Where are the Men?
By Chris Allen
The old saying goes: “Behind every great man is a great woman.”
Well, what about every great woman? Is there a man supporting her success — practically and emotionally? Could men’s support of women be key for greater and faster progress for increasing gender equality? I think the answer is yes.
From the 1970s to the early 2000s, there was fairly consistent progress in the advancement of women’s rights. The gender wage gap decreased. The percentage of women in management and political leadership increased. There was greater diversity in many occupations, from medicine to engineering.
However, this progress has stalled. Despite the fact that women comprise roughly half the country’s population and earn almost half of all advanced professional degrees, we lag in positions of leadership and real economic power.
At the current rate of change, the Center for American Progress estimates women won’t reach parity with men in political and economic domains in the United States until the year 2085. My own children will be more than 90 years old.
There is considerable data showing that gender equality not only benefits women but helps everyone. This holds true for individual companies as well as whole countries.
The truth is we cannot fully empower girls and women if men aren’t part of the solution. Since men hold the greatest economic and political power, they’re in a position to impact gender equity by supporting, promoting, mentoring and encouraging women.
Admittedly, some men won’t get it; the irony of privilege is when we have privilege, we’re inclined not to recognize it as such. Some men will deny that women lack advantages, claim reverse discrimination or — even worse — argue women belong at home.
Thankfully, most men don’t believe this. Rather, many have little impact on gender equality, simply because they aren’t aware of the importance of their actions or don’t know what actions to take.
So, men, here are some suggestions to help move society toward equality:
- Share the non-work related responsibilities. This includes family obligations, childcare, housework and financial management. One woman I spoke with said, “[My husband] is an equal partner at home. He does not shirk ANY responsibility related to home, cleaning or childcare.”
- Promote and support equal pay for equal work. Promote policies that favor salary transparency so women and men can compare and see if they’re being paid fairly. Speak up if you know injustice and unfairness are happening.
- Be an involved and engaged father. This includes supporting girls and women as athletes. Sports for children and teenagers can contribute greatly to girls’ self confidence and self esteem. Research shows successful women often had fathers who encouraged them.
- Speak up to other men who don’t get it — especially when you hear them say something thoughtless to or about women. Don’t ignore it when you witness sexual harassment at work; encourage women to report it and be willing to report it yourself. Call it out as what it is: wrong.
- Offer to help in the kitchen at family events. There are some women who won’t “let” you help, but you can still offer. If several men offer together, maybe women will be more likely to accept! (Women, please accept the help, even if it isn’t how “you” would do things!)
- Take pride in being in the life of a successful woman! A women’s success doesn’t have to diminish the status of the man. It’s not a zero-sum game. Data show gender equality is a win-win for everyone in health, happiness and success.
- Promote women and prioritize diversity in the professional world. A woman I talked to said, “At work, mentor me and support new opportunities for me.” Everyone needs support and encouragement. Men should celebrate the victories with women, rather than offer a half-hearted, inattentive, “That’s nice, honey!”
- Be one of the MWGUs — “Men Who Get Us,” a term I learned from local businesswoman, leader and entrepreneur, Gwen Webber-McCleod, who describes her partner as someone who “fully gets me.” She goes on to say an MWGU “understands what it takes for a woman to be successful, believes in her and is always positioned to support and help her succeed.”
Although it may take the help of men to bring women’s power, strength and leadership to the forefront, we will all reap the benefits! SWM
Chris Allen, a workplace psychologist and executive coach, is the vice president of Insight Business Works. For more information, visit insightbusinessworks.com.