Why we need men as allies and how to engage them as women leaders
After finding myself in the 20th room of all women trying to fix “women’s issues,” I had an aha moment.
How are we going to fix the challenges facing women by ourselves? Given that men are still the majority of decision makers inside organizations (95% of CEOs and 80%+ of senior leadership), what are the chances of success when we exclude them from the discussion?
Not very good. And that is exactly what has happened in the last 30 years of feminism. We have been successful in gaining awareness around gender equality and the challenges holding women back.
Yet, the success has largely been limited to consciousness raising, not consciousness shifting.
We have been excluding a key demographic in this conversation – men. 50% of our population and most of the leaders inside organizations making decisions, they have been left out.
We told men what NOT to do, not what to do.
We can see some of the likely consequences of this non-inclusive behavior in the recent rash of sexual harassment allegations.
The conversation cannot just be about the problems – it has to also be about the solutions.
In our research for ONE, we found that men want to be engaged in the dialogue. They care, and not just because they have daughters, or were raised by single mothers, or have been positively influenced by women in their lives; they believe in it.
Male allies support women because they believe it is the right thing to do.
Over and over again, we heard this resounding message – “I am not doing anything special. I support women because I care, because it’s the right thing to do to help humans.” Yet, when I share this message with women, they scoff and often have a quick response, “they should meet (fill in the blank non-male ally). He is not like that.”
Yes, not all men are male allies. In fact, when we interviewed Chuck Shelton for our podcast (check it out here), he shared three key groups of allies – those that are lagging, learning, or leading. I liken this to a normalized curve, where men that get it are leading as male allies (roughly 20%), those that are learning are in the middle (60%), and the other tail is lagging (20%) and may never get there. As women, our opportunity is to reach out and engage those that are learning. That likely want to help, just do not know how. These are what I call “men on the fringe.” They are scared (just watch the news – who wouldn’t be) and do not know what to say or do.
We need to create a safe place for men to support us. As women, that’s on us.
This is reinforced by a Boston Consulting Group article where they found:
- Including men works. Their data shows companies where men are actively included in gender diversity, there is 90% success, and companies that exclude men achieve 30% progress.
- Men have a different perception of gender equality. Men tend to overestimate the progress companies are making to achieve gender equality. They often do not see the barriers facing women because they do not experience them. Privilege can be blinding.
- There are solutions. Based on their research, they recommend five key strategies: flexible work policies, model the right behaviors, communicate fairly, sponsor a high potential woman, and get involved in company-specific initiatives.
Interested in learning more? Follow our blog series, download your Male Ally Action Plan, and order your copy of ONE at NextPivotPoint.com.