For decades the focus on gender equality has been improving the lot of women. The movement has been primarily driven by women too. But times are changing, and as millennial men become more senior in the workplace they are becoming the secret weapon to winning the fight for gender equality. Why? Research shows a clear generational shift between men over and under the age of 40, with a big overlap in what women and millennial men both want.
Millennial Men are a Step Ahead
Younger men – even if they aren’t yet fathers – want paid parental leave and childcare benefits from their employers. They want to be involved in parenting 50/50. They want work-life balance, which includes the ability to work flexibly. They are demanding the same things as women.
Millennial men are breaking down traditional gender stereotypes, but they need support from their employers to do this. Research by the Boston Consulting Group found that men don’t always feel included in flexible-working or parent-support policies. ‘I feel like flexibility programs are meant only for women,’ said one respondent. Another added ‘As a father of two young children I’m facing a lot of challenges similar to women colleagues who have kids.’
What Can Men Do to Champion Change?
What can men do to make their workplace more gender equal for both themselves and for their female colleagues? To ensure that everyone feels equally able to benefit from flexible working programmes, it’s important that they are not just targeted at women – even informally.
– When planning meetings, for example, consult everyone as to the best time to meet – not just the woman you know does the school run.
– As a manager, you can also show equality in action by tracking performance based on outcomes, rather than hours worked.
Men are often an underutilised asset in gender diversity efforts, so get them involved.
– Make the business case for change to older, senior men, and win them over as champions.
– Set up sponsorship and mentoring programmes to ensure that rising talent of any gender can benefit from senior leaders’ experience and advice.
– Celebrate men who take advantage of flexible working and encourage them to ‘leave loudly’ to normalise it.
Your Voice Matters
As a man, don’t disregard the power you hold. The movement for gender equality will not succeed as a women’s movement alone. Your voice matters. And with evidence of a backlash to movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp that is actually harming women, your voice matters more than ever. It can be as simple as calling out inappropriate jokes with ‘that’s not cool’ or ensuring that a woman’s contributions aren’t dismissed or interrupted with ‘That’s what Jane said,’ or ‘Charlotte makes a great point.’ To take it a step further, volunteer to mentor or sponsor a rising woman.