Happy International Men's Day - to all those championing gender equality

Updated: Jan 22

I love this quote from Daniel Danso, Global Diversity Manager at Linklaters. For me it holds such resonance...

If women could create workplace equality alone, we’d have done it by now. But we can’t. We need to work with others. Not least men. That’s why, this International Men’s Day, I want to celebrate all those men who champion the rights of women at work and, in doing so, help accelerate better gender balance.


It’s not always easy though for men to know how best to become a catalyst for change. So, with that in mind and having led within male-dominated industries, coached many to successfully overcome workplace inequality, and sought input from those in my network, here are five practical steps men can take to help their female colleagues prosper and progress:


1. Network


Seek perspectives from women outside your immediate circle of influence and find ways to create partnerships or alliances with them. Encourage your female colleagues to invest time creating strong networks across the organisation and outside of it. Introduce women to others in your network.

Regardless of gender: “It’s not enough to be a super star at your job”. As Herminia Ibarra sets out in her book ‘Act like a leader, think like a leader’ strong networks provide what she terms ‘outsight’. This is critical to learning and leading beyond the confines of today’s role and stretching up for the bigger picture.


Recommended Read: Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra.



2. Listen


Create opportunities for women to be heard. Encourage them to speak up. When you’re chairing or hosting a meeting, go around the table and invite their input. Then listen, really listen, and don’t let yourself or others interrupt.

There’s a comprehensive and fascinating study of the Australian Senate (called Let her finish). It shows the extent to which men interrupt women and the impact this has proportionally on the time women are given to speak. Listen for disrespectful language and, when you hear it, use the power of your voice to call it out.


3. Engage


Get involved in initiatives designed to improve gender balance. As an example, I’m currently running women-only and mixed-gender cohorts of my Make Your Mark programme. The women-only cohorts are oversubscribed. The men on the mixed gender cohorts are few and far between. Find out what your organisation is doing to improve gender balance and ask women how you can best collaborate to achieve it.


4. Credit


Give credit where it is due and encourage capable women, particularly young women, to apply for stretch projects and promotions.


Recent research by McKinsey identifies that the leadership pipeline for women gets broken at the beginning of their careers – during the hiring and promotion cycles in that first step up to manager. ‘Fixing this “broken rung” is the key to achieving parity’ it says. What can you do to help?


5. Read


There’s bias in favour of male authors publishing non-fiction books – particularly in the business arena. That means you’ll need to proactively seek out those penned by women but diversifying your reading list will help you understand women’s perspectives and the issues they face. Amazon compiles a ‘Best Sellers list in Women & Business’ which is a great place to start. This is also an interesting article by Jenna Farmer about how a research project went awry and led her to compile the 10 best business books written by women.


Susan’s boardroom experiences in the mid to late 90s, were tough but rewarding in equal measure. There were few women holding executive leadership positions at that time. Two decades later, there are still nowhere near enough. That’s why Susan’s a passionate advocate for gender equality and specialises in helping women aspire to be the best they can be. Susan was writing in support of ‘Men Leading by Example’ the theme for International Men’s Day on Tuesday 19th November 2019. Now a professional coach, Susan’s one of the rare few qualified to provide voice and executive coaching, her unique blend of experience now sees her helping others feel, look and sound confident – positively improving their professional performance and happiness at work. www.susanroom.com


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