Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Gender Balance Summit organised by Women Ahead. It was a day filled with inspiring keynotes and thought-provoking panels around this year's theme for International Women's Day - #EachforEqual. The idea behind #EachforEqual is that Individually we are all responsible for our thought and actions, and Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender-equal world.
One of the discussions I found particularly interesting was a panel with Ann Francke OBE (CMI), Bruce Carnegie-Brown (Llyods, Banco Santander, CMI) Daniel Danso (Linklaters) and Adam Marshall (British Chamber of Commerce) on how men can be agents of change. I thought there are probably others out there asking - What can I do as a male individual to promote gender equality? So I have pulled together a few of my thoughts and takeaways from the session.
1 - Acknowledge male privilege and raise awareness of gender inequality - The first step to acknowledge that male privilege exists, and also understand the implications it has on our everyday lives. Just because you have benefited from these every day "perks of being a boy" doesn't mean that you are a bad person but it does mean you have a duty to improve things going forward. The book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez is jam-packed full of eye-opening examples of everyday gender biases.
2 - Be authentic. Gender equality is not a female issue, its everyone's issue. At the end of the day, gender diversity benefits all of us, as a society, as businesses, etc. Dan talked about how it is important as an individual to "understand why you're in". Whatever your reason for championing equality you will have more impact if you are authentic e.g I want diversity because it will improve performance at my company or I want diversity because its the right thing to do.
3 - Challenge negative behaviors in the workplace - Ann Francke OBE talked about the significance of not letting negative words or actions go unchallenged, she also said: "It is more impactful when it comes from men". It's important to do the right thing and call people up and let them know if they say something that is not in line with your company values.
4 - Be a Champion of Change - Start with a conversation with your female colleagues and get an understanding of the challenges they face within your organisation. Try to work out how you as an individual can improve things. Don't assume what someone wants, the key thing here is to listen and understand before acting. There will be times when you need to step in and other times when you need to take a step back. Ann's advice for those at the top of organisations was to "promote proportionately and sponsor the talent within the organisation". One way to sponsor talent is through mentoring and Bruce encouraged other business leaders to get involved in mentoring and says "It is an investment worth making".
Gender equality is not a female issue, its everyone's issue