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The Power of Men as Allies for Advancing and Empowering Women

“Visionary men have long been public champions and behind the scenes dealmakers for the cause of women’s inclusion. Today we need them more than ever.” Ambassador Melanne Verveer

The concept of “Men as Allies” has become a new “mantra” in gender diversity initiatives in corporate and societal contexts. The necessity of garnering the support of men is now rightly seen as a vital component of solving the diversity challenges of organisations and in facilitating the growth of women to leadership positions.

Who is a male ally? A male ally is basically “a man who will advocate for women even when there are no women in the room” (from the documentary Code: Debugging the Gender Gap). Essentially, male allies are men who not only associate with, cooperate with, and support women but also “listen, co-create opportunity, and build a personal brand for accountability and trust”. They are secure men who believe in gender equality. They recognize that the ecosystem does not provide women a level playing ground. They are not afraid of supporting women’s causes or being seen as feminists.

At Talentnomics India, we have had the good fortune of associating with several male leaders who have been “allies” and supporters of our mission. They have mentored emerging women leaders on our Leadership programs, joined panel discussions to impart leadership and life skills from their experience and also supported us by publicly promoting our initiatives through their extensive networks.

We, therefore, decided to ask four of our Male Allies their experience of grooming and supporting women to become leaders. We asked them to share their motivation to support women, the challenges they see emerging women leaders facing, and ways by which more men could be encouraged to support and become allies to women in their career growth and life journey.

Here are short extracts from our conversations with them.

Ram Mudholkar Co-Founder & Partner at Global BioAg Linkages

My firm belief is that women’s leadership is as important and women are as capable as men. Sadly, this belief is not seen widely across different sectors and corporations. Women themselves still appear to be unsure and many times appear needlessly defensive about their unique situations and, therefore, the need to demand the appropriate supporting environment.

Sometime, even when they are ready, women try to become men-like in their leadership profiles and that’s totally wrong because we lose the very benefit of diversity in thoughts and approaches women can bring to the table.

The mindset of men leaders in most companies is still very pathetic in accepting and promoting women’s leadership. The faster they understand the value of equal and energetic participation of women leaders, the better it would be.

Dilip Cherian Founder, Perfect Relations

In three of the five companies I own, the CEOs are women. I feel blessed and lucky that women with talent, competence and commitment have risen to positions where they are now CEOs. This has given me a bird’s eye view of the kind of an atmosphere needed. I don’t believe in a nurturing atmosphere but in an atmosphere that is aggressively equal.

I feel for women to rise, they need to be treated as equal. As long as you give them an aggressively equal environment, they will rise to their level of competence, which, as it happens, helped to reach CXO seats

Only some men have the skill, content and expertise of being able to groom or nurture talent. So, you’ve got to spot them and you have to extract the best out of them. And anyone who has something substantial to contribute will require more than just gentle persuasion

Suparno Banerjee Global Public Sector Lead, Nokia

I do not see any difference between men and women as far as their capabilities are concerned. It is just that they do not get the same number of opportunities as men do. The challenge that we face is to provide them with opportunities right through their careers so that they develop all aspects and attributes needed of leaders – honing their capabilities through challenging and stretch assignments, supporting them in difficult situations so that they become less risk averse, helping them with their networks, providing platforms for visibility, etc.

In addition, men need to do two very important things – mentor and sponsor more women; and encourage women to be authentic leaders.

Rajat Kathuria Director and Chief Executive, ICRIER

I firmly believe that there are too few initiatives that take up the cause of building and advancing women’s role in leadership. The reason I feel we need to push such initiatives is because we cannot look the other way anymore in the face of mounting evidence that gender equity improves economies and firms alike.

From where I sit, I can conclusively say that women have been the better performers regardless of the metric one uses to measure. In general, they respond better in crisis, are more empathetic and effective team players. I cannot remember a single occasion when they have not delivered to my satisfaction and to the satisfaction of the organisation.

I feel women need to be given adequate exposure and support, and the confidence that they will be judged by their work and not their gender! Ceteris paribus, give more opportunities to women and support them – the results will speak for themselves!

Written by Shravani Prakash

Shravani is the Founder of elleNomics, a digital platform aggregating resources for enabling women to advance and thrive. She is an Economist with more than 12 years’ experience in policy research with organisations like ICRIER and World Bank.


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