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How men can ‘LEARN’ to be better workplace allies


By Alistair Kellie

I write this with fear and trepidation in the knowledge that my perspective on International Women’s Day is insignificant and will face great scrutiny.

IWD2022 serves as an important reminder that whilst significant progress has been made in terms of diversity and inclusivity, there’s still a long way to go.  As a father of three boys, I understand the responsibility that we have as parents to ensure that they become tolerant, respectful and above all, kind young men.

I feel privileged to work in an organisation and in a sector which is balanced on a gender basis.  SEC Newgate UK has a female CEO, COO, Co-Head of Communications, the majority of our specialisms are led by women and companywide we are female gender positive.  However, I’m still amazed and saddened to read of negative and sometimes inappropriate behaviour towards women.

We asked our female colleagues how men can be better allies in the workplace and below are some of the common themes. 

•          Listen.  It’s obvious but take the time to listen to and understand the perspective of all your colleagues. For example, look for opportunities to hear about women’s experiences in your workplace and seek feedback about how you can “show up” for them as an ally. 

•          Educate.  Take the time to understand how you might be unintentionally perpetuating discrimination and inequality. Read relevant books and articles and if you can, attend diversity and inclusion events and educate your peers.  Recognise that men should (and often do) share their fair share of childcare and that it’s wrong to assume that if a child is ill, the mother will need to take time off work.  Also, remember that not all women have children.

•          Act.  If you witness inappropriate language by other men in the room, actively call out the inappropriate language and don’t just dismiss it as “banter”.

•          Recognise.  See that there is more than one experience of being a woman.  Think first before setting a meeting that might be challenging for a parent.  We recognise that having a returning mother even for two days’ a week is better than losing their talent and experience.

•          Never (stop learning). Be prepared to be uncomfortable and to learn from your mistakes.  Take positive feedback in the manner it is (hopefully) intended!

Being an ally takes work. But these actioning these points above will make a difference not just to women but to all colleagues.

As is so often the case, gender relations must be done with genuine purpose and people need to be open to thinking about themselves critically. However, it has the potential to make a real difference to gender relations and workplace equality.