WANTED: Many Good Men

WANTED: Many Good Men as Gender Equity Allies

double-whammy emotional intelligence - self actualization emotional intelligence leader executive encore gender equity Sep 23, 2022

How do we find and attract gender equity allies in our organization and network?

Based on my conversations in my network of women entrepreneurs, executives, and highly skilled professionals, men are a crucial and often overlooked ally of gender equity. Many of the men I meet and with whom I work do care about equality. They actively support gender equity. They are generous business mentors with so much knowledge and experience to share. However, many men are still hesitant and unsure of how they can effectively contribute. I often wonder, why is that? I have learned that being an ally in areas of equity is often fraught with myth, misconception, and discomfort.

Being an ally to women means having an interest and investment in the advancement and sponsorship of women personally and professionally —at work and in life. Therefore, allies need a full and accurate understanding of the imbalance in opportunity and empathy to be authentic influencers of change.

Speaking on behalf of many accomplished women in my network, we don’t want to be recognized or be given roles, grants, subsidies, or other special treatment to help us succeed solely because we are women! However, we do want and need economic empowerment for ourselves and for others.

Equality is often misunderstood as “treating everyone the same”. Oh, I have had that conversation often with men of all levels of intellect and cultural differences. Many have be taught (especially in the sales process) that women want to be treated "the same" or like men. We don’t want to be treated the same because we have very different needs. Recognizing and appreciating differences is key to equity. The misconception of “the same” hinders equity because it often excludes so many from access to equal opportunities! We want to be acknowledged and respected for the impact of what we can and do contribute.

Men who are valuable and effective allies recognize the challenges and biases women continue to face. They take action to create and promote an environment where everyone has access to opportunities to succeed and advance.

Most importantly, these men act as allies even when women are not in the room. Their integrity in word and action is paramount.

Why don’t more men ally with women?

Gender Issues and the Big Myth “Not my place”

I continue to share evidence and insights from the new book Glass Half-Broken.1 Authors, Colleen Ammerman and Boris Groysberg point to scientific research and studies on how some men believe that it is not their place to speak up about gender issues. Many are uncomfortable speaking up. They might dismiss responsibility or underestimate their impact by labelling the topic as a “women’s issue”. This psychological standing refers to whether an individual feels they have authority or legitimacy to act or have impact on a cause or issue.2

Studies find that attempts to bridge the gender gap are more effective when men understand and imbue principles of authentic participation. This involves:

  • Speaking up and volunteering ideas and action for addressing gender imbalance
  • Being visible and vocal in serving as equality champions
  • Understanding and examining their own personal biases regarding their own impact and women’s impact in business and the community.

The key is invitation: We need to ask men to participate

When the topic of gender equity allies comes up in my work, I expand the scope with my invitation to men to review how they can be role models for enrolling other men to participate in meaningful ways. If you are a man reading this blog, you can make a significant impact by:

  • Understanding the experiences and perspectives of female business owners, colleagues, and clients. Men who listen, ask questions, and gain understanding, can and do create meaningful change.
  • Amplifying women’s voices. Provide and promote a platform for women to speak. Amplify their voices without taking credit for their ideas and accomplishments.
  • Empowering women. Ensure that women not only have a seat at the table but that they have a voice that is heard and validated.
  • Acknowledge that women build incredible businesses, careers, and communities. Some women-owned business might start at the "kitchen table" while tending family responsibilities, but do not diminish the value or potential to grow and scale by labelling their businesses as "small-scale" or "cottage industry". 

The gender gap in business, at work, and in our community is not a special interest problem. It’s not a “women’s issue” or a problem for women to solve. The gender gap is shared. When men engage in the conversation and demonstrate authentic interest by listening deeply, demonstrate empathy, and share experiences and thoughts (without interrupting), they can foster awareness and be an effective part of and  partner in the solution.

Who are the gender equity allies in your organization and network? Be sure to acknowledge them and thank them for being our allies.

References and Resources

  1. Glass Half-Broken: Shattering the Barriers That Still Hold Women Back at Work, Colleen Ammerman and Boris Groysberg
  2. It is not my place! Psychological standing and men’s voice and participation in gender-parity initiatives. APA PsycNet 2017 – American Psychological Association


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