Men as Allies to Women in Corporate America
Today, gender inequality is widely recognized as one of the key challenges of our time. Gender equality is one of the top 5 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) adopted by the United Nations in 2015 (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment), and is deemed as a ‘grand challenge’ in management, i.e., a critical barrier, which if addressed, has the capacity for immense global impact (George, Howard-Grenville, Joshi, & Tihanyi, 2016). Gender equality and women's leadership has been a strong area of emphasis for corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives and employee resource groups for several years. However, recently, we see the beginnings of a new shift in the narrative - we are witnessing motivated men stepping forward and expressing interest in being allies and champions to the cause.
And corporate America is gearing up to play a key role. Since its launch in 2014, the UN Women HeforShe initiative has been actively engaging men as champions for gender equity via dedicated programming in corporate businesses (e.g., PWC, Twitter) and universities (e.g., University of Oxford, Georgetown University). Leading business schools in the U.S. (e.g., Stanford Business School, Harvard Business School, University of Michigan’s Ross Business School, Haas Business School at University of California Berkeley, Wharton Business School at University of Pennsylvania) are supporting grassroots groups of male allies for women’s leadership among their MBA students (see Men as Allies Initiative). Catalyst, the leading non-profit research organization focused on improving women’s outcomes through workplace inclusion, now has an active community of professional men who are engaged in advocating for gender equity in their organizations (see Men Advocating for Real Change).
While all of these commendable efforts are making important strides, and there is general consensus on the need for men to be active contributors to creating inclusive organizations, there is still a dearth of research and knowledge on best practices and the most effective strategies at the individual and interpersonal levels. And as Elissa Sangster, Executive Director of Forte Foundation observes, "In today's corporate landscape, one cannot be an effective leader if one is not a good ally" (personal communication, 2017).
My current research studies leaders and managers who show extraordinary commitment to allyship, so that I can map the traits, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and relationships of exceptional male allies. My goal is to understand what it means and what it takes to be a strong ally. My research identifies the most important attributes of exceptional allies, behaviors that have the most impact for women's leadership (as evaluated by women), areas for training and intervention, and how to build allyship capacity in organizations.
If you know a leader/ manager/ professional who is an exceptional ally, or you work at an organization that has a strong allyship training program, I would love to hear from you. To explore opportunities to collaborate, please email me at Meg.Warren@cgu.edu