In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the ways in which gender dynamics play out in the workplace have garnered well-deserved and, frankly, long-awaited national attention. And in response to the movement, a group of Hollywood elites signed an open letter asking men to take more responsibility for ridding workplaces of sexism and to be better allies to their female colleagues — the letter ultimately launched the start of the #AskMoreofHim movement, which highlights the role men play in preventing gender-based violence.
But new research by Janine Bosak of Dublin City University suggests that when men do act as adcovates and allies, they're faced with backlash — both from other men and from other women. According to the research, men who stand up for victims of sexism and sexual abuse (or anyone in the workplace other than themselves), essentially behaving contrary to the stereotypes with which they're associated, are perceived as less likeable, less competent and less suitable for certain jobs than men who carry on focused on themselves and their individual success.
The researchers looked at 149 professionals who participated in the online study that was ostensibly about “perceptions and decision-making.” Evenly divided by gender, they were tasked with examining application materials from male and female candidates who were described as either types who tend to advocate for themselves or types who tend to advocate for their teams.
The self-advocating applicant was described as “a fierce worker who diligently works for success” and “wants to receive credit where due and is excellent at promoting himself.” The other-advocating applicant was described as “a strong negotiator on behalf of this team” and “a fierce worker who diligently guides his team to success.”
The study's participants rated the candidates' likeability, competence and how much they'd recommend the person be let go if the company were to downsize. And, ultimately, male candidates who advocated for others got worse reviews by both the men and women alike in the study.
The research therefore suggests that workplaces need to do a better job at creating a culture that promotes teamwork and that does not hold men and women to different standards or have different expectations of employees based on their gender. Workplaces need to work on rewarding teamwork and promoting allyship among coworkers.
And to #AskMoreofHim, men need to hold each other accountable because, the more men speak up, the more other men will, and the less backlash they'll face. Women do it for each other every day, even despite the consequences.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.