Kevin Wilhelm: A Sustainability CEO on The Importance of Men Being Better Allies

While there has been a lot of media attention around gender pay and equality, the reality as of today is that almost 80% of individuals in leadership positions are men. This is unjust, unfair, and just plain bad business. Systematic change won’t happen without committed male allies. In fact, when men are engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress as opposed to 30% when they are not included. This underscores the importance of allyship and here are some easy ways to better support women in tangible ways.

1.Speak out for women 

Use your platform to elevate the women in your life. Share great work from colleagues with your team, speak up in meetings if an insightful contribution was overlooked, and celebrate successes early and often. Studies show that women are much more likely to get interrupted than men; if you notice this happening, help stop it, turn the conversation back to them, and echo their message once they’ve finished.

2. Demand equal representation 

If you are invited to serve on committees, teams, or groups that do not have equal representation for men and women, recommend qualified women for these opportunities. Refuse to serve on industry panels or boards unless a commitment to equity and diversity is clear. Evaluate your own network and consider if men and women are equally represented.

3. Extend your network 

One of the greatest barriers to women’s advancement in the “old boy’s club” mentality. Studies show that women’s networks tend to show an equal distribution of men and women, but male networks skew overwhelmingly male. This can obviously become a significant issue for promotion and support when most leadership positions are held by men. Be inclusive of women, make introductions for women and become a relationship builder.

4. Listen and ask questions

Being a supportive ally means listening much more than speaking to understand their challenges, opportunities, and actively listen for how you can help. When someone opens up about a difficult experience, be respectful, listen thoughtfully, and ask how you can help be a better ally.

Kevin Wilhelm is one of the world’s pre-eminent business consultants and teachers in the field of sustainability. He is the CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting, a consulting firm focused on demonstrating the bottom-line business benefits ofsustainability and then leading companies through successful implementation.