality efforts!
There’s also evidence that suggests when men play a larger role in gender inclusion programs, organizations see progress. According to Harvard Business Review, when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress towards gender parity. The key word is deliberately.
Allyship Tips for Men
So, what does allyship look like in our daily lives, particularly at work? Have you ever been to a meeting and noticed one of the women speaking up or sharing input, only to be interrupted or spoken over multiple times? Or maybe she gives valuable insight that’s only acknowledged once a man repeats it?
As an ally, this is a great opportunity for you to speak up and say “hey, [colleague’s name] actually said that just a second ago and deserves the credit,” or “I want to hear what [colleague’s name] has to say.”
Or if you’re having a conversation with a group of men, what do you do if someone speaks disparagingly about a woman colleague? You could speak up and let them know you don’t think it’s fair or funny. If they don’t curb the conversation, you could simply excuse yourself and walk away. Walking away signifies that you don’t support what has often been excused in the past as “locker room talk.” Next time, they may think twice before talking like that in front of you, or hopefully even at all.
Dos and Don'ts for Allies in the Workplace
ACTIVELY listen! Think about what's being said, seek to understand, and then ask questions. Keep up with the women who invite you into these conversations. Be genuine + value her experience (plus appreciate her willingness to share).
|RESPECT the space! Spaces created for women are a powerful platform to give women a voice and share their experiences with others. Be there to provide support.||When invited into these spaces, think before you speak!|
|Remember it's not always about you. Give women the stage when you can!||Resist the urge to reframe everything from your point of view, consider where women are coming from, and how their expertise may shape the point they're making.|
|While "mansplaining" might seem snarky, the term has some valuable lessons! Not sure if you've been mansplaining? Here's a useful chart!||
Don't "mansplain"--it's the tendency to:
|Give yourself grace! It's okay to be uncomfortable and it's okay to acknowledge when you don't get it right immediately. Learn from the past, interact with your feelings, and work towards creating that more equal world.||Don't shy away from feelings of self-shame, guilt, or anxiety. Those feelings are okay and they're a part of growth!|
|Engage in supportive partnerships with women! Ask how you can help women's groups. And share your social capital (information, influence, organizational resources, etc.).||Don't assume you know the best way to support women's groups.|
|Take informed action! Committing yourself to expressing as little sexism as possible is the easy part--what about in uncomfortable situations? When you need to upset the status quo?||Don't sit silently or ignore situations that might make you uncomfortable--it's those moments that help us work towards a more equal world.|
Dos and Don'ts for Everyone
|Identify your implicit biases--check out this implicit bias quiz!||Don't ignore unconscious bias--we all have them!|
|Compliment and recognize women for their professional AND personal achievements, their performance, abilities, and contributions.||Don't limit your recognition of women to only their physical appearance or attire, even if you think it's positive. Women are more than their looks.|
A Journey Towards Gender Parity
We’ve got a way to go in creating a more equal world, but it all starts with us. It starts with taking action in our day-to-day lives. It starts by supporting women entrepreneurs and pushing for more women in leadership. It starts with teaching young girls they can achieve anything their hearts desire from becoming an astronaut to a scientist to a CEO. It starts with us!
How are you supporting gender equality year-over-year? Month-over-month? Week-over-week? How are you supporting gender equality every single day?