Experts explain how to get the boys on board with gender equality

By Stephen Easton

Thursday June 15, 2017

Chat symbol and Quotation Mark – hanging on the strings

Two leading academics have distilled ten principles for organisations trying to get men on board with gender equality from the latest research, but getting the boys involved is no silver bullet, they warn.

Working with the Diversity Council of Australia, sociologist Dr Michael Flood and organisational psychologist Dr Graeme Russell have applied their expertise to explore the proposition that male engagement could be “the game changer” for gender equality, which was also the subject of a debate hosted by the council last year.

“Despite gains in recent years, gender inequality at work is still a major issue – you only have to look at the gender pay gap, the high incidence of pregnancy discrimination and the lack of women in positions of leaderships to see that,” said DCA chief Lisa Annese in a statement.

Early on, the new report explains that there is actually quite a lot of research that could help organisations implement gender equality strategies if it was more widely referenced:

“Many initiatives and discussion seem to be taking place within a knowledge vacuum, overlooking existing research about gender, men and masculinity, and what works and what doesn’t when it comes to individual and organisational change.”

As you might expect, there’s less support for gender equality among the male half of the population and the paper lists some of the fairly understandable reasons why this is the case. It also points out the majority of men are pro-equality and that some become passionate advocates, a role in which they can ironically be very influential, according to the DCA report:

“Men have some advantages over women in advocating for gender equality – research shows that because men at the higher levels of workplaces can take for granted their gender and leadership positions and their acceptance by masculine establishments, they are often perceived more positively than women when acting as public champions.”

Six lessons are drawn from the “increasingly sophisticated” field of study concerning ways to engage men in gender equality. The authors argue “women’s initiatives and women-focused approaches” must be maintained and caution against “putting men on a pedestal for being actively engaged in gender equality” as well.

“Do not limit engagement to men at the top of your organisation,” they advise, and, “Do not assume that all men are the same.”

They argue “token support for gender equality” from men is not helpful, but “making personal changes and driving organisational change are essential” and should be encouraged.

The ten principles for effective engagement with men on the subject are:

  1. Get the foundation right – by ensuring gender equality initiatives involve women and men as active and equal partners.
  2. Get the framing right – by treating gender equality as a business issue, not a women’s issue.
  3. Go wide – by making visible and targeting all key gender equality areas (i.e. paid work, power and decision making, fnancial security, personal safety, interpersonal work relationships, caring, and community involvement).
  4. Get the messaging right – to appeal to men as well as women.
  5. Engage a diversity of men – by including men in various organisational roles and levels and from diverse demographic backgrounds (e.g. ages, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations).
  6. Educate about how to lead change effectively – by resourcing initiatives, being visible and persistent, and ‘walking the talk’.
  7. Make the connection between work and home – by implementing initiatives that encourage gender equality in caregiving.
  8. Make the connection between work and communities – by framing gender inequality as a community and societal problem.
  9. Build individuals’ gender confdence and capability – by providing opportunities for both men and women to change their mindsets, assumptions, and behaviours.
  10. Encourage men and women to challenge and change gender-biased organisational policies and Practices.

The full report — for DCA members only — and a synopsis for anyone else are both on the DCA website.

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