Effects of allyship from advantaged group members

People with privileged identities may often be motivated to self-identify as allies for disadvantaged groups. But, what is the impact of such allyship on disadvantaged group members? 

In the context of gender equality, my work has demonstrated that allyship from men fosters women's anticipated identity-safety and respect in male-dominated workplaces while also decreasing women's concerns of negative workplace treatment (Moser & Branscombe, 2022; Moser et al., 2024). 

This work demonstrates the uniquely powerful role of allyship compared to other forms of inclusive messaging. When in a workplace with an allied man compared to a diversity statement or control, women report higher beliefs that an organization is procedurally just and fair, and view their gender as less of a disadvantage (Moser & Branscombe, 2023). Importantly, this work shows that workplace allies do not lead men to view their gender as disadvantaging them, indicating that allyship from men can foster women's inclusion without triggering men's concerns of "reverse sexism."

See my upcoming article with Eva Pietri, Veronica Derricks, and India Johnson in Nature Reviews Psychology that provides an overview of what makes an effective ally!

What makes an effective and wanted ally?

Men are often more effective than women at creating opinion change and fostering inclusion when advocating for workplace equality (Hekman et al., 2017; Moser & Branscombe, 2022; Moser et al., 2024). Why is this? My research points to two primary reasons underlying men's effectiveness as allies. First, men are perceived as having the ability to weild social influence over the opinions and behaviors of other men in male-dominated settings (Moser et al., 2024). Secondly, allyship from men is perceived to set egalitarian gender norms at work (Moser & Branscombe, 2023). 

In addition to understanding the mechanisms underlying men's efficacy as allies for gender equality, I also study how individual characteristics and behaviors shape the perceived efficacy of allies more broadly. I am currently studying how an ally's identity memberships (i.e., race, sexual orientation and gender identity), the environmental contexts, and forms of behaviors taken by allies impact disadvantaged group members' perceptions of allies. 

See my recent article with Shaun Wiley that provides a model for how disadvantaged group members discern which advantaged group members are sincere allies that are worthy of trusting, soon to appear in Personality and Social Psychology Review!

Access the accepted article here!

Sincerity in allyship

Allies can sometimes be harmful. They can drain limited resources, co-opt a movement's goals, and only engage in allyship when it may benefit them.  Consequently, it is imperative to understand when disadvantaged group members are willing to work with advantaged group allies and how they come to trust them. In this work, my collaborators and I draw upon classic attribution theory, the social identity-approach, word-deed misalignment, and identity-based needs to understand when advantaged group members will be viewed as sincere allies. 

For example, across a series of studies, we demonstrate that actions that misalign with a man's stated allyship intentions drastically erode the belief that the man is a sincere ally, and ultimately leads women to view the man as an identity-threatening (vs identity-safety) cue. We further find that men who claim allyship yet stay silent in response to sexism are perceived as negatively by women as men who overtly endorse sexist beliefs! Using a causal chain design, this work demonstrates that perceived sincerity of a man's commitment to allyship is causal in determining whether the allied man will be viewed as an identity-safety or identity-threat cue (Moser et al., under review).

Ongoing research questions:

See my recent review paper with Jaclyn Siegel and Shaun Wiley in Psychology of Men and Masculinities for more information on this topic!

Access the full manuscript here!

Motivating allyship

Though allyship is often beneficial, advantaged group members must first be motivated to act as allies. There are many barriers that reduce advantaged group members' likelihood of engaging in allyship. And, many advantaged group members may be highly resistant to social change efforts altogether.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, my work bridges Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) and the social identity approach (Selvanathan et al., 2020; Tajfel & Turner, 1978; Turner & Reynolds, 2011) to identify when and how men may be motivated to act as allies for gender equality.