Engaging Allies in the Age of #MeToo and #TimesUp

A guest blog by Dr. John Izzo and Ms. Nicky Dhaliwal 

The Lieutenant Governor has identified championing inclusion, diversity and gender equality as key areas of focus for her mandate. Community collaborations and support for projects like the Blue Print Report help to advance this commitment. Learn more about Her Honour’s areas of focus and gender equity initiatives like Women Leading Change.

The 1994 UN Conference on Population and Development was an important milestone for empowering women as agents of change in reducing health disparities and ensuring equal rights and status. At that time, the question was raised: What role do men and boys need to play in sharing the burden of responsibility and care for population health? When Shawn Askinosie, famed chocolatier and entrepreneur dedicated to gender-based violence prevention strategies for boys in Tanzania, approached the UN with the same question, he was told: “there is no real need.” The belief was that men would change on their own. Today, we witness the harmful effects of ignoring the development of boys’ emotional and psychological health.

As a leader on management, Peter Drucker stated, “the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” For sustained progress on issues of sustainability, development, equity and inclusion, we need new ways of thinking and a blueprint for change. In 2015, we founded Blueprint at the University of British Columbia (UBC) for thought leadership on masculinity and men’s impact on society. We focus on changing culture, inviting men to be allies in creating a post-patriarchal world.

Our approach is simple: get men talking in male-dominated industries about what it means to be a man and provide them with ‘tools’ to enhance their positive relationships with others. Given the changing landscape and the need for inclusive leadership, we partnered with UBC to explore how cultural movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp (and the discussions they helped foster) have changed workplaces in Canada and to determine whether men’s attitudes and behaviours about equity and inclusion were changing for the better. Interested readers can explore the findings in the full report here.

The good news is that both men and women report that men have changed. They are more likely to address gender equity, challenge inappropriate behaviour, and express a growing commitment to be allies for women and people of all gender identities, races and ethnicities. And while men want to be part of the equity conversation in a more fulsome way, they report feeling less confident, and that their voices are notas welcome in all situations. Although more thoughtful engagement among men is a good trend, we hope that men might explore their personal experiences of exclusion to reflect on the importance of empathy for the experiences of others.

We propose three opportunities for men to become better advocates for equity and inclusion:

Lever 1:  to be self-reflective

In our Leading for Empathy program, we refer to Phil Jackson, famed coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Each new season, Jackson met with every player. He drew a circle on a board and asked, “If this circle is the team, where do you see yourself?”

His theory was that he could never have a winning team if the players felt they were outside the circle. Everyone needed a place in the circle; everyone needed a say. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we’ve found the circle concept useful as a learning tool for men and others in positions of power to deconstruct corrosive, patriarchal ideas and think in a more holistic, responsible way that serves everyone.

Lever 2:  to listen deeply to the experience of others

After decades of marginalizing women, men in positions of power must listen more than speak. In one of our mixed-gender focus groups, some participants reported that social movements had catalyzed positive change while others exaggerated the exclusionary experiences of women. When a man from this latter group noted, “These things happen in Hollywood, not where I work,” a woman revealed a litany of all the negative behaviours and attitudes she had experienced over the years. The virtual room fell silent.

In assessing the effectiveness of initiatives designed to create more inclusive workplaces, men rated those with built-in mechanisms for listening to the experiences of all genders and races, such as employee resource groups and team building efforts, at the top of the list. If we want to make further progress, opportunities for men to listen to the experiences of others are critical.

Lever 3:  to engage in dialogue with other men to get the job done

According to our study, men generally perceive that other men are more misogynistic and less likely to advocate for equity and inclusion, and that inappropriate or sexualized comments have not decreased but have simply gone underground. When asked about speaking up to challenge such behaviours, one young male leader said “sometimes, but you don’t want to be THAT guy.” The perception of risk of losing one’s personal social capital prevents men from challenging others. Our study demonstrates that most men in business want change. For this to happen it is time for those men to step up and be “THAT guy”.

Our study shows that social movements, and the conversations they’ve generated, have helped shift men towards support for gender equity and inclusion. However, if we are going to make greater progress and lasting change, we need men to join the conversation, hear the experiences of other genders and races, and connect to their own experiences of exclusion. We leave this note with a call to organizations to help foster this kind of dialogue, both between genders as well as within gender groups.

“Until all of us have made it, none of us have made it”

–  Honourable Rosemary Brown (1930-2003)


Blueprint is a nonprofit founded at the University of British Columbia for thought leadership on masculinity and men’s impact on societies. Through research and proven programs, we equip men with the tools for reshaping their role for their own well-being and for that of their families and communities.

Dr. John Izzo is a co-Founder of Blueprint, best-selling author of nine books and advisor to top fortune companies on activating purpose. He has developed groundbreaking Diversity and Inclusion programs based on research with North American business leaders to determine the impact of social movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter in the workplace.

Nicky Dhaliwal is dedicated to community engagement and adding her voice in confronting social justice advocacy. She speaks from an anti-oppressive lens that empowers systemic change. As Director of Engagement, Nicky is building a strategy for national and international impact for engaging men and boys in creating healthier families and communities.