Top five tips for male allies

The 2019 theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) was Balance for Better, with the aim of driving more balance between men and women when it comes to equal pay and opportunities. An often overlooked word in that sentence is ‘men’, especially in the context of IWD to which many men (and some women) seem to take the hump. ‘So when’s International MEN’s day?’ they ask. If Alexa is in the room she will answer, ‘November 19th’.

Men are a key component when it comes to gender equality. However, the idea of men speaking up on this topic is still seen as controversial. Women don’t need men to fight their battles for them, I totally agree. But we could all do with some support at times to feel that we aren’t alone in the struggle, that it isn’t just us, that we aren’t imagining there is bias. And yet men hold back from stepping in, we don’t want to be thought patronising, or creepy.

I have been speaking up in this space at work for about 10 years now, and I encourage more men (and women) to do the same. While not everyone is going to thank you, and you will get push back and criticism, I have found that you can really make a difference. It’s not enough to think “It’s not me, I’m not sexist”, you really have to lean in. If you aren’t part of the solution then you are part of the problem. Here are some tips that I found have worked for me.

  1. Pay Attention – every time you are in a meeting, count the number of women. Keep a tally of how often they speak. Notice whether a woman is asked to take notes, or get coffee.
  2. Really Listen – make a point of listening actively when women speak, proactively seek out women’s opinions and ideas, both at work and with your family and circle of friends.
  3. Amplify – if a woman’s idea is attributed to someone else, step up and give credit to her. Often it seems men don’t hear women’s ideas as much as they hear ideas from other men.
  4. Support – make yourself available as someone that women can talk to when they want to discuss a project, or a career move. No need to give advice, it’s often enough to listen.
  5. Advocate – speak out when you notice any examples of bias happening. Ensure women get equal opportunity for projects, promotions and pay rises. Volunteer at women’s events.

Brian Ballantyne works for a global tech company and is a diversity champion. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and also find out more about his blogging as #confessionsofaworkingfather in his book.