2017 NCWIT Summit – Mini Plenary, Male Advocacy by Brad McLain and Catherine Ashcraft

BRAD McLAIN: We’re gonna kick off starting on the basic level. But if you’re already familiar with male allies and advocate work, you’re gonna get some interesting and new practical tools out of it, for the more advanced consumer. But, why male allies? What does it take to implement a successful male ally effort? That’s how we’re gonna start. We’re gonna move to that Toolkit Overview. That includes the ones that Catherine just mentioned and more. And the Member Highlight from Ann. And hopefully some time for some discussion. Because we know from reports, summit after summit, that one of the most valuable aspects is hearing from each other, sharing, comparing and collaborating. Many collaborations are born at tables just like this. And then next steps, of course. So, this is actually a quote from the research project that Catherine just mentioned. From a male interviewee. And for those of you in the back, I will read it. “I think it pretty much summarizes a lot of the reasons why people become male allies and advocates. I think it is super important for men to be seen as gender advocates, because 85% of our leaders are men in this company, and if they are not gender advocates, then the culture won’t change. We won’t have the right environment.” Which is underscoring the issue that diversity and inclusion, especially when we look at gender, is not a woman’s issue. It’s an everyone’s issue. And so it’s an all hands on deck call to action. It can no longer be relegated to just a women’s employee resource group or an on-campus group. And, by the way, I forgot to ask. How many of you here are from the corporate space? Show of hands. Alright. How many of you from the academic space? Okay. And our apologies to the academics here. How many are both, by the way? Can’t quite decide. The deck is slanted, and the presentation today, towards the corporate side, but you’ll find the relevance is obvious, I hope.
CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: Yeah. And the tool kit is because it was done by the Workforce Alliance team, it also probably slants towards the corporate side, but there’s a lot of overlap, and a lot of ways that I think a lot of the tools can still be used and applied. And we can also help make adjustments on a sort of, if you want to do it in an academic space and have questions about that, we can help with that.
BRAD McLAIN: So as we just said, diversity and inclusion not to be relegated just to becoming women’s issues. And also as we’ve said, white men in particular are often the leaders, the gatekeepers, or the people in positional power to make change. And so we need change leadership efforts to include them. And not to be shunted off to a Diversity and Inclusion Officer who most often would be a woman who is hired to do this kind of work. But that they are actually working together in that. Also, women report that support to pursue and persist in STEM careers, including technology and computers, often comes from the men in their lives. Not just the people that they work with, but husbands and fathers and brothers and people who support them behind the scenes in how to navigate the very different experience of being a woman in these fields than their male counterparts might have to do. Those who have that kind of support are more successful. And it’s not just about, am I stepping on your line?
CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: You can if you want to.
BRAD McLAIN: It’s not just about the benefit of women, as we’ll discover as we unpack this. But men also benefit from being allies and advocates in many ways. And that was what the research that Catherine mentioned earlier that NCWIT undertook revealed to a great extent.
CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: Yes. And so this one, I would just underscore is probably a less frequently talked about reason. That men also benefit from expanding gender norms. And we have that adorable little picture there. Did any of you hear about, this was probably maybe a couple years now. The Easy-Bake Oven incident story? One or two people? So the young woman on the right was about 11 at the time. And she found her brother, who was four at the time, was a big fan of cooking. But he didn’t want to play with the Easy-Bake Oven. Because it was pink and they had girls in the commercials and he just didn’t. So one day she walks in and he’s trying to cook a tortilla on his lamp. She like, “this isn’t a good situation.” So she creates a video and a petition on Change.org. So she creates a video that tells this story and features her younger brother and herself and then hundreds of thousands of people sign the petition and celebrity chefs got involved, like Bobby Flay, and made their own petition and video. And eventually Hasbro invited her down there and showed them, because she was arguing that they make it in a variety of colors and also put boys in the commercials and so they showed her that they had this one in the works. But I always have to qualify this story with saying, it’s not that boys can’t play with pink ovens. And that they can only play with the black ovens and that they girls can’t play with it. So that’s the sort of complicating factor here. But the idea of expanding the options, right? And expanding the representations of what’s okay and the norms for who cooks, who doesn’t. So this is just kind of a reverse analogy. Of what we’re talking about, in a way. And that it’s really about all of us advocating for each other in the expansion of these norms and it goes beyond gender. So that’s the potential problem with calling things male allies, but we’ll say more about that in a minute. But just this idea of advocating for each other and expanding gender norms more broadly. And that it should start early, in this example. Okay, so. What does it take? We’re gonna start with just some tips on what does it take to implement successful male ally efforts. And all of this can be found in the Raising Awareness Tool Kit. So actually go ahead and click that. It’s a screenshot there of the Raising Awareness Tool Kit. And if we have time, we’re gonna maybe try to click through and demonstrate a few of the pieces after Ann talks about her experiences. But the Raising Awareness Tool Kit includes ideas for kinds of panels or events that you might hold, ways to raise awareness in a multiple, different situations. So it’s not just a one-shot event. But how you might follow up with different kinds of communication or follow-up events. And then it also has tools for planning the panel. So it gets very nitty gritty. So it has email invite you can send, text for that that you can adapt. And suggestions for panel questions, and how to prepare the speakers for the panel, and what kinds of marketing strategies to think about and talk about and how to frame the event, as well. So all kinds of tips in that regard. And kind of ready-made templates. And so some of this I just wanted to highlight. This is included in the tool kit, not in this format. We didn’t get probably permission to put Patrick Stewart in the tool kit. But when even you can use Patrick Stewart to support your points, I think you should. We make these qualifications in the tool kit, as these