Our Cboe: Women’s Initiative Hosts Guests to Discuss Male Allyship in the Workplace

February 1, 2021

The Cboe Women’s Initiative held a conversation with David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson about the role men have in advancing gender equality in the workplace

The Cboe Women’s Initiative recently hosted a fireside chat with David G. Smith, Ph.D. and W. Brad Johnson, Ph.D., authors of “The Good Guys,” which focuses on how men can be better allies for women in the workplace. Cboe’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Schell and Chief Human Resources Officer Jen Browning hosted the chat, taking turns asking their own questions and those submitted from Cboe associates.

Dr. Smith and Dr. Johnson began the conversation with an overview of their work and what being a male ally means. Dr. Smith explained there are two types of male allyship: interpersonal allyship and public allyship. Interpersonal allyship is defined by individual accountability and the kinds of relationships men have with women at work. Are these relationships collaborative? Does the man speak up for women when he notices bias? Public allyship, or systemic allyship, is defined by how men not only hold themselves accountable, but also how they hold others accountable. Does the man call out bad behavior? Does he seek to create change in systems that are inherently biased?

Dr. Smith and Dr. Johnson explained that many men hesitate to be vocal allies because they are unsure how to navigate allyship and are nervous their intentions may be interpreted as the dreaded “mansplaining.” However, research shows that being an ally rarely impacts men negatively. For example, Dr. Johnson explained that if a sexist comment or offensive joke is made in a meeting, a woman who speaks up will often be deemed less likable or competent but a man who speaks up will actually be viewed more positively. Similarly, a woman who loudly sponsors a younger woman colleague may be viewed as biased, while a man who sponsors a younger woman is viewed as a champion of gender equality.

Becoming a better ally starts in the home, say Dr. Smith and Dr. Johnson. If a woman, whose partner at home is not doing their fair share of household responsibilities, she will not have the same ability to succeed in the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened these issues, with women leaving the workplace at record numbers. The authors suggest men check in with their partners to ensure they are being the best possible ally at home.

At work, men can start by looking for opportunities where they can help make a difference right now, such as simply asking a woman for her opinion in a meeting, rather than taking the opportunity to share their own thoughts first. Longer term, men can work toward becoming more engaged listeners, serving as a sounding board for their women colleagues. Similarly, by taking the time to listen to and get to know women in the workplace, Dr. Smith and Dr. Johnson say mentorship opportunities will occur naturally. Though, the pair makes it clear that their message is not that men need to save women at work. At the end of the day, they say, it’s all about collaboration and partnership.

This event was part of a series that features speakers from outside of the company with expertise on gender equality that align with the Cboe Women’s Initiative mission to increase representation, strengthen voices and build a culture of opportunity and advancement for the women of Cboe

Learn more about male allyship in The Good Guys.

About David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson

David G. Smith, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology in the College of Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Naval War College. A former Navy pilot, he led diverse organizations culminating in command of a squadron in combat and flew more than 3,000 hours, including combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a sociologist trained in military sociology and social psychology, he focuses his research in gender, work and family issues, including gender bias, dual career families, military families, military women and retention of women.

W. Brad Johnson, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the United States Naval Academy and a faculty associate in the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. A clinical psychologist and former commissioned officer in the Navy’s Medical Service Corps, Dr. Johnson served as a psychologist at Bethesda Naval Hospital and the Medical Clinic at Pearl Harbor where he was the division head for psychology. He is an award-winning mentor with distinguished mentor awards from the National Institutes of Health and the American Psychological Association.