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Vol. 41 No. 1 (2022): Advancing Women in Leadership Journal

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

October 21, 2018


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.


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