At the recent Women’s Business Council Guildhall Reception to celebrate the efforts of companies and individuals who are pioneering innovative, industry-led solutions to support the advancement of women in the workplace, I was pleased to see a number of senior men in attendance and to hear that one of the Council’s 5 Action Groups is Men as Change Agents.
Men need to be part of the conversation to encourage change andknow how to do this effectively. Being part of a business-led and government backed group there are now 6 men amongst the 20 council members.
In the US, Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) is a community for men committed to achieving gender equality in the workplace. The MARC website showcases member-generated advice, insights, and best practices to inspire men who wish to expand gender diversity within their organizations. It is an initiative of Catalyst, the leading nonprofit accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion within the United States, Canada, Europe, India, Australia, and Japan.
In Australia there are Male Champions of Change whose 4 guiding principles:- encouraging men to step up beside women; taking action to create equality as a business priority; holding each other accountable and changing the culture and system (not trying to “fix” women”) underpin the work they do. Having worked in corporate Australia and previously engaged to a very alpha Aussie, it’s refreshing to see the change at CEO level that is now taking place.
Men who are taking a stand talk of the shift they see from other men. The conversation has moved from “Why are you involved?” to “How can I be involved?” At Davos this year, 10 Corporate Impact Champions made gender equality an institutional priority as part of HeforShe’s UN initiative. The group of 10 includes: AccorHotels, Barclays, Koç Holding, McKinsey, PwC, Schneider Electric, Tupperware, Twitter, Unilever and Vodafone. The group disclosed details on leadership roles and board membership in the inaugural HeforShe Parity Report. The transparency displayed will help them measure commitments and hopefully inspire action from other employers.
All this is wonderful but as a woman I see and speak to men in business daily floundering with exactly what they are meant to say and do, especially around managing maternity. Men and women think and act differently so here are my 3 recommendations to help business make life for our male advocates a little bit easier:
1.Ensure men know the true scale and financial impact of the problem – and recognise it is a business imperative to change.
According to EHRC data 84% of businesses say they want to help pregnant women and new mothers yet 77% of these women say they feel discriminated against. In recent research 1 in 5 say they were treated negatively when they asked for time off for antenatal appointments or tried to negotiate a flexible return to work. We have a huge disconnect between what business says and what business does, especially around middle management. Female capital has a huge worth to the worldwide economy yet women are undervalued by business every day. Bumps and the Boardroom’s maternity awareness webinars help men and women understand the bigger picture, connect to simple solutions for change, achieve quick wins and play the long game so change becomes more inherent.
2. Encourage empathy and emotional intelligence in your men
Empathy has been shown to be positively correlated, with growth, productivity, and earnings. Token Man was established to help men in the UK creative industry gain a better understanding and empathy of the challenges women face when they’re in the minority. Men are natural “fixers” and their competitive interest is piqued when they know other men are stepping up around them and being seen to advocate change (see the success of the 30% Club if you are in any doubt) but healthy, happy, emotionally intelligent men are good for us all. Research from the Fatherhood Institute advises that UK mums and dads are the worst in the developed world at sharing childcare responsibilities (where men can stretch their EQ and develop their softer skills). Both sexes are guilty of perpetuating outdated stereotypes of women as natural carers and men as better providers. British men will spend an average of 24 minutes caring for children for every hour done by women yet in countries like Portugal, Sweden and Germany it is a sign of masculinity and the accepted norm for men to help out at home.
3. Give men the tools they need and invest in change
Male managers don’t automatically know how to speak to women about pregnancy or any conception related issues, or handle maternity or paternity requests effectively. Giving women a wide berth is not advised, neither is treating a pregnant women as if it’s business as usual. Don’t allow maternity leavers to manage their own “Keeping in touch” days, as new mums need support not space. Don’t leave it to the women in the office to send flowers if you’re the boss. My coaching programs offer group and one-to-one support for male leaders and men becoming parents to ensure men feel confident to deliver best practice. As we move towards a greater uptake of shared parental leave, encourage your men to invite requests and lead by example as Mark Zuckerberg did.
Current data shows we are not expected to reach gender parity in my lifetime or possibly even my children’s lifetime. If men and women work together I am sure greater improvements can be made that benefit both our emotional and economic wellbeing and use all of our skills more effectively. We don’t need men to be women but as the Athena Doctrine advocates Women (and the Men who think like them) will rule the future.
How Meetup Ditched Its Boys Club In 3 years. It’s do-able when you commit and take daily action.
Male executives need to stop spitting the dummy when women get promoted on meritFrom our colleagues Down Under.
This post was originally published on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3-ways-business-can-man-up-support-women-lisa-barnwell?trk=prof-post