How Can Men Be Allies to Women in the Workplace?


At The Pink Thread, we have firmly considered, right from the onset, that the battle of feminism cannot be fought by one gender alone.

More so, it should not be fought by one gender alone because we truly believe the outcome stands to benefit both genders to lead more wholesome, balanced lives.


Both before and even more during our journey at The Pink Thread, we have had men follow, like, share and support our articles and some have even voiced their urge to want to help.

In 2014, Emma Watson addressed the United Nations urging men to join the feminist movement under the banner #HeForShe. President Obama has always called himself a feminist. Thus, the concept of Men as allies for the advancement of women at the workplace is not a new one.


In India, we believe, the idea is even more important because we need men as allies in the workplace but also and more importantly, we need them to be an ally at home. The plea is even more urgent, with the most recent workforce participation rate for urban women in white-collared jobs at 20.5%, a shockingly low number compared to countries at the same level of economic activity. Historically, men here have been forced into stereotypical roles - family breadwinner, cultured into thinking ‘boys clubs’ at work and post work beers are the norm - activities that disregard the presence of women in the workplace. More so, at home, the kitchen and child care, to a large extent are even today seen as solely a woman’s responsibility.


Worldwide, BCG data shows that among companies where men are actively involved in gender diversity, 96% report progress. Conversely, among companies where men are not involved, only 30% show progress.

Despite the data, many organizations still miss the mark on gender equity efforts by focusing gender initiatives solely on changing women — from the way they network to the way they lead.

Gender inclusion stands to benefit all:

  • Men by giving them flexibility to break patriarchal stereotypes and live well rounded lives without the financial burden of the family only on their shoulders.

  • Companies: Women bring new skill sets on the table and help companies avoid blind spots and cater to a diverse market more proficiently. A 2015 McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

  • The economy and the world at large - a study by McKinsey projects that in a “full potential” scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men, $28 trillion dollars (26%) would be added to the annual global GDP when compared to the current business-as-usual scenario. This impact is roughly equivalent to the size of the combined Chinese and US economies today.

Being an ally, has broadly two sides to it: intention and action.


Intention:


The first step is to recognise if you as a man; or as a woman, if your husband, boss or colleague has the intention to want to help the movement. It is also useful at this step, to help men understand their self-interest in the matter. For example, how your earnings would mean less financial pressure and stress for him at home; or how your growth would directly impact business numbers; and lastly how your participation in the workplace can actually impact the GDP of the country! As Radhika had educated us, only 27% of Indian women participate in the workforce and if we add a mere 10% to this, we would be adding 700 billion dollars to our GDP.


Action:


Now, a lot of men who have the intention to help, are either uncomfortable to raise their voice on the subject or are simply lost on what they can even do to support the movement but their participation is critical to the movement. Given the long standing gender gap, men today hold more positions of power and influence and are thus often in a better position to influence more accelerated change. Both genders have been fed toxic gender roles for such a long time that the first thing we need to be taught is to unlearn these ideas, and only once we do this, does it create a safe place to re-learn new ideas and let true gender equality emerge.


As a man, if you do want to help, and need a hand, here is a small list to get you started:

  1. Recognise the bias: This may sound obvious but might be the most ignored. It is important to accept and recognise your own privilege and bias and the gender bias of those around you too. Speak up.

  2. Start from your own home: Your support need not always be on a large podium but can simply begin by breaking the barriers and creating an equal environment for your own wife, daughter, daughter in law to succeed at work.

  3. Lend Your Voice: Raise your voice by talking about the benefits and need for feminism both online and offline. Share articles like this one on your LinkedIn, write your own experiences on the positives of supporting women in the workplace. And maybe even start by standing up for a woman in the boardroom if she is interrupted. Use your influence well.

  4. Mentor: You have the experience that you can lend to women who are working their way up the ladders. Maybe you can go one step further and connect them to an opportunity too.


It is important to note here that being a true male ally may not always be a celebrated cake walk. Self committing to minimal sexism in your behavior is only the first step and may (hopefully) come easy. The hard part is going the extra mile to use your experience and influence and become a public ally and we must add the disclaimer that there is a fair chance this may come with some backlash. Men, who are seen to be collaborative as opposed to fiercely competitive may be perceived in an uncomfortable light. And if you really stay committed to the cause up till the end, there may be times you will even be expected to question and upset the status quo.


The internal dilemma that may also arise is that learning about the professional challenges of women may produce feelings of self-shame or self-blame that could cause anxiety. Please remember that the solution is more interaction and learning, not less.


Lastly, as a woman, it is important to be open to the support you stand to receive. Don’t shun a man for being at a women’s event to lend his voice and don’t put him on a pedestal either. As companies too, you must work to create a culture that supports men as allies.


If you have read this article, and want to be an ally:

  • Share this to your network

  • Reach out to us. We are looking to feature men’s voices on our page.

  • If you are an organisation and have a ‘men as allies’ policy in place, please do tell us about it. If you want to create one, we can help!


We are reachable on hello@thepinkthread.com Let’s #CollaborateNotCompete!