Promoting Women’s Voices
as a Male Ally
Men have a role to play in the pursuit for gender equality in not only supporting the women around them but to also recognise how gender equality benefits them and wider society. This toolkit aims to provide practical advice to men in how to be an ally to promote women’s voices as an individual, event participant, moderator and organiser.
What you can do as an individual
Be mindful of how you treat the women at your work or in your network!
Discrimination against women in public debates is the norm, not the exception. 68% of speakers in conferences are men. Read data about women’s underrepresentation in public speaking and on panels – go to the IMF, EIGE, EU Panel Watch, the Open Society Foundation.
Watch your language!
Use Dr. Prof. when necessary and never use Miss/Mrs. but remember that some women might prefer these titles. So if you’re not sure, ask and never assume.
Say it to the world!
In your electronic email signature, put ‘I don’t participate in manels’.
Call it out!
Call out mansplaining, toxic masculinity, sexist and exclusive language. Look for sources of inspiration! Find a male role model, who is accessible and in a position of power. Look at: www.malechampionsofchange.com
Don’t comment/question on women’s appearance, marital status or about her potential/existing children during public debates.
Be the role model!
Show other men the benefits of gender equality.
If you see a woman feeling uncomfortable, offer her an exit point.
Be a promoter!
Promote women’s work on social media and through your personal network.
Embrace the power of women!
Checking on your male privilege may make you feel uncomfortable but that’s OK, it’s all part of the process of becoming a male ally. Just remember that women being elevated in their career and speaking positions doesn’t take away from your successes.
Ask how you can support!
Engage in supportive partnerships with women – ask them what they need from you and act on it.
Name and shame all male panels.
Tag The Brussels Binder (@bxlbinder) on Twitter to highlight why it is important to have women in public debates and what we can do about it.
What you can do as an event participant
Give space and value the expertise of the women around you.
Refuse to speak in manels!
When invited to speak on a panel, always ask who the other panelists will be. If it turns out to be an all-male panel, then refuse to participate and tell the event organisers why.
Suggest a woman.
Recommend a woman instead of yourself within your organisation or network when you can’t participate (or even when you can participate).
Give space to women!
Keep in mind how much physical space you take on a panel (think: manspreading, eclipsing and interrupting women). Monitor how much speaking time you have and make sure that gender balance is respected.
Men tend to repeat what women have said or tend to claim the points as their own. Try not to interrupt when a woman is speaking and instead be an active listener (amplification).
If you don’t know anything about a specific topic, or even if you know something, try to wait until the speaker has finished before voicing your opinions.
You don’t have to be a star (all the time)!
If you’re a specialist or an expert, you could consider stepping back to give the space for women to shine. Your expertise doesn’t disappear by doing so.
What you can do as an event moderator
Be aware and prioritise women’s voices!
Equal interaction with the audience!
Be aware of gender balance when it comes to the Q&A. Ensure an equal number of questions are taken from both men and women in the audience. It might help to ask a woman first to stimulate discussion and encourage other women in the audience to get involved.
Let women speak!
Make a point to prioritize asking the first question to a woman speaker on the panel before going to her male panelists.
Don’t ask questions or make jokes that you wouldn’t ask/make to a man. Women’s personal lives (whether they’re married, have children and how they cope with work-life balance) are out of bounds.
Be aware of your language!
Refer to all panelists by their titles – moderators tend to often use a woman’s first or last name. Credit women’s achievements not their character traits. When describing them say “smart” instead of “sweet.”
Refuse to moderate all male panels.
Voicing your support against manels is an important step in encouraging more gender diverse discussions. It will also help encourage event organisers to include more women in panels.
To avoid making assumptions about your speakers, try to get to know them to better understand how to get the best out of them.
What you can do as an event organiser
Be proactive in the pursuit of gender balance and diversity.
It’s not a slogan!
Be proactive and don’t use gender equality as a trendy tag. Make sure that what’s going on at your conference or panel actually reflects the values of gender equality. Brief your panelists on the best practices for a gender balanced discussion.
Define your objective!
