The Gender Inclusion journey is one sided; there are just not enough men involved. Go to any conference or event on Gender Inclusion and it is alarming to see the abysmal numbers of men.
Most organizations have embraced the agenda, but I see very few men who engage with the agenda thoughtfully.
There is confusion, discomfort, fear, even (lest they say something politically incorrect). As a result, most men hesitate to engage with it – a surefire recipe for failure, for such a deeply transformative process.
And this is true not just of the organizational context but of the larger society too.
If we want to achieve gender balance in the workplaces, if we have to become a gender equal society, we need men also to thoughtfully engage with the conversations and actively participate in the process.
We need the Male Feminist.
What does a Male Feminist look like? How does he think? How does he espouse and support the gender inclusion agenda?
Here is a preliminary portrait I have attempted based on some of the wonderful men I have met who are driving this agenda in their teams, organizations, societies and homes!
1. He sees that Gender Inclusion benefits men and women; societies; organizations and teams:
At the team level gender inclusion brings different strengths to the table thus contributing to more holistic solutions; at the organization level it improves performance, Return on Investment and Equity; at societal level it reduces inequalities; and at the individual level, broadens choices for both men and women.
“Gender Inclusion benefits all of us”
2. He doesn’t think women are Damsels in Distress:
He provides challenging assignments to both his male and female team members and keeps away from the usual patronizing remarks women receive such as “Choose something lighter… why struggle; that role is way too demanding…”
“Freedom not Protection”
3. He understands that Equal doesn’t mean Same:
He realizes that just as men and women come with different strengths, they also come with different needs, which need support to enable optimal performance.
“Support not Concessions”
4. He participates equally at home.
The Indian Government at some point considered bringing a bill to pay stay at home mothers; I am not sure that is really the answer. But care giving, running a house is WORK and that work getting assigned to women on the basis of gender doesn’t really make sense! And Work Life balance does NOT mean it is a career woman’s responsibility to juggle both work and personal life!
“There is no man’s work and woman’s work; there is just work”
5. He understands that women don’t go out to work ONLY because they need to bring in the Money:
He realizes that they work because it is deeply satisfying and refrain from comments such as “Why do you have to work? Your husband is earning so much”
“Money is not the only driver”
6. In conferences, forums, offices, promotion discussions he will ask “Where are the women?”:
Because he sees that systemic biases and women’s own internalized gender beliefs need a conscious push through processes, policies, motivation and sometimes, even approval, he is consciously working against unconscious biases held both by men and women.
“Gender Inclusion requires champions to drive it”
7. He is comfortable around ambitious, driven and successful women both in his personal and professional life spaces.
He really feels there is no gender difference here; whether it is men or women any achievement requires drive and ambition.
“Ambition and hard work are admirable & necessary qualities irrespective of gender”
8. He understands that inclusion has to begin at the individual level:
He constantly challenges his own stereotypes/mindsets and adjusts his behaviors & decisions to map to the individuals he is dealing with.
“Inclusion is things I can do and say”
What are other characteristics of the Male Feminist you have encountered? Or would like to encounter?
Let us all who are already engaged in this transformative process sketch the portrait more accurately by sharing our thoughts/experiences!