How men can contribute to gender equity

Off the back of Father’s Day here in the Southern Hemisphere, we’re celebrating the fabulous men in our lives. 🫶 Dads, you’ve come a long way from the disciplinarian heads of the house to co-CEOs in the business of life

If the Barbie movie taught us anything, the patriarchy isn’t about horses serving anyone. The narrative may focus on women, but restrictive gender roles also wreak havoc on men’s choices and mental health. It’s no wonder that increased gender equality lowers men’s stress levels; the world is better when we share the load. 

Powrsuiters of all genders also believe that everyone wins when women thrive. The men in our community want to play a role in closing the gender pay/leadership/caregiving gaps, but the challenges women face at work aren’t always visible. And, while advances in gender equality have lowered men’s stress levels, their partners still aren’t winning

Male Powrsuiters, we see you, and we hear you asking, ‘What can I do?’. So, in a classic case of giving a gift we love, this Father’s Day, here are small actions men can take to make the workplace fairer for everyone: 

Share office admin responsibilities

Also called ‘office housework,’ women are more likely to be lumped with non-promotable tasks. You know, the admin that’s key to moving projects forward and fostering a great working environment… but ignored in performance reviews. Pay attention. It’s likely a woman ordering lunch, buying gifts, planning social events, or taking notes at meetings – even though you won’t find these tasks in their job descriptions. When admin isn’t shared equally, it stops women from prioritising promotable work at the same rate that men can.

Men can help correct the imbalance by:

  • Putting your hand up next time there’s one of those extra ‘jobs to be done’ (even if a woman offers first).
  • Starting a discussion about an equitable split of admin tasks. 
  • Recognising ‘admin’ tasks in performance reviews. After all, culture is critical to attracting and retaining top talent.

Give credit where it’s due

Women are suspiciously absent from the history books when it comes to, well, most accomplishments. Sadly, this phenomenon is still alive and well in workplaces. Women’s great ideas and hard work more regularly go unnoticed or get attributed to others #Bropriating. 

Talking about recognition, we can also be guilty of putting too much emphasis on the BOS (Bums On Seats) approach to assessing productivity. Sometimes, we unknowingly judge women’s performance by how many hours they spend at work. This deeply ingrained bias prioritises physical presence over talent, skills and results. Change won’t happen by accident; allies need to actively recognise and celebrate the achievements of female colleagues:

  • Whenever a woman presents a great idea, be like Obama’s team and amplify it: repeat and attribute. 
  • Speak up when you notice a male colleague repeatedly interrupting a woman in a meeting (you can do it privately!).
  • Learn about biases in the performance review process and take steps to reduce them. 

Provide constructive, actionable feedback

Women receive less constructive, actionable feedback than men, slowing their career advancement. Women are also less likely than men to receive feedback related to specific business outcomes. When giving feedback, be specific about what’s working (strengths) and what skills they can develop to hit their career goals (improvement areas).

Not useful:You’re doing a great job in financial analysis, but haven’t shown that you have what it takes to be promoted to manager.‘ 

Useful:You consistently deliver high-quality financial analysis on time [share an example]. To step into a manager role, it’s important to combine technical and leadership skills. In our [upcoming work], consider [mentoring junior team members / sharing recommendations / offering feedback / leading meetings / building relationships with key stakeholders].’

Men can equip women to succeed by:

  • Testing feedback before giving it; are you clear on what specifically they need to focus on? Could you take action if given the same feedback?
  • If you’re a people leader, are you providing all team members with the same level of constructive feedback?

Pay gap reporting

While progress is being made on the gender pay gap, it persists. Australia, the UK, and the European Union have introduced mandatory pay gap reporting. In Iceland, it’s illegal to pay men more than women. Countries like Aotearoa, New Zealand, are lagging behind. How you can take pay gap reporting into your own hands:

Take paternity leave

Since 2021, we’ve seen record-high rates of men choosing to temporarily step out of the labour force. We’re overcoming the dreaded wimp penalty – and it’s expected we’ll kick any stigma to the curb as more children grow up with caregiving dads.

Kristen and her husband shared parental leave evenly. She could pursue her career, and he also created a special bond with the kids. We assure you they turned out fine, and Kristen’s husband is still on track with his career goals. #winwin

As an ally, men can help close the gender leadership gap by:

Offer inclusive networking opportunities

Women have shallower professional networks. At Powrsuit, we often share tips on building a personal board of directors, harnessing the power of LinkedIn and building a personal brand. But all those tactics fall flat when someone announces last-minute after-work drinks, and we’re on childcare duty. Those informal catch-ups are networking; when women are omitted, we miss out on feedback, relationship building and opportunities.

  • Next time you’re at an event, pick the person who looks least like you and approach them.
  • Proactively create opportunities for informal catch-ups with colleagues you don’t usually socialise with – a coffee, walk, etc.
  • Learn individuals’ constraints and preferences when it comes to socialising at work (not everyone wants to go to the pub!).

Turn up

Recently, Nat was on a conference panel that discussed marketing to women. Only one man turned up, proving two things: men find it deeply uncomfortable to be the ‘only one’ in the room, and diversity is still seen as a ‘women’s problem’. It’s not:

  • There are endless events about gender equity, and the existing echo chamber changes very little.
  • Leave your comfort zone. That discomfort you might feel when alone in a group of women? Lean into it. Ask questions, be engaged, and build empathy about a situation women often find themselves in at work.
  • Watch the Barbie movie. It may look pink, but it was made for you. If you don’t go with a group of male friends, at least follow up with a robust discussion.
  • Check your beliefs. Google is your friend here, so use it to search for things like ‘hiring the best person for the job’ argument.

Ask us what we need

Nat went to the bathroom in a fancy office the other day. In the cubicle, next door was the unmistakable sound of a breast pump. It’s 2023. Women shouldn’t need to sit on a toilet to express breast milk. The reality of the challenges facing women at work are often invisible to men. So ask about them. 

It can be as simple as starting a conversation with ‘how can I better support you?’ (hint: Powrsessions) and as complex as thinking through the ramifications of being a woman in an office. From periods to menopause, even our health needs are drastically different to men’s. They present real barriers to success; those experiencing them may suffer in silence. 

Men, you are Kenough. We love and feel your support, but we’ll always appreciate more of a hand smashing the patriarchy. 

Happy Father’s Day ♥️

30 second action:

Forward this email (or share the main article on Slack/Teams). Kickstart a wider conversation about gender equality at your workplace.

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