Head of Learning, Development and DEI, Network of Executive Women
Allies can become sponsors and mentors, and create changes in policy and culture that have vast ripple effects on the lives of working women.
One of the most common things we hear at Network of Executive Women (NEW), particularly from men, is that they just don’t know where to begin supporting women – or how to go about it in ways that really make a tangible difference.
There’s always more to learn about allyship, and the conversation is changing all the time. What we do know is how important allies are to advancing women’s equity. Allies can become sponsors and mentors, and create changes in policy and culture that have vast ripple effects on the lives of working women. We developed our own allyship program, Beyond Allies, to meet this key need.
“Research reveals that men often struggle to recognize gender discrimination and harassment in real time,” notes Beyond Allies facilitator Tom Foley. “While 77 percent of men report doing ‘everything they can’ to support gender equality at work, only 41 percent of women agree. … Men often remain on the sidelines rather than being true advocates and allies. Situational awareness is key, and demands training and preparedness.”
NEW piloted Beyond Allies in 2020 and early 2021 with 276 men and women of all seniority levels and across many organizations. To say it “hit the spot” for participants would be an understatement. One VP-level participant told us that it “gave [them] as a veteran leader the inspiration to coach and develop the next generation.” An HR partner said that “the content and small-group discussions were valuable in gaining insight into how I can effectively be an ally … it also gave me great perspective on how my male colleagues could be thinking about allyship and how I can support them.”
Participants consistently mentioned how immediately actionable the program content was, that they could take what they learned into the workplace and start making tangible change immediately. One manager observed that, immediately following the program, it “already has helped give me the language for a pay equity issue and [I am] looking forward to helping others in the future.”
The Key to Allyship
Creating strong allies takes more than a single conversation. Our programming has been built to support men and women who want to do what they can at every step of their journey to taking real action. To build a network of strong allies at your organization, start with education, but make sure that education is backed up with real conversations and ongoing learning. One diversity, equity, inclusion and belongingsession won’t be enough to create momentum – it takes continuous pushing and learning, and a lifetime of listening.
For more information about NEW’s Beyond Allies program, keep an eye on newonline.org/beyondallies for news on our next cohort, and follow us on social media @newnational.