Being a male ally: The right intentions

Reframe WIT Blog For Web

At Reframe Women in Tech 2023, we left our closing keynote address open – with intention. In our speaker application process for that year we had not received any applications from men, prompting us to take to social media to ask ‘ where are all the men’ but more importantly where are the male allies?

Fortunately, we found one and we were delighted to welcome Mark Dore to close our 2023 Manchester event. Almost a year on from that event we caught up with him on the topic of allyship.

Mark, You spoke about male allyship at Reframe Women in Tech Manchester 2023 – why was it important for you to do this? 

I had spoken at International Women’s Day for Accenture the previous year and this ignited my journey into DEI.  I had attended Reframe in 2022 and I was blown away by the conference and the values it kept dear to its heart, something that is different to all other conferences I have been to.  When the opportunity came around to apply for closing keynote speakers, I immediately felt as though this was something I wanted to do, something that could start to make a difference.  Originally, I was put off due to a lack of confidence on my behalf, but once Beckie put a 2nd shout-out challenging the men out there to step up, I knew I had to put my hat in the ring. 

I believe that allyship is largely understood in its most basic form but is not truly understood by the vast majority in relation to the true expectations and understanding of the value each of us can bring.  By speaking at this event, it was a first step towards bridging this gap.  The bi-product of this of course is to both encourage more women and other minority groups into careers in tech, but almost more importantly, to ensure that once they start careers, they feel valued and have the opportunities to progress.

It can be hard to put allyship into action, can you share an example of how you act or have acted as an ally for someone or a group of people and what the outcome or impact of that has been? 

My aim has been to embed allyship into my everyday life and to stand up for anyone with a marginalised identity in day to day life.  Recent examples of this have been challenging a friend with their views of transgender people and speaking up when one of the women were being constantly talked over in a group conversation with friends by simply stating that I wanted to hear what she had to say and asking her directly.

Within a work context, as well as acting like an ally in my everyday interactions, it’s also important to do even more in order to enact change at a greater scale:

  • I have spoken at the last 2 International Women’s Day events to represent male allyship.  From this, I have rolled out Allyship at Work training to approximately 50 people and there are plans to roll this out further across the organisation.  By having more allies across the business I believe that it can be a catalyst for encouraging better recruitment, giving people an improved sense of belonging and creating better opportunities for promoting people into more senior positions.
  • I was the regional champion for a new initiative called “The Horizon Programme” which will see us create an opportunity for a diverse group of people to work alongside local leadership to give them both responsibility and exposure to tackling some of the challenges we are facing as a business with a view of removing barriers and promoting progression to a diverse group of our workforce.
  • I recently co-led a large change in our annual review cycle whereby each person within the organisation is represented by their people lead and we ultimately decide on their end-of-year talent outcomes.  It was important to me that we made this process as fair and equitable as possible and some of the things that I believe helped with this were:
    • We created supporting material that was tailored to our staff to ensure that people felt supported and prepared rather than relying on people searching for supporting material across a number of disparate sources themselves.
    • Creating a new learning festival for our people leads where we supported them in giving better feedback, setting appropriate and challenging objectives and preparation for the talent outcome discussions to ensure they represented their people fairly and in the best possible way.
    • We introduced an Equality Champion into each session whose role (alongside regional leadership) was to be educated in the common workplace biases and to call this out during the sessions in a respectful way to ensure that everyone was represented fairly
  • I signed up to be a mentor at the most recent Reframe conference and am about to embark on this mentoring journey with a fantastic woman in tech where I hope to offer support and advice to help her personally progress within her professional career.
  • With changing roles myself at the start of 2024, I am currently searching for an external mentor for myself and I believe it is really important for this to be a female leader in the Manchester community.  This will allow me to learn and grow personally as I continue to progress in my career, but also will allow me to continually better understand the challenges women face which will culminate in me taking better action for change.

How do you balance the need for allyship with the importance of not centering yourself in the effort to create opportunity for others?

