06 Mar 2023
by Rachel Collins

Why allyship is pivotal to driving change

Rachel Collins of Colt highlights the importance of allyship.

Martha Lane Fox, founder of LastMinute.com and one of the first dot com entrepreneurs, recently accused the tech industry of not making progress in overcoming gender disparity in the last 25 years. Research has found that 60% of women in tech have considered leaving the industry as they continue to face barriers.   

Overcoming gender disparity and driving inclusion are business imperatives and must be everyone’s responsibility. Women comprise just 26% of the tech workforce. If we exclude men from the conversation, we’re eliminating 74% of the industry – a huge force for change.  

Having fixed views about gender impacts all of us. It leads to inequality, and in the workplace, that translates to more women in support roles and fewer in leadership roles. It reinforces stereotypes that impact health and limit better workplace and societal behaviours. For example, the number of fathers taking paternity leave reached a ten-year low in 2021 – just a quarter of men took the paternity leave they were entitled to. A US study suggested that men who were seen as ‘more agreeable’ made an average of 18% less in income and were seen as less likely to have management potential, and a study from 2015 found that men who asked for help at work were viewed as less competent.  

We’ve all heard stories and possibly witnessed first-hand when well-intentioned opportunities for education go wrong: perhaps it’s a webinar on addressing inequality within a business, where men show up, listen and engage but afterwards report confusion and embarrassment. “I felt man-shamed,” is one comment I’ve heard. If we really want to overcome gender disparity and remove roadblocks to progress, we need to be ‘all in’. Allyship is a huge part of the solution. Defined as ‘active support for the rights of a minority or marginalised group without being a member of it’, allyship has never been more critical in driving change.  

92% of people interviewed in a study cited by Forbes said Allyship had been invaluable in their career. People with at least one ally in the workplace are more engaged and are nearly twice as likely to feel they belong in the organisation and be satisfied with the workplace culture and their job. Businesses report high levels of engagement, where people feel they belong. Perform better. In fact, companies with an employee engagement programme generate 233% greater customer loyalty than those without, according to a study by Aberdeen Group.  

At Colt, we know that allyship is not a badge of honour; it’s not about winning awards for confronting issues people have to live with every day. It’s a behaviour for which we’re all responsible. As part of our Actioning Inclusion campaign, we have been spotlighting allyship and working to help people understand what it really means in practice.  We’re holding events, inviting external speakers and working closely with the organisation Token Man, to discuss why inclusion is for everyone. We’ve spoken about allyship a lot but are now taking further steps to really define what that looks like – and I hope many businesses across the tech industry will do the same. 

techUK is marching forward to close the tech gender gap in 2023. Throughout March, coinciding with International Women’s Day (IWD 2023) on 8 March, we are exploring how we embrace equitable workplaces. The UN’s theme for IWD 2023 focuses on Digital for All or DigitALL, and we are proud to support this.

For more information, please visit our Women in Tech hub.

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Rachel Collins

Rachel Collins

Head of Diversity, Equity and inclusion, Colt