- Gender-based discrimination in the workplace is something almost exclusively experienced by women.
- Discrimination against female working professionals can take place in the form of unwanted advances, getting passed up for promotions, or “mansplaining”.
- Having male allies that are willing to stand up and support their female counterparts is important—and considering that men make up 63% of the workforce, they’re positioned to help better than any other demographic.
- Men can practice allyship by encouraging those who experience discrimination to report it, keeping an eye out for discriminatory behavior themselves, respecting their coworker’s physical space, and acknowledging their privilege.
Within the past several years, the term “allyship” has been commonly used in relation to movements such as BLM, or the LGBTQIA+ community—referring to a non-community member who goes out of their way to provide support socially and emotionally to those who experience higher instances of discrimination. With large social causes rallying behind these groups, it’s somewhat easy to make visible your allyship and to understand how to help.
But when it comes to professional work environments, it can be difficult to know when or how to help coworkers who face gender discrimination, especially women — these individuals may be held back by lower wages, often get passed up for promotions, and are more likely to be over-sexualized at work. Yet one of the demographics best positioned to end the inequality they face is their coworkers that make up 63% of the workforce: men.
Although being a supportive male ally in the workplace will be different than in non-professional environments (attending a rally over the weekend won’t involve talking to HR), it’s something that we as men need to do and can do. Improving the workplace for our coworkers boosts employees’ mental health, ensures a healthier (and more genuine) company culture, and creates more productive teams and professional relationships that are mutually beneficial, regardless of gender.
Signs of Workplace Discrimination
Though federal laws prohibit workplace discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, religion, creed, or physical ability, it still happens. Gender-based discrimination towards female working professionals can be instigated by coworkers and supervisors alike and may take the form of:
- Unwanted physical advances
- Unsolicited romantic interest
- “Mansplaining”— talking down to female coworkers, or assuming they have a smaller knowledge base, simply because they’re female
- Being passed over for a promotion or position, even when more qualified than their male counterparts or co-candidates
- Earning less than male coworkers, something that is statistically improving, but not nearly fast enough
These are only a few of the many different forms of gender-based discrimination that can occur. Male coworkers can watch out for these signs, but unless they know how to help, paying attention isn’t enough. Keep reading to discover how to be a better male ally in your workplace.
Be a Supportive Male Ally: 5 Strategies
As men, if we witness gender-based discrimination, part of being a supportive male ally means lending a helping hand. Don’t worry—we don’t need to give up our position or paycheck to assist. But we can be mindful; and it’s in our best interests, too. As male professionals, we can do our part by:
- Reporting obvious signs of discrimination: This can include unsolicited physical touch, propositioning, threats, or verbal abuse.
- Encouraging female coworkers to report discrimination: And if they do, backing them up as best we can.
- Remaining mindful of our privilege: This doesn’t mean feeling bad for being a cis-gender male. It simply means acknowledging that women may face professional hurdles we never experience.
- Taking advantage of teambuilding opportunities: Be sure to attend gender bias training opportunities, happy hours, company picnics, or lunches. Research supports that the more positive experiences men have with women, the less likely they are to discriminate against them.
- Respecting our female coworkers’ physical space: Research suggests that during opposite-sex interactions, women prefer further proximity from their male coworkers.
Allyship and Mental Health Resources
Reducing the chances and frequency of gender-based discrimination is a step towards a more modern and inclusive company culture. Along with the support of male allies, a healthy work environment will offer opportunities for mental health resources to help employees cope with such issues when needed. Studies show that when employees are able to address and treat their mental health needs through their workplace chain of command, regardless of gender, they are:
- More productive
- Less likely to miss work
- Less likely to search for a different position
In all, being a supportive male ally revolves around inclusivity: The workplace should be harassment- and discrimination-free for everyone. And until that becomes commonplace, men can support their professional female counterparts by acknowledging the bias that we have the privilege to ignore and taking the necessary actions to be a supportive male ally.
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