Royal Pharmaceutical Society

The role of men as allies

By Ade Williams FRPharmS, community pharmacist

Anyone that chooses to stand up against any form of social injustice is driven by one or more overriding emotions. For me, when it comes to improving gender equality it’s remorse, since as a man I’m a beneficiary of the current situation. 

I am acutely aware of my privilege. I have some understanding of how intellectually and physically tiring it is for women to constantly fight a relentless tide of pressure just to live their lives.  Of course, the intersection with race and gender feeds injustice and discrimination even more. And for many female colleagues in pharmacy, this is their lived experience.

We need a society, and a profession, that empowers and supports women to pursue and develop every dream and talent, but even more, so that our collective existence stops being impoverished by robbing them of this.  

Allyship is vital

So what does being an ally mean to me? It is channelling my energy, resources and time to bring about change. My role is to make sure that in every way, I seek to redress this wrong. I do not just stand with the women trying to correct it, but I try to help as they need it. I respect their right not to take up my offer, or to limit it too.  Asking what they want and may need from me helps ensure that I remain true to the issue – it’s about them, not me.  

In embracing equality, we must redesign our society to let in the half of the population we unfairly shut out. My allyship is also about campaigning for and articulating the legal and professional actions needed to help achieve broad equality rebalancing with speed, and not just at the more visible upper echelons of the profession. 

My journey’s starting point and continual focus remains listening attentively to women’s voices to understand their life struggles. Don’t be surprised to find out that despite the historical narrative of progress, the ever-changing and sadly increasing barriers women need to navigate, may not only be invisible but make the path of men smoother.  

You must speak up

I speak up to acknowledge and redress the fact that too little credit is given to women. Being disregarded in meetings and conversations, overlooked and underappreciated for their achievements, even worse, being passed over or commendation due to their work passed to others. Allies must not only speak up but, more importantly, take steps to prevent such things happening. We must change culture and practice. 

The voice of allies must be to call out what is wrong. There are plenty of spaces where female voices are missing and my conscious goal is to open up all my networks to women—introducing women to important stakeholders and asking if there is someone they wish you to introduce to them. 

Also, do connect yourself to networks, mentoring or coaching where you can add value to support women. However, your posture here is most important; it is about being part of a mutually respectful platform, exchanging ideas and knowledge. It is always worth taking the time to ensure your style and approach continually reflects this. 

Challenge stereotypes

Male allies must constantly challenge stereotypes prevalent in language while also correcting misinformed tasked-based expectations of women. Men are used to getting skills-based feedback, while women often have sexist feedback centred on their personality or delivery style.  For example, when you hear a female colleague called for example ‘‘bossy’’ when she’s being assertive, you should correct it. In our organisation, everyone knows that female leaders hold the posts to whom I am directly accountable. I never hesitate to correct any assumption I hold of their post or have diminished accountability to them. Likewise, we share responsibilities beyond gender boundaries for hosting or organising social events.

A brighter future

As pharmacy gets it right, we can help wider society correct this injustice. I hope that very soon feminism will be more widely defined and depicted to include the role of men in redressing gender inequalities that have disadvantaged women for generations. This is why all men must become allies to help tackle this. There is much to do but we are talking about it, so I have hope in my heart.

We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected]  or get involved through our ABCD group.


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