Men’s role in workplace gender equality
Conversations around gender equality in the workplace might seem to be women’s domain, but excluding men hinders the cause. Here’s how they can help.
The group of people most overlooked in conversations about gender equality in the workforce are key to creating the desired change: MEN.
Barriers to Changing the Status Quo
One of the biggest misconceptions about gender equality is the sole focus on women, while the goal is to make positive changes for both men and women. There are different reasons why men can be reluctant to change the status quo: the fear of losing status and apathy are two big barriers to changing gender norms at work, where men likely occupy the top positions (Catalyst). The power dynamics in the working world statistically favor men, from 81% of Congress to 95% of Fortune 500 CEO titles. “It’s men and boys (soon to be men) in the driver’s seat. It’s men who are obligated to help create change” (Richard Lui). The aim is to create change by including women and men to ensure productive, active engagement in gender equality for all workers.
Benefits of Gender Diversity
What would it look like if men were regularly brought into the diversity conversation? It is in both the company’s and employees’ best interest and crucial to establishing gender equality in leadership positions. “Research continues to show that diversity… yields more innovation and is tied to enhanced financial performance — factors good for all employees” (Catalyst). This leads to better companies, industries, economies, goods and services. In fact, if women hadn’t entered the workforce as they did since the 1970’s, the current economy’s GDP would be 25% smaller (Giang). A workplace that encourages women to climb the leadership ladder has shown to be beneficial for all parties involved.
What Men (Can) Do to Promote Gender Equality
This is not to say the men are not already making a difference for gender equality in today’s companies. Joe Keefe, CEO of Pax World Management LLC, prioritized women at his company by nixing quotas and committing to always having a woman in the finalist hiring pool. Now, five out of nine senior managers are women. Dan Shapiro, CEO of Glowforge, always aims to hire diverse team members because, “he can’t live in a “ridiculous world” where “half the potentials are systematically undervalued and challenged (Giang). By simply questioning inequality, these CEOs made waves of change at their companies and brought in new employees with unique visions for success. Men like this show the world what it can look like when women are equally valued at work. Promoting women is far from charity; it’s a smart business move.
The first thing men can do to make a positive change in the workplace is to listen to their female coworkers. Women are experts on gender inequality because they experience it daily, so ask women what is holding them back (a simple, yet effective tool is the Gender Parity Spotlight© Survey – www.leveragehr.com).
The next step is to take advantage of today’s world of “big data” and inform yourself about both big-picture data and the statistics of your own team. For example, find out the average pay gap and address this when bonuses are being discussed. By doing basic research on workplace sexism, you could implement new policies to limit your company’s tendency for bias (Edgecliffe-Johnson).
Finally, the men who fight for gender equality in the workplace are vocal about their belief. They are a leader for change. By exposing the problem and explaining the benefits of gender equality to all facets of a company, male leaders can recruit fellow men to be champions of feminism in the workplace. “Men need to convince the skeptics that everyone can have it all as long as we all share the grunt work” (Giang).
By: Rachel Fazzina for Leverage HR