Male Voices: Five Ways to Be an Ally
While one day or one month won’t solve the challenges of gender equity, the more opportunities there are to have conversations, the better.
Imagining a more gender equal world, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, “Break the Bias,” is a call to action for men as much as it is for women. Men, especially those in professional leadership positions, can play an outsized role as allies in helping to right-size the balance of power.
As we spoke to leaders from around our organization about what International Women’s Day means to them, three male allies shared five habits they practice to consciously help contribute to a more gender equal world.
Examine Your World
“If I go back 10 years, I started to notice I had a tendency to surround myself with similar people,” said Sam Edwards. A managing director on our Collateral Management team based in Hong Kong, Sam observed female friends struggling to gain exposure to new responsibilities as well as opportunities for promotion.
That’s when Sam grabbed the baton and began advocating for more gender equity. As he got involved with The Women’s Foundation in Hong Kong, Sam took on the role of a male ally with a goal of promoting more conversations about gender equity in local organizations. Sam highlighted how unconscious bias trainings across State Street and the financial services industry are helping people reflect on their own privileges and biases.
He also acknowledged, however, that there is still more work to be done in breaking down biases that are inherent in society. “Even something as simple as senior leaders taking a pledge to break the bias can help normalize conversations,” Sam says. This can help create an environment where people are more willing to listen and engage in initiatives that help create a more gender equal world.
Identify Your “Why”
When he was first starting his career, Aunoy Banerjee was one of 50 people in his associate group. Despite equal starting points, he saw the effects of gender inequity decades later. “After 20 years, most of the women left and most of the men have not.”
Aunoy, an executive vice president and head of Corporate Services and Investments for State Street, knew that women often tend to choose family priorities over their work. Yet, he began to wonder, “What can we do so that women don’t have to make that choice?”
The notion that neither gender should face an unfair burden is particularly poignant now that his daughter is six years old. “My daughter wants to be an astronaut and astrophysicist. She should be given the same opportunities as my son. There is nothing that should differentiate her.”
By connecting with your why on a personal level, we can begin to first acknowledge that biases do indeed exist. And more importantly, we can begin to take the critical steps toward breaking them.
Dan Farley, executive vice president and chief investment officer for the Investment Solutions Group at State Street, had an “a-ha moment” around gender equity at a team meeting where the session topic was on “what it means to be a woman in the investment industry.” His colleague, who happened to be pregnant, said she was more focused on who would take over her workload while on leave rather than preparing for the arrival of her child. But some of the other men on the team were already trying to work it out on her behalf so that she didn’t have to “worry about it.” This benevolence bias could have been cleared up with a conversation.
“The more people can do to see things through other people’s perspectives and get a sense of what their truths are, that’s when real change can happen,” says Dan. His guidance is, “Talk to people, listen, seek out alternate perspectives and consider those that are different to your own experiences.”
While one day or a month won’t solve the challenges of gender equity, the more opportunities there are to have conversations, the better.
Raise Your Hand
“Be the helping hand,” says Aunoy. As the leader of a large, global team, Aunoy makes it a point to be aware of his team’s work-life dynamics – whether that means not having a meeting during school drop-off times or even helping with a project to support a colleague. As a father, he has become ever-more cognizant of the importance of being present for his own family and for other male colleagues.
In recent years, organizations in the financial services industry have started to offer more paid leave, access to child care subsidies or programs, and flexible time policies for all caregivers – an important step toward keeping more women in the professional world.
In addition to changes that support an employee’s personal life, corporations must be committed to supporting their professional growth. Goals that commit to interviewing, promoting and hiring a more diverse slate of candidates; initiatives including mentorship and sponsorship programs that help junior employees prepare for new roles and responsibilities; a pledge from allies and gender neutral CVs in the hiring process; all of these can go a long way toward building equity.
Encourage Friends, Family and Colleagues to Get Involved in Breaking the Bias
As a global organization, State Street’s purpose is to help create better outcomes for the world’s investors and the people they serve. An important piece of that is making sure we recognize the value that all stakeholders bring to our organization and to society.
While women account for almost half (49.6%) of the global population, their participation in the labor market has been declining in recent years and is expected to remain a challenge through 2023.
“If we want to succeed in our purpose, we must recognize the role that women play,” says Aunoy. His team is making sure they are investing in female colleagues and giving them opportunities to grow and refine their talents within State Street.
As part of our corporate goals to expand relationships with minority, women and veteran business enterprises, we’re proud to be working with a women-owned construction firm to renovate our offices in Quincy, Massachusetts – a paradigm shift for an often male-dominated industry.
Leaders across our organization recognize that in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities, a big part of their role at State Street is to enhance the organization and culture in which we work.
By emboldening our employees to have candid conversation and be aware of what they can do to promote greater equity, we are working toward creating a more inclusive and sustainable business.