It often feels that the weight of standing up against gender inequalities falls on women. Female agency is common and powerful — when facing bias in the workplace or elsewhere, it is common to hear of women teaming up to empower each other and share in the fight to prevent those biases from occurring in the future. Although female agency is powerful, the path to gender equality is a multi-party challenge and so often the role of the second party, men, is left out.
Engaging men in the conversation and work of achieving gender parity can help close a critical gap in the progression towards equality. Throughout history and in research, we see the positive influence that men can have on their female counterparts and on the success of gender-related movements when they serve as advocates. Bringing the other half to the table cannot only help lift the burden from women, but also lead to significant change.
This month, we asked SWE members to provide advice on how to foster male allyship in organizations and outreach efforts. For more resources on cultivating male allyship, read through these past SWE blogs: “Cultivating Male Allyship,” and “The Importance of Male Allies: A Review of the Literature.”
Kristina Phillips – SWE Outreach Committee Member
Bias is not something we are born with, but rather is induced by societal norms. When we read an article talking about a scientist or an engineer, they often use “he” or use a photo of a man versus of a woman. It is ingrained into our brains to see men in more of an assertive role and women in more of a compassionate role. Our typical response is to try and show girls that they are just as capable as boys to be in the STEM field and empower them. However, it is a two way road, in addition to empowering women, men need to learn about the struggles that we face. Though we are not born with bias, if it is what is taught to us at a young age, we will have trouble in the future trying to alter the way we think and not be biased. The easiest way to start fostering male allyship is by starting the conversation, educating about the battles we face and what they can do to help with that. It is never too late to become an ally to women in STEM, but if at a young age, boys were taught to see women as their equals in all fields we would be fostering a new generation with a better chance of eliminating bias.
Heather L. Overkamp – I.C: Norcom HS STEM Teacher
As a teacher and a parent, I think it’s important to normalize women in STEM fields and when referring to a scientist, doctor, engineer, mathematician, etc. that we don’t use “he.” I grew up in a generation that when referring to these career fields, everyone was a he; the conversation has to change to get everyone thinking that these fields are for everyone, not just males. Whether I’m discussing careers with my own kids or my students, it’s important to me to model this kind of talk and also show students examples of people that look like them in those fields. Then we can have a conversation about being women’s allies.
Emma Lovett – University of Minnesota– Twin Cities SWE President
One way the University of Minnesota SWE section fosters male allyship is through our HeforSWE program. Recently rebranded, this event brings students, professors, and TAs together to talk about best practices for being an ally to women. This year our HeforSWE event provided resources for learning how to be a better ally in addition to open conversations about women’s experiences on campus to help potential advocates better understand how to create a more inclusive environment.
Maaha Sakhia – UT Dallas SWE Vice President
I encourage them [men] to attend SWE events and learn more about the struggles that women face. There has been a large shift in the gender norms where a lot of men get hate on, and they don’t deserve that, just like how women don’t. I do my best to make them feel welcome and not bad if they don’t know the proper terms, struggles, or anything else like that.