Top choices

- Robert Baker


Why do men matter in driving change?

As many of us working in the field know, progress towards gender equality is slow and at current rates of change, it could take over 100 years to achieve gender balance. However we can accelerate progress if we engage men.

Why? Because men control some 80% of executive positions and dominate senior leadership in organisations. They can influence company organisational structures, policies, recruitment shortlists, promotions, training in their organisations.

Also men are often partners to women who want to develop their careers and these men can support them by being what we call 50/50 partners: sharing responsibility for house work, parenting and child care etc.

So if we need to engage men and get their support, what does it actually take to get them on board with this important initiative and what practically do we need them to do?

How do we get men engaged?

The first thing to say is that we will not engage many men by inviting them to join women’s causes, networks or women’s events: many men either do not see the relevance of women’s issues to them, or underestimate the impact the obstacles women face throughout their careers.

We can however engage men by making gender balance relevant to them, by asking them some key questions:

  • How can you ensure your organisation performs well in the future: having the best leadership, equipped for the challenges of a fast changing and volatile business environment?
  • How can you ensure your organisation innovates and has the best fit with the needs of your customers?
  • How can your organisation attract, develop and retain the best talent in a world where there is a growing shortage of good people with the right skills?
  • How can you as a senior male executive or people manager understand the challenges women face and how can you develop the skills and competencies required to manage the diverse workforce of the future?
  • What kind of organisation do you want your female partner or daughter to work in and don’t you want them to have equal opportunities to progress their careers?
  • How can you contribute to a world where men are freed from the constraints and expectations society places on them and there is less incidence of stress and mental illness?

In other words, we engage men by sharing the vision that by building organisations that have the culture, structure and work practices to support gender balance all the way through the organisation: right to the top, we create an environment that is good for men, as well as women. One that has gender balanced leadership and attracts, retains and develops the very best talent!

What do we want men to do?

Having got their attention, we then need to outline how men can contribute to this vision:

  • Be a visible male role model as a leader to set out the vision and champion the rationale (what we often call the business case) for gender balance. Encourage the men who report to you to do the same
  • As a senior executive, insist your organisation and business leaders have accountability, with explicit and visible policies and targets for gender balance, and measure how well they and the organisation are progressing
  • Identify high potential women who have so much to offer to your organisation and sponsor or mentor them to help develop their careers
  • As a people manager, make sure you are aware of your unconscious bias and know how to create the best environment and working practices for all your employees to thrive, regardless of gender
  • As a colleague, do your part to be an ally and support women in your workplace by challenging processes, attitudes or behaviours that disadvantage women
  • Finally, as a partner and / or parent, play your equal part in supporting in the family and home – take responsibility for your fair share of housework, take your full paternity leave, and be an equally involved parent or elder carer.

How can I get started?

If you are a man, I hope this article has inspired  you to make a start on, or speed up  your journey to supporting gender balance. There are lots of resources available and PWN Global has produced a list to help you which you will find on their website.

You can make a major contribution to bringing gender balance into your organisation, your home- life and into wider society –and  this will benefit men and  women of today’s and future generations!

Robert Baker: Senior Partner, Mercer and Board Member, PWN Global