OWIB ‘Men As Allies’ initiative promotes gender equity

Julie Kellman, MBA ‘19, an officer with Olin Women in Business, wrote this post on behalf of the organization.

This semester, Olin Women in Business launched the Men As Allies initiative, an exciting expansion that invites men in the Olin community to join OWIB through an official membership track. I was honored to lead the kickoff event in January and I credit the Olin community with making my role that evening easy. The enthusiasm and willingness to listen, learn, and engage was contagious.

The kickoff drew a full house, with attendance reaching 20 percent of current Olin MBA students. OWIB members and officers led discussions to bring together women and men from the community to share experiences and discuss the state of gender equity at Olin and in the business community at large.

The initiative includes events focused on gender equity, action steps to combat unconscious bias, and a weekly newsletter to encourage ongoing engagement. Allies events are designed with two objectives in mind: to open lines of dialogue and create action steps.

We focus on two-way conversations in small groups to impart the often unspoken details of our experiences, whether as a woman in business or as an ally with good intentions. With open dialogue, we can navigate unfamiliar terrain together. Our primary goal is to build common ground and expose unconscious biases that are held by both men and women alike.

Beginnings of the Initiative

Last fall, OWIB recognized anecdotal interest in creating a community partnership with men on campus. Men in the Olin community approached OWIB seeking to learn ways to combat gender disparities in business. Together, we’ve launched the Men As Allies initiative to provide a clear path for engagement and everyone is welcome.

Our first step was to verify the interest through survey data, which showed a desire for small group discussions in which to digest gender equity in current events and share concrete steps to support women in our community and beyond.

At OWIB, our goal is to provide tools and a structured partnership between men and women to enable Olin members to fight for gender equity together. We need to normalize conversations of inclusion and gender equity in order to achieve meaningful cultural change.

What is an ally? An ally is someone who takes active steps to advocate for a group that is not their own. That can take many forms; I encourage you to explore what being an ally means to you and what steps you are comfortable and able to take. This is not a one-size-fits-all process and self-reflection is key.

Joining a Wider Movement

Right now is a great cultural moment for allies! We’re joining a movement. Olin Allies is partnering with MBA Allies, a coalition of student-initiated male-allyship groups at top business programs across the country.

Further, industry-leading firms such as McKinsey and Goldman Sachs have put their money where their mouth is and invested heavily in gender equity programs. For any ally, the annual McKinsey Women in the Workplace report is a great place to start (and a quick read!)

Since the kickoff, OWIB has introduced a weekly newsletter to encourage ongoing conversation. Each week, OWIB Allies sends an article on gender equity as it relates to the Olin community. Each topic is less than a seven-minute read—less time than the Starbucks line—to engage the community in consistent dialogue. (To subscribe, please contact OWIB through Campus Groups or email me at Jkellman@wustl.edu.)

As our new group gains momentum, we’re looking for more ways to engage the entire Olin community, involve faculty and staff, and update the curriculum to reflect the student body. Keep an eye out for future Men As Allies events on topics such as the business case for investing in women and topical forums for supporting inclusion in the workplace. Our next event is a screening of the movie Battle of the Sexes and discussion cohosted with Net Impact on March 20 from 3:30–6:00 p.m. in Hillman 230.

We are striving for a culture shift and we need all hands on deck to achieve that. I encourage you to continue this dialogue, both formally through the OWIB Men As Allies initiative and organically in your day to day life. The most fundamental action steps we can each take is to normalize conversations on gender equity, ask questions, and consistently cultivate an inclusive, intersectional mindset. At OWIB, we’re thrilled to provide a campus forum for gender equity allies to come together and amplify this crucial conversation.

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