Event organisers need to be explicit about gender balance in their panel. Start with a minimum 50-50% gender ratio and don’t be afraid of all women panels (these are conference unicorns!).
Track the number you want to achieve. If you haven’t achieved gender balance, own it and don’t make excuses!
Make sure women are part of it!
Inviting women as audience members or having a woman moderator is not enough. Women need to be heard, so they need speaking opportunities.
Invite more women than men!
In order to secure a gender balanced panel, invite more women than men as cancellations often happen.
Involve women in the organisation!
Engage women in the planning stage of events by asking them what they need to attend e.g. childcare provisions. Make sure to have a clear vision of your event where diversity is considered from start to finish.
Women as ambassadors!
Ask a woman speaker from a previous event to recommend another woman expert from her network to be on your next panel
Look beyond titles!
More often than not, top senior positions are occupied by men. Invite women from junior-mid level positions as well.
Think outside the box!
The panel format tends to be old fashioned, so consider something else more dynamic! This could allow for more space for audience participation and stimulate discussion.
Make it possible!
It is best to avoid organising an event in the late afternoon or evening as women are less likely to participate due to caregiving responsibilities.
Create a safe space!
Make spaces gender responsive to ensure that women panelists and participants have accessible, convenient and safe facilities to use.
References and further readings
Harvard Business Review: How Men Can Become Better Allies to Women
Attention Men: How to Become an Ally for Women’s Rights by Aspen Russell
Forbes: 7 Ways Men Can Support Women As Allies
Tips From the #GHC19 Male Allies Panel, and Other Actions for Allies by Better Allies
Too few women at the table: 5 ways to improve gender balance in EU policy debates by Rosetti Rivera
IGC: Gender-Responsive Assembly Toolkit
IGC: A two-page on the Initiative
IGC: A ‘How To’ Checklist for International Gender Champions
Harvard Business Review: Challenging Our Gendered Idea of Mentorship
Harvard Business Review: How to Get More Men to Take Gender Balance Seriously
Every Woman Workbook: Gender Intelligence: The Workplace Game-Changer
Every Woman Podcast: The Healthy Masculine – Growing a New Generation of Male Allies
Every Woman Podcast: The Male Agent of Change with Chris Stylianou
Every Woman Webinar: Male Allies – How to be a Powerful Advocate for Inclusion
Every Woman Article: Becoming a Father was a Catalyst for me to become a Gender Diversity Champion
Catalyst: Quick Take – Women in Male-Dominated Industries and Occupations
Catalyst Blog: 5 Ways Every Man Can Challenge the Toxic Culture of Masculinity
Catalyst Blog: Five Podcasts for Men Who Want to be Gender Equity Champions
Bloomberg: Men Still Outnumber Women 2-to-1 as Speakers at Conferences
EU Panel Watch: How Thick is the Glass Ceiling in Brussels?
Open Society Foundations: An End to Manels: Closing the Gender Gap at Europe’s Top Policy Events
- Emma Rainey
- Eleonora del Vecchio (The Brussels Binder, Belgium)
- Patrycja Sosnowska-Buxton (BlansPL, Poland)
- Stella Kasdagli (Women on Top, Greece)
- Chiara De Santis (GenPol, Belgium)
- Martina Conte (Independent, Italy)
- Charlotte Brandsma (The Brussels Binder, Belgium)
- Leonie Liemich (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Czech Republic)
- Paola Maniga (The Brussels Binder, Italy)
Naina Mangtani (Bruegel, Belgium)
Dive into the toolkits
This toolkit aims to provide practical advice to men in how to be an ally to promote women’s voices as an individual, event participant, moderator and organiser.
This toolkit provides tips and advice for women experts on stepping forward and being visible at events and media interviews.
This toolkit provides practical advice strategic network building for women but also for women-led initiatives on how to build synergies and collaborations.
This toolkit is designed to help you think about diversity from all angles when you are organising a public debate, both online and offline.
This toolkit provides practical advice at improving gender balance at conferences as well as countering excuses for manel debates.
This toolkit aims to provide practical advice to journalists on how to make the media more inclusive as well as provide tips to women experts on engaging with the press.