As we shared in our last post, we are thrilled that our new book, ONE: How Male Allies Partner with Women for Gender Equality, will be available early October! Our next three blogs will feature sneak peaks of the new book, with exclusive content from our research and interviews with successful women and male allies. For the next wave of gender equality, it is critical that men are involved in the movement.
This post will unpack the four key areas where male allies partner with women for gender equality are by:
- Channeling the women they empathize
- Asking for her HERstory
- Speaking up with her
- Doing the fair share
Channel the Women You Empathize
Think About What You Want for Your Daughter, Mother, or Spouse. Male allies shared incredible insights into the strong women in their lives that they cared about, and acted as a source of inspiration to transfer that care and compassion to other women. These men often were selfless in their gives of mentorship, sponsorship, or in how they managed women. They saw them as humans just like them, and did what anyone would do. They downplay their extraordinary efforts as ordinary, yet as I shared this with women, they responded that they wished there were more men like this. Male allies, although all around us, are more of a rare breed than they realize. Our belief is that these men see themselves as “normal” because they have channeled the strong women in their lives subconsciously, seeing the women they work with as extensions of their “normal” reality.
Look for a Woman that You Can Positively Impact. Male allies succeed best when they are paired with women that are looking for advice, coaching, or guidance on areas that women need or want. These men shared that they aligned themselves with women that leveraged their strengths. By channeling those that you care about, you find other women that can be elevated by your expertise and experience.
Be Her Ally, Not Her Father. This mantra surfaced throughout the research constantly. Women underscored how much they wanted support, guidance, coaching, mentoring, sponsoring, but did not want men to be the knight in shining armor coming to the save the day. Although gender socialization teaches us women from an early age to be saved by men, this notion is exactly the opposite. Do not solve her problems, get obstacles out of her way, but do not do it for her.
Ask for HERStory
Ask Her Questions. This strategy requires male allies to park their assumptions about what she wants, and instead, ask her what she wants. This is incredibly important in the workplace as women often balance caretaking and their professional responsibilities. Many assumptions are made about what she wants without her ever saying that she wants or does not want opportunities. Men that asked were often surprised to learn their stories and how they could best support her. The powerful questions starting with “what” and “how” yield some amazing insights into male ally partnership.
Focus on Her Strengths. We’re far more likely to be successful by focusing on our strengths, rather than our weaknesses. Male allies can redirect women to focus on their strengths, rather than worrying about their limitations or lack of experience in an area they want to pursue. Through shifting the lens to what is possible, male allies help her eliminate obstacles, real and imagined, and focus forward.
Coach Her to Success. Self-discovery is a powerful tool. Male allies shared endless tales of times they coached their peers, direct reports, and the women they cared about in a positive way. As women, we can often be our worst enemies, and hold ourselves back by focusing on our fears. Male allies facilitate thinking beyond the barriers and hold the space for her to find her own path forward. She is far more likely to own her plan if she builds it herself, rather than being told what to do.
Speak up with Her
Meet the Wharton 22’s. I met a group of phenomenal men in our research, the Wharton 22’s, affectionately named after the pay gap upon their initial formation three years ago. These men have a male ally organization with a mission “to decrease gender disparities and change thought processes that lead to them by encouraging awareness, dialogue, and action on the part of men within the Wharton community.” They show us what good looks like for best practices for other organizations to adopt, including:
- Having a succinct mission statement focused on gender equality and specific issues the group intends to improve (pay gap, leadership gap, etc.)
- Being inclusive of men and women in events, publications, and discussions
- Coining a playful, inclusive name to positively enlist the support of male allies
- Developing a leadership team and board to be strategic and forward thinking
- Supporting with mechanisms to facilitate conversations real-time (T-shirts, social media, slogans, etc.)
Be Her Voice When She is Not There. Sponsors do this so well. As women are often not in discussions when decisions are made at the top ranks of leadership, male allies must be her voice when she cannot be present physically. The only way for male allies to do this effectively is to know her story and represent her fairly and objectively based on what he knows she wants and where he believes she can best succeed.
Mentor Her. Mentors are different than sponsors. They have done what she wants to do. While male allies make themselves openly available for women mentees, they approach mentorship collaboratively, not telling her what to do, but discussing with her, not deciding for her. There is a big difference that women shared about being told what to do, versus having a voice in the decision. It’s far more empowering. Women do not need a male ally to be her voice, just to listen to her voice, and speak up with her, not for her.
Do the Fair Share
Be “All In.” Author and former reporter, Josh Levs, shared some astute insights in his interview for ONE. His book, All In, showcases his personal fatherhood story and outlines strategies for paternal leave policies and gender inclusive workplaces. Our society emphasizes the role of mothers, downplaying the role of fathers. The subtle expectations that men will stay late at work, and women will take the children to the doctor’s appointments. Josh changes the conversation, enlisting men to be “all in,” showing us all what good looks like for other male allies to follow suit.
Divide and Conquer. Male allies and strong women leaders shared stories of taking the family responsibilities and dividing and conquering. Strategies shared included: calendar sharing tools, listing household responsibilities and defining owners 50/50, and travel and parenting schedule planning aligned with each other’s work schedules. There is no silver bullet solution here, yet many felt less stressed and less burden of the infamous work-life balance conversation that seems to be a “woman’s problem.” When men do the fair share, women are less stressed, and the relationship (and sex life) improves.
Have a Plan. Women with a plan win. Women that partner with male allies ask for help. They speak up when their day or week is lopsided and they cannot do it all. Male allies engage in collaborating on that plan professionally and personally to be a 50/50 partner. They know the importance of having proactive conversations and help shape the plan that is best for both together.
We appreciate your support in advance of ONE. Please join us in celebrating the book release at the Speak Easy in Broad Ripple on Thursday, October 5th from 6-8pm. Registration is free, yet limited, sign up here. Next time, we will dig into Part TWO in more detail, and wrap up with our male ally challenge.
#genderequality #ONE #heforshe #maleallies