Has male-female allyship suffered during COVID-19?

The evidence out there points to the fact that women want male allies in the fight for gender equality, but some men are less than keen to join the movement, according to a new study

Has male and female allyship in gender equality stalled? Women increasingly want men to join them as allies in the fight for gender equality, but a new study has found that 59% of men surveyed don’t.

The global research report that surveyed men and women in employment entitled “Women: Progressing Gender Equality” was published in support of the UN’s HeForShe movement and found that 98% of women wanted men to join them, remedying gender inequality. Yet, less than half of men said they wanted to.

Why allyship to achieve gender equality has stalled

The report reveals an environment of inaction among men when it comes to tackling gender equality issues where despite one out of three respondents saying they believed that men and women weren’t treated equally at work, only 28% of male employees said they would speak out against gender discrimination.

This reveals that men may not think it’s their responsibility to call out these matters, which shows that allyship isn’t regarded as an important aspect of furthering gender equity. Worse still, the statistics could also reveal that many men don’t care about gender equality at work enough to do anything about it.

The report found that men “were more than twice as likely as female colleagues to say that gender inequality is no longer an issue facing women,” which could account for the low numbers of men willing to speak out.

The fact that only 39% of women wanted men to call out gender equality issues suggests that women may feel apprehensive about escalating these issues to men in a similar way that some BAME professionals have been reluctant to report racist workplace incidences to HR for fear of not being believed.

However, women need workplace allyship more than ever, considering how COVID-19 has rendered them worse off than their male counterparts. The study found that more women (14%) than men (11%) were furloughed, while 45% of women had their job negatively impacted in some way as a result of the pandemic.

This 45% rate could be due to the experience of working mothers who have juggled a variety of responsibilities, including homeschooling children, where the report found that women “spent more time on household work since the pandemic began with home-schooling, childcare, and cooking the biggest burdens.” COVID-19 has decreased wellbeing and productivity for a number of working mothers, which could precipitate a mass exodus from the workforce due to stress. The report found that one-third of women want men to take on household duties, showing how pressured some feel during COVID-19.

The report also revealed that its male respondents had a more fruitful period in their career during the pandemic than women, where 13% “saw more opportunities for financial raises” than women (11%).

Commenting on the report, Yvonne van Bokhoven, executive vice president at LEWIS, a marketing company and the report’s producer, said:

“The problem of widespread gender inequality is no secret, but our latest research is a powerful reminder that the advances the world has made to combat this discrimination can be easily lost if we are not careful. We need everyone, men and women, to take steps now to empower women by speaking up, being allies, and working to address systemic gender inequalities.”

LEWIS CEO Chris Lewis added: “You don’t need to personally be a victim of discrimination to understand why we need to fight it. It’s clear that men can – and should – do more to help. Our hope is this research will help shine a light on the challenges women face to make all of us stronger allies in the fight against inequality.”

COVID-19 has been a stressful time where many businesses have prioritised survival and adaptation over other things, including D&I. This ‘sink or swim’ environment could be the reason why, as the report concludes, that gender inequality has stalled within organisations. But this is exactly why HR teams and leaders need to work harder at this time to remind their organisation that while COVID-19 has disrupted many things, the fight for gender equality in the workplace, as in other areas of life, goes on.


Rate This: