Mistletoe Isn't Consent: Lee Chambers, Founding Director, Male Allies UK
11 Jan, 2024
Effective allyship should be on your radar for 2024 says Lee Chambers, Founding Director, Male Allies UK. It's time to stop fixing women, and time to start fixing the system.
We’ve just finished 2023. Festive parties all around. Lots of merriment and cheers. The drinks were flowing. And so is the sexual harassment.
The "Mistletoe is not Consent" campaign was started by psychologist Lee Chambers, who founded Male Allies UK earlier this year. Research recently showed that 40% of women know someone in their organisation who is inappropriately handsy and whose behaviour is tolerated, and Christmas parties came out as the most likely place for this to become a reality. After Chambers had spoken to women from a range of industries, many had expressed considering not going to festive events, due to the challenges and safety of getting there or getting home, and the likelihood of being harrassed while they were there.
Chambers launched Male Allies UK to bring allyship to organisations, engaging men in inclusion and progressing gender equity. His journey into allyship started as he built a tech business, but lost the ability to walk due to illness 5 years in. After learning to walk again, he decided to become a stay-at-home dad, despite being called a loser by a fellow tech founder and his choice referred to as "career suicide". Time in female-dominant environments, raising his children, opened his eyes to women's experiences that he had simply never considered. After four years of listening, learning and unlearning, he stepped into action, and was recently recognised by UN Women for services to menopause and male allyship.
Progressing gender equity is still a challenge. When men are engaged in gender initiatives, 96% see progress, but if men aren't engaged and involved, that drops to only 30%. Yet we live in a world where we have 41% of men say inclusion has gone too far and is actively damaging their chances of progression. Male Allies UK exists to break down those barriers, showcasing how powerful allyship skills are in the future of leadership, supporting the move from words to action and highlighting the benefits of being an ally to men themselves.
In the world as it is today, it is not always easy to get allyship on the agenda. While it's a serious topic, there is room for lightheartedness. In a recent workshop, we explored what holds women back within organisational systems, including within meetings, promotion, recruitment and networking. One man suggested for networking, women needed to play more golf, as it would increase their contact time with senior people. We then explored why adding a "grass ceiling" to the glass ceiling wasn't a good idea, and how we can create more inclusive networking opportunities.
Every woman I have met has a story. The everyday reality of being interrupted, mansplained to, having your ideas repeated by a man and credit for work taken by them, constantly having to credentialise, being mistaken for someone more junior, taking the notes, booking the rooms, tidying the communal areas, missing out on the stretch project, being referred to as aggressive, bossy, difficult, emotional, being moved out of the way. It's constant, yet most men don't even notice it. Allyship training makes men 4 times more likely to see gender microaggression and gives them the tools to be an upstander, rather than a bystander.
Male Allies UK is actively supporting DEI teams, gender networks and allies driving change within organisations. They deliver speaking engagements, workshops and training pathways that are bespoke to each client, and support the measurement of where organisations are currently at on their allyship journey.
Effective allyship should be on your radar for 2024. No amount of confidence training and imposter syndrome hacking is going to change the reality.
It's time to stop fixing women, and time to start fixing the system.
Allyship is the new leadership.