Be a Better Male Ally at Work

male ally at work

By Yvonne Milosevic

Gazing into the crystal ball to forecast the future of work has become a sport for pundits and academics alike. Covid-related job losses hit women disproportionally hard, triggering a shecession as they scaled back or completely dropped out of the workforce. If more women than men choose to continue working remotely, some experts warn they may pay a steep price. Women already trail men in salary and leadership representation. This discrepancy could increase if men far outnumber women in the physical office space. While the outlook for gender parity in the post-pandemic era is clear as mud, one thing is certain. Becoming a better male ally at work will be essential.

As women make their way in a post-COVID work world, male allies can help advocate that their voices are heard and that commitments to equity and inclusion are taken seriously. —Carley Hauck.

Carley Hauck, the author of Shine and founder of Leading from Wholeness, shared several tips for expanding male allyship in UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine. This advice is for men who want to influence their work culture for the better. Because, as Hauck noted, “women who believe they have strong allies at work feel a greater sense of inclusion and more energy and enthusiasm on the job.”

We’re hitting the top notes here for you today. But do check out Hauck’s article to dive deeper into this vital topic.

How to Step Up as a Male Ally at Work

Recognize your privilege and embrace a growth mindset.

What exactly is an ally, you ask? A male ally is any man willing to advocate and speak up in support of gender equality.  Also, he often holds a position of privilege and power. Allies can advocate supporting underrepresented groups without taking over their voice, Hauck explained. Such groups include women, people of color, LGBTQ+ and nonbinary coworkers.

“Research suggests that teaching men to reflect on their privileges and encouraging awareness increases men’s sensitivity to and willingness to confront sexism,” she noted.

male ally at work

Ask how you can help.

“Would-be male allies may struggle to identify subtle forms of sexism or exclusion at work and fear backlash when they speak out,” Hauck shared. Rather than stumbling forward without a compass, go to the source for a clear roadmap.

“Ask women, nonbinary people, people of color, and other less dominant groups how you can help,” she advised. Find out if they need sponsorship, mentorship, more learning opportunities, or something else entirely.

You can also “Cultivate supportive partnerships with women and less dominant groups,” Hauck suggested. “Over time, relationships like this allow you to gain an understanding of perspectives, life experiences, and identities that are different from your own.”

Think before you speak.

Are you an inadvertent mansplainer? Studies show many men have some communication flaws to address. Frequent problem areas include interrupting or speaking over female colleagues or inserting sports jargon into everyday business situations whenever possible. Unfortunately, most advice puts the onus on women to solve the problems imposed on them by others, as this article in The Conversation points out. Buck that trend and think about how you can do the work yourself.

male ally at work

In the end, becoming more mindful of how you communicate will help you be a better male ally at work. Also, know that it’s okay, and expected, that you’ll make mistakes sometimes. The important thing is not to take personally any feedback calling out that behavior and commit to improving. 

“Understand the impact your words or actions have caused in the past,” Hauck said, then “take responsibility for them, and course-correct.”


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