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Wanted: more men to fight for gender diversity

Executive coach Geraldine Gallacher sets out five simple steps that all men can take in the fight for greater gender diversity.

Geraldine Gallacher

January 2019

Men benefit from a more gender diverse workplace. The stakes are high and winners stand to get better work/life balance, the option to spend more time with their children, the chance to create a better future for their daughters, lower divorce rate, and better mental health.

Why, when there is so much to gain, are men not actively championing better gender diversity at their own workplace?

Let’s head off at the pass two barriers that stop men getting involved.

Men look at the daily inequalities their partners, daughters and mothers have to put up with, recognise they are in a privileged position, and think they don’t have a right to talk about these issues. Proportionally there are more men in positions of power than women. Gender inequality impacts men too. You do have a right to a voice and women need you to use it.

Men and women tend to approach problem solving in different ways. Diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives often tackle gender diversity issues either through women’s forums or in a way that feels comfortable to women. Men need to decide for themselves how they want to address the issue and activate a plan to solve the problem in their own way.

As a starting point here are five actions all men, no matter what level of seniority, can take today:

  1. Policy is power – your organisation can’t support you to share parenting more equally with your partner or spend more time with the kids unless it has a shared parental leave and flexible work policy in place. Aviva has proven that policy alone won’t encourage dads to take parental leave; it needs to be backed with the same salary entitlement as maternity leave, so push for that too.
  2. Be a role model – senior men are men with power. Use it to show younger men that successful men do work flexibly and when needed prioritise family over work. 
  3. Sponsor women – give them the experience that qualifies them to apply for top positions.
  4. Challenge behaviour in meetings – if a female colleague makes a good point, acknowledge it. If a male colleague attempts to take credit for it pass it back to the woman who first made the point. 
  5. Performance counts – judge your colleagues’ performance by their actions not words. Research shows men overestimate their abilities while women underestimate. 

Geraldine Gallacher is founder and MD of the Executive Coaching Consultancy.

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