Employee Experience

Male Allies – Women Don’t Need Fixing, Systems Need Changing

12 February 2024



A colleague forwarded me this SU webinar, and I finally watched it in the holidays. Women need men in their corner in the fight for gender equality, but allyship is a nuanced role.

Prof Ozbilgin’s thoughts on the subject really resonated with me, and I thought I’d share some of them here.

1. We must stop putting individuals (i.e. men) on the spot and prioritise the systems that perpetuate patriarchy. We need to consider the intersectionality of institutions because institutions provide different outcomes for individuals based on race, gender, etc. None of us wake up and think, “I’m a woman” – we are forced into that awareness when we come into contact with institutions that make it salient, that denigrate our gender.

2. We must beware of the saviour complex – women don’t need saving; systems need changing. Often, men think bringing women under their wing provides them equality and opportunity – but that’s not the aim of allyship. This kind of relationship is very patronising for the women, and it makes other men feel an unfair game is being played. Instead, show allyship to a cause and change the systems women return to in their organisations instead of saving individual women.

3. Men need to practice reverse allyship, i.e., where the ally applies critical listening to women’s concerns and reversely translates them to organisational design. So, allies became co-designers of organisational design instead of male allies who are showing a trust deficit to women by putting them through hoops such as education, mentoring and other “fixing practices”.

I’ve had mixed results from reverse mentoring in the past. Admittedly, that was pairing up mentors and mentees from different generations. I’d love to hear your thoughts over on my LinkedIn Page.

– To my male followers in leadership positions, how does the idea sit with you?

– To the ladies, does the term “fixing practices” ring true? Do you feel reverse mentoring stands a chance?