Data Bank

How to Be an Ally to Women at Work

The problem is we’re moving in the wrong direction.

For the last two years, LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey have partnered to understand better what men and women are experiencing in the workplace in the #MeToo era in the US and UK.

60% of managers who are men in the US and 40% of managers who are men in the UK are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together.1

Senior-level men are now far more hesitant to spend time with junior women than junior men across a range of basic work activities such as 1-on-1 meetings, travel, and work dinners.2

We need to actively support women at work, including by mentoring and sponsoring them. Men—who are the majority of managers and senior leaders—can help make this happen.

Getting This Right Matters

Mentorship is critical

Mentorship is critical to the success of women across industries. We all benefit when a colleague shows us the ropes and sponsors us for new opportunities—particularly when they’re more senior, as men often are.3 This type of support can be especially impactful for women of color, who are less likely to receive career guidance from managers and senior leaders.4

People with mentors are more likely to get promoted.5

Women get less support

Women get less of the mentorship and sponsorship that opens doors.6 Whether this is driven by sexism or because men (perhaps unconsciously) gravitate toward helping other men, the result is that women miss out.7 Making matters worse, the number of men who are uncomfortable mentoring women has more than tripled since the recent media coverage on sexual harassment.8

Women are 24% less likely than men to get advice from senior leaders.9

And 62% of women of color say the lack of an influential mentor holds them back.10

What happens if men don’t take action

Women are already underrepresented in most organizations, especially at senior levels.11 If fewer men mentor women, fewer women will rise to leadership. As long as this imbalance of power remains, women and other marginalized groups are at greater risk of being overlooked, undermined, and harassed.12


Sexual harassment is twice as common in male-dominated organizations as it is in female-dominated organizations.13

What happens if men step up

If more men mentor women, it will ultimately lead to stronger and safer workplaces for everyone. When more women are in leadership, organizations offer employees more generous policies14 and produce better business results.15 And when organizations employ more women, sexual harassment is less prevalent.16

Organizations with diverse leadership realize higher profits.17

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