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How men can be role models for gender inclusivity in the workplace

17 Nov 2023

By Ryno van Rensburg, HR Business Partner

Enough is enough – gender equality has gone too far, and men are now being discriminated against.

So said 53% of men according to a recent survey by IPSOS, the market research company.

But how does that square up with the European Institute for Gender Equality, who declared recently that, “People will land on Mars before we reach full gender equality in the European Union”?

It doesn’t need to be an either/or situation. Achieving gender equality doesn’t need to create an actual or perceived bias against men.

For this year’s International Men’s Day, I want to consider how men in the workplace can model behaviours which promote inclusivity.

Inclusivity benefits everyone – including men

Promoting inclusivity in the workplace fosters diversity of thought, experience and perspective. We’ve already acknowledged that inclusivity boosts innovation and client satisfaction, but it can also boost employee wellbeing.

Research suggests that gender inclusivity in the workplace increases employee morale, aids open communication and nurtures individual performance. It also encourages a culture of work-life balance and discussing mental and physical health.

Pair this with the fact that men are more likely to experience work-related mental health problems, and creating an open, employee health-focused place to work undoubtedly has a positive effect on our male colleagues.

Men have a voice, and we should use it

Let’s put a couple of things to bed.

There’s plenty of published research that evidences the gender pay gap is real. Women are paid less because, for example, they hold fewer senior positions, or they work part-time.

On the other hand, research undertaken in 2020 by the consulting firm Token Man shows the following statistics:

  • 47% thought men are taught to suppress their feelings and 49% are taught not to be vulnerable
  • 47% thought men were pressured to be the breadwinner while 51% are pressured to put work first
  • It’s no surprise then that 87% of fathers wish they could spend more time with their children

I’m the father of two fabulous young girls and have an ambitious and hard-working wife. For me, role modelling starts at home.

I share the household chores, cook the dinner, do the laundry, the taxi runs and everything else.

If I am under pressure at work and need to dedicate extra time to it, I know my wife will pick up the slack – and this works both ways when she is busy with work too.

Putting gender equality into practice at home is one thing, but we only become role models in work when we make an effort to vocalise inequalities. Men need to know when it’s appropriate to speak up and be the voice of inclusion.

As more of us become role models for the next generation, we should create an environment that generates more equality. Future men of the workplace shouldn’t feel the pressure that almost half of men feel to act the role of the breadwinner and suppress their feelings.

Men hold more senior positions in organisations and therefore are more likely to be role models. But as Stan Lee said, “With great power there must also come great responsibility”.

Looking to the next generation

Change starts with us. We need to openly encourage positive, inclusive behaviours at home and in the workplace.

Male role models especially must ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to inclusive behaviour. Ask yourself ‘are you worthy of being imitated?’

And remember, not all heroes wear capes.

Working with IQ-EQ has been seamless – you and your team understand our business, advise us appropriately, and handle your side of our collective partnership so that we can focus on making good investment decisions. Evan Gibson SVP, Merchants Capital

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