are kind of important things to keep in mind for making male ally events or efforts successful. So the first is, and these are also frequently asked questions that people often have. So the first is, when you discuss some of the strategies that male allies can use, people say, “well these aren’t things only men can do, right?” And yes, that’s true. They are not only things that men can do. In fact, most of the things we suggest are things that everybody can do, but often because position, position in the organization, position in society, does make a difference. And identity. So sometimes men are in a better position to do some of these things. If that makes sense. As Patrick Stewart sort of indicates there. The other thing though, to keep in mind is, I alluded to this earlier. One way we frame this is male ally efforts. And sometimes companies find that useful and strategic because they’re trying to highlight gender and they’re trying to get the attention of men and peak men’s interest. And these have so historically been talked about as women’s issues, that sometimes people are just like, “well I must not belong there,” or “I can’t really do anything there.” And so it highlights that aspect. But there are some cons to it as well, calling them male allies. Because not all men are in as equal a position to be an ally. If they’re in lesser positions of power, or vary by race and other kinds of factors there. And then also we like to highlight this idea of majority group allies, that’s another way we frame it, to highlight the fact that really this is about shifting allyship. Because we are all, if you attended any of the panels on intersectionally, we are all members of dominant and marginalized groups, depending on the particular context and emphasis. And so all of us can be allies in different ways. So some of these same principles apply. So we just wanted to kind of complicate that. And this is a key. So our work team talked about this a ton too. It was a discussion in how to frame it and what would be best in their companies, or their organizations. It varies. So this is an important question to think about first. And Ann is gonna talk a little bit about how they did that at Fidelity.
BRAD McLAIN: Alright, so one of the things, as ground rule number one is what male advocates and allies actually are allied and advocating for. And it’s a big misunderstanding that needs to be cleared up at the beginning, if you’re trying to organize a male ally initiative or group of any sort. Most people will think, “oh, I’m gonna advocate for individual people.” Individual women in this case. And it’s kind of fix the woman approach, as if women needed fixing, or could be fixed by men. We’ve had enough of that already. The advocacy and the ally advocates for changing the environment. And those changes don’t just benefit the women, but they do to a greater extent. Thanks. Gonna get the ax. And they actually benefit all employees, if done right. Which is another call to action for making all of this inclusive and all hands on deck. And that’s something that usually has to be repeated many times before anyone really gets it, you know? Especially if they’re outside on the margins of the group, top leadership may say, “yes, let’s start a male advocates program” and turn you lose on it and not really understand it themselves. And when they go out and speak about it, it’s very important that you understand and they understand and talk about changing the environment. Which is strategic and systemic and relates to the strategic change model that you’ve all seen from NCWIT before. Second point, there are mines in that minefield. And will you step on them. Not just the men, but anybody involved in these majority ally efforts. And that has to be okay. And if it’s not okay, the effort could very well backfire. In other words, a well-intentioned would-be male advocate decides to throw the hat in the ring. Uncertain, perhaps even nervous about doing so. And if the first outing results in disaster, you may never see that person again. I tried, I’m out of here. Embarrassment or worse. Public humiliation or shame. All the things he was hoping not to do. But if you can create a space, as the leader of a male advocate initiative, with your co-leaders, where it is expected and talked about beforehand that mistakes will be made, that failures will happen, but you can fail forward and build from them, that kind of culture is gonna be what makes your initiative successful. So, a little bit about growth mindset. How many of you have heard about Carol Dweck’s work in mindset before? Or perhaps read the book Mindset? It’s about a decade old now. Very briefly, this is an important component of failing forward, is that we can adapt to one of two mindsets, she claims in her research. This is backed up well. A growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Tech culture, there’s some evidence to show that as an industry most people in it have a fixed mindset which treats failures as something to be hidden, minimized, and, at all costs, avoided. Whereas a growth mindset looks at those failures as constructive opportunities to fail forward, to build, to learn, and to move on. And so it may be a good idea to include some talk about mindset and some knowledge of it in your forming of a male advocate initiative or a group. We do have tools for this in the Male Advocates Tool Kit.
CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: And so just to reiterate that point. So a lot of the men in the study talked about the fears or anxieties they had about starting into these efforts and expressed many of the same kinds of concerns you saw on the interpretive memes there. But this comes from a quote from one of the men who talked about that experience and saying, “every person that becomes an advocate had “to go through that door where they take “the first risk and realize, “oh that wasn’t so bad. “So I would talk about the risk taking “with other men that you take the “second time and how all of a sudden “it’s no longer risk taking.” So then, those are some of the key things that we think are important to set the stage for success. Those tips are also included in the tool kit, but then also the more logistical kinds of materials are included in the tool kit, as well. But there’s also tips for preparing the speakers, like I said, and having them think about these things too. So that they are informed on the approach and the rationale. And so then this is also the second part of the tool kit, or it’s actually two separate tool kits. So the second tool kit is moving to action. And right now it contains the Start Small, Start Now piece. So right now, it’s focused more on what individual men can do to change the environment. And so there are six or seven suggestions that we can talk about later, but there are six to seven suggestions there of things that you can pretty much start doing tomorrow. So it involves things like, making sure voices are heard in meetings. Paying attention to who gets assigned what tasks, or if people are doing office housework, and making sure that doesn’t always fall to the same person or to the women, or those kinds of things. And there’s a few other tips in there that we can talk about.
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