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Leadership Men: Step out of your bubble to champion gender diversity

Canadian country leader and general manager at Red Hat Inc., a global leader in open source software.

According to Catalyst Canada, men represent more than 95 per cent of the CEO positions in Canada’s 100 largest publicly traded companies. With such a big divide, those who are leaders must help define the role those with power and privilege play. Many men want to get more involved, but we must go about it the right way. We want to respect the successful work that has already been done, find the right fit for our skills and learn from our female leaders who have the deep knowledge of this issue. As Tanya van Biesen, executive director of Catalyst Canada, has said: “The path to gender equity is a journey. There is no silver bullet – only commitment and action.”

As leaders, our self-worth is often measured by meeting hard targets and achieving financial goals. Stepping forward to become an advocate for gender diversity is uncharted territory for many of us. Yet, it is a business imperative with a body of evidence demonstrating a positive effect on the bottom line.

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Since joining Red Hat Canada in 2013, my team has made gender parity a priority and seen progress by integrating it into our business goals. For male leaders who are ready to define a role in championing gender diversity, I encourage you to venture out of your leadership bubble, collaborate with your team and educate yourself on where your strengths are needed. The issue of gender parity is not something that will be solved tomorrow, and I know I am continuously learning new perspectives and opinions, and ways I can support the cause. Here are some of the tips I have learned from my team and other respected experts.

1. Audit your culture for inclusion

At Red Hat, we launched a global listening tour to discover how our diversity and inclusion programs are viewed by our associates globally to identify opportunities and gaps that will help us create an enhanced diversity and inclusion program shaped by our associates. Imogen Coe, PhD and founding dean of Ryerson University’s Faculty of Science, is one of the most influential voices supporting gender diversity, particularly in science and academia. She is a strong proponent of gathering insight and educating employees to create workplaces where everyone demonstrates through their actions that they have strong core competencies in understanding and applying the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion.

2. Audit yourself

Catalyst’s Men Advancing Real Change (MARC) program is ranked as one of the best programs to help leaders understand more about themselves and their strengths by exploring how we are all exposed to inequalities, unconscious biases and privilege. Catalyst Canada is also one of the founding members of a new Canadian coalition of not-for-profits partners called the Canadian Gender and Good Governance Alliance, which is united in overcoming barriers to gender parity through research, advocacy and education. They offer many resources including a CEO Blueprint: How to build and lead gender-balanced organizations.

3. Search out role models

The most influential leaders in Australian business created the Male Champions of Change (MCC), which is widely viewed as a best practice, to acknowledge gender equality is a critical economic and social issue. MCC is changing the Australian workplace for women – and all workers – with achievements that include: pay equity reviews conducted every two years and flexible work arrangements for all employees in 80 per cent of all MCC workplaces.

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4. Seek opportunities to bring in diverse voices

Dr. Coe was recently approached at a prestigious conference to lead a session on women in science and she pushed back. “I told my male colleague that I would co-lead a session with him on how to create a more inclusive culture and workplace in science, for everyone, so we could speak to the broader context and we get as many participants as possible in the session. This approach attracted one of the most diverse group I’ve seen as this type of conference. I received candid feedback from many of the male attendees who told me that this holistic approach was really useful. They also shared their struggles about balancing their careers and families, and other factors that we sometimes seem to forget are gender equity issues for men too.”

Red Hat is guided by an open approach to innovation to attract many minds to create the best software. This correlates with diversity and inclusion. Everyone is not only welcome, but needed, to lend their voice to build on success to put our conversations into action.

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