Article 5: Why Allyship Matters for Everyone!
Improving representation of women at senior levels within organisations is something people feel is important but organisational interventions to improve it are sporadic, limited and are balanced with other priorities and time commitments. However, the rate of progress is slow and frustrating.
While many people (both women and men) believe in the economic and moral imperative to redress the balance – it’s challenging to know what can make the difference sustainably in the longer term.
One of the recent concepts in the wider diversity, equity and inclusion is ‘Allyship’. Allyship is where: “active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member of it”. In practice, for gender, this means men recognising that they have not had the same challenges and barriers as women. They may have had other barriers, but as the majority group these are not additional barriers based on gender. It is an active choice about making the difference to a group the individual does not belong to because they know it’s the right thing to do.
The possible impact of Allyship is that it gives those in current senior positions (mainly men) an approach to supporting aspiring and talented women to achieve. It starts to break down the patriarchy from the inside and creates opportunities on a scale that did not previously exist.
For men it is important to consider how you can role model a commitment towards the creation of equity rather than being complicit through inaction or perpetuating the status quo. Change is only possible through your actions and efforts to create allyship that goes beyond equality and towards equity.
For women it is useful to consider how they influence and promote equity. How might you (as a group or individuals) need something that is different to the status quo? For those who have reached senior levels, how do you ensure you support other women to follow you into leadership roles?
Within recruitment, one way men can practice allyship is to ensure they are supporting, encouraging and developing women within and beyond their organisations to gain access to the training, development, experience, working conditions and resources (including technology) that will support their ability to apply for senior positions in the future. Another way is to ensure that when you leave your current senior leadership role you have supported enough women to be eligible to apply that you increase the likelihood that those making the recruitment decision are spoilt for choice and that choice includes women.
The British Embassy Project have run workshops to support women to move towards senior leadership roles. Our next step will include supporting senior men to practice allyship.
If you are a senior man in an organisation – ask yourself how you can tell your daughter, sister or wife how you made the world a more equal and inclusive place for everyone’s benefit…