Can men be advocates for gender equality in the workplace? Why do some men support gender diversity in leadership roles while others don’t?
The truth is, it is essential to bring men into the conversation. Their direct participation is significant in gender initiatives and plays a critical role in diversity and inclusion efforts. The first step in eradicating gender bias begins with recognising that such a bias exists. If more men were made aware of this bias, they would invariably work towards achieving gender equality.
Most men grow up with the misconception that women would somehow ‘benefit’ from gender equality and that men might end up losing recognition in the workplace—the zero-sum mentality.
They don’t realise that it’s them who currently reap the most benefits, and that gender equality would only mean equal opportunities for all and not favour one gender above the other.
Companies like Accenture India have selected male diversity, and inclusion (D&I) advocates who will ‘lead, advocate and handhold women as they progress in their careers,’ focusing on the mid-management level as that is where the disparity is most evident (and eventually in senior roles).
Other companies like Genpact, Pepsico and Pega Systems are following suit, realising the importance of male participation in such efforts.
They realise that the fight to empower women cannot only be led by women and for women. Male participation becomes equally crucial in sensitising those with lack of concern about issues of gender equality or those who are merely ignorant. These are barriers that undermine male support in such efforts and must be stopped.
When men are involved, companies benefit and equality is created in business leadership. Studies show that men who have defied gender norms worked under a female mentor or possess a strong sense of fair play are the ones who tend to be more aware of gender bias. Everyone benefits when men are brought in as mentors to create gender inclusivity in the workplace.
Let’s hope more companies realise this and work towards creating more champions of equality in the workplace, which will further build diverse and inclusive spaces.