Different male allies need different levels of support


Enlisting the support of “manbassadors” or male allies is a thing at the moment.  Post #MeToo, many men confess to being uncertain about how to proceed. It’s not easy for men to go from offering tacit or verbal support to making things happen in a practical and systemic way. Very often there are cultural barriers that make their jobs harder. There is no doubt there is reluctance and even hostility to gender balance initiatives, whether passive aggressive or direct, or the numbers would be different. Coaching can help our male allies overcome their objections so that they move from defensive to discovery and to a point of openness.

But not all male allies need the same type of support. We have to move away from the one size fits all coaching and training that is offered to organisations.

Male allies need support in different ways depending on which group they fall into.  Each group will need a different type of coaching, support and training based on their needs.

3Plus has identified 4 different categories of male allies.

1. The Visionary Leader

For gender parity programmes to succeed we need male allies such as these to advocate and be part of the solution. They need to drive systemic and behavioural change initiatives with clarity and conviction. These men are beacons in a fog of intransigence, misplaced energy and mis-communication. They have seen the light but are unclear how to bring the people below them onside. They understand that it will take more than a command and control approach, sending a leadership mandate to be effective. They are open to finding the right path and understand that concerted action is the way forward. They see the benefits for both men and women and their business of inclusive workplace .

Support: Any type of inclusive leadership training and coaching as well as communication and messaging coaching helps this group. They benefit from guided reflection to evaluate their organisational systems as well as potentially toxic behaviours that the business tolerates.  

2. The Sceptic

These are men who say they have no problem supporting women if they are the best candidate and can hack the pace. They have wives and daughters after all.  They believe that quotas limit selection and give a narrower, not wider choice.They genuinely believe that gender equality is not necessarily a good thing. They think the traditional elements of business such as competition, hierarchy and strong disciplined leadership have always worked well and will continue to do so. They see that men are better at certain jobs than women, while women excel at other things.That is biology and just the way it is. Male “advocates” who adopt this position put many of their colleagues off supporting any initiatives, especially if they are in key roles such as HR or other leadership positions.

Support: Male allies in this category benefit from small group unconscious bias training and detailed coaching around the business case for gender balance and diversity in general. In large groups they are frequently disruptive and bring negative energy. The die-hard sceptics may need individual leadership coaching.

What male mentors don’t know about mentoring women

3.The Reluctant Ally

For many men openly supporting gender balance or women catches them between a rock and a hard place. The rock is peer pressure from colleagues in category 2. The hard place is female peers or reports applying pressure for organisational and cultural change. Or even friends and family who inspire a different type of loyalty.They worry about appearing disloyal or “wimpy” and even worse any potential negative impact on their careers for anything that goes against the company leadership line. They may not take paternity leave because their colleagues give them grief. They don’t step up when they hear any office banter.

Support: This group benefits from mentoring by the men in category 1 and even peer mentoring.

male allies

4. The Inadvertent Underminer

This category think they are already on side. What they don’t understand is that they are inadvertently endorsing male culture and offering women work-arounds so that they can fit in. They comment that they support women. Their teams have x percent of women. They just promoted a woman. They supported a woman coming back from maternity leave. They look for female candidates but can’t find any.They allow flexible working so that women can pick the kids up from nursery and so on and take care of their elderly parents. They are completely oblivious to the fact that they are reinforcing the status quo and endorsing gender stereotypes.They provide coaching programmes for women so they can “fix” their personal development needs. They may not understand that they have to do this for all employees and make deep systemic changes.

Support: This group does well with unconscious bias and or inclusive leadership training to create a bias conscious culture.

Cultural Change

Many male allies don’t realise that the culture itself has to change. Women have “leaned in” so much they are almost horizontal. Just as a one size fits all approach doesn’t work anywhere any more, leaders have to look at the composition of their organisations and design different types of training and coaching. Different types and levels of support for different groups will contribute to shifting corporate culture.

Our Unconscious Bias Training Workshops will improve your workplace for everyone. Find out more HERE.

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