This paper examines men’s involvement in an institutional gender equity award scheme and how their self-concept as allies develops over time.


We draw on a subset of data from a qualitative study of university staff involved in one Australian institution’s SAGE Athena Swan pilot between 2017–18. Participants self-selected from the institutional self-assessment team composed of 26 male and female academic and professional staff members involved in preparing the University’s Bronze Award application. Data related to the men’s experiences is the focus here.


Key themes from the data include:

  1. men’s motivations for engagement;
  2. men’s self-understandings as ‘champions for change’;
  3. the barriers/risks associated with male championship; and
  4. men’s evolving perceptions and critiques of the male champions model.


Findings show that men demonstrated personal growth and increased awareness through their participation in the pilot. Yet, their frustration with how equity and diversity was managed in their organisational context highlights pitfalls in the concept of a male ‘champion’. This paper provides timely guidance for institutions seeking to engage allies in gender equity initiatives.


  • Meredith Nash, University of Tasmania


  • Ruby Grant, University of Tasmania
  • Robyn Moore, University of Tasmania
  • Tania Winzenberg, Menzies Institute for Medical Research