Being A Male Advocate

In my role as chair of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), I’ve learned that one of the powerful things men can do in the gender equality discussion is be a male advocate.

This is easy to say, but difficult to do. Recently, there has been some controversy around the role of male advocates and an ensuing debate, not about the core issue of gender diversity, but about how men who are trying to be helpful potentially make things worse through their actions.

As a result Catherine Ashcraft and Wendy Dubow, two of the senior research scientists at NCWIT, wrote an article for Fast Company titled The Tricky (and Necessary) Business of Being a Male Advocate for Gender Equality. After explaining why male advocates are important, they list six specific things that male advocates should consider in the context of being effective, constructive, and helpful.

  • Listen
  • Don’t assume all women want to participate in diversity efforts
  • Reframe negative reactions as valuable opportunities for developing empathy
  • Realize that stereotype threat can apply to male advocacy
  • Approach advocacy with a growth mind-set
  • Be aware of the limitations of the male-female framing of this conversation

If you are interested or involved in the discussion and dynamic about gender diversity in tech, I strongly encourage you to read this article. It’s a very helpful one.