All Men Allowed
After several weeks of committee planning, phone calls and emails back and forth, we finally launched the Women at Work program, a Net at Work initiative that seeks to promote the growth of the company through the attraction, retention and advancement of its members and other talented women in the workforce. Looking back on those long weeks of planning, a reoccurring theme that kept coming up is how do we get men involved? Albeit unstated, there was an acknowledgment of the need to involve men in this initiative.
I imagine the questions being asked by leaders and organizers of women’s programs all over the world is no longer why, but how to involve men. Traditionally, women have been the ones to initiate and champion gender equity programs, with little to no assistance from men, for the obvious reason that it affects women more. But the need to involve men cannot be overlooked as some of the issues and fundamental bias such programs seek to address points to both men and women. Therefore, for any significant change to occur men need to be active participants in addressing those issues. Change must start from the top and executives must be on board to motivate the rest of the organization and demonstrate a real desire for change.
Engaging men is often cited as a critical component in initiatives that seek to address gender issues, as these initiatives are often seen as an experience for women only. This perception further widens the gap between men and women and isolates the issue. But by involving men, we can educate them on how they can be more open to inclusivity in the workplace and leadership. Let’s face it, the business world is currently male-dominated. The goal is to bridge the gap, not create a bigger wedge.
The value of including men in diversity programs is becoming more obvious, hence the popularity of phrases such as #HeForShe and Men as Allies. By involving men, we make the issues of gender diversity and equity a collective issue that we are all responsible for, not just a problem only women need to deal with. By involving men as advocates, these programs are also able to reach other men more easily, increasing the chances of success.
Engaging men will create a more inclusive culture, which will translate into better results for an organization embarking on women’s initiatives, as gender diversity is beneficial to all. Research reveals that diversity and inclusion results in better decision making at work. Also, McKinsey reports that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially. Hence the need for initiatives that seek to address gender issues and the need for all to be involved in these programs.