Forte Connect
Men as Allies

Wo+Men: Gender Equity is Everyone’s Business

Men can play a strong role in gender equity initiatives.  Rather than being sidelined and struggling to find their place, male ally groups allow men to play an integral part of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.  They allow men a forum to educate themselves, a space to ask the uncomfortable questions, and a means to learn how they can contribute.

As an organization committed to more women leading, Forté has spent almost 20 years:

  • Educating women about the leadership potential signaled by the MBA degree
  • Creating a network of student and professional women leaders
  • Providing opportunities for talented women to engage with our outstanding corporate partners

The percentage of women enrolled in full-time MBAs has grown from 28% when we were founded in 2003 to 38% now. With many of our business school partners at over 45%, we have certainly seen our efforts succeed.  But more women in MBA programs alone isn’t enough.

The b-school classroom and campus environment needs to consciously be more women-friendly. When male ally clubs began forming on our partner school campuses, offering an opportunity for men to support women’s success at a deeper level, we jumped in to provide a toolkit and resources to better educate men about the role that male allies can play.

In 2018, we extended these efforts to the corporate space by providing resources so men might take an active role in the gender equity dialogue. One of the most surprising things about this effort, for me, has been how many women are wary of male ally initiatives:

“How is it that we’ve taken a women’s issue and made it all about men?”

 “Why do we need to educate men to treat everyone equally?” 

Has change ever happened when one group talked only to itself?  In a corporate environment in which men and women have (even if unequal) roles, why would we expect that we could enact change without the support of all?

Just read McKinsey’s latest Women in the Workplace report to see that conscious steps to eliminate bias in promotions are necessary to support women’s advancement – and we know that promotion decisions are made by men and women.

Male ally initiatives don’t make the topic of gender equity “all about men.” They allow men to better understand a women’s perspective.  And there is an important role for women in male allyship initiatives as well.

While men might better understand how their behaviors or word choices are perceived through participation in an ally initiative, women can learn to be more open to sharing their stories and experiences.

While men might take the time to explore their own relationship with gender, women can provide men the space and grace to ask questions and make mistakes.

So in following our own philosophy, Forté launched the Wo+Men Lead webinar series designed to have both women and men participate in conversations around gender equity.

You might have watched the first of the series in which our CEO, Elissa Sangster, and I talked about the role that women can play in discussing gender equity with men.   In February, our next webinar of the series focuses on the role of reciprocal mentoring, with additional events in March and May.

We hope you will join us for these events – more voices lifting the conversation only make for a better dialogue.

Amy Orlov is the Vice President of Programs at Forté, a role in which she exercises her passion for inspiring people by introducing them to new ideas and deep networks. Amy is constantly finding new ways to leverage and extend Forté’s current, extensive programming to provide additional impact on women in every stage of their career. Amy holds a Master of Education from the University of Maryland, and a Master of Government and a B.A. in Communications from the University of Pennsylvania.

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