If you’re looking for something to champion in the workplace as the new year begins, it might be time to focus on gender equity. Technological and economic forces topped end-of-year lists, but Toronto’s Michael Kaufman highlights gender equity in a book to be published Tuesday, The Time Has Come.
“The public world of gender relations is exploding around us,” he begins.
“There has never, ever in the 8,000-year history of our male-dominated world been a moment quite like this. You and I are living it. The gender equity revolution.”
It’s in your workplace, not just on issues of equal pay and sexual harassment, but more broadly in how men and women can work together equitably, taking advantage of the talents of all. But there are three further aspects Mr. Kaufman, co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, stresses have not received much attention.
The first is that men need to join the fight for gender equity. The second is that it will be good for them to be freed from the grips of masculinity – a mythology they will always fail to live up to. And the third is that the single biggest way men will contribute to gender equity and the single most important positive change that men are enjoying is what he calls “The Dad Shift” – men engaged deeply in their children’s lives.
Is your workplace ready?
We need to be careful. Workplaces should not be responding to the need for work-life balance just because men are now involved in child care after so many years of essentially leaving it to women. And the reality is that women are still handling far more of the household chores and child-care responsibilities. But more and more people in your workplace are now frantic about work’s incursion on their family duties.
Mr. Kaufman notes that one of the paradoxes of male power in society has been that with the bigger rewards come some big downsides. Among them are the men who retire, feeling they sacrificed for their family, but despairing because they don’t know their children. “You know, when it comes to being a good dad, I could have been a contender,” he imagines them wistfully saying, echoing Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront.
Many of those men have been atop organizational pyramids for our lifetimes. They may be the least capable of seeing the need for change. They may view the push for change as just another reason those silly millennials and Gen Z kids aren’t up to scratch. But it’s time to rethink.
Mr. Kaufman has nailed it: The Dad Shift is happening. Men and women are looking at leaders and expecting help with work-life balance.
His positive, affirming, inclusive approach is echoed by Rania Anderson, an executive coach working with organizations trying to find a better way in this new era. And that must involve men, the missing piece until now (because of their own uncertainties and obeisance to the masculine mystique, I would add). “We now recognize that well-intentioned people who work on gender equality, and companies all over the world, have not fully enlisted men and front-line managers and have not equipped them to individually become part of the solution,” she writes in her book We.
She says most men and women are focused on their careers, want to win and be part of winning teams. They have no interest in keeping women down. But the modern workplace was created by men and for men in an era when very few women worked. That has changed, and numerous studies show the benefits of advancing women at the same pace as men. At the same time, Ms. Anderson says both men and women unconsciously thwart the efforts and advancement of women.
The corrective approach she urges men to take is to eliminate behaviours and practices that negatively impact women; interact with women in a more frequent, intentional and impactful way; and encourage and support women to take advantage of high-impact opportunities to achieve their full potential. The fourth step involves the area of balance, including flexible schedules so that women – and men – can attend to personal priorities. “Make a conscious effort to remember your teammates’ personal priorities and disclose your own,” she says.
It would lead to a healthier workplace for both men and women – and, studies suggest, a more productive one. The time has come.
- Fifty-five per cent of Americans say that if it was up to them to pick their manager, they have no preference whether it would be a man or woman. Compare that to 1953, when the question was first asked by Gallup: Sixty-six per cent wanted a man, only 5 per cent a woman, and 25 per cent no preference.
- Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly tops a list of 10 books Pavithra Mohan, assistant editor at Fast Company Digital, offers for battling your sexist workplace. Two others: Johana Lipman’s That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together and Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Sonit, who in the titular essay tells of a man explaining a book to her that she had written.
- Anyone can copy your strategy, but no one can copy your culture, says consultant Roy H. Williams.
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