Impact Stories

For Noah Weiss, Male Allyship Is a Crucial Part of the Gender Equity Movement

Before pursuing his MBA at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, Noah experienced the music industry from all sides—as a jazz saxophonist, nonprofit concert promoter, and Hollywood-based manager for classic rock artists.

“As a white male, early on I recognized that I have quite a bit of privilege, so I’ve been hyper-aware of experiences going on around me,” Noah said. “Working in the nonprofit arts followed by the for-profit Hollywood side of arts, I witnessed strong women leaders have to navigate blatant biases in some situations. I wished I had better tools and the confidence to stand up—not just for my female colleagues, but for colleagues identifying with an array of sexual and racial identities.”

Men as Allies has taught me to be a better listener. It’s helped me solidify my view of the world, and now I have a toolkit and skills to respond to gender inequality.

When he arrived on campus, he took gender inequality head on and joined Tepper’s Women in Business club events. After learning that the club board wanted to start a Men as Allies chapter on campus, Noah jumped at the opportunity. Together with the club board, he designed a program focused on gender diversity that includes weekly co-ed group discussions, workshops and guest speakers, and a bank of online resources.

Becoming a male ally

At first brimming with excitement and ideas, Noah couldn’t wait to tell his fiancé about this new venture. But he wasn’t expecting her tepid response.

“I told her, ‘I’m going to lead this workshop on how to navigate women’s issues.’ And she looked at me for a second and didn’t say anything. And then she said, ‘What the hell are women’s issues?’

“For me, that was kind of pivotal,” Noah said. “There was a lot I just was either ignorant about or I didn’t have the tools to voice or frame correctly.”

So he doubled down on understanding what women really need from a male ally. What he learned: listen, step outside your own experience, then take action.

The Forté connection

Using Forté’s Men as Allies toolkit, Noah helped lead weekly discussions and made participants feel comfortable in sharing their perspectives.

“Many Tepper male students are on board with being an ally and learning more. They just don’t know where to start,” Noah said. “Something like even coming to a group discussion can be intimidating, if you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.”

None of us knows what’s going to be the perfect ally. It’s just about recognizing that this is a growth opportunity as you try to actively listen along the way.

In a recent meeting, Noah collaborated with the university’s diversity and inclusion center to lead discussions on toxic masculinity. Part of their discussion focused on a men’s razor ad that gives the #MeToo movement a different spin, encouraging men to hold each other to a higher standard.

“The commercial had some interesting implications for masculinity and for the future of business—because here’s a business trying to engage with these issues,” Noah said. “The mere fact that a big company like this recognizes that it’s important to talk about toxic masculinity, to me, is an indication of where the world is going.”

Influencing workplace culture

As Noah gears up for graduation and a new career with global consulting firm Bain & Company, he’s handing off Men as Allies to the next class and thinking about his impact.

“We’re sending about 200 people into the workforce—a lot of whom are male—with a better understanding of gender inequality and armed with terminology to talk about these issues,” he said about the first cohort of Men as Allies. “Now they won’t glance over an article about gender inequality in The Wall Street Journal, but they will actually read it.”

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