Allies for Gender Equity

Male Allyship: A Cultural Mind Shift

Women and men see the state of gender-diversity efforts with striking differences. According to the Women in the Workplace survey conducted by McKinsey, only 8% of men believe their gender has played a role in missing out on a raise, promotion, or chance to get ahead, whereas 37% of women believe this to be true.

To close this large gap, we need more than a simple workshop. We need a cultural mind shift. We need participation from everyone, not just women. We need engagement from senior executives and front line managers. We need to convince employees to change their behaviors and show them how to incorporate these new actions into their daily routine.  We need male allies.

At Forté, we subscribe to the definition of an ally as created by partner company, and Men as Allies program collaborator, PNC — a person who joins with another in a mutually beneficial relationship of support.

This is not a one-time transaction but instead an on-going engagement.  Allies must repetitively evaluate their own behaviors and purposefully engage in the search and implementation of strategies and actions to create more equality.

Enter Men as Allies groups.  So often, when thinking about male allyship, the first question asked is “Can you give me a list of dos and don’ts?” While yes, there are dos and don’ts — behaviors and vocabulary that can support allyship — in my personal experience, just knowing what to do doesn’t always translate into action.

Take my diet, for example. I know that to lose weight, I should probably move more and eat less.  It’s never that easy, is it?  That knowledge piece is often out-shadowed by my experiences, my influencers, my surroundings (and, let’s face it, my mood at the moment!).

Instead of a one-hit workshop or training, we believe that a Male Ally group — a forum for men to get involved, educate themselves, ask uncomfortable questions, and clarify their own thinking — allows men the space to develop as integral parts of the gender equity conversation and not as side-lined players.

Allyship is not an event or an experience, but a practice — like learning a new language, refining your golf game, or modifying your diet.  Male ally groups provide the time and resources for men to progress through the following three phases of allyship and enable a continued focus on gender equality:

  • Increasing self-awareness by reflecting and understanding how gender influences the experience of men and women
  • Improving gender acumen by deepening an understanding of gender issues and raising awareness of workplace challenges
  • Advocating for women by developing personal action plans and promoting new behaviors

Without the first two reflection phases, men could miss the fundamental understanding of the urgency for, as well as the purpose and benefit of, gender equality. Making the workplace discrimination experiences of women more concrete through 1:1 interviews, research analysis, formal training and lectures, allows male allies to see gender inequity as a workplace issue and inspires action.

If your organization doesn’t have a male allies program, we encourage you to order the Forté Men as Allies Corporate Toolkit, as well as to follow these simple steps to create a more inclusive environment in your company:

  • Learn about workforce demographics. Leverage Forté resources, add gender equality content to your networks, speak with women about their experiences of gender in the workplace, and share your findings with male colleagues
  • Amplify women’s voices. Notice team dynamics: who talks, who listens and whose ideas are recognized; ensure credit for work is attributed correctly
  • Change your everyday behaviors. Practice active listening, use inclusive language, encourage diversity on interview slates and sign-up for unconscious bias training sessions


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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