We can all agree that the pandemic disrupted our work lives, but women experienced the most disruption, according to a January 2021 analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, which reported that over 2.3 million women had left the workforce in the U.S, leaving only 57% working or looking for work — the lowest rate since 1988.

In other words, the pandemic has set back many of the gains women made in the workplace in recent decades. It also means men should consider becoming allies to women in the workplace.

An ally is someone who is not a member of an underrepresented group but who holds a position of privilege and power and can advocate and take action to support that less-represented group … without taking over their voice. Research suggests that when marginalized group members have co-worker allies, they experience increased job satisfaction, lower anxiety and a stronger commitment to the workplace.

Leadership and culture expert Carley Hauck offers some best practices for becoming an ally in the workplace. Here are just a few:

  • Declare yourself a male ally to yourself and your team. Vince Guglielmetti, Intel’s vice president of the Americas general manufacturing operations, has publicly claimed himself to be a male ally with his leadership team and direct reports. He sees himself as a balance of masculine and feminine qualities. “I am my mother’s son,” he often says. Intel has a commitment to hire 40% women in technology fields by 2022-23 and has created a framework that builds a pipeline, hires above parity, retains people and promotes inclusive leadership.
  • Be mindful of your bias and embrace a growth mindset. Brian McComak, a diversity and inclusion consultant with over 20 years of experience in human resources, sees allyship as grounded in the awareness of privilege.

“What the concept of male allyship does, in my mind, is centers an understanding of the experience of men and the privilege of men in our society. The key element of it is having an awareness of how that identity shapes how I get to experience the world and how I use that identity to make a difference,” he says.

Research suggests that teaching men to reflect on their privileges and encouraging awareness of that increases men’s sensitivity to and willingness to confront sexism.

  • Go to the source. Ask women, nonbinary people, people of color and other less dominant groups how you can help. Do they need sponsorship, mentorship? More learning opportunities? Something else? Ask how you can support them. You might share your social capital through information and knowledge or tap into your influence through organizational resources, invitations and introductions.
  • Model different ways of being. Instead of conforming to masculine norms in the workplace, where people are often expected to be aggressive and unemotional, try to show up at work with more gentleness, empathy and vulnerability, which hopefully will allow others to do the same.
  • Be mindful of the way you communicate. Realizing the ways that bias can creep into language and conversations, it’s important to acknowledge the potential effect of your words and to be open to discussion and feedback. Before expressing an opinion, be sure you’re not “mansplaining” by acknowledging that your audience may have more expertise on a particular subject than you do.