Gender Diversity - The Tricky Business of Engaging Men - balancenow

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Gender Diversity – The Tricky Business of Engaging Men

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  • 23 October
  • by Tim Keith
  • Lead

Leadership is Critical 

Following on from Susan’s post on growing women’s careers in the early years, I’m now taking on the critical phase of leadership. Given the breadth and importance of leadership, I’m breaking it into two posts on what works for:

  1. Engaging men in leading the change; and
  2. Smart design changes in managing talent & succession, sponsorship and inclusive leadership programs

So How Do You Engage Men to Lead the Change?

One of the strangest experiences I’ve found in moving from corporate leadership to Balance Now is walking into events and being the only man present. It’s a good insight for me on what it’s like for most senior female leaders in Australia. It’s also frustrating because it shows there is SO MUCH work to do in engaging men in this conversation.

I often feel embarrassed as I’m showered with compliments for just showing up. The follow up question is;

“How do we get more men on board?”

It’s an important question.  Men make most of the leadership decisions in Australia and if they don’t see a compelling “Why” and “How”, change won’t happen.  While there are great initiatives underway with Male Champions of Change and #heforshe, my observation is most men aren’t engaged and often feel threatened.

Let’s start by looking at the current state of play.

The Reality

A recent census from Chief Executive Women (CEW) showed ASX200 leadership teams were made up of 21% women. However, more tellingly just 13% of line roles, directly responsible for the company’s financial outcomes, are led by women.

Source: Chief Executive Women, Senior Executive Census 2017

Let’s turn that statistic around.

95% of CEOs are men, 91% of CFOs are men and 87% of the group executive are men.

Men who are sons, partners, fathers and brothers of women. This isn’t just a leadership problem, it’s a lack of leadership and a poor reflection of our business community in 2017.

How did we get here? How do we get ourselves out of this situation? Why is the diversity & inclusion conversation about women? Surely, it should be primarily focused on men.

Men make 90% of the decisions across the ASX200. This is where we need to turn our focus. This is where we need the debate on how to change the game on gender equality, diversity & inclusion.

The Surprising Disconnect Holding Us Back from Change

This year we performed research across 100 Australian companies to validate our understanding of both the challenges and solutions.

One of the biggest surprises came from comparing the Women’s Net Promoter Scores (WNPS).  We asked both men and women how likely they would be to recommend their organisation as a good for place to work for women.

We were disappointed at the overall score of -13 (more detractors than promoters).

The real shock came in men scoring +15 and women scoring -33 across the same 100 companies.  This means men have a much more optimistic view on how good their workplace is for women, while women are highly dissatisfied.

Source: Balance Now, First 100 Company Research 2017

Let’s unpack the false assumptions leading many men (most with good intentions) to think everything is ok.  The following issues represent results where men answered significantly more positively than women:

  1. The organisation is a meritocracy
  2. There is no bias in the recruitment, promotion or performance evaluation processes
  3. There is no gender pay gap in my organisation

Yet the actual data extracted from their companies, along with the latest global scientific research shows this simply isn’t the case.

So, What?

If men don’t think there is a problem… and the majority of decision makers are men, how do we expect any change to occur?

Before you get too depressed, let’s talk about how to bridge this disconnect.

  1. Data is Your New Best Friend, But Not the Data You are Using Right Now

I have sat in a few strategy and talent conversations where passionate women voice their concerns about gender balance. While men listened patiently the roles discussed went to men 9 out of 10 times and I could see the unsaid judgement of the women being “emotional” or “playing the female card”.

Even more often I saw women NOT speak up but say to me afterwards “I wanted to, but was worried about coming across as too much of a feminist”. I’m not sure which is worse. What I do know is that success comes when we take emotion out of the conversation and use data to make decisions.

Right now, at best, I see some organisations using lag metrics of how many women are represented at the different levels of leadership. At this point it’s too late and the data doesn’t drive action, it more often leads to circular conversation on “Where are all the women?!”.

Engaging men with a compelling story should have more focus on the business case data (e.g. % increase revenue, shareholder returns) and lead metrics (e.g. WNPS, WOW™, appointments and promotions).  This provides the “Why” behind the business case and give the tools to monitor the “How” as you execute real change.

  1. Show that Everybody Wins in Diverse Businesses

Men are living in a false reality. Why not? It suits them. Well they think it does…. However, the data shows those willing to be more inclusive and hire diverse talent will not only deliver better business results, they will create more job opportunities and have workplaces where engagement and enjoyment are significantly higher.

It’s about turning around that deeply held assumption that it is a zero-sum game.

And if men still don’t believe you show them Michael Kimmel’s (one of the world’s leading experts on men and masculinity) Ted Talk where with humour he shows how men benefit. As Michael says,

“We have the data to prove to men that gender equality is not a zero-sum game but a win-win.”

Use it to get on the front foot with the unspoken WIIF (what’s in it for me) for male leaders.

  1. Be Clear on the “How” and Over Deliver on Support

I’ve observed over the past decade more male leaders getting on board with the business case and the need for a fairer Australia.  They want equal opportunities for their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. The urgency shifted a gear globally last week as people shared their painful and shocking #metoo stories.  Many men I talk to are appalled but unsure of the best way to show their support.

I believe we do it by taking this groundswell of support and urgency and channel it into clear, measurable, actionable strategies.  And for these strategies to be effective we need to help our leaders build new muscles, learn new ways of leading and making decisions at every level of the organisation.

  1. Seeing is Believing

The second question women ask me at events and meetings is;

“What made you decide to take on this challenge?”

When I think about it, I’ve always been surrounded by strong women. I grew up on a small farm in Queensland with a mother who despite the challenging circumstances that come with farm life flourished, played a big role in the community and did it all with grace and courage. I’ve watched my wife work hard, study for 15 years to pursue her medical career juggling babies, children and male dominated cultures.

So, I’ve always known the strength and immense ability of women.  I think my own lightbulb moment in the corporate world came when I saw for myself the difference of having more women on my leadership team. For years, we had been having the same conversations about the same problems, about the pipeline, about stakeholders, about the lack of innovation.

I’ll never forget the first leadership meeting after I appointed more women into line roles.  The level of challenge, conversation and insight lifted visibly and immediately.  My leaders went from showing up to the meeting unprepared and on auto-pilot to having to be very active and think deeply. This brought out the best in the everyone and delivered enormous strategic and financial outcomes for us.

If you (or someone you are trying to convince) hasn’t experienced this, I suggest you find a colleague with a balanced team and see it for yourself.

  1. Engage Balance Now to Help

At Balance Now we believe that the majority of male leaders genuinely want to lead this change within their organisations. We also know that the majority of these leaders don’t know how. That’s where we come in. With a proven track record on generating gender equality as business leaders within a male dominated financial services industry, we have the understanding, expertise and research to help you make the change.

Balance Now is a company built on 50/50 gender representation. We understand and work with men every single day. We acknowledge the differences, the concerns men hold and the challenges they confront. We also hold men and everyone in the organisation to account.

That’s why working with us, creates change. Please Contact Us today.


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