The role of the male ally in striving for gender equality

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We’re working in a world that now relies on virtual connections more than physical meetings. Many are juggling careers, family commitments and more, all from home. Yet the impacts COVID-19 have brought are not the same for everyone, with existing inequalities being magnified in some cases.

It means leaders not only have to understand these differences – and the underlying drivers causing them – but become an active participant to level the playing field.

Whilst we are making progress, women still experience inequalities

It’s critical that we understand the need for action, whatever our gender.

In the UK, the pay gap among all employees is slowly getting smaller, but it still stands at 17.3 per cent. Over the course of a normal year that would mean a woman, being paid at the same rate as a man, would stop receiving their paycheck on October 29 despite being expected to work the full year.

Women also are less likely to have jobs where remote working is allowed (22% compared to 28% of men). Almost 90 per cent of single parents are women, significantly impacting the ability to work remotely during COVID-19.

All of that adds up. According to Pew Research, in many countries women are less optimistic than men that they will achieve equality in the future. It is clear something has to change.


Male allies can drive positive change

So, why should other men be actively involved in that change? If we are committed to equality then the work to achieve it cannot be done by women alone, because fundamentally every gender must have a seat at the table.

When we are honest with ourselves and look objectively, it’s very clear men and women are not starting from the same point – especially in traditionally male-dominated industries like tech.

Gender parity as a key part of an inclusive culture will help create a workplace with broad perspectives and more opportunities. That’s because, ultimately, we’re all working toward the same thing – doing great work, providing for our families, and living happy lives.

We’re more likely to do that if we can achieve better gender equality. A study by McKinsey showed that an economy where women participate identically to men would see an increase of $28 trillion dollars to global GDP. Equality is not only the right thing to do ethically, but commercially as well.

According to the Boston Consulting Group: "Among companies where men are actively involved in gender diversity, 96 per cent report progress. Conversely, among companies where men are not involved, only 30 per cent show progress."

It is contingent on all of us not to simply be in favour of gender (and other intersectional) equality, but to actively do something about it.

My role as a male ally

The digitisation of the economy has empowered all ages, genders, and ethnicities. In order to compete, organisations need a team as diverse as society. To attract and retain the best talent, organisations must ensure that salaries reflect that diversity too.

This is an area organisations have struggled to move the needle on for years, but there are groups working to change this, including the Male Champions of Change. Telstra is a founding member of the group, which includes some of Australia’s most influential and diverse senior male executives including our CEO Andy Penn. Male Champions of Change use their individual and collective leadership to elevate gender equality as an issue of national and international social and economic importance.

Organisations that promote diversity benefit from a wider pool of insights and skills, forming more creative, resilient and high-performing teams. At Telstra, we employ tens of thousands of people around the world and service millions of customers every day. For us to do so responsibly – and successfully – our business practices have to embrace the diversity of the very same people we employ and serve.

Achieving equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace may also include addressing long-term business challenges such as shifting company culture and developing new HR strategies. No matter the scale of such undertakings, the end results will far outweigh any obstacles.

To drive change we need to bring a new mindset. This is why I choose to be a male ally: to help support a fairer industry as a male change agent.

The technology industry shapes so much about how we live, work and play. But the facts show that it doesn’t fully reflect the perspectives of so many people in our society.

On a personal level I have found that, by learning about what being a male ally really means, I am finding a new level of empathy. Professionally and personally, I would encourage many, many more men to do the same.