Perspectives on…International Women’s Day part 4
Gav Loftus reflects on how men can play their part in meeting the equality challenges that face women at work.
One of the proudest moments of the last few months came on an unassuming rainy Tuesday morning over a breakfast catch up. In a broader conversation about culture, my colleague dropped in that she saw me as someone who’s willing to listen, willing to act and who has the backs of the women around me.
This throwaway comment meant a lot to me. As a young male leader, I can’t pretend to have experienced any of the equality challenges that face women at work. But I’d like be part of fixing the problem.
Not because I have to, but because I want to. Not because I believe it’ll take a man to fix it, but because I believe we’ve all got our part to play.
There’s research that says a lot of men have ‘good intentions’ when it comes to gender equality in the workplace, but don’t know what to do about it, or are afraid of saying the wrong thing.
And I get that – my first reaction to any challenge is usually “I’ve had an idea on how to fix this”. On the challenge of gender equality, I find myself hesitating, because I don’t want to bullishly assume I know the answer and thereby reinforce any sense of “the men will fix this”.
But men doing nothing can’t be an option.
So there’s a couple of things that I try to commit to doing:
- Listen first
The dominant culture in most organizations is a male culture. Change needs to start with men (including me) genuinely understanding the experiences and challenges women face.
- Engage in the conversation
Openly talk about gender diversity in the workplace, leaning into the challenges and co-developing solutions (not just assuming I know what to do).
- Use my influence
I’ve the privilege of leading an organization that has been built on the talent and potential of our people. I want to ensure anyone, male or female, has the backing to flourish.
It’s as simple as starting with yourself and making a small change, and then another. We’ve all got a part to play if we’re going to make our organisations more equal.