Importance of Developing Male Allies

Written by Justin Henriksen

WECAN Elevate Sponsor | CEO, Crayon US

Transformational leader with extensive experience building and growing tech companies by streamlining sales, marketing, operations, and engineering to deliver results effectively and efficiently. A people-first executive with exceptional ability to build teams, promote organizational collaboration, develop product vision, and deliver dynamic results.

As head of Crayon US, I am committed to a people-first, customer-focused approach that ensures we have an environment where talent wants to work as well as expanding the breadth and depth of innovation, cost optimization, and services portfolios.

Engaging male allies in efforts to empower women in decision-making roles is one of the most important strategies to achieving gender equity in the workplace, yet remains challenging at best.

The case for gender equity goes beyond ethics. It’s a conscious business decision that directly affects the bottom line. 

Research shows that females in top leadership can increase company profits and share performance by as much as 50 percent. In order to achieve true gender equality, the perspectives of men must be included. 

However, it has not proven easy to be a male ally in the workplace. Male allies may fear a backlash from speaking out at work, or not know how to navigate the conversation about workplace exclusion. 

Company commitment to gender inclusion, as well as support from other men, can help motivate men to become allies. This involves the development of male ally programs, working alliances between men and women, consistent conversation, and ways to measure results. 

Below are suggestions for how to be a male ally and advocate for a broader workplace culture.

Definition of a Male Ally 

For me, a male ally is someone who will publicly and privately advocate for women, women’s equity, and women’s inclusion. We listen and push for accountability, transparency, trust, and work to create opportunities for women to lead and have their voice heard. 

If you are a male in a position of leadership, the first step should be to embrace a growth mindset, understand your influence, and publicly declare yourself a male ally. Leaders have to be the example in cultivating supportive relationships between men and women. Over time, these relationships bring different perspectives and cultures to the table that increases innovation and improves financial performance

Why is it important that men engage in the gender equity conversation?

We still live in a world where men are the majority of senior leaders in most companies so it needs to start with us.

It’s important that men engage in the discussion because it helps build stronger relationships between male and female colleagues, which will help improve the working relationship, increase awareness, and further the effort.

As male leaders, we have to know it’s the right thing to do and understand why it’s critical to have concerted focus. There’s ample research that demonstrates the positive business impact of women in leadership roles – the financial, cultural and innovative impact.

Although we are working to make change, there is still massive bias against women in the workplace and men play a strategic role in helping to combat this. 

Crayon is very much an environment where we’re constantly looking for opportunities to correct this bias and foster different perspectives. Those different perspectives are important as they lead to more creativity, more innovation, and better solutions. 

Women leaders have also been shown to be stronger champions of DEI. Research by the McKinsey & Company indicated women were twice as likely than men counterparts to spend substantial time on DEI efforts – something that companies have continually reported as critical to their infrastructure. Ensuring that we have women in leadership roles as well as other roles in the workplace, is critical to getting the best possible outcomes – different perspectives and different backgrounds produce better results in the end.

Action steps that men can take to become better allies in the world

Male allies need to ensure that we’re cultivating awareness. We also need to have an environment where men and women feel comfortable and safe to openly share and discuss gender bias.This can come through programs, panels, workshops, training, and a number of other ways where men and women can openly share.

The leadership at Crayon just finished our women’s panel which was incredibly powerful to hear some of the experiences women have gone through in the workplace and how that’s changed their perspective, perception, and relationships – both in positive ways and negative ways. Being exposed to that and having a better understanding of where everyone is coming from is a fantastic place to start. Men have to help cultivate awareness.

Men have to be part of the solution and they need to utilize their strengths to do it. For example, men like to solve problems. If organizations like WECAN can align the issue of gender equity in a way that men can help solve,  we’ll get  more engagement from men to become allies.

Businesses need good, consistent programs and training for all forms of bias. Crayon has put forth tremendous effort to make sure that we’ve got the right programs, the right training, and that we’re consistent. 

That’s the thing that we need to make sure that we’re representing from a leadership perspective: that being a part of the solution is important to us. We’re making a consistent investment. It’s not just a one-time thing. 

How can you be a better advocate when women are not in the room?

Being aware of opportunities to have the conversation is part of being a good ally. Whether there is a woman in the room or not, we need to keep it top of mind and bring it up in conversation when there is opportunity. 

We all have stories of how a woman has impacted our lives. It helps to share these stories and strive to be empathetic of where women are coming from and some of the struggles they face in the workplace.

I have three daughters and my wife. They are a constant reminder of what it’s like to be a woman, a woman in the workplace, a woman in society. They influence me to help ensure I’m doing my part to cultivate change.

It’s important that men feel like they’re being genuine, which can be a bit scary in this environment that we live in today. One sentence taken out of context can completely change the course of somebody’s career and somebody’s life. Know that we’re trying and give us the benefit of the doubt if we make mistakes along the way. 

To ensure that the other men in the room feel like they’ve got the support and training they need, that they’re getting any concerns or issues or challenges resolved, and that they’re provided  a safe space to be vulnerable and share how they’re feeling as they try to become better allies.

Partnering with WECAN

It may seem daunting, but a good place to start is by partnering with an organization like WECAN. They are more than happy to help companies and individuals within companies get started. WECAN has a wealth of information and resources that can get any company started on becoming part of the solution. And once we are started, they can help us build.

For WECAN to assist with setting up the metrics and milestones to view progress goes a long way. Here’s how we know that we’re getting the behavior that we want, which is inclusive, which is equitable and which is diverse.

Another thing that I appreciate about WECAN is it provides women a place where they can network, exchange ideas, provide and receive mentorship, and develop their leadership skills. It is a robust, end-to-end program for current and future female leadership. 

WECAN does a fantastic job of bringing people together and providing step-by-step programs. We’re moving in the right direction.


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