Diversity and Inclusion

New Men As Allies Initiative Helps Men Navigate and Benefit From Gender Equity Involvement

maa-announceWhen she first heard about Harvard Business School’s Manbassadors group, Anne Weisberg had a “lightbulb moment.” An established expert on creating inclusive work environments, Anne realized that more men need to have a stake in improving gender equity. “The issues that women face in the workplace are not just about women. They are about the dynamics between men and women, and we need to bring men into the conversation to change those dynamics,” she says.

Anne is not alone in believing men can help advance gender equality. The United Nation’s HeforShe movement – since it launched its campaign two years ago – has galvanized one million men around the world to pledge support to improve gender equality. Through her Let Girls Learn initiative, Michelle Obama seeks quality education for girls so they have access to the same opportunities as men. She has spoken about the importance of a father’s support in contributing to his daughter’s future.

To help spur men’s participation in workplace gender equity, Anne – along with Lisa Levey, a specialist in diversity, women’s leadership, and gender equity in the workplace – partnered with Elissa Sangster, executive director of the Forté Foundation, to create the Men as Allies Initiative.

Men as Allies tools are the way ‘in’ for men to join conversation

In support of this initiative, the Forté Foundation has launched a new Men as Allies website, which contains well-researched information and practical tools. According to Elissa, “Many men have felt like outsiders, not knowing how to get involved,” and Men as Allies materials can help them take action.

The site contains valuable research findings, such as:

  • Women’s leadership and presence on corporate boards leads to stronger financial results;
  • Gender equality can benefit men, too;
  • Business schools have a unique role to play in supporting gender equality; and
  • Investing in women and girls has a positive multiplier effect.

Lisa – who conducted most of the research – said it is “important for men to have both autonomous, independent groups and a connection to women’s groups” in order to be successful.

Men benefit greatly from participation

The conversation about gender equity has traditionally been borne by women, but Men as Allies research indicates that men benefit from involvement through:

  • Developing more empathy, strengthening leadership skills and becoming more aware, versatile leaders;
  • Recognizing gender bias in action and equipping themselves with appropriate responses; and
  • Learning how to proactively support gender equality in their workplaces.

In a series of short podcasts, men shared positive outcomes from their participation in Male Ally groups. Kyle Grubman said that he had an “unconscious bias” before joining the MWB Allies group at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business but now has a heightened awareness about the issues women face. Daniel Ingram believes that “personal experiences are what really drive people to make a difference,” not data. When he was part of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)’s 22’s group, Daniel recognized that he wanted the women in his life to succeed and have the same opportunities he has. Billy Bennett – a leader of the WIMen group while at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business – said that his involvement has made him a “more empathetic leader” at work.

Because gender gaps start early and widen over time, according to Anne, Men as Allies materials can be “tremendously powerful for men who want to be change agents from day one in the workplace,” she says.

Current landscape: do challenges still exist for women?

Much progress has been made in the area of gender equity over the years, but these sobering facts provide a current snapshot of gender disparity in business:

  • Women comprise less than 5% of CEOs at S&P 500 companies. (Catalyst)
  • Women comprise 19.9 % of S&P 500 corporate boards. (Catalyst)
  • 4 in 10 people believe females are held to higher standards than males – and that our country is “just not ready” to put more women in top leadership roles. (Pew Research)
  • In the U.S., only 13% of venture capital goes to women-led enterprises. (Deloitte)
  • The gender wage gap is more than double the size of other industrialized nations’. According to Pew Research and Forbes:
    • Women working full-time earn 77% of what their male counterparts earn.
    • Younger women (ages 18 to 24) earn 88% of what their male counterparts earn.

Male and female perspectives on gender equality in the workplace can also differ.

What men believe:

  • 10% believe that workplace gender bias exists at their company. (Fairygodboss)
  • Less than 17% viewed workplace harassment as a challenge. (Fairygodboss)
  • Only 19% of men say having more women in top leadership positions would do a lot to improve all women’s lives; 43% say this would improve women’s lives somewhat. (Pew Research)

What women believe:

  • 44% believe workplace gender bias exists at their company. (Fairygodboss)
  • One in four women face harassment in the workplace. (EEOC)
  • 4 out of 10 (38%) say having more women in top leadership positions in business and government would do a lot to improve the quality of life for all women; 40% say this would have at least some positive impact on all women’s lives. (Pew Research)

These statistics illustrate further the need for men and women to work together to solve workplace inequity – and the resources available on the Men as Allies website are the perfect place to begin the journey to achieving more.

Call to action

Watch this webinar featuring Lisa Levey, Anne Weisberg and Elissa Sangster to gain additional insights about their “Men as Allies” research.

Listen to these short podcasts featuring male allies – what they learned and are taking to the workplace.

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