As someone who is working as head of allyship for a female only committee currently, there is a real journey for the men to go on to become allies or even agents of change. We must listen and ask questions, advocate and amplify, recognise our privilege, check biases and blind spots, speak up and don’t be complicit- and finally, stage bystander interventionsSeb Randle, people-focused coach and head of allyship at Bloom North
The FuturePlus sustainability management and ESG reporting platform was co-founded by Alex Smith and Mike Penrose. Alex is female, but, despite being equal to Mike in expertise, skillsets and technical knowledge, she had to fight twice as hard to be respected.
During meetings, technical questions are often put to Mike and pitches or marketing materials are often directed at him personally. Nine out of ten emails are sent to Mike, even when replying to a query raised initially by Alex. At events and conferences, Alex is often asked where the toilets are, to take coats or get coffees. Half of the comments Mike receives from men are about Alex’s looks first and her competency second.
“Before I worked with Alex, I didn’t fully understand or appreciate the challenges women face thanks to unconscious bias,” says Mike. “It’s a very real and awfully present aspect of working life for women and people from minority backgrounds.
But Mike pushes back against it: “I always gently challenge the behaviour and ensure that Alex receives the recognition and amplification in the room she deserves. We also play ‘meeting tag’: I often defer to Alex with technical questions – she is far more competent than I am on many technical aspects.”
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