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'Not Her Problem' | The power of allyship in gender equality

  • Publish Date: Posted 16 days ago
  • Author: Katie Marshall
Allyship is vital if we are to continue to further equality. In this article, we focus specifically on gender equality and consider the powerful role allyship plays in shifting the dial on discrimination.
Against the backdrop of an incredible Women's Euro tournament and allyship campaign, we partnered with Northern Power Women to consider the role of advocacy in the workplace.
Read on to find out how the Lionesses have brought allyship to the fore, hear open and honest opinions from Adrian Adair, Chief Operating Officer at Morson Group, Afiya Amesu, Co-Founder of She Leads for Legacy, Julie Newton, Head of Inclusion at United Utilities and Ian Whilby, Consultant Adviser Growth Company and take away actionable insights on how to go from passive to active ally.
Key members of Hope United team
England's women have done it! The Lionesses brought home the UEFA Women's Euros championship, in front of record-breaking crowds. To coincide with the tournament EE has unveiled its Hope United campaign, 'Not Her Problem'. The campaign is aimed at combatting the online sexist hate that the women's team faces and encourages men to take an active role in addressing it, with the message 'Sexist hate stops with men'. To showcase the resilience of women, and encourage men to be allies during the Euros, a new team of footballers – men and women – was assembled, managed by passionate advocate Gareth Southgate.

Lucy Bronze, Hope United, commented, “As women footballers, the sad truth is that we now expect sexist abuse on a near daily basis: it has not only become an inescapable part of the game, but of a woman’s life in the public eye. But it shouldn’t be this way. This is why we are asking men to be allies of women this summer and help stamp out sexism online. It’s great to see so many from the men’s game join the squad: it gives me confidence that we can make a difference.”

The 2022 tournament has had more coverage than we've ever seen before for the women's game and the Lionesses played brilliantly. So why does it matter what a few online trolls are saying?

A recent YouGov survey commissioned by EE revealed that 52% of the UK public don't feel the internet is a safe space for women, and 60% of the UK believe that not enough is being done to tackle online and offline misogyny. Furthermore, nearly half (46%) of people who have seen or experienced online sexism didn't do anything about it, while 63% of male participants feel men are more responsible than women for misogynistic behaviour online, and 70% of women feel the same way.

Taking a stand and acknowledging that men can do more to stop sexist hate, the 'Not her problem' campaign demonstrates allyship in action. We see the male players using their influence to challenge the status quo and support their female counterparts, with the hope that, by leading by example, they can inspire other men to do the same.

PoWEring Up Allyship with Northern Power Women

Allyship is vital if we are to continue to further gender equality. Allies must be welcomed and encouraged into any conversation on equality as ultimately it's through working together that we will shift the dial. We explored the power of influence in a recent webinar with diversity powerhouse Northern Power Women.

During 'PoWEring Up Allyship' Adrian Adair, Chief Operating Officer at Morson Group, Afiya Amesu, Co-Founder of She Leads for Legacy, Julie Newton, Head of Inclusion at United Utilities and Ian Whilby, Consultant Adviser Growth Company discussed the many different ways that allies and advocates can truly make a difference in elevating others, opening doors and championing communities.

How can you use your PoWEr for good?
  • Ian: Spread the message and keep going in making change

  • Julie: Influence every opportunity to improve mindset and raise the agenda

  • Afiya: Signal and signpost other people to opportunities that come your way

  • Adrian: Keep curious and don't be afraid to challenge

Take your allyship to the next level. Here are three key takeaways that can enable you to go from passive to active ally and support others.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes

In times where you can see injustices happening, saying nothing is worse than saying the wrong thing. Don't let your fear of getting it wrong stop you from taking a stand. If you have identified an issue or witnessed discrimination it is important to speak up. Staying neutral will only maintain the status quo and naming a problem is the first step toward finding a resolution. Don't let your fear of getting it wrong stop you from taking a stand.

"You can never say the wrong thing if it's from the heart, the person receiving it will welcome it and point you in the right direction" - Ian Whilby

Not everyone's experiences are homogenous and so we must always be learning. Reading up on issues faced by marginalised people in your industry is a great place to start. Being aware of the issues will allow you to recognise them when they occur in your workplace. Most importantly, listen when someone tells you about their experiences and believe them.

"It's a constant education, I will always learn, be able to challenge and influence change - diversity is never done."
- Adrian Adair

Being an ally is a learning process and given the complexity of the many different types of oppression, you're not going to get it right every time. If someone corrects your use of language or suggests that you might do something different in future, accept their feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everybody makes mistakes, what's important is how we learn from them.

"A great ally is someone who doesn't try to be a saviour, they recognise that they're not trying to rescue people from minoritised groups. They're trying to support them and advance the equalities agenda." - Afiya Amesu

Deeds not words

"Diversity isn't just a desirable objective, it's a necessity. Young people want to see real action and tangible steps to progress and advance the equality agenda. Social Media posts and empty pledges are no longer enough. Young people want to be able to speak freely, they want a seat at the table and they want to see organisations make real commitment to change."
- Afiya Amesu

Advocate for others by sharing opportunities when they arise, invite people from marginalised groups to attend important events and make sure that everyone gets an opportunity to speak, uninterrupted, during meetings. Look for opportunities to amplify marginalised voices and always consider whose perspective you may be missing.

"I always used to think of myself as a sponsor, but through the Power Collective and Northern Power Women, my eyes have opened to what allyship means. I've always surrounded myself with a diversity of people, of thoughts and it's so important to make sure that others are championed, promoted, and elevated. In my role, my eyes are open to barriers and I am fortunate to be able to influence change and work to remove them. Importantly, I don't pull the ladder up after me. And this is what allyship is all about." - Adrian Adair

Be intentional: recognise opportunities to invest in others

Look around you! Is there someone you can see in your network who would benefit from your advice? Invest in others and help them on their career journey.

"Doors aren't always there for people to open so if we can provide avenues, routes, corridors for people to find those doors and point them in the right direction then what a great place that will be." - Julie Newton

There are intersecting ways in which people can be discriminated against, but there are so many ways that people can advocate for one another. For example, the male football players showcasing allyship in the 'Not Her Problem' campaign are hugely powerful because of their influence within the football community. Consider your influence and how your actions can be an example to others to do good.

Being an ally is something in which we all can take an active role. It doesn't take changes in policies, prodecures or processes. It takes awareness. If we look for opportunities to champion marginalised groups, and listen to and accept feedback with empathy, every one of us can make a difference. Whether that's supporting the Lionesses or putting forward colleagues for an opportunity they may otherwise not have been considered for.

Allyship isn't a quick win. It requires continuous effort and the desire to go out of your way to support others in need. However, no matter your gender, religion, ethnicity, job, or experience there is always something you can do for someone else.

We pride ourselves on being an equal opportunities employer that provides an inclusive environment to candidates and employees alike. We believe that diversity of thought promotes innovation by bringing multiple perspectives to discussions and decisions. We are committed to improving the diversity of our company and building inclusive cultures every day.
You can watch the PoWEring Up Allyship webinar, and read about Morson's ED&I work by following the links.