“We don’t wait for systems to work; we are the system. Anyone can be an ally or enemy of equity in workplaces through their actions or inactions,” — Rachel.
Despite the significant progress that society and women have made toward equality in recent decades, gender inequity is still deeply ingrained in many areas of our society. One of the places where this is most glaringly evident is in the workplace.
According to Harvard Business Review, women often have to navigate challenges and obstacles that their male colleagues do not have to consider. They face a persistent wage gap, are often underrepresented in leadership positions, and may even have to deal with biases and microaggressions from their coworkers.
Although institutions have more of a role to play, male allies are not left out in the fight for workplace equity. Men committed to promoting gender equity and supporting their female colleagues are critical in creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace. But being a male ally is not just about showing support; it’s about taking active steps toward dismantling the structures and attitudes perpetuating gender inequity.
Here’s how you can achieve that: Educate Yourself
Asking women about their experiences with unfairness and injustice can be a valuable way to learn about the challenges they face in the workplace and society. However, relying solely on women to educate men about these issues can put a heavy burden on them. It can also be limiting, as women’s experiences are diverse and complex and may not represent all women.
Hence, it is important to take the time to educate yourself and do your research. This can involve reading books, articles, and research on gender issues, attending workshops and training sessions on gender equity and diversity and seeking out resources and information from various sources.
By educating yourself, you can gain a deeper understanding of the systemic barriers and challenges that women face in the workplace and beyond and how you can help close up the gap.
Listen and Learn
One of the most important things you can do as a male ally is to listen to the experiences of your female colleagues. Listen to their stories and the challenges they face. Ask questions to gain a better understanding of their experiences, and seek out resources to learn more about the issues they face. Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers and that it’s okay to be uncomfortable or uncertain sometimes. What’s important is that you are committed to learning and supporting your colleagues. Some questions you can ask include:
- How can I improve your experience as a colleague?
- What can I do to make this workplace better for you and contribute to a fair playing ground?
- Are there some of my actions that make you feel left out and how can I be better?
Own and Use Your Privilege
As a man, it’s important to acknowledge that you may have certain privileges and advantages in the workplace simply because of your gender. This can include being more likely to be heard and taken seriously, having greater access to professional networks and resources, and facing fewer barriers to advancement in your career.
However, as an ally to women in the workplace, you can use your privilege and position of power to amplify the voices of your female colleagues and help them to be heard. This can involve actively listening to their ideas and perspectives, advocating for their ideas in meetings and discussions, and using your voice to support and uplift them.
For example, if a female colleague’s idea is dismissed or ignored in a meeting, you can reiterate her point, ensuring it is heard and considered. You can also make a point to actively include your female colleagues in discussions and decision-making processes, ensuring their perspectives are valued and represented.
By using your privilege to advocate for your female colleagues and create opportunities for them to advance in their careers, you can help to break down the systemic barriers and biases that prevent women from achieving fairness in the workplace.
Address Biases and Microaggressions, and be an Active Bystander.
Biases and microaggressions are pervasive and can have a significant impact on the experiences of women in the workplace. These can take many forms, from being talked over in meetings to being subject to sexist comments or jokes, harassment or discrimination. Biases can also be present in decision-making processes, such as hiring, promotions, and performance evaluations.
As a male ally, it is necessary to be aware of these issues and to speak out against them when you see them happening. Remember, your actions can make a difference and help create a safer and fairer workplace for women.
Create a Supportive Culture
Help to create a workplace culture that is inclusive, supportive, and respectful of all employees. This can include advocating for policies that support work-life balance, such as flexible work arrangements and parental leave. It can also mean creating opportunities for employees to connect and build relationships with one another, such as through social events or mentorship programs. By fostering a culture of support and respect, you can help to create a workplace that is welcoming and supportive for all female employees.
Finally, use your influence and platform to educate others about supporting women in the workplace. Share your own experiences and insights with colleagues and friends, and encourage them to become allies as well. Consider organising workshops or events that focus on issues related to gender equity in the workplace, and invite others to participate and learn more.
Being an ally to women in the workplace is essential if we want to create a workplace that is safe, inclusive, and supportive for everyone. It is a never-ending process that requires a commitment to continuous learning, reflection, action and acknowledging that we may make mistakes along the way.
It is also important to recognize that being an ally is not just the responsibility of men, but everyone. We all, including women, have a role in creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture.