The Women’s Place Advocates and Allies program receives international attention

The Women’s Place is planting gender equity seeds across the globe by presenting the Advocates and Allies program to groups in India and Italy.
Multistory white building with many windows and a row of flags from different countries mounted on poles in front of the building
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, located in Rome, Italy.

The Women’s Place Advocates and Allies for Equity program has gained international attention. In January 2022, Dr. Andreá Williams, director of The Women’s Place (TWP), presented the program virtually in partnership with the Fisher College of Business to the Tata Management Training Centre in India. In June 2023, Dr. Sara Childers, former assistant director of TWP, presented a full-day, in-person Advocates and Allies workshop to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) located in Rome, Italy.
Leading up to these international workshops, Advocates and Allies received national attention. TWP presented workshops and overviews of the program to the Association of American Medical Colleges 2019 Leadership Forum, Social Security Administration, University of Vermont, Yale University Department of Hematology/Oncology and Women in Engineering Pro-Active Network.

Advocates and Allies for Equity is a TWP program that focuses on changing the climate at The Ohio State University by increasing participation of men in gender equity work. Its goal is to establish a cross-campus network of male faculty and staff supporters who share a common awareness of the consequences of implicit bias and systematic privilege, and implement specific practical, evidence-based measures for supporting women.

The unique aspect of focusing on enhancing men’s engagement in gender equity work — work usually done by women in addition to their assigned job tasks — is one reason the program has garnered interest. Dr. Jeffrey LeJeune, former CFAES and Veterinary College of Medicine professor who joined Advocates and Allies in 2016 as an Advocate, was so impressed with the program that later, when he was hired by the United Nations FAO, he invited TWP to present to that group.

Portrait of Sara Childers wearing a black sweater and black and white flowered dress sitting in front of a brick wall
Dr. Sara Childers

The UN FAO group that Dr. Childers, currently the assistant vice provost for Inclusive Excellence, Office of Academic Affairs, presented to consisted of about 30 field workers, scientists, support staff, and leaders of all genders from around the world. They travel internationally to help improve access to food and food safety with the goal to support the health, well-being, and self-sufficiency of women integrated into their mission.

Though FAO employees are trained to be culturally sensitive and nonjudgmental, they had not examined how gender bias might be present in their workplace or their interactions with others. Additionally, the UN had conducted climate surveys and discovered a high rate of sexual harassment in the organization alongside the low numbers of women hired into leadership positions.

Given the relevance of the topic, the group was very receptive to the Advocates and Allies workshop on gender bias. According to Childers, “They were extremely engaged in the small group discussions about how gender bias manifests in their daily interactions and work environments. The workshop made room for women to discuss their own experiences and for everyone to consider how bias might impact areas like hiring and promotion.”

Discussing gender bias was another way to look under the surface and think about how the FAO can be more inclusive and make the climate safer and supportive for everyone. The workshop was supported by the group’s leader, the new director and first woman ever hired to lead the unit. For programs like these, support from leadership is important for sustaining change.

“She not only participated in the workshop, but she was already thinking about next steps and how to continue the conversation,” said Childers. “The workshop gave everyone a lot to think about, and I believe their learning and reflection will continue. I think the workshop planted seeds that will be sprouting for a long time.”

While TWP is planting seeds across the globe, we continue to grow the program here at Ohio State. During 2022-2023, as a result of attending an Ally facilitation and committing to supporting women colleagues, more than 150 men have become new Allies, bringing the total number of Allies to more than 800.

If you would like to participate, the program will be available for in-person and virtual sessions in 2023-2024, both by request and through university-wide workshops. The Women's Place encourages all departments or units to participate by requesting Ally facilitations. You can learn more about the program and request a session for your unit on the Advocates and Allies website pages.