Engaging Men in Diversity Initiatives

Gender equality is still an issue at work, but it is not a women’s issue. Gender initiatives have traditionally focused on improving women’s participation in the workplace, but recently there has been a shift towards making ‘gender’ a gender-neutral problem.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion efforts— especially initiatives to eliminate gender bias—men have a critical role to play, yet they too often remain an untapped resource. To address this gap, this series offers advice to change agents on effective ways to partner with men in ending gender inequalities in the workplace.

There are many men “who get it” but there are still plenty who don’t. So how do you bring men onboard with gender initiatives, and start tackling this issue together?

1. Help men recognise that gender bias exists

People – men and women – with a strong sense of fair play will want to explore inequalities, but they need to know that they exist in the first place. Make sure your gender initiatives include things like first-person interviews, case studies and the opportunity to discuss and analyse workplace behavior. Creating mentoring partnerships between men and women can also help explore the difficulties and challenges for both parties at work. All these elements will contribute towards highlighting disparities and hidden gender bias.

2. Use social proof

Social proof is the idea that because everyone else is doing it, I will too. Influential male managers should support diversity initiatives at work because they are responsible for the productivity of their people.

3. Show the advantages for everyone

Get men involved by explaining that diversity helps everyone, and the business as a whole. Explain that gender issues are about making the office better for everyone, so avoid conveying initiatives as ‘women’s issues.’

4. Make it clear that diversity includes men too

It’s great to plan to include men in diversity initiatives, but the full benefit will only be felt if men feel they are also part of the diversity of the workforce. Men sometimes take a back seat in questions of diversity because it doesnt appear to include them.

5. Make it a way of doing business

Leaders need to send a strong message that the ‘majority supports the minority’ and it no longer is an issue of diversity, but of inclusion. Men and women who run the line businesses should make diversity a priority if they want to be the preferred choice of clients and employees.