I'm an activist in the area of gender equality. For quite some years now I've been a man who really wanted to try and push forward the progress on gender quality because I saw that there were so few women in leadership positions in the workplace. So I got myself very involved early on working with women and women's networks and understanding more about the challenges for women in the workplace. I determined that I was going to do something to make a difference in this space.
The way to encourage more men to become male allies to help them look at this matter from two perspectives: one that is business-related, and one personal.
At the beginning we do look into the why men leaders should be even thinking about gender equality and why they should become allies. Business is changing, and they're really struggling with some of the changes - for example attracting and retaining women and younger generation talent because they want very different things in the workplace and the men don't understand what that is.
Sometimes they're also losing customers because they're not gender balanced. Sometimes the regulators are putting pressure on them, especially if it's the financial sector and banks.
But we also try to establish personal drivers. Why should it matter to you personally? The answers are: It's the right thing to do, or I have daughters or I've worked with women and we work very well together etc.
In the end it's a combination of getting them to answer the question why it's important to business and why it's important to them personally. Once they've answered that why, then they're much more open to listen to the how and the what.
One of the things that prevents more men from becoming male allies is their concern about doing or saying something wrong.
We did a survey 18 months ago of men leaning into diversity and inclusion, and we asked them what some of the barriers were. One of the biggest barriers for a lot of men getting involved in this area is saying and doing the wrong thing. They worry that once they start to spend time with female colleagues, that they'll say something or do something that basically doesn't land well, and then they'll have difficulties explaining themselves.
Equally a lot of them say: I'm also worried about how my male colleagues might react, that they might think that I'm doing something which isn't directly related to the business, and I'm taking my eye off the ball from a business perspective.
Some say it's time. How do I find time to mentor women, for example, or how do I find time do the things that allies have to do? There's a number of different things that we typically find.
I think part of not having enough male allies is that men need being invited to become allies. You know, men won't necessarily say to themselves one day: I need to become a male ally. They need to be invited to even think about the topic and to become those maleallies. So, asking men and buying them in is a great place to start.
We need to include white men in the discussion and we need to make them feel part of what we're trying to achieve. In other words, we need to say that they're not threatened by the work that needs to be done.
What we have as white men leaders is that there's a certain level of power and privilege that we've accumulated over time, and I think one of the discussions we need to have is how we use that in the best way to help us build more diverse and more equitable working environments and companies.
What I say to men is what you want to be is the man leader who knows how to operate in a gender balanced environment, who knows how to do diversity and inclusion work, who knows how to take people with you because that's the kind of man that's gonna be successful as a leader in the future. All data shows that the more you as a man commit to allyship and diversity inclusion, the better it is for your career going forward and you're more likely to end up in the C-Suite in the years to come.
To become a male ally men need to work on themselves first. I think any man who wants to be an ally needs to understand what the biases that they currently have, the assumptions they are making, the stereotypes they carry around and how these impact how they see and work with women.
The other thing we realized is that a lot of men aren't even listening to the voice of women. It's amazing to me how many men don't even know what the women in their organization think and feel and go through on a daily basis.
One of the exercises I ask men to do is to go and speak to their female colleagues or to get the data from their employee survey that shows how women feel about being in the workplace. And you often see quite a significant gap between what the women report a satisfaction in the workplace and what men report, particularly around areas like given opportunities etc.
The awareness part really comes first. But then there's the competency development, the skills that you really need to be an ally, which revolve around empathy and being prepared to be vulnerable, open, and more transparent.
What women do great in communications is that they often come from a position of humility. They're not necessarily coming from the same place that men would come from. And they are usually very well prepared. They thought through what they want to say, and they are listening to what is being said in response. .Combine this with determination to do things very effectively - preparing well, really thinking through their arguments, making sure that they're listening to the responses and bringing along people with them - this is a recipe for success in the workplace.
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