7 Ways Men Can be Better Allies for Gender Equality

13 July 2020

When it comes to supporting gender equality, a majority of men believe that there should be more women in leadership positions, both in politics and in their own workplaces, according to a research study carried out by UNFPA partner Promundo in the United States. But while two-thirds of men in the study agreed that women continue to face “major barriers” in their chosen professions, they are not necessarily taking all the steps they can to help reduce gender discrimination and harassment.

Ensuring that men and women share the same responsibilities and opportunities requires real, sustainable change – at the policy and institutional level, and in the attitudes and behaviour of individuals. Here’s seven ways men can become better partners and allies in creating a more equitable world for all.

1. Actively listen to women’s perspectives.

Women are the experts on their own life experiences, so seek out opportunities to hear women’s stories – and take their concerns seriously, without interrupting or trying to downplay incidents of sexism. Amplify women’s voices, acknowledge their experiences – and take on the role of educating other men – in a way that inspires trust and respect; these are fundamental commitments men can make.

2. Reflect on your own power and privilege as a man.

Being an effective ally starts with self-awareness: How has your gender influenced the opportunities you’ve had in life? What are you able to do only because you are a man? Beyond gender, listening to individuals with different backgrounds from your own – in terms of race, sexual orientation, religion or ability – is crucial to understanding how our intersecting identities impact our lived experiences.

3. Credit your female co-workers’ ideas fairly. 

Women are still underrepresented in many workplaces and paid less than their male colleagues, in part because their contributions and ideas are often overlooked. Emphasizing the good ideas of female co-workers, mentioning them in front of higher-ups, and correcting colleagues who misattribute credit isn’t giving special treatment to women – it’s treating them with fairness.

4. Advocate for gender-equitable policies in the workplace.

In Promundo’s study, 77 per cent of men said they were doing everything they can to advance gender equality in the workplace – but only 41 per cent of women agreed with that assessment. To close this “allyship gap” between intention and action, speak up for policies that remove bias and advance equality, including pay transparency, parental leave, and confidential reporting structures for sexual harassment.

5. Challenge sexism, and speak up when you hear sexist language.

It’s hard to step in or speak up when you see someone being harassed or treated unfairly, or when those around you are engaging in derogatory “banter,” but men calling each other out sends a powerful message that sexist language and actions will no longer be tolerated.

6. Step up at home – take on your full share of the housework and childcare. 

Women’s advancement in the workplace is hindered by the disproportionate responsibilities they continue to take on at home: household labour, childcare and all the invisible work behind the scenes that keeps everything running smoothly. While many men say they are equally involved in childcare and chores, their partners generally disagree. In addition to stepping up at home, advocate at your workplace for work-life balance measures, including paid leave for all caregivers.

7. Support diverse female leaders you believe in.

Seventy per cent of the men in Promundo’s study said they think there should be more women in positions of political power, yet women hold only a minority of these positions in the United States and in most countries around the world. How can men help that change? Support, volunteer for and vote for diverse female candidates who align with your values in local and national elections. And share your influence and resources with women’s groups – after asking how best to support their efforts.