David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson are on a mission to help men become more effective allies to women in the workplace. Together with GATE Faculty Teaching Fellow, Nouman Ashraf, they discussed their book “Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace” and their research-based findings on the crucial role men play in promoting gender equality.

Smith and Johnson began the conversation by highlighting that companies experience an increase in output and profit when more women are present in senior leadership. Yet, despite men’s awareness of these positive stats, women continue to be excluded across the employment process. “Most men are firm believers of gender equity, yet there is a gap in how they approach it. There is quite a disconnect.”

How can men be better allies?

  • Allyship starts at home — women often face an unequal division of household chores and childcare. They are at a disadvantage and are not able to take advantage of opportunities at work if they don’t have support at home.
  • Showing up in the workplace — women say it’s important for men to listen with an intent to understand and learn, not the intent to fix. Develop an awareness of how women experience workplaces and aim to disrupt the status quo.
  • Showing up as a public advocate and systemic disruptor — intervene to say what’s not okay when something sexist happens at work and be specific.
  • Sponsor — tell other people about women you are mentoring when they are not there and advocate for them regularly.

Understanding privilege:

Men can’t become true allies until they understand the opportunities and social privilege their gender has granted them. While the privilege discussion can be hard for men, they must understand that privilege exists. One should not feel ashamed about having privilege but instead use it to deconstruct barriers. Using their experience in the military, Smith and Johnson urge men to increase their “situational awareness” to better understand their environment. “Go into your next meeting and when you sit down and it gets quiet, who does everyone look at to start. If there is a guy in the meeting, it is often him.”

Watch Smith and Johnson discuss how men can be better allies for women returning from family leave.
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