5 ways male allies can champion women in tech

We often write about the ways in which women can help support each other and champion a gender diverse tech industry, but the reality is that gender diversity and inclusion in tech should be everybody’s issue, not just women. Men have a huge part to play in the journey to gender equality as being allies can be hugely impactful. An ally is simply someone who will be on your side and fight with you. So, this international men’s day we’re looking at 5 ways male allies can champion women in tech and help create change.


male allies for women in tech

Why do we need male allies?


There have been many studies into what impact a diverse & inclusive workforce can have on a business. One of the most important benefits is that unless you have a diverse team from different backgrounds, genders, races and cultures, you won’t be producing a truly diverse product offering. And so, whilst you could think you’re on the money with your product or service, your opinion (and those of your team) might not reflect the diverse population you serve. This is backed up by financial evidence too – McKinsey found that companies who have a higher level of gender diversity are 21% more likely to gain profits above the average level.


So, the fight for gender parity in tech should be important to all of us, not just women. But how can men become allies and help support women in tech?


1. Education

The first step anyone should take if they are to become an ally is to educate themselves to understand the current situation. Things like unconscious bias are huge factors as to why women aren’t pursuing a career in tech. As a male ally it’s so important to understand the different biases which women face and challenge yourself on any which you might hold which could impact how you deal with women in your organisation. A good example of a bias women face was noted by Sheryl Sandburg – women who are opinionated are described as ‘bossy’, whereas men who are opinionated are seen as leaders. By recognising and challenging these biases, men can become strong allies for gender equality and help women to become respected in the workplace.


A recent study by Textio which looked at the difference in performance reviews for men and women found that 76% of women had an aspect of their personality negatively fed back on. Negative personality feedback only appeared on 2% of men’s reviews. This is a huge disparity, and while feedback on behavioural characteristics can lead to productive change and positive impact, it should be consistent across both genders. Such a big difference in the data shows women are facing criticism more than men when it comes to their personalities.


2. Celebrate women’s accomplishments & promote them


While female representation in tech is increasing slowly, one of the biggest barriers to ever closing the gap is the lack of women in senior positions in technology. Currently just 10.9% of those in CEO or senior leadership roles in IT are women. This lack of women at higher levels leaves a lack of relatable role models for young girls looking to get into tech. If they can’t see people like them doing these roles, they won’t be able to imagine that they could be there one day. So, male allies can help here by making a conscious effort to celebrate women’s accomplishments in tech and shout about them wherever they can. Nominations for awards such as The Women in Tech Employer Awards can really amplify these achievements and spur others on to do the same.


We already know from the previous stat that the majority of people in senior positions in tech are men, and although this needs to change, this is a great opportunity for allyship too. CEOs and senior leadership employees are the ones who will be making decisions about promotions, pay rises and accolades. By actively promoting and elevating women in tech, we will start to see more role models shine through who will inspire future generations to come. That’s where the change will come from.

3. Mentorship

Mentorships are an incredibly valuable tool for women in tech. Having a mentor to offer advice, share experiences and just talk to can help promote your development and growth in your career. However, women in tech are missing out – did you know that men are 50% more likely to have a mentor in their career than women are? By investing in a mentorship programme, a company can unlock a cost-effective way of developing employees and keeping them engaged.


Although sometimes it’s helpful for women to have female mentors, it’s not to say that this is the only way. Men can offer to mentor women too, and sometimes having multiple mentor relationships allows someone to thrive to their fullest potential as they gain different perspectives and knowledge bases.


4. Speak up


One of the simplest ways men can be effective allies for women in tech is to speak out against stereotypes and discrimination publicly. Staying silent in the face of gender bias is seen by many as complicity and will make women feel alone and unable to fight the battles. Although sometimes speaking out is uncomfortable and something many people wouldn’t do, the effectiveness of seeing a man speak up for women’s rights is astounding. And it’s key to educate yourself to all forms of bias. Discrimination or bias doesn’t always have to be explicit – it might be that you’re invited on an interview panel which is all men, or that a male colleague keeps interrupting a female in meetings. Call these people out and force the change to happen. The more men challenge these archaic behaviours the quicker we will see the benefits of inclusivity.


Another common occurrence in tech is men dominating the conversations and decisions purely because they outnumber the women. If you run a team, make a conscious effort to let everyone speak in turn. Give credit where it’s due, if a woman comes up with a great idea, make sure people are aware whose idea it was.

5. Create an inclusive workplace

A way we can all be effective allies for women in tech is to look at the companies we work at. Are they inclusive? Do they offer the same level of support and benefits for women that they do for men? Due to tech being traditionally male dominated, often the benefits and work culture are skewed towards men. If women are to feel comfortable and confident working in tech, we need to eradicate the ‘brogrammer’ culture. Creating a safe environment for women to work in is imperative as otherwise, they’re likely to move on.


Some of the ways employers can support and retain women in IT include things like maternity/fertility support and policies, flexible working which can fit around other responsibilities, employee network groups and opportunities for progression and development. By ensuring women come to work feeling that they’re treated fairly and can do their job without feeling uncomfortable or not heard, we can help to increase the number of women who choose tech careers.


While women in tech can fight for equality for themselves, it always helps to have dedicated and passionate allies behind them. By reflecting on ourselves and our own unconscious biases and actions, we can change our behaviour and become much more supportive. Men are often the biggest decision makers in business, especially in large tech companies, so the more of them that we can get on board and fighting for gender equality, the better.