The Other 50%: How To Bring Men Into The Gender Equity Conversation
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it.
The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.
• Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
• Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.
Gender Equity Matters To Men
How do I get my male colleagues to care about gender equality? I’m scared to bring up the topic considering the economic & political uncertainty.
First, your fear is not unfounded.
Many employees (male and female) keep silent on issues related to gender equity in the workplace for fear of retaliation. For instance:
Nearly two-thirds of men believe taking time off work to spend with their kids would be perceived as a lack of career commitment.
70% of workplace sexual harassment cases go unreported. Of the employees who did file sexual harassment complaints with the EEOC between 2011 and 2016, 64% lost their jobs at some point during the process.
Female applicants who appear not to be mothers are twice as likely to get an interview compared to female applicants who appear to have children.
Second, you’re already on the right track by asking how to bring men into the gender equity conversation.
When we make gender equity all about women, we leave behind the other 50%. That means if we want to move the needle on gender equity, we must bring men into the gender equity conversation. Doing so is both strategic and necessary. After all, men hold more than 70% of senior management positions and lead 82% of firms globally.
Most importantly, bringing men into the conversation is fundamental to the essence of Equity for All®.
Gender equity improves the lives of men, too. In the US, men account for 79% of all suicides and have a lower life expectancy than women, largely as a result of adherence to strict gender norms. (See data here.) Besides, achieving gender equity in the US could expand the economic pie for all to the tune of $2 trillion.
And, there’s a good chance your male colleagues already care about gender equity but don’t get involved because they feel they don’t have a legitimate place in the conversation. (i.e. They have a lower psychological standing in the matter based on the framing of gender equity as a “women’s issue.”)
Now, let’s talk about how you can invite men into the gender equity journey.
1. Meet people where they are at because gender equity is a continuum.
Gender equity isn’t a yes or a no, you-either-have-it-or-you-don’t issue. It’s a continuum and we are all standing somewhere on it. If it helps, remove your ego from the issue by thinking back to the start of your gender equity journey:
Where were you?
What beliefs did you hold?
What were people telling you?
What were your goals?
Empathy is key.
2. Appeal to System 2 thinking by showing people the data.
Whereas our System 1 thinking relies on heuristics and biases to quickly assess situations and make decisions, our System 2 thinking relies on data and analysis to methodologically assess situations and make decisions.
Since we have the data, let’s put it to work by showing stakeholders how gender equity benefits them. While data won’t automatically win people’s support for gender equity, it will begin to influence their attitudes towards it—especially as we start monitoring and measuring gender equity’s economic gains.
3. Avoid negativity and blame because it’s counter-productive.
One of the most productive routes to inspire action is the one that evokes a positive emotional response. Instead of guilt-tripping people into doing the right thing, we should uplift our colleagues by appealing to their positive emotions.
Emotions influence our self-perception, and positive self-perception not only energizes us, but also expands cognitive resources so we can engage in pro-equity behavior.
(Bonus: positive self-perception satisfies a fundamental psychological need and leads to overall well-being.)
Gender equity matters. It matters to all genders, races, ethnicities, and ages. Let’s continue pursuing ways to expand the conversation and make it more inclusive.
These Q&A roundups can be delivered directly to you—a week before I publish them here.
(All you need is an email address.)