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What can men do to support women? International Women’s Day

8 minute read

Men can be allies for women in various ways, for International Women's Day and beyond. Here are a few things to consider…

Whether we want to accept it or not, men benefit from longstanding systemic advantages that women do not get to enjoy. The fight to change this has been ongoing for decades and will probably go on for decades more. But guess what?! You can help.

Men tend to have access to a broader array of opportunities and advantages compared to women, which can contribute to disparities in various aspects of life. And whilst this might not be anyone’s ‘fault’, all men can help make a difference and enable changes to this status quo.

Take time to understand

You know that saying about walking a mile in someone’s shoes before making judgments? Take the time to listen to women's experiences, concerns, and perspectives. Educate yourself about issues such as gender inequality, discrimination, and women's rights by reading books, articles, and actually talking to women about these topics. Some of it will – should – shock you.

Amplify women's voices

This does not mean talking in place of women. It means using your platform to amplify the voices of women where you can, if you can. Ensure that women are given credit for their ideas and contributions in professional settings, meetings, and discussions.

Challenge sexism and discrimination

This is a biggie. By NOT speaking out when you see sexist and misogynistic behaviour, you’re enabling it. You’re part of it. Even if you feel like it’s not your business, speak out against sexism, misogyny, and discriminatory behaviour when you witness it. This could involve confronting inappropriate jokes, language, or actions that perpetuate gender stereotypes and inequality. It’s not the 1970s – step on it.

Support women's leadership

Advocate for and support women's leadership in workplaces, politics, and communities. Encourage the promotion and hiring of women into leadership positions, and support initiatives that promote gender diversity and inclusion.

That’s not to say you should hire or nominate women for leadership positions, or vote for a female politician, just because they’re a woman. They ought to be the right person for the job! But if you’re seeing someone being overlooked, and you think gender bias is behind it, look at how you can help.

Share domestic responsibilities

There’s a MASSIVE difference between sharing domestic responsibilities, or as a man, stating that you ‘help’ with them. This indicates you feel they’re not your responsibility at all. Step up!

Take an active role in sharing domestic responsibilities such as childcare, housework, and emotional labour. Recognise and appreciate the unpaid work that women often do in households and strive for equitable distribution of responsibilities instead.

Think about what you say

Be conscious of the language you use and how it may perpetuate gender stereotypes or reinforce inequality. Avoid language that objectifies or diminishes women and strive to treat women with respect and dignity in all interactions. This includes blue jokes that seem harmless to you, for example.

If you’re not sure if something is alright or not, imagine you’re hearing it being said about your mum, wife, sister, daughter… does it feel dodgy? Then it is.

Support women's rights organisations

Donate your time, resources, or money to organisations that work to promote women's rights, provide support services for women, and advocate for gender equality. Why wouldn’t you?

Check your privilege

And we are kind of back to walking in people’s shoes again, except this time, think about your own steps. Reflect on your own privilege as a man and how it may influence your perspectives and experiences.

If you’re not sure what advantages you experience as a man, here are a few things to chew over:

  • Pay and career. Men often receive higher salaries and are more likely to advance to leadership positions in workplaces compared to women, even when qualifications and experience are similar.
  • Politics. Men are still more likely to hold political office and leadership positions in government and other institutions, leading to a lack of representation for women in decision-making processes.
  • Social expectations. Men often face fewer societal expectations related to appearance, behaviour, and family responsibilities – everything from organising the children’s playdates to planning your social life, or time spent with the wider family. Stop and think for a minute – who is shouldering most of that?
  • Safety and security. You probably walk home on your own late at night without even thinking about it, right? Women don’t. Men generally feel safer and more secure in public spaces compared to women, who may experience higher rates of harassment, assault, and fear of violence.
  • Home life affecting career. Women often bear a disproportionate share of household and caregiving responsibilities, which can limit their time and opportunities for personal and professional growth.
  • Healthcare. Men may have better access to healthcare services and research funding compared to women, particularly in areas such as reproductive health and gender-specific medical conditions.
  • The media. Men are more likely to be represented positively and prominently in media and popular culture, while women may be portrayed in stereotypical or limited roles. This is particularly true when coupled with ageism. See ‘Silver fox’ as opposed to ‘old woman’. Take a quick look at the coverage women receive in the ‘red tops’ and ask yourself again, is that okay?
  • Education opportunities. While women have made significant strides in education, men still dominate certain fields and disciplines, leading to disparities in access to opportunities and resources.
  • Freedom of expression. Men may feel more empowered to express their opinions and assert themselves in various settings, while women may face backlash or discrimination for doing the same. Men are ‘assertive’, women are ‘difficult’.

You probably recognise a few of these in your own life, right? And much of it is not of your own making. But what you do with this information now is the important bit.

Be open to feedback and willing to learn and grow. And be proud to be an ally. Your support is vital.

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