Allyship begins at home

While there is greater awareness of the need for men to support women at work, male allyship at work has a long way to go and is intrinsically linked to equality at home.

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Male allies and indeed allies in all spheres of equality at work have become more of a thing of late. However, a recent US study by the Integrating Women Leaders Foundation found that, while unconscious bias training is happening in many organisations, a focus on male allyship hasn’t truly emerged yet. It called from more research into male allies from the point of view of both men and women. The foundation’s own research found fairly wide gaps between men and women in their perception of how active men are in supporting women at work, with the biggest gaps being in perceptions of male allyship at middle and lower management levels [51% of men in lower management were perceived as being allies or advocates by men compared to just 28% by women].

When the study drilled down into details it found only half of men reported seeing men take actions to be allies for women. That compares to just a quarter of women, although 73% of women reported opportunities for women leaders to be stronger allies for other women — a belief also shared by half of men.

On specific actions, the allyship gap also widened between women and men. For instance, there was a 31% gap between men and women in connection with men in their organisation always or frequently  giving credit to women for their ideas and contributions. Microaggressions were another source of difference in perception – 65% of women in the study reported experiencing microaggressions “always,” “frequently” or “sometimes”, with the top five for women listed as being interrupted more often than others, having their judgment questioned in their area of expertise. not being given credit for contributions made, being overlooked for a promotion or stretch assignment and being asked to do “office work” (schedule meetings, take notes, etc).

It seems there is a long way to go, given that many of the issues around barriers to women’s career progression are based on simple questions of equality and fairness which benefit everyone, in particular employers. Surely employers want the best teams?

But allyship at work is all very well. True equality begins at home, however, and the two – equality at home and at work – go together. It was encouraging to see lots of dads at the March of the Mummies at the weekend. Childcare is, after all, not just about women. Yet all too often most of the [unpaid] home tasks, particular the everyday and the emotional ones [such as dealing with children’s friendship issues], are shouldered mainly by women – just as at work campaigning for greater equality and dealing with the fall-out of bias are often taken on, unpaid, by women. Equality is something that has to be at the centre of every aspect of our lives for it to have an impact in the workplace.

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