This question honestly threw me a little to begin with because there hasn’t been a point in my journey where I have considered myself to be the focal point or centre of attention in relation to what was trying to be achieved.  However, with a little more thought there are 3 things that I believe are important to keep in the forefront of mind.

  1. The right intentions

The ally may not be investing time and energy into this with wholly the right intentions.  If the reason for you being involved in an initiative is more of a selfish one (improve personal brand, tick box to check off objective, path to promotion etc.) then by the very nature of the end objective, you have already made it about yourself.  If the objective is centred around supporting others and lifting other people up to be successful, then I believe the perception from others would be positive.  Genuine intent breeds genuine positive reaction.

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that the good work that people do in this space should not be included in things like performance reviews, it 100% should do because you deserve that recognition.  Just that it should not be the primary driver.

  1. Listen and Validate

Letting go of preconceived thoughts and being open and vulnerable to “not knowing all the answers” can be a huge benefit.  It can sometimes be easy (and done with the right intentions) to believe that you understand how someone else / a group of people are feeling, and jump to a conclusion that you believe is going to be the right answer to help move the needle in the right direction.  Again, by doing this there is a risk that you further alienate the very group that you’re trying to support and it inadvertently could be perceived as you making it about yourself and your views/opinions.

Reach out and listen to people within your organisation that you want to be an ally for and take the time to really understand the problems or barriers they face.  Ensure that if you are indeed looking to make change, seek feedback from people to validate your ideas and suggestions and ask for their thoughts too, a collective proposition is always going to land better.

  1. Inclusive ownership

If you are spearheading an initiative to support positive change, often having someone from the group you’re supporting alongside you in the journey can be a really positive way of taking collective accountability, rather than it potentially being perceived as ‘your’ thing.  

I also think that inclusive language is so important in this space so when talking about initiatives, avoid the use of words such as “I think” and “I want to”.  Instead, use words such as “we” to reinforce that this is not about you, but about a wider collective.

Finally, change comes in small steps, can you share a practical action for anyone who wants to become an ally, to create change but isn’t sure where to focus their efforts or just what to do first

The first step for me is to gain an understanding of what allyship truly means, understanding your own privilege (everyone has it in one guise or another), understanding the common workplace pitfalls and then ultimately working out where you can make a difference.  There is some fantastic content from a company called LeanIn, simply watching these 5 videos is a great start, and will take less than 20 minutes.

Lean in YouTube – Allyship at Work

Everyone’s journey is going to be different, the important thing is that if everyone makes small changes, then the compound impact of this can be huge.  Here are some initial ideas from me that can be an easy starting point:

  • Does everyone in your team have a voice in meetings?  Can you think of ways in which meetings can be more equitable 
    • Asking people their thoughts if they’ve been quiet
    • Asking for thoughts prior to meetings to give people time in a safe environment, removing potential pressure/anxiety
    • Giving people silent time to think during meetings, we generally are uncomfortable with silences and quite often, someone will look to fill it
    • Using tools like Miro to share thoughts more independently (and potentially anonymously) rather than simply expecting people to speak up
  • Are you able to mentor/coach someone who is from a marginalised identity and both help them to progress and act as a true supporter externally for this person
  • Everyone learns in a different way, we are often led to believe that there is always one way, a great example being that everyone has to embark in pair programming.  This can sometimes make people feel very uncomfortable, thus having more negative effects than positive.  I believe this is a fantastic way for teams to work in general, but it has to be right for individuals.  Have you spent the time to understand how people feel?  Have you experimented with different ways of working or made small tweaks to get the best out of people?
  • One that a lot of us are guilty of (myself included) is revolving work socials around alcohol.  In order to be much more equitable, an easy thing to do is to simply arrange additional social activities around something else you’re interested in, whether that be sports, painting, walking or playing around with IOT devices.


It was an honour for me to speak at Reframe Women in Tech in 2023,  Allyship is a piece of the wider puzzle that we’re all working towards putting together.  I am committed to continuing to help wherever I can and I hope that there are people reading this that feel inspired to make the small steps we talked about earlier and become the change that’s still needed.



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