Credit: Martin Bond Photography
There’s a strong call for men to step up to help deliver gender equality of opportunity. Research shows there is a gap between being supportive of action and knowing what action to take. This blog suggests practical actions that individual employees and middle managers can take and leaders of organisations can facilitate.
Women find it more difficult than men to progress into leadership positions. There is a fall-off in the proportion of women represented in management as the roles get more senior. Much evidence shows that unintentional gender bias is to blame. The spotlight has recently shifted away from ‘fixing the women’ to succeed in the workplace culture in which they find themselves, and moved towards engaging men to act as allies for equality of opportunity for women. Indeed, this is now a hot topic on Business Fights Poverty’s website. It’s great that many men are supportive of equality and yet, a question that men, especially middle managers, often ask us is, “what exactly do you want me to do”? The Collaborating with Men research from Murray Edwards College sets out to help answer that question.
Framing it right: the case for collaboration
Asking men to be allies can suggest that men are being asked to solve the problem of inequality for women. This can alienate women and foster a reaction amongst men that it is not their place to act. It is far better for men and women to act as equal partners in creating equitable workplaces. Not least because women judge through the prism of unintentional gender bias too.
Men talking to men about sexism in workplace culture has real impact because more managers and leaders are men. Also, it’s more surprising. Men amplify and extend the impact of their perspective on this well-trodden subject and get more credit than women for their interventions. Although it has to be said, female feminists like me can find this a difficult pill to swallow!
How to interrupt everyday sexism
In our latest ‘Women Collaborating with Men’ reports, ‘Everyday Workplace Inclusion’ and ‘Inclusive Networking and Sponsorship’, we provide many practical pointers for action that middle managers and individuals at all levels can take on board and leaders can facilitate. These recommendations come from participants in our research and interviews with blue chip organisations across different sectors. Our research has been UK-focused and reflects the globalised workplace. Just a few examples of effective actions from our reports are outlined below:-
Actions for individuals and middle managers
Actions for leaders
For more information on the Collaborating with Men research and to download the latest reports, please visit the Murray Edwards College website.