The rewards of male allyship at Microsoft

March 26, 2024
male allyship in tech

Being an industry leader and one of the world’s most recognizable brands is easy. 

Said no-one. Ever!

For major multinationals like Microsoft, keeping ahead of trends in hiring and retention, let alone core business operations, requires a deft touch and deep dedication. So, how does the company maintain gender diversity and ensure equitable career development for women in the workplace? And what’s in it for them when they do?

Rob Lonie, as a co-leader of Microsoft’s Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for Australia and New Zealand, has valuable insights into the topic.

Genuine inclusion is rewarding 

In Rob’s eyes, initiatives like the Women’s ERG are vital not only for Microsoft’s business future but the future of the entire tech industry. A sector where employment rates and career advancement figures have tended to underwhelm when it comes to gender equity.

“I feel we have a genuine impact in that respect.”

Microsoft’s ERG team gets a lot of positive, tangible responses on the initiatives they run. Initiatives like their mentoring program, which by fostering a culture of mentorship, sponsorship and allyship aims to “empower women with confidence, skills, and support to advance their careers”.

“We’re connecting people from different locations and offices and offering a platform that helps women to grow. And the feedback from the community and seeing the interactions and chatter at events; it all adds up to a really rewarding feeling.” 

Equality is an everyone, every day matter

Rob’s commitment to gender diversity is embedded not only in his role as Co-Lead of the company’s ANZ ERG, but also in his daily role as Sales Manager for Unified Solutions. 

He says that generating and maintaining workplace inclusion is a day-to-day, hour-by-hour task for all staff. 

“Part of my focus as co-lead is being a role model and creating awareness and understanding of the role which allies can play.

male allyship in tech

“I think there’s a misconception with a lot of men that you need to be doing big bold demonstrations to be an ally. I don’t think that’s the reality. It’s important to have an inclusive lens in your interactions with the team and with clients. 

“It’s about being cognizant of the smaller moments when people aren’t speaking up and going to ask for their input. It’s important that everyone has a voice so we can all grow together.”

Rob is also keen to dispel the myth that gender diversity is a zero-sum game (the idea that jobs and opportunities must be ‘taken’ from men so that women can gain equality). 

“This myth goes beyond any one company or sector. But the truth is that if you haven’t got a fair representation of society in your business, it’s going to limit your ability to be successful. To grow and create jobs and opportunities for everyone.” 

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Putting words into genuine action

Rob says he has seen what happens at other companies when commitments to inclusion aren’t lived in this pervasive, daily way. 

“It’s hard not to be aware that tech is male-centric, and data is showing that there is a lack of women applying and even when they do, the industry is struggling to retain them.

“I’ve seen other companies with company visions similar to Microsoft, but they don’t seem to have the ability to deliver on that vision. But, in the three years I’ve been here, I have seen that Microsoft can deliver on that promise; we have the tools, the culture, and the commitment.”  

Given Microsoft’s leading position in the tech sector and as a globally recognized name, Rob feels “we are in a really good place to drive change in this area”.

The key, he says, is integrity. 

It’s relatively easy for a big company to talk up issues like diversity and to produce a whole lot of glossy material to sell the narrative. But, without the level of honesty and effort Microsoft has brought to the task, diversity and inclusion are likely to be no more than that: just talk. 

“Integrity is important to me. It takes integrity to make decisions based on the right outcomes. And it’s about knowing your colleagues are all working with the same high level of integrity.” 

He adds that he knows it can be all too easy for us all to get lost in our own roles… 

“But we can still make the space for meaningful connections for our teams. 

“We can see these things working via in all the small conversations happening across our internal communication channels, and that’s the reward we love seeing from the work we’re doing in the ERG.” 

The unexpected gains of being an ally for gender equity

Microsoft’s commitment is written in its own data. 

The company’s Diversity and Inclusion Report (2023) says that women now make up 33.1% of Microsoft’s core workforce worldwide, higher than the global tech sector average. The company also reports policies have been enacted to equalize pay rates between genders.

But beyond improving the numbers, Rob’s commitment has a particularly personal foundation. 

“Having a young daughter has given me another real reason to want to give back, and to drive change. I want to help set her and her peers up for opportunities in tech in the years to come.”

And, as a result, the benefits and gains are felt at a far deeper level than mere professional or career goal scoring.

male allyship in tech 

“My role as co-lead of Microsoft’s Australia and New Zealand Women Employment Resource Group has definitely helped me to be a better ally, father, and partner,” he says. 

“Learning about the challenges many women face has given me insight and helped me be a better manager and family man, than I would have had a chance to be.”

“It’s been eye-opening for me,” he says with some feeling. 

From an outside looking in, it’s great to see that Microsoft is not just about Windows after all. They are opening doors and breaking through ceilings too. 

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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