Men can offer vital support against workplace sexism, study reveals

Caroline Allen
Contributor
The study looks at a man's place when it comes to workplace sexism. [Photo: Getty]

A new study, which looks into the role of men as “allies” to women who are fighting against workplace sexism, has revealed the type of support men can offer to women.

With over a quarter of women in England and Wales experiencing sexual harassment at work, this timely study is needed.

The paper was penned by Rice University, Houston and is entitled Helping or Hurting? - it takes a detailed look into how women respond to men who act as allies against sexism in the workplace and whether it’s a helpful or hurtful thing to do.

The university’s department of psychology surveyed 100 women to find out how it feels and what happens when a male colleague intervenes on their behalf when they’re being discriminated against.

The research revealed that men can offer vital support, but only in certain situations.

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The way men can help might include helping to prevent toxic behaviour, creating opportunities for women and listening to women if and when appropriate.

In these scenarios, women found having a male “ally” a positive experience.

It isn’t always seen as a positive, though.

In some cases, male colleagues were given backlash from other men for their willingness to support women, while others described their frustration of the “saviour complex”.

The saviour complex refers to men who stand in to help female colleagues when their help isn’t required. In cases like this, it can undermine the woman’s authority.

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Discrimination in the workplace can take on many guises; from being looked past for a job because of your gender to experiencing discrimination after you return from maternity leave.

It can also have an untold impact on a woman’s ability to progress in her career.

A lot of research has been done into what women can do to stop this, but this research’s primary aim was to look at what men can do.

“While we found that allies can have a very positive impact, we encourage these individuals to confer with their female colleagues to see if help is wanted or needed.” Eden King, an associate professor of psychology at Rice University, told Futurity.

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