Updated: Mar 14
Men make up the majority of companies executive teams, leadership teams and heads of governments across the world. And while 74% of men think that men and women have equal opportunities in their workplace, only 49% of women feel the same and only 42% of black women feel the same, according to a 2019 PayScale’s survey. The majority of men do not recognize that sexism and racism exist in their workplace and do not recognize gender-based discrimination in their own organisation. In addition, many men feel threatened by feminism and the fear of losing what they have. However, many studies demonstrate that diversity and inclusion is good for business: companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue, and executive teams that are highly gender-diverse are found to be 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. In this article, I share 4 powerful ways that men can become inclusion champions and boost diversity and inclusion in their workplace:
1 - Recognize bias in your workplace and acknowledge your own unconscious bias
“I used to think that the world is fair. That it was a meritocracy. I no longer believe that. I think people who think it is an even playing field are probably like me - they have had it easy their whole life. They are probably a guy, they may be white, and they have likely been in the majority their whole life and they assume that it is like that for everyone else,”
says Mike Gamson, Senior Vice President for LinkedIn Global Solutions.
Research suggests that 90 percent of men do not believe their workplace harbours any kind of gender bias. Another study by Payscale reveals that men agreed with a broad belief in equal opportunities for men and women 57% of the time, compared to women agreeing with a broad belief in equal opportunities for men and women just 30% of the time.
“If you have never experienced bias and want to know if it exists in your workplace, you need to ask someone who is different from yourself. Gender is just one dimension of this, it could also be someone who grew up in another culture, who is much older or younger than you, or who has a different sexual orientation. Listen to what they have to say and put yourself in their shoes. It will open your eyes to the everyday biases other people face.”
Ellis Mandelstam, Executive Director
Unconscious bias awareness training can help when it is done with the right context (as part of a wider diversity and inclusion strategy), with the right content (real-life workplace examples) and with the right audience (the leadership team should be involved at the very least).
2 - Encourage participation from disinterested individuals
Across society, many white men feel threatened by feminism, gender equity and other diversity movements. This often stems from a human disinclination against change and a fear of losing what they have. Regardless of how we feel about change, the only way to help others move past it is to create a dialogue.
Invite your white male colleagues to join diversity networks inside or outside your organisation, encourage them to join employee resource groups for women, people of colour, LGBT+ individuals etc...
Talk about the importance of advocating for women, people of colour, LGBT+, disabled individuals etc… at work every single day. Do not shy away from having these conversations because they are critical in bringing positive change.
Encourage men to talk to women and other minorities about the topic of diversity and inclusion, asking to share their experience with the goal of listening and learning. Select influential white male leaders to champion diversity and inclusion initiatives in your organisation. Assign tasks to get white male colleagues involved in these diversity and inclusion activities.
3 - Set diversity and inclusion goals tied to monetary compensation
According to a SHRM report, among the Fortune 1000, a full one-fifth of respondents indicated their organizations have very informal diversity efforts with nothing structured at all, with 41% of study respondents specifying the underlying reason being that they’re “too busy”.
We could speculate about why that is and whether it is because they expect someone else to take ownership. The point is that nothing will happen unless you set goals, or rather, nothing will happen unless you set goals tied to monetary compensation. Goals drive behaviour. Monetary goals drive behaviour faster. If you are committed to diversity and inclusion, you must set goals for your leadership team that are tied to monetary bonuses. I recommend 30% of the bonus directly linked to the diversity and inclusion goals.
Remember that inclusive organisations are TWICE more likely to exceed financial targets (Deloitte Research); 85% of CEOs whose companies have an inclusiveness strategy said it’s improved their bottom line (PWC CEO Survey); For companies ranking in the top quartile of executive-board diversity, Return On Equity were 53% higher (McKinsey Diversity Study) ; companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least on invested capital (ROIC) by 26% (Catalyst’s 2011 study). In summary, you must compensate for the outcome of your diversity and inclusion efforts to see change.
4 - Think of yourself as an advocate, an upstander, a diversity champion
The upstander acts the opposite of the bystander. The upstander sees misconduct and acts to address it. The upstander pushes back on offensive comments or jokes, even if no one in the room might be offended or hurt. Other ways to act as an upstander include: always speaking-up if you see or hear a speech that is degrading or offensive; explaining your stance so everyone is clear about why you are raising the issue. In meetings, shut down any off-topic questions that are asked only to test the presenter. Take action if you see anyone in your company being bullied or harassed. Simply say “hi, what are you discussing?” and check-in with the victim privately. Ask if they are ok and if they want you to say something.Listening and keeping quiet doesn't make us neutral. It makes us complicit. Speaking up feels uncomfortable, but this discomfort is nothing compared with the discomfort of the victim.
Start thinking of yourself as an upstander and as an advocate and a diversity champion. Prepare some questions in advance for when you hear offensive comments: “what makes you say that?”. Verbalize what you are seeing and hearing by rephrasing: “What I hear you say is …, is that what you mean?”. Set boundaries: “don't tell racist/sexist jokes in my presence anymore”. Don't call someone a racist, sexist, homophobes - it gets you nowhere, a wall goes up
Our society is going through rapid change. Recent events regarding violence against women, women pushed out of the workforce in the pandemic, mothers cutting their working hours more than any other group in COVID are rapidly reshaping what our society accepts and what our society is no longer willing to accept. Organisations must take meaningful action today to keep up with these rapid changes in our society. Leaders and executive teams must take meaningful action and implement strategies to help men become inclusion champions today. Download my FREE eBook titled 8 Easy Steps Guide To Do Diversity Right to start your journey to more inclusive leadership.