Engaging men in women’s leadership issues

What are the responsibilities that lie on the shoulders of men? How should they show their support (apart from words)? How and where can they start advocating for women? How can they bridge the gaps that lie between the sexes at the work place?

With the #MeToo# campaign coming to a head in the last few months, over Sunday lunch, I recently heard a female friend (and a mother of 2 boys) say how times have become tough for the good and decent boys and men nowadays. It was not surprising that most people in the group pounced upon her misplaced sympathy for men and felt a strong urge to be supportive of Women. Yes, there is no doubt women must be supported especially the brave ones who have had the gumption to name and shame their offenders.

But that cannot take away from the fact that there most definitely are the few good and decent men out there who are respectful and supportive of women. We all know a few of these creatures, in our homes and work places. The #MeToo# movement has created some unforeseen gender dynamics in the workplace, including some anxiety on men’s parts to mentor or work alone with women. Also many men who may actually want to show their support are unaware as to how to do so.

These are perhaps conversations that are yet to take centre stage at most organizations. There is a pressing need for organizations to put together information and open dialogues on how men can, on a daily basis, advocate for women and work towards a gender neutral work environment that provide safe, equal and unbiased opportunities for both the sexes.

Here is a pre-emptive list of things men can do.

• Create a culture of respect. Demonstrate respect towards all employees especially women. Culture begins at the top and often trickles downwards. Be mindful of personal spaces, use politically correct language and choose your words carefully when speaking and working with female colleagues

• Men cannot aspire to make a positive contribution without first fully understanding the issue. Find a female colleague with whom you can have a conversation, and seek to understand her experiences as a women working in your organization and on your team

• Communicate to your teams that all concerns and issues will be received equally. This will allow everyone on the team (including the Women) to find their voices and be okay to discuss problems and issues without being judged

• Conversation and getting a women’s perspective will allow one to understand the many under lying biases that prevail at the workspace. Seek to understand mindsets that may be consciously or subconsciously marginalizing women and robbing hem of growth opportunities

• Encourage women to push the envelope and take more risks and ensure they receive the needed support to succeed.

•  Advocate and support equal opportunities and pay

•  Encourage other men to understand the need for elimination of biases and the need to create a culture and environment of growth and respect for both the sexes.

By engaging both genders in women’s leadership development initiatives, we can create more inclusive cultures, yielding better results for individual leaders and for the organizations they lead.