First and foremost, I’m a man. I’m also a proud feminist. And there’s nothing wrong with admitting that.
Feminism’s core principle rests on the belief that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. So what’s the problem with that? The prevalence of toxic masculinity makes it difficult for some men to actively engage in being allies of women. Perceptions of being vulnerable or weak also prevent men from speaking up about being proud feminists.
My boss is a woman. I have two reports on my team and they’re both women. Some of the best mentors in my life have been women. And some of the most hard-working, smartest people I’ve known in my career are women. I strongly believe that I wouldn’t be who I am today without the influence of strong women leaders and team members. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the experience for all men.
While women represent 50.8% of the US population and account for 47% of the labor force, they are severely underrepresented in positions of leadership. For example, women only account for 24% of Congress and 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs. To address this, men need to use their positions of privilege to push hard for gender equality.
Most men probably believe in gender equality and strive for it too. But gender inequality, especially in the workplace, is systemic and widespread. Men have to go beyond agreeing with the idea of gender equality and being active participants in the fight for it.
While it’s morally important to pursue gender equality, there are economical advantages too. Collectively, women are powerful and influential, helping drive the economy. It’s estimated that women influence 75% of all purchasing decisions and globally control $29 trillion in consumer spending. According to McKinsey, “$12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality.”
So if you want to make a difference, here are some of the top ways a male ally can help the fight for gender equality in the workplace immediately:
Recruit & Promote Women
To combat the gender gap at work, women need to be visible. This needs to happen through being deliberately selective during the hiring process.
It doesn’t stop after hiring more women. It’s important to promote and celebrate your female employees’ work ethic and successes. This puts them front-and-center in front of the entire organization and helps highlight their accomplishments.
One of the most successful paths to a successful career involves having mentors. According to a study, “mentorship has an outsize impact on a worker’s career across several measures.” Yet some men leaders are hesitant to mentor women for a variety of reasons, limiting their opportunities for visibility and development.
Sidelining women, whether intentionally or accidentally, perpetuates the systemic inequalities when it comes to gender, preventing growth and advancement among women. It must be addressed directly and aggressively.
Share in All Responsibilities.
One of the best ways for men to combat gender inequality at work is actually what they do at home.
Historically, women have shared the burden of domestic responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, child-rearing at home. Even when huge numbers of women entered the workforce in the 20th century, the disparity of household duties is apparent between the genders.
Some women can become dependent on their husband’s income, resulting in increased chores at home for the woman. Additionally, women’s careers can be set back through maternity leave. The longer a mother goes on maternity leave, the harder it is for her to get promoted, get a raise, or even get hired.
Even when women are the breadwinners of the household, studies have shown when men are more “economically dependent on their wives, the less housework they do.” Emasculation can be a problem in these types of situations, preventing men from wanting to do household chores. So basically, women get the short end of the stick for being successful too!
Things have improved in recent years in this area though. “Asked what kind of marriage leads to the more satisfying way of life, most Millennials (72%) choose the modern egalitarian model (in which the husband and wife both have jobs and both take care of the household and children) over the traditional male breadwinner/female homemaker model,” according to Pew Research.
By helping out at home, men can help their spouses out with balancing responsibilities, allowing more precious time for women to focus on their careers.
We’ve all heard the word “mansplaining,” but do you know what it means?
According to the Oxford dictionary, mansplaining is defined as “the practice of a man explaining something to a woman in a way that shows he thinks he knows and understands more than she does.” And many men are guilty of doing this. I know I’ve mansplained before and I continue to try and be more self-aware of the fact.
In a recent study, 20 women and 20 men were paired up and their transactions were recorded. The study found that on average, “women interrupted men just once” while men “interrupted other women 2.6 times.” Another study showed that women only “spoke 25% of the time in professional meetings while men took up 75%.”
As men, we need to talk less and ask more questions. Listen more. Don’t interrupt. Call out other people who interrupt a woman while she is speaking and encourage her to finish expressing her ideas. Notice a female colleague not speaking during a meeting? Ask her for her thoughts on the matter.
Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you know more.
81% of women experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime. 54% of women reported workplace harassment, according to a survey. Additionally, 95% of men go unpunished, according to women who have reported the harassment.
Misogynistic comments and actions are prevalent and we shouldn’t be blind to them. If you see or hear something that shouldn’t be happening, you must speak up.
Encourage the victim to report the harassment. Let them know that you’re there for them if they need a witness or a supporter.
If someone at work makes an offensive comment to you about someone, confront them, and let them know that it’s not okay to speak that way. Additionally, it’s important to evaluate women on the merit of experience, talent, and skill, not their looks or what they wear.
We shouldn’t be normalizing harassment or derogatory comments whatsoever. Silence is complicity. Stand up for others and call out inappropriate behavior.
“Visionary men have long been public champions and behind the scenes dealmakers for the cause of women’s inclusion. Today we need them more than ever.” –Ambassador Melanne Verveer and Kim Azzarelli, Chair of Cornell Law School’s Avon Global Center for Women and Justice
Men play a vital role in the fight for gender equality in the world. Many men are hesitant to be vocal or active participants, due to society’s perceptions of a male that supports feminism must be emotional, weak, or not masculine. Some men find it awkward or uncomfortable to engage in women’s rights issues. But gender inequality is too big an issue for men to ignore or be silent on. Push aside your ego and recognize it’s not about you.
Toxic masculinity has no place in today’s world. Men need to shed their masculine insecurities about gender inequality to push progress on this front forward. Don’t worry about what other male colleagues think! In my opinion, fighting for women’s rights is the manliest thing a man can do anyways. Own it!
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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