Updated: Sep 19
In the span of the past five years, I've had a series of revelations. Women from various industries, ranging from the UK Fire and Rescue Service to even distant places like Australia, began confiding in me about the disparities they face at work. What started as hushed conversations with close colleagues soon became a steady stream of voices wanting to be heard. It hit a nerve just last week, as multiple strong women highlighted how toxic environments and toxic behaviours from individuals they worked with pushed them to leave their jobs. It's disconcerting that such narratives are now a commonplace feature of my workweek.
In today's workplace, many women continue to grapple with deeply entrenched barriers, often facing a gauntlet of challenges their male peers might never encounter. From subtle forms of side lining and patronising comments to more blatant instances of bullying, victimisation, and harassment. What's even more alarming is the escalating number of reports pointing towards sexual harassment. These challenges aren't just statistics; they represent daily struggles, stifling the potential and diminishing the well-being of countless talented women trying to carve out their rightful place in the professional world.
But here’s the puzzler: Why are they turning to individuals like me? It boils down to trust and the hope that someone who supports equal rights and opportunities will stand against any form of unequal treatment along side them. As an advocate for fairness, I envision a workplace that upholds the dignity and respect of every individual irrespective of their gender.
So, how can we, as men, genuinely support our female colleagues? Here's my guide:
Create an Effective Male Allyship:
Listen Actively: Be present, and truly hear the experiences and concerns of female colleagues. It's not just about being a sounding board; it's about understanding the nuances and depths of their experiences. Don’t be tempted to offer advice just yet. Listen and ask questions that extend your understanding.
Educate and Grow: Engage with resources on gender issues. Attend workshops, read articles, and participate in discussions to deepen your understanding of the multifaceted challenges women face.
Speak with Care: Address any form of discrimination or inappropriate behaviour you come across sensibly. Approach such situations with tact, aiming to educate rather than accuse, ensuring that lessons are learned. This includes challenging up as well as down in your organisation.
Mentor and Advocate: Using your skills and experience offer guidance on topics women are seeking your mentorship for. Beyond mentoring, actively advocate for their ideas in meetings, support their promotions, and be their champion in professional spaces.
Distribute Responsibilities: Ensure tasks are equitably allocated. Whether it's leading a project or planning an event, ensure women are given opportunities to shine. Lets not default to notetaking in meetings as a role for the female in the group.
Challenge the Status Quo: Consciously work against outdated norms. For instance, if a female colleague is always expected to take minutes for the meeting or manage business lunches, question why and suggest a rotation.
Seek Feedback: Nobody's perfect. Openly ask for feedback from female colleagues on how you can be a better ally and make efforts to refine your approach based on their insights.
Supporting our female colleagues positively impacts both individuals and the entire workplace. Here’s a glimpse:
Positive Outcomes for Individuals:
Boosted Confidence: When women feel backed, their self-assurance amplifies, making them more vocal and assertive in professional settings.
Mental Well-being: An inclusive environment, where one doesn't have to constantly guard against bias, reduces stress and fosters mental health.
Professional Advancement: Allies can play a pivotal role in guiding women through potential barriers or biases they might face, paving the way for their growth.
Authenticity: In an environment that encourages authenticity, women can be themselves, leading to increased job satisfaction.
Growth for Allies: Embracing allyship deepens one’s comprehension of issues beyond their immediate experience, fostering personal growth.
Repercussions for the Workplace:
Innovation Boom: Diverse teams, backed by allies who ensure inclusivity, come up with better more innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.
Retention of Talent: Employees stay where they feel valued. An inclusive environment makes employees feel seen and appreciated, reducing turnover.
Stellar Reputation: Modern consumers and potential recruits look favourably at companies known for their inclusivity.
Peak Productivity: A harmonious environment, free from conflicts arising out of biases, naturally drives up team morale and productivity.
Holistic Decision Making: With male allies ensuring women have a seat at the table, decisions made are more comprehensive and encompassing.
Legal Safeguarding: Actively countering discrimination protects organisations from potential legal challenges.
Upholding Values: Making diversity and inclusion tangible, beyond just corporate jargon, reinforces the company’s commitment to its core values.
In essence, allies don't merely support women but actively contribute to moulding a richer, more inclusive organisational culture.
To wrap up, the essence of male allyship means being supportive - it's about creating an environment where everyone, irrespective of gender, thrives. Men taking proactive steps to understand, educate, and challenge themselves and their workplaces are critical in fostering genuine equality. As these narratives and guidelines have shown, it's not merely about addressing disparities; it's about cultivating a richer, more inclusive professional culture. When men champion their female colleagues, they not only uplift individual women but also fortify the very fabric of the workplace. In doing so, we're not just building better workplaces; we're crafting a better future, together.