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A Note To All My Male Colleagues

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Claire Flannery of Strength Within on how our male colleagues can do their bit for a gender inclusive workplace.
Should we make this list mandatory reading for all new employees?

 

There have been many articles written on how traditional workplaces were built to suit the 1950’s worker and many of the fundamental structures of that time remain.

We know that in Ireland, female board representation sits at 18%. While male and female workforce participation rates start out roughly the same, there is a 20% reduction where women have children under 3 years of age (CSO).

The Gender Pay Gap is also minimal at entry level, and then almost trebles between the ages of 30 and 40, most likely where women are stepping away from the workforce for caring responsibilities, both for children or broader family. The gap increases with age and continues to increase right up to retirement.

We can say with absolute certainty that there is a gender differential, albeit a complex one.

So let’s take a look at what men, as individuals, can do to make their workplace more inclusive for women. That said, the same principles can be applied to any context where the goal is ensuring people feel included and supported.

 

If you are in a meeting and some people have not spoken-up, ask if they have anything to add.

 

What does playing your part look like?

Increase your awareness of your own biases

We all have unconscious biases – it’s part of the make-up of our brain, but it’s something we need to challenge ourselves on if we want to be inclusive of people in and out of work. Perhaps your workplace provides unconscious bias training? If not, there are plenty online you can complete for free and in about an hour – see here for examples from Google, Facebook, Microsoft. Completing online Implicit Association tests can also give us interesting insights into our own biases.

 

Educate yourself about the solid business case for diversity

This is about business success and creating a positive and equitable place to work – not a CSR initiative. This McKinsey research is a good place to start, and here’s a more recent Irish perspective. If you’re interested in the broader economic and societal case for gender inclusion, the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020 is a worthwhile read.

 

Don’t assume – ask questions

Don’t make assumptions about what people want from their careers – the support they need may be about their life-stage, their health, their values, their interests, their chosen career path… if in doubt, ask them what they want and what support they need. This can be done at an individual, team, department or organisational level.

 

On a practical level, make it your business not to set early-morning or late-evening meetings, as these can often be problematic for working mothers in particular.

 

Act as a sponsor for others

Be mindful about how you can include others, try to make it part of your day-to-day. If you are in a meeting and some people have not spoken-up, ask if they have anything to add. If you are in a discussion and people who are not in the room could add a valuable contribution, speak up about including them.

Create a safe space for people to speak up both in meetings and when there is something that is not working for them in their role.

 

Challenge workplace practices

Do your bit to make sure all decision panels are diverse, particularly gender diverse e.g. interview panels, committees, project teams etc. If it’s not your decision, flag it with the relevant person.

Get involved in Diversity & Inclusion initiatives at work and encourage your employer to measure and report on progress. Get involved in internal network groups (parent networks, women’s networks etc.) or help set them up if they don’t current exist.

 

If you become a parent, take your parental leave.

 

Learn about smart-working

Increasingly, progressive companies are focusing on results over time at the desk. Approaching work with this mind-set enables us to keep an open mind about all the valid reasons why someone may prefer to start work a bit later, leave a little earlier, work from home, take an extended break mid-afternoon and log back on in the evening and so on. In many jobs, as long as the work is being done, there is plenty of scope for flexibility.

On a practical level, make it your business not to set early-morning or late-evening meetings, as these can often be problematic for working mothers in particular.

 

If you become a parent, take your parental leave

One of the big career challenges for women is the attitudes and biases relating to taking time out of work for family, and associated with being a working mother.

Many companies now have fantastic paternity leave benefits, along with parental leave. The more men that proudly take this time out for family, the more normalised this becomes (considering approx. 80% of the workforce in Ireland are parents). Not to mention the many personal and family benefits of spending this time with your children and the positive impact it can have on gender balance at home. The Guardian recently ran a series with some great examples of Dad’s who have taken time out for family.

 

Inclusion is the right thing to do

Across the board, it’s pretty rubbish to have someone doing the same job as you, as well as you do, but not getting the same recognition, or opportunities for promotion down the line.  If we continue to allow this to happen, what messages are we sending inside and out of work, and what kind of example are we setting for future generations.

 

While diversity is “being invited to the party…inclusion is being asked to dance” (Verna Myers)

While it’s great to have inclusive hiring practices and have a diverse mix of people across your company, a diverse workforce without an inclusive culture means you won’t have a diverse workforce for very long. An inclusive culture is one where everyone is included and feels like they belong. This is something that can only be achieved when everyone plays his or her part in making it so.

 

If we all take the steps above, we will make great strides in building sustainable diversity at work. While we’ve focused on gender inclusion, and specifically what men can do to build a more inclusive workplace for women, the same general principles are applicable in any context where we want to be more inclusive of others at work.

Here’s to the future of a happy, healthy workplace where everyone belongs!

 

About the Author

Claire Flannery Strength Within

Claire Flannery is a qualified Business Psychologist and Executive, Business & Personal Coach with over a decade of experience working in HR leadership in Financial and Professional Services. She has worked with business leaders and individuals through significant organisational and personal change, including periods of organisational growth, restructure and downsizing.

Through one-to-one coaching, group coaching and workshops, Claire works with individuals and business leaders to increase clarity of thought, focus, strength and ultimately, success.

www.linkedin.com/in/claireflannery/

https://twitter.com/claireflann

https://strengthwithin.ie/

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