We’ve only included women in most of the debate on gender equality. If you image what can be accomplished when we include men, you’ll join me as an unbridled optimist about the future for men and women alike…
Already some years ago, Warren Buffet expressed his optimism about inclusivity of women in the workforce saying “We’ve seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. If you visualize what 100% can do, you’ll join me as an unbridled optimist about the future”. However, at the current rate, it will take humanity another 170 years to reach gender equality globally, as projected by the World Economic Forum.
In the same way that economic prosperity is destined to increase, once women as much as men can reach their full potential, so too is much of the potential left unused to accelerate the move towards a gender equal society, as currently only a fraction of the available men power to accomplish this is utilised.
Although there is no doubt that women can benefit from closed discussions where they find support and comfort, real change can only be accomplished when the debate is inclusive, and thus open to men. And currently, even when discussions on gender equality are open for all to attend, all-female panels all too often keep men out the door. One must here also admit the irony, of five white middle-aged women discussing inclusivity…
So how do we include men in the debate? How do we get them to engage? What is needed for them to understand that this is also about them? The key message here is that diversity leads to success, to innovation, and to happiness, for all, men and women alike. And that gender equality is just one step in reaching broader inclusivity, which in turn leads to diversity of teams, and the richness that this brings to organisations and businesses.
The work environment and work culture in most sectors, and particularly there where power is exerted, has been built almost entirely by men. Often, attitudes, behaviours and processes have developed within exclusively male circles. It is perhaps not surprising then, that women not always do well in these environments, and struggle to adapt to a culture that is not inherent to them.
The answer to this paradigm has too often been that women need to adapt to male culture. However this approach is in contradiction with the premise that the real benefit of gender equality is in the generation of diversity; in thinking, in attitudes, and in behaviours.
Men’s active involvement thus is much needed, in making sure that women are supported, and that the real advantages of increased diversity are benefitted from. Men can give women space to put their stamp on the processes they have initially designed, they can show willingness to understand attitudes that sit well with everyone, they can take initiative to co-create balanced environments that work for women as well as men. And it’s the men who have the power to do these things who need to be on the front line in the debate. It’s these men who need to sit, alongside women, on gender equality panels. That is at least, until such panels are redundant, hopefully in less than 170 years.
First featured in IQ Business Magazine in March 2019