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We Need Male Allies To Achieve Gender Equality In The Workplace The significance of male allies is particularly pronounced in cultures where gender roles are more stringent. In these societies, male allies can make the difference between slow progress and no progress at all.

By Pfizer

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Gender equality is a societal imperative that requires everyone's active involvement. While women have borne the brunt of historical inequalities and disparities, the barriers that limit women inevitably impede the collective progress of everyone, regardless of gender. These barriers impact innovation, collaboration, productivity, and progress, which is why everyone, including men, plays a pivotal role in dismantling these barriers.

The significance of male allies is particularly pronounced in cultures where gender roles are more stringent. In these societies, male allies can make the difference between slow progress and no progress at all. They disrupt the status quo by actively challenging these restrictive norms, advocating for inclusivity, and championing the cause of gender equality.

When companies create a culture of allyship and normalize conversations about gender equality, they can help both women and men be their most authentic selves at work. This inclusivity, where diversity is embraced and differences are celebrated, sets the stage for enhanced individual performance and job satisfaction- creating a more progressive and resilient organization that makes a meaningful difference to their employees and communities.

Male leaders can use their influence to lift the voices of women and set an example to their peers.

The workplace thrives when enriched by the diverse perspectives, skills, and experiences that both men and women contribute. Despite these invaluable contributions, the Reykjavík Index for Leadership reveals a disheartening reality: women are still taken less seriously than men when it comes to leadership. Almost 60% of the countries surveyed did not express their comfort in having a female CEO of a major company. This imbalance not only hampers the career opportunities of talented women globally but also deprives organizations of exceptional problem-solvers and unique perspectives that hold immense value for stakeholders. This underscores the urgency for a shift in perception within the workplace, yet the burden of initiating this change often falls disproportionately on women, who find themselves compelled to speak up and challenge ingrained biases.

A critical solution involves recognizing the pivotal role that male leaders and male employees can play in amplifying the voices of women around them. Acknowledging that their authority often gets more visibility, these male figures bear a crucial responsibility to champion equality and set an example within their organization. Visibly and publicly uplifting women signal to their male counterparts that endorsing gender equality is an imperative. This has a cascading effect on the organizational culture, fostering an environment where conversations around equality become normalized, and collective efforts are mobilized to challenge and reshape traditional gender norms. This approach redistributes the responsibility for advocating equality more equitably across genders, creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace for all.

Related: The Economic And Scientific Case For Diversity In Healthcare

Traditional gender norms challenge both men and women in implementing gender equality initiatives.

Achieving gender equality in the workplace requires collective effort from both men and women. One challenge is overcoming deeply ingrained stereotypes and biases that have persisted for generations. That said, while change can be daunting in the beginning, it's important to recognize that all meaningful change come from moments of discomfort. Especially for male allies, resisting societal expectations that undervalue women is important to create a positive impact, but navigating these shifts will not always be easy given social dynamics.

Moreover, another challenge is fostering open and constructive communication between men and women in the workplace. Initiatives promoting gender equality require a shared understanding of the issues faced by both men and women. Men, while supporting these initiatives, may find it challenging to navigate these conversations without fear of saying the wrong thing or unintentionally perpetuating stereotypes. Women, in turn, may be hesitant to voice their concerns or ideas, fearing backlash or being dismissed. Establishing a culture of empathy, where everyone feels comfortable discussing these challenges openly, is essential. It allows people to make mistakes yet make impactful changes to the workplace.

Men and women must work together to achieve a more equitable workplace, starting with education and understanding.

For men aspiring to be allies, active engagement is key. It begins with self-reflection to identify and challenge personal biases and stereotypes. Men can educate themselves on the experiences and challenges faced by women in the workplace, fostering a deeper understanding of the need for equality. It's crucial for men to use their privilege to amplify the voices of women, promoting their ideas and contributions. This might include supporting initiatives that address gender pay gaps, advocating for diversity in leadership roles, and actively participating in mentorship or sponsorship programs to facilitate the professional development of women colleagues. In everyday tasks, men can be more vigilant about who is included in the conversation, attribute credit where it's due, ring endorsements, and put forward visible assignments to women. It's important for male allies to be honest in their feedback and reassure that they there to be a constructive supporter, not just a critic.

For women, cultivating allyship involves building a supportive network and fostering collaboration with male colleagues. It's important to recognize and appreciate the efforts of men who actively champion gender equality and involve them in the conversation. Encouraging open dialogue about gender-related issues can help break down communication barriers and create an environment where men feel comfortable discussing their role in the pursuit of equality.

Companies with male allies are more gender-equal and are more competitive.

When men empower women, it sends a powerful message to women that their perspectives, talents, and ambitions are seen and supported - and that they can be their most authentic selves in the workplace. This affirmation is more than symbolic; it creates a mental haven for employees. Research shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of women in those organizations perceive real progress on gender equality, compared with only 30% of women in organizations without strong male engagement.

In a competitive market, the ability to showcase a commitment to gender equality becomes a strategic advantage, appealing to a broader range of skilled professionals. Moreover, diverse teams are more adept at understanding and meeting the needs of a diverse customer base, enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Research consistently shows that gender-diverse companies are more likely to outperform their peers. By embracing male allies and fostering a culture of inclusivity, companies can unlock the full potential of their workforce, driving innovation, improving employee engagement, and ultimately gaining a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Related: Here's How Gender-Balanced Organizations Can Drive Success In The Middle East's Business Landscape

Leaders must create a culture of male allyship to advance gender equality.

Creating a culture of male allyship comes from leadership and institutionalized programs. For example, Pfizer created a "Men as Allies" initiative to encourage and activate the role men play in women's development, reinforcing Pfizer's parity goals. The goal of "Men as Allies" is to create a culture where men educate themselves on the real issues faced by women in the workplace and be an advocate of gender equality in Pfizer's offices.

In the Middle East, Russia, and Africa, there are several Pfizer team members who are working closely with the organization's global program. One of them shared why he is committed to championing equity at Pfizer. "I choose to be an ally because I want to walk the talk when it comes to equity, both in my professional life and my personal life. I am surrounded by intelligent women at Pfizer, and it's my duty to ensure that everyone's voices are heard and celebrated and gets the credit they deserve. Admittedly, the initial reactions I received were skepticism, but I knew that is exactly what I'm trying to break through. I'm happy to say now that the concept of allyship has become accepted, and we are proposing work policies that champion inclusion for everyone to make sure everyone can perform optimally."

Pfizer is pioneering male allyship in the region and setting an example to the private sector. Creating more equitable decision-making processes, revised policies, and business strategies demand a collective commitment from those who hold positions of influence at the table. Its why men need to be involved. In recognizing and acting upon this responsibility, men contribute significantly to steering the course toward a workplace where diversity is not only acknowledged but woven into the fabric of every strategic decision.

Pfizer is a leading research-based biopharmaceutical company. It applies science and its global resources to deliver innovative therapies that extend and significantly improve lives. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time.