The Importance of Male Allyship with James Edwards

By Hannah McIntosh

A male ally is any man willing to advocate and speak up in support of gender equality. We spoke to James Edwards, a member of our Women in Tech (WiT) community who is leading the Male Allyship Initiative at PA. In this interview, James shares his thoughts on the importance of male allyship in progressing towards gender parity and how to encourage others to get involved.

James Edwards

What made you interested in becoming a Male Ally and why is it important to you?

At university, I was very aware of the lack of diversity within technology. There were just a handful of women in my Computer Science degree cohort. As I progressed into the industry, I recognised that the gender gap was still evident. It is only in recent years, that there has been a drive to tackle this within technology.

Groups like Women in Tech at PA initially began their outreach by providing free access to training courses aimed at inspiring and upskilling more women into the field. These initiatives have undoubtedly helped to diversify the industry. However, there is still a long way to go before we reach gender parity in technology. A recent survey by the We Are Tech group identified the biggest barriers to women’s tech careers and progression, finding that 29 per cent of women attributed barriers into tech to gender bias in the workplace, 38 per cent to lack of promotion opportunities, and 33 per cent to lack of senior support and role models. This suggests that it is not enough to simply recruit more women in the industry.

Although these reasons alone were enough to urge me to play a more active role in combatting the gender diversity challenge, my first-hand experience on a client project made up of a diverse team inspired my passion to play an active role in championing gender diversity in technology. The variety of ideas, productivity, and enjoyment within this team was better than I had ever experienced previously. From then on, I noticed that diversity correlates with the success of a team.

Why is it important for more men to become male allies to aid gender diversity?

In the fight for gender diversity, men tend to be absent from the discussion but research shows that 78 percent of senior leadership positions within technology are held by men - they are critical in the drive for change.

Whilst I am sure there may be many complex reasons as to why few men seek active participation in gender diversity initiatives, I believe that current initiatives have increased men’s awareness of the cause, but not their commitment to overcoming it.

Recent studies have proven that companies where men are actively involved in championing gender diversity, have a greater impact on increasing diversity than those which do not. This highlights that the absence of male support in gender diversity initiatives yields a lower success rate when the minority have to drive them. The low male representation contributes to the illusion that a lack of gender diversity affects only women.

However, a study by Catalyst showed that organisations with more women in leadership positions enjoy a 35 per cent higher return on equity than those lacking gender diversity. They credit this to diversity in the workforce generating variety of imagination, higher levels of ingenuity, and increased collaboration and communication, which ultimately benefits both the company and clients.

What steps can be taken to involve more men in the fight for gender diversity?

The purpose of a male allyship initiative is to encourage more men to actively address issues and contribute to solutions surrounding gender diversity. The way to achieve this is to:

1. Spread awareness of allyship and its importance

There are many ways to spread awareness on the importance of allyship in a company, but it’s productive to start at the top and train those most senior in the company to promote an inclusive culture. Allyship can begin as a small action, even the smallest of effort can make a difference, before evolving into more meaningful contributions.

2. Empower men to be visible and join in

It’s essential for men to make their support known to women but also to other men. Men can set an example by modelling the right behaviours in their day-to-day professional lives by taking part in activities, being visible at community events, and volunteering as an instructor on coding courses.

3. Encourage more men to mentor

A vital role that men can play in overcoming the gender gap is to mentor women who are interested in their business area or job role. Mentorship can take many forms, from technical training to career progression advice. An important element to consider when providing mentorship is to agree on a level of commitment and the outcomes that would define a successful mentorship.

4. Make it fun!

I’ve enjoyed being involved with Women in Tech, from seeing the benefit my mentoring has brought, to learning from my mentees through reverse mentoring. I have also noticed how much working in a diverse team enables people to generate innovative ideas and collaborate. I hope this becomes the norm in technology.

Ultimately, the gender diversity challenge does not affect just women; everyone must take responsibility to overcome it. In doing so, we’ll not only have a more diverse and inclusive workforce, but also be able to better innovate and futureproof the technology industry.

To delve further into conversations on male allyship, listen to our special podcast episode with WeAreTech where we continue to discuss why allyship is important and what it looks like from the perspective of our colleagues James Edwards, Jiten Kachhela, Andrew Earnshaw, and Claudia Pellegrino.

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Hannah McIntosh PA digital expert

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