Men as Allies for Gender Equality

Why women leaders need to engage men as allies and how they support gender equality

2017 is coming to a close, and not much has changed for gender equality.  In fact, according to Catalyst’s March 2017 report, women account for:

  • 5.6% of CEOs
  • 19.5% of Board seats

When I share these data with leaders, I often hear, “Be patient, it’s changing.”  Yet, when we reflect on the journey of feminism, the statistics remain stagnant.  According to the Pew Research Center, women in 2007 accounted for:

  • 2.4% of CEOs
  • 14.8% of Board seats

In fact, gender equality organizations estimate that women will not balance men in pay for equal work until 2059.  Women still earn 83% of the salary of men in similar roles doing similar work.  Rather than voice frustration at these slowly changing statistics, let’s have a voice in promoting positive change together.  Let’s make 2018 the year where the statistics truly start to shift.

That means getting men involved the discussion.  We are not going to solve the gender equality challenge alone, or in rooms of women alone.  Men are decision makers and need to be included in the process.  And, they want to help.

Based on our interviews for ONE (copies available here), we confirmed common traits associated with successful women:  they engage men in their career development as mentors and sponsors, speak up for what they want, and draw clear boundaries between their personal and professional lives.  According to Harvard Business Review, we are 54% less likely than men to have a sponsor.  That’s because men in leadership roles seek to promote those resembling themselves.  On top of that, there are many unconscious biases still affecting women according to Joan C. Williams’ What Works for Women at Work:

  • The maternal wall:  If she has another baby, she won’t want the promotion.
  • The tightrope:  She’s so aggressive, she needs to tone it down or people will think she is a bitch.
  • Prove it again:  She did it once, but can she really do it again? Maybe it was a fluke.
  • Tug of war:  There are only so many seats for women at the table. I don’t want them stealing attention from me.

Let 2018 be the year we change the conversation from problems to solutions.  Leverage the strategies, ideas, and stories from ONE to bridge the gender equality gap in your organization.

  • Heart: “Channeling the Women You Empathize” for male allies, and “Starting the Dialogue with the WIIFM” (what’s in it for men) for women leaders
  • Story: “Asking for HERStory” for male allies, and “Sharing Your Story” for women leaders
  • Speak: “Speaking up with Her” for male allies, and “Speaking Up with Him” for women leaders
  • Work-Life: “Doing the Fair Share at Home” for male allies, and “Practicing Self-Care” for women leaders

For men, how will you support women leaders as male allies?

For women, how will you engage men as male allies?

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Here are some actionable ideas for you to try:

  • If you do not have a male ally group, form one.
  • If your organization has a women’s professional development group, invite men to participate.
  • If you are a woman, seek out a male ally to garner support.
  • If you are a man, think about women that could benefit from your support.

Remember, organizations embracing male allies outperform those that do not.  You are leaving money on the table if you are not facilitating male allyship.  Becoming an ally is a journey.  Start your journey at

We believe strongly in our message to spread male allyship and develop women leaders.  If you do too, share our mantra below or post your stories and thoughts with these hashtags:  #genderequality #ONE #heforshe #maleallies #femaleadvocacy.

Our Mantra

I believe in gender equality.  I believe women and men, partnering together for gender equality, is what is best for all humans.  By collaborating together, we will improve the lives of future women leaders and girls who will grow up in a world where anything is possible.  My voice matters.  I make choices every day supporting gender equality.  We are all in this together.  I commit to supporting male allyship.  We are stronger together.  We are ONE.