What's Power Got to Do with It? Seeking Gender-Equity in Organizations through Male Ally Initiatives


  • Mary Shapiro Simmons University, School of Business
  • Maria Rivera-Beckstrom Simmons University
  • Cynthia Ingols Simmons University, School of Business
  • Stacy Blake-Beard Simmons University, School of Business
  • Lan Gao Simmons University
  • Regina O'Neill Suffolk University, Sawyer Business School
  • Elisa VanDam Simmons University




With the persistence of women's limited advancement into senior leadership, organizations have employed an arsenal of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies such as implicit bias training, intentional mentoring, and efforts to authentically support work-life policies.  Male allyship has emerged as a recent strategy aimed at gender equity.  The asymmetric power between advantaged and disadvantages groups is central to the concept of allyship in studies across disciplines, such as sociology, social justice and economics. Management scholars have identified power, specifically the requisite sharing of or fear of diminishment of, as a barrier to men participating in gender equity initiatives to advance women.  To examine how organizations might address the power inherent in the male ally role, we employ the Bolman and Deal Four Frames Organizational Model.  We propose that while male ally programs reside in the Human Resources Frame, the success of that strategy depends on managing the Political Frame.  In promoting gender equity, organizations are seeking to distribute power more broadly to enable both men and women to fully contribute. By considering organizational politics, the competition for scarce resources, power and influence, we argue that practitioners will benefit from a realistic assessment of the role that power plays in both hindering and advancing male ally endeavors.   We draw on the literature, survey data, and ongoing work with men and women engaged in male ally initiatives, and use the Bolman and Deal model to make recommendations for practitioners, male allies, and women in using power while building gender-equitable organizations.

Author Biographies

Mary Shapiro, Simmons University, School of Business

MBA, MS Economics, Professor of Practice in School of Business. Affiliate of the Center for Gender in Organizations, Faculty Lead, Leadership undergraduate courses

Maria Rivera-Beckstrom, Simmons University

Ph.D., Coordinator and Research Associate at the Center for Gender in Organizations

Cynthia Ingols, Simmons University, School of Business

EdD, Professor of Practice at Simmons University School of Business and an affiliate of the Center for Gender and Organizations,

Stacy Blake-Beard, Simmons University, School of Business

Ph.D, Professor at Simmons University School of Business and an affiliate of the Center for Gender and Organizations,

Lan Gao, Simmons University

Ph.D, Director of Institutional Research

Regina O'Neill, Suffolk University, Sawyer Business School

Professor of Management

Elisa VanDam, Simmons University

Senior Director of Executive Education, Interim Leader of the Center for Gender in Organizations


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