“Manbassador” hero of gender equality or sop?

by | May 2, 2017

Manbassador - do they really help gender equality?

The volume of material and activity around gender balance has never been higher. With it there is a growing movement to involve and get the support of men in the drive for gender parity. We have seen the creation of [Tweet "a role called "Manbassador" to champion the power of women, diversity and gender equality"] to support the advancement of women in the workplace.

Put simply, men are being asked, and  are asking each other, to start recognizing the value women add to a businesses. Women are 50% of the workforce, with more than half of women assuming the role of primary bread-winners and 85% making household purchasing decisions. For some reason it's becoming the latest fad, so why is the needle not moving?

A consortium of top-tier Business Schools including London Business School, NYU Stern, Wharton and the Fuqua School of Business, have formed an initiative known as Men As Allies, which intend to work with women’s groups at business schools to gain an understanding of the challenges women face in the workplace. Their belief is this according to The Economist:

One thing holding institutions back is that the call for equality is often led by, and sometimes solely promoted by, small groups of women

I find this just a tad patronising, but is the Manbassador the new gender equality super hero entering the fray on our behalf, or the latest sop to placate us?


Men as allies

We want (and need) senior men and middle management men to have difficult conversations around the female talent pipeline and how the hiring and promotion processes work in their organisations. They have to step up to become catalysts for business transformation and change must begin with them. If they don't take this on board, their actions are what I call gender-lite. They may tick a few boxes, but are no substitute for the real deal.

The reality is that many men do not pro-actively encourage gender balance in a meaningful way and in so doing, tacitly, discourage it. They need to do more than simply create awareness. A Manbassador must also advocate for, and lead, process change where they can. If this initiative is led by men will we then see some dramatic sea change in terms of results?

Read: The importance of male middle managers in gender balance

How a "Manbassador" can avoid being gender-lite

  • Openly and actively support gender balance and diversity in their own companies.
  • Advocate for process review and change. If the processes are static then the culture will be too.
  • Recognise that corporate cultures do not support family life for either men or women.
  • Don't fall into the trap of allowing women to be "mothers" (unless they want that). Their cultures should not penalise men either.
  • Foster a bias conscious culture in their organisations in recruitment, career planning and promotions for women.
  • Sponsor events associated with gender parity in their industry or region.
  • Speak and appear on panels.
  • Refuse to speak or appear on panels where women are under represented.
  • Ask for diverse candidate short lists with a minimum of 3 women.
  • Buy brands and do business with organisations that support gender balance and diversity
  • [Tweet "Be a role model and call out bias and sexism when you see or hear it"]
  • Don't do businesses with brands and businesses that endorse sexism whether it's newspapers or advertising agencies as Gilly Weinstein reported at the Eurostar terminal in Brussels.


New research reported in US Psychology Today suggests that the trickle down effect of Trump's sexist campaign is serving to make men more aggressive.

Other studies of aggressive, demeaning and generally sexist behavior towards women show the potential for increase of such behavior if it appears condoned, especially in workplace settings

So it would be great if any "Manbassador" would step up ASAP! We need you!

Need help building your female talent pipeline? Contact 3Plus now!

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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