Policy, campaigns & research

Allyship really matters - especially from those who hold the power

A message to men on International Women's Day.

On International Women’s Day, I’m going to talk about men. Sorry. But I do think it’s relevant. We still operate in a world where the fight for women’s rights is still largely the domain of women. And I don’t understand why.

I can only conclude that some men are afraid of other men. This might sound unnecessarily provocative but I do sometimes wonder if the failure of men, who say they believe in equal rights, to stand up for and support their female colleagues is because they’re afraid of what the other men will think?

They’re clearly not afraid of the women because we’ll definitely be on their side if they speak out and support us. So, it can only either be that they don’t really believe in equality or they’re scared of the other blokes?

Allyship really matters. Particularly from those who hold power, because the history of change in society shows that even when you have a groundswell of opinion, when folk march and activate and protest, it still takes the men in power to do something in order for things to change.

When I first joined DSC, the sector was quite a hostile place for me, but a chap called Rodney Buse, who I knew when he was a Board member of a previous charity I worked at and was a Trustee at NCVO at the time, spoke positively about me at every opportunity, encouraged me to apply for the role of CEO at DSC when I was not convinced I could do it, and definitely helped me to create some of the important relationships I needed.

My own Chair at DSC, William Butler, has been an outspoken ally for years – as has our trustee Andrew Purkis, a venerated elder statesperson of our sector, who persistently and publicly promotes feminist leadership and is a fantastic male ally.

I’ve said this before in other spaces but whispered allyship is not allyship. A bloke saying after a meeting, ‘I thought you made some great points there’, is simply not the same as saying it out loud in the actual meeting. A male trustee privately noticing that there are not many women on their board but not pointing that out to other male trustees is not allyship.

Come on chaps. Be braver. What’s the worst thing that can happen to you if you stand up for women? Someone who’s views you don’t respect anyway accuses you of rampant wokeism?

We need you. Your colleagues need you. Your daughters need you. Your sisters, aunts, cousins, nieces, even grandmothers need you! Society needs women, and we need you to stand up for us so that together we can accelerate the change we need.

And today, International Women’s Day is a great starting point. Send that email complimenting a female colleague and cc all the important people. Say something glowing on social media about your brilliant female Chair or CEO or Director. And then do it again tomorrow, and the next day and the next until it becomes a habit – and all the other blokes start doing it too!