Forte Connect
Men as Allies

Men Step Up as Workplace Allies

With the launch of the Men as Allies program last year, Forté and PNC know that achieving equity in the workplace requires men to be part of the equation.

Men as Allies drives participants toward embracing a model of inclusive leadership and champions corporate HR strategies that strengthen the link between the company’s talent management processes and efforts to support the promotion of women and other diverse employees.

Forte jointly created Men as Allies (MAA) with PNC, which piloted the program with a group of the company’s employees in 2018. Caitlin (Cat) McLaughlin, Senior Vice President with responsibility for Talent and Total Rewards at PNC, and a Forté board member, helped steer the dialogue and identify the program as the kind of ground-breaking effort that PNC wanted to champion.

“Until Cat asked me to lead the work with Forté, I wasn’t sitting around asking myself questions about men’s role in helping women,” admits Josh Stewart, PNC’s Director of Talent Programs and Accessibility. “Focusing on talent and diversity, including gender, came naturally as part of my work around diversity and inclusion, but my consciousness on allyship wasn’t really raised until I was given this opportunity to co-develop MAA.”

The MAA modules that Stewart helped to craft encourage men to notice how gender influences both women’s and men’s work experiences. The objectives are to increase their comfort with discussing gender issues, help them to develop and refine their gender lens, and enable them to create action plans to make a difference within their individual work settings.

As each module was created, Stewart’s particular lens as a member of the LGBTQ community enabled him to push the dialogue further regarding our culture’s many assumptions based on gender.

Stewart said one of the most impactful activities in the curriculum is a homework assignment to ask three women from different realms of life — mothers, daughters, spouses or colleagues — specific questions about their experiences around gender. What do they wish men would know or think about?

“Throughout the program, men hear about and read research on gender inequity and bias, but it isn’t until they engage in this one-on-one dialogue that they realize it’s not something that’s ‘out there, happening to other women’; it impacts the women who they know in very real and tangible ways,” Stewart said.

Stewart points out that the MAA program can’t give allies a specific list of things to do. “An ally’s role is very individualized; it requires them to know women, have working relationships with them, and look for clues and cues on how and when to demonstrate allyship. An ally’s role is going to be different from conference room to conference room, setting to setting — and this can be challenging for men to navigate.”

After running the pilot program last year, PNC is retooling and refining a bit. “We want to target the right audience; we’re looking for influencers, folks who can both take individual action and then teach and influence others to do the same,” Stewart said. “The company is also considering where PNC’s women’s leadership development program can intersect with MAA and how they can serve as resources for one another.”

Learn more about the Men as Allies program and how it can impact your school or workplace.

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