To create workplace and world that works for everyone we need to encourage and enroll the presence of conscious male allies at work and in the world. Here is the how to enroll and be male allies.
It is more important than ever that we foster the conditions to promote diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces. When these characteristics are present, we can create a culture where everyone feels they can bring their whole selves and belong.
One pathway toward creating a culture of belonging is to be an ally.
What is an ally?
An ally is someone who is not a member of an underrepresented group but who holds positions of privilege and power, and who can advocate and take action to support less represented groups and/or identities. Allyship is incredibly important so that everyone and their contributions are not only invited to the table at work but also heard and acknowledged.
A new era of conscious leadership and business is being born, and in order to come together to solve the complex problems we have at work and in the world, it will require men to be allies. This means male leaders will choose to use their privilege, social capital, and influence to rally, sponsor, and/or provide mentorship opportunities for women, people of color, LGBTQ groups, and nonbinary gender groups.
A New Kind of Manhood
In his book Men’s Work: How to Stop the Violence That Tears Our Lives Apart, Paul Kivel describes what he calls “the man box,” the dominant and acceptable behaviors that define what it means to be a man, and explains the enforcement of this narrowly defined set of traditional rules. A man must be strong, able-bodied, and stoic; must suppress emotions other than anger and excitement; and must not express
vulnerability. He has to be the major breadwinner of the family, follow a heterosexual lifestyle, be sexually aggressive, and take an interest in playing or at least watching sports. What is important about this definition and phenomenon is that the current cultural norm for men is to not express emotion. When men don’t feel they can express the full range of their emotions at work, they either don’t bring their whole and best selves to work and/or they exhibit aggressive behavior. Gender is normalized through culture, context, structures, and interactions.
Men and women both have masculine and feminine traits and when we can embrace all our emotions regardless of gender norms, we are more readily able to collaborate, care for, and have empathy for our different perspectives and experiences.
In summary, we can be allies for one another.
Being a Male Ally
In my research for my upcoming book on inclusive and conscious leadership and business, I discovered that there are men who want to get out of the “man box” and often feel disgusted when they conform to these “man box” behaviors. In my research on the topic of men being allies I interviewed these men on my podcast SHINE — Leading Consciously at Work and the World. Mark Greene, Vince Gugliemetti, and
Marc Benioff. Mark Greene is an expert at understanding the emotional suppression of men that leads to violence, the author of “The Little #MeToo Book for Men,” and founder of Remaking Manhood. Greene believes that the “man box” is directly tied to privilege, patriarchy, and the good-old-boys club. It is at the root of the glass ceiling and the backlash against women’s rights. Greene is using his voice and knowledge on these topics to inspire and support a new version of manhood.
What does it look like to be a male ally at work?
I got my answer when I had an opportunity to speak with Vince Guglielmetti Intel’s Vice President of Americas General Manufacturing Operations General Manager. Guglielmetti has been part of Intel’s Male Allyship program. Men advocating for real change (MARC) is a program for male allies started by women leaders at their Costa Rica Intel site. To become part of the male ally MARC program you have to be
sponsored by someone.
Mark shared that he defines male allies as members of an advantaged group committed to building relationships with women, expressing as little sexism in their own behavior as possible, understanding the social privilege conferred by their gender, and demonstrating active efforts to address gender inequities at work and in society. Guglielmetti often says, “I am my mother’s son.” He feels his characteristics are a
balance of masculine and feminine qualities. Guglielmetti told me that he has watched more dominant men talk over him at work. During our conversation, he said when he hears any person talking over another or “mansplaining”, he brings awareness to the behavior and challenges the person directly by calling them in. He said that many men have decided to be allies because they have been positively impacted by a woman in their life.
When I asked Guglielmetti what day-to-day male allyship looks like, he told me that he opens team meetings with an awareness of his language, specifically the terms he chooses so that he invites a more inclusive tone that provides a safe atmosphere for everyone to contribute and be heard. For example, if you open a meeting with, “Hey, guys” but there’s a mix of many genders, this leaves many in the room feeling marginalized. As a male ally, he does his best to create safe spaces to listen and learn so that real conversations can happen and be people feel invited to share their perspectives and experiences.
Part of being a male ally is showcasing empathy and communicating with skill around culturally sensitive topics and acts of exclusion. Guglielmetti told me that he will often state to women, people of color, and/or marginalized identities, “How can I be your voice? I know you need my voice; how can I be your voice?” Vince is always open to learning and growing. He knows that there are many things he doesn’t know or understand and so he reads on topics related to groups different than himself. Intel also launched an initiative called Ally Nation, a global program to enlist employees and managers as allies to support a more inclusive work environment, helping them understand and role-model inclusive behaviors.
Greene and Guglielmetti are examples of male leaders committed to being an ally. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce is another powerful male ally. When Benioff began Salesforce in 1999 he made his motivations clear by outlining an agenda that looked beyond shareholders’ needs and included people and planet (versus just profits). One of Benioff’s greatest values as a leader is trust and transparency. In 2015, when Indiana passed a bill that would allow companies to deny service to LGBT customers, Benioff took a brave stand and threatened to withdraw his company’s investment in the state and encouraged other tech CEOs to help fight the bill. Indiana quickly revised the law that would deny service to customers based on their sexual orientation or identity.
In 2016, Salesforce bought 13 companies including e-commerce platform Demandware, word processing app Quip, messaging startup HeyWire, and Steelbrick, a company with software for sales reps. These employees are now under the Salesforce umbrella, but their salaries were not included in an earlier analysis that the company used to erase unequal pay. Salesforce did a seven-year retro-pay and pledged to review its gender pay gap on an ongoing basis to be monitored and discharged from year to year. As a result, Salesforce has spent $8.7 million in salary adjustments for 30,000 global employees. These actions demonstrate Benioff being a strong male ally, walking his talk, being his word, and placing the interests of society above profits and these actions instill trust and belonging. As a result, Benioff has consistently scored above 90 percent in CEO approval ratings since 2013 on Glassdoor, where the average approval rating is 69 percent.
To create greater belonging at work, it begins with trust. When we see leaders showing up with vulnerability, authenticity, and integrity time and again, it creates safety and trust. If we can’t trust other people, we struggle to share empathy, collaborate, and find common ground and resolution.
Being a Male Ally in 6 Steps
1. Choose your words with care. Understand the impact your words or actions have caused in the past, take responsibility, apologize, and course correct.
2. Embrace the difficult emotions that arise when underlying power structures are surfaced, such as in discussions of equal pay or opportunities for promotion; these topics often elicit strong emotions on both sides.
3. Go to the source. Ask women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, and other less- dominant groups how you can help. Do they need sponsorship? More learning opportunities? Something else?
4. Call in other men if you see them abusing their power with others. Complicity only supports hurt and harm. We must take action on behalf of others to create long term change and inclusion.
5. Use your social capital, privilege, and influence to support, sponsor, and mentor women, marginalized groups, people of color, and/or LGBTQIA+
6. An ally is someone who acts, learns, listens, and yields their privilege. To be an ally you must act.
The ROI of Male Allyship
Having a diverse workforce is a critical factor in improving not just the quality of a company’s leadership and decision making, but also its overall financial, environmental, social, and governance performance. Companies like Credit Suisse, McKinsey, and Catalyst have shown that the presence of women at top levels of management and leadership has been correlated with better financial performance for the company. Notably, too, companies with