Laszlo Syrop perused the different student organization tables at the University of Pennsylvania on Club Day – a time when students sign up for on-campus organizations and societies. As an MBA student at Wharton, Syrop took an interest in the “Women in Business” table and asked how he could get involved. That one question was all it took. By the time he graduated, Syrop was an active member of the Wharton 22s, a group on campus that advocates for greater dialogue and awareness of gender issues.
Along with two other gender equality advocates – Sasha Smith and Chris Culver – Syrop spoke at Forté’s 2018 Women’s Leadership Conference on a panel about the importance of male allies on campus and in the workplace.
They focused on how men can do as Syrop did – participate in the growing dialogue about equality between the genders by asking one simple question: “How can I get involved?”
The content of the panel session aligned with work Forté has done with its Men as Allies Initiative. Featuring a Men as Allies toolkit, the site empowers men to better understand gender equality in a time when male and female workplace perspectives continue to diverge.
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that “women are about three times as likely as men (19 percent vs. 7 percent) to say their gender has made it harder for them to succeed at their job.” There’s an “echo chamber” around these issues, Syrop said. While men continue to dominate management positions, this differing sense of equality between genders will uphold itself until men realize their role in the conversation.
“It was not me coming in as this male saying, ‘This is exactly what I want to do,’” said Chris Culver, a member of Vanderbilt’s male ally group, Ambassadors. His group was not focused on men taking a leading role in the act for change; it was primarily about dialogue.
“It’s more of asking females, ‘How can we help?’” he said. A male ally is not a “knight in shining armor,” but an extended hand reaching out in partnership. His participation as a student in a male ally group later made him a better, more inclusive manager, he said.
Sasha Smith, a women’s studies graduate who received her MBA at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, knows what it’s like to need an ally. As a consultant in the tech industry, she is frequently outnumbered by male colleagues, some of whom may not understand the workplace challenges she faces. Male ally groups, like Wharton 22s and Vanderbilt’s Ambassadors, assures her that she is not alone.
“You might be lonely in that one conversation with your boss,” she said. “But know that there are other like-minded, well-intentioned people who want to make change like you.”
Men, outside the office and on campuses, can work toward equality by using their disproportionate power for good. “As unfair as that role may be, if I’m not going to make change, no one is,” Syrop said.