Recruiting Male Allies Boosts Women at Work
In a recent study, Insiya Hussain, an assistant professor of management at UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business, surveyed 3,234 participants during three separate studies.
With colleagues Subra Tangirala of the University of Maryland and Elad Sherf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she asked each group a different set of questions about a range of gender equity proposals, from training women in how to negotiate for higher pay to ensuring that women formed at least 50% of the candidates for leadership positions.
In each of the three studies, participants — including those in managerial roles — reacted more favorably overall to mixed-gender coalitions than to women-only or men-only advocates. This is because:
- Mixed-gender coalitions (owing to the participation of men) were able to signal that gender equity is an important issue for the organization.
- Additionally, mixed-gender coalitions (owing to the participation of women) were able to signal that they had the right to speak up about gender equity issues.
“This research addresses how best to form an advocacy group to raise these issues, if you want to get results,” Hussain said.
The research is online in the Academy of Management Journal.
Managers see women as legitimate messengers, Hussain said, because they have personal interests in an issue. But adding men makes the message itself appear more legitimate by indicating that it matters to a wider range of stakeholders.
“When only women advocate for gender equity, it can come across as a niche concern,” she said. “When men speak up about it, they can be seen as lacking the right to protest an issue that doesn’t personally concern them. It’s really when you bring women and men together as advocates that you circumvent both concerns.”