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Being an Ally to Support Women in the Workplace

By DTCC Connection Staff | 6 Minute read | November 17, 2021

In an effort to cultivate an environment that welcomes diverse backgrounds and perspectives, DTCC has launched many initiatives to encourage male employees to be allies with their female colleagues in the workplace. Although strides have been made at DTCC and corporations across the globe, there is much more that needs to be done to create gender equality and support for women in the workplace.

Related: Empowerment Through DTCC's Advancing Women Leaders Program

The latest “McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2021” study, which includes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, shows the heightened need to establish gender equality.

“Although we have seen important gains since 2016, women are still significantly underrepresented at all levels of management. And on top of this, women continue to have a worse day-to-day experience at work,” the study says. This is backed up by findings from UN Women Research, which highlights that only 41 out of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women (only three are women of color); only 2% of venture capital goes to women entrepreneurs and 97% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the UK.

With allyship being a main focus of DTCC’s ongoing initiatives, Val Wotton, DTCC Managing Director of Product Development and Strategy, Repository and Derivatives Services, spoke about his role as an ally to his female workplace counterparts.

DC: Many companies talk about the importance of developing women leaders. How is DTCC putting action behind those words?

VW: Over the last few years, DTCC has accelerated recruitment and retention initiatives to develop women leaders through a variety of efforts. For example, DTCC conducted training sessions for nearly 300 officers prior to the pandemic through Catalyst’s “Men Advocating for Real Change” (MARC) training. The company intends to conduct more sessions that will be scheduled after a return to the office. Throughout last year, our Diverse Talent Management & Advancement (DTMA) team hosted more than a dozen “Ally to Upstander” training programs, which included specific examples of how to be a better ally for women.

DC: How is DTCC promoting allyship at the firm this year?

VW: This year we placed an emphasis on developing women in “the broken rung” by extending the Advancing Women Leaders (AWL) program to women at the associate director level and below.

Additionally, our Women’s Initiative for Networking & Success (WINS) Employee Resource Group produced a series of compelling videos this year featuring several of DTCC’s women leaders, which ultimately resulted in an external opportunity to partner with Women United on a feature article.

In partnership with GenderNetworks, FairyGodBoss, Catalysts and other corporate partners, DTCC continually offers opportunities to attend conferences, webinars, networking events and more to provide professional development opportunities for women across the organization.

DC: What are some strategies that men can deploy now to empower women in the workplace?

VW: One of the most important things we can do is share opportunities. When men think about how they can be more effective allies for equality, they tend to focus on how they can do more. But they can also have a major impact by doing less. Consider speaking opportunities at conferences, which consist of a disproportionate number of men across industries. It’s crucial for us to provide more women with speaking opportunities at these types of events.

Another way to empower women in the workplace is to publicly celebrate accomplishments – there needs to be a concerted effort to elevate women, celebrate their successes and actively promote them. This is something we heavily promote at DTCC. Men, regardless of whether they are in leadership positions, can make a point to acknowledge the accomplishments of their female coworkers in large team settings or in group chats. Those small gestures can greatly increase the odds that women’s skill set will get noticed by the right people.

“It’s critical to recognize gender bias in and outside of the workplace because it’s all around us, though we often fail to notice it.”

DC: What does it mean to be a male ally sponsor for women in the workplace?

VW: Sponsors are different from mentors who offer advice and time. Sponsors, in contrast, are more invested, and offer opportunities, visibility and connection. I believe men must take a more active role in introducing women to the experiences and opportunities that help them succeed. We also should not shy away from difficult conversations about gender issues with other men and should advocate publicly for gender equality on social media platforms. We need to speak out, even when things seem uncomfortable, to bring more awareness. The WINS co-chairs recently partnered with our Security Team to run an internal and external webinar on Personal Security and Awareness to share safety measures for women in the workplace.

DC: What advice would you offer to men who want to be engaged as workplace allies for women, but may not know how to get started?

VW: Get involved and believe you can make a difference. Always be open to everyone’s opinions, even if they are different from your own. Listen, reflect, and be open about your own experiences in the workplace. Both men and women face barriers, so it’s very important to publicly support gender equity programs and invite your coworkers to participate along with you. It’s critical to recognize gender bias in and outside of the workplace because it’s all around us, though we often fail to notice it.

DC: How can men raise awareness in the workplace about the need to support their female coworkers?

VW: Engage in dialogue to learn and raise awareness while continuing to be open about your own experiences. In making a commitment to gender equity, men need to speak out and encourage male colleagues to do the same, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. One of the best ways to create awareness is through public support of those who challenge gender norms.

Additionally, we need to commit to advocacy and take responsibility for our own learning. Allies must also be an example in the workplace; it’s important to model the positive behaviors that you wish to see in others.

DC: What drives your passion to be an ally to women in the workplace?

VW: While some strides have been made, there is still a great need for men to become allies with their female coworkers. I recently participated in DTCC’s ‘Men Advocating for Real Change’ training and in particular, the goldfish bowl exercise -- where I listened to the experiences of my female colleagues. It is still quite raw for me about what my female coworkers have dealt with in the workplace. It was after this experience that I reached out to Keisha Bell, DTCC Managing Director and Head of Diverse Talent Management and Advancement, to ask how I could become more actively involved in supporting WINS. I had previously co-chaired the Barclays Multi-Generational Network and had experience of rollout ‘dynamic working’ at Barclays. Following my discussion with Keisha I took on the Executive Sponsor role for WINS.

A 2021 Harvard Business Review article called ‘Male Allyship Is About Paying Attention,’ states that developing a deeper understanding of the experiences of the women around you and sharpening your situational awareness will inevitably and irrevocably transform your perspective. As the article says: “Once you put on that lens, you can’t take it off. The world never looks the same.’ This is further re-enforced if you take the time to speak, as I have, to the important women in your life, whether that is your mother, sister, daughter or partner.

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Val Wotton Headshot
Val Wotton

DTCC Managing Director and General Manager, Institutional Trade Processing