By Steve Henderson, EMEA Business Development Director at Dentsu Aegis Network
A couple of years ago, just after the gender pay gap reporting scheme was first announced, I was in the pub with a group of workmates. A female colleague said to me, ‘well, we can all see where this is going – look at you, you’re a bloke in your 40s, you’re white, straight and British. You’re f*****d.’
It was a heartfelt statement and I was initially taken aback by it. But was it as bad as what any number of women have verbally experienced from men? One thing is for sure is that responding in the right way is hard. It means rapidly dealing with the shock, thinking on your feet and acting decisively.
In my case, it would have been easy to take the bait, to ‘banter’ back, to get personal too. But I’m glad, for once in my life, I didn’t. I’m glad I found the resolve to move the conversation into a constructive place, one about the roles for men and women to work together, to build balance.
That experience got me thinking about how men can show up in a post #MeToo age. Having canvassed opinion from a number of women and men about how to navigate this new world as a male leader, here are a couple of pointers which I’ve found make a real difference and ensure that all voices get heard.
One simple starting point on this as a man is don’t even joke about ‘when in the calendar is International Men’s Day?’ Instead get involved in IWD events, listen and act. The women who are most passionate about creating a fairer workplace know this is something we will do together, not as two tribes coming to some kind of negotiating table to thrash out a deal.
A second observation makes for a constructive conversation around gender equality in the workplace is that there are a lot of facts flying around. And, working as I do in a business where facts, data and insights are often manoeuvred into positions to make a certain point, an excess of fact throwing really isn’t helpful.
And I hope I’m not being sexist in saying that my gender in particular really loves to manoeuvre a fact. All I’m saying, gents, is that I think the word ‘mansplaining’ was primarily invented to shoot down excessive use of facts in this way. Facts have their place, but so do listening, empathising and accepting.
Last thing, and it’s kind of related. The days of primacy by force of words, volume and politicking have come to an end.
Companies like Microsoft now reward people for how they help build on other people’s ideas rather than push their own.
Think about that for a moment. Think about what it means for asking not telling, for listening not talking, for being open not closed. If that’s not how people are rewarded in your business, think about what might be different if it were. If it wasn’t just the loudest opinions which were heard. The same people leading projects, meetings, discussions. Think what you might do differently in your next meeting. And then try it.
Thanks for reading.