International Men’s Day: An inclusive and progressive ecosystem for men
When organisations talk of being inclusive, it goes without saying that the efforts must offer the support that all individuals need to thrive in an ever-evolving workplace and societal construct.
We strive to empower women to lead the new world, and are raising awareness for access to opportunities for the third gender, yet, in a work-in-progress environment, while men have been privileged in several aspects, they do end up being at the receiving end of unconscious bias.
Contrary to popular belief, men too are victims of unconscious bias and ignorance, and that makes the workplace and the broader societal construct, not so conducive for their holistic development and growth. It’s time to broaden the inclusion lens and ensure the workplace is one that provides a space to grow, for one and all.
While women, among many other underrepresented groups, require advocates to push for access to opportunities, progression and pay equity, there are several employment aspects that require the ecosystem to be more inclusive of our fellow men. This International Men’s Day, we take a look at potential workplace shifts that can help bridge the existing gap in inclusion efforts.
Inclusive family care benefits
Parental benefits and caregiver benefits are often extended only to women, on the assumption that it’s the women who take up the burden of family care. But men too can choose to become caregivers - and indeed they need the time with their loved ones just as much! Paid parental leave for men needs to become a norm, and both employers and co-workers must be just as ready to accept men as caregivers as they do women.
Men’s mental health
The stereotypes that have haunted men for generations - the need to be ‘macho’, strong and not cry - has pushed men to not express how they feel. Despite the extreme amounts of emotional turmoil, fears, and anxiety that they might experience, the society, which includes the workplace finds humour in a man expressing vulnerability. However, the winds of change are in motion, and men have been encouraged to express and share. What they need is a safe space to express, to know they won’t be judged for expressing a soft side of their personality, to know that they have an equal right to feel and express vulnerability, without any looming fear of repercussions.
Progressive workplaces have moved away from placing restrictive gender-based demands on women’s attire, but men are still held to rigid and often conservative standards that leave them looking like they’re wearing uniforms, with only small and narrowly defined variations allowed. Let’s be more open to diverse workwear for men - they too have every right to their own style.
Helping men understand and embrace inclusion
Workforce diversification has become an opportunity too big to miss in any organisation. Modern masculinity is going through a big role change as many men are coming forth to express themselves and talking about the struggles that they have felt emotionally all through the years. At such a time, to parallelly understand the struggles of various other social groups while necessary, could be challenging. To ensure the development of one workforce segment does not come at the cost of another’s progress, hosting conversations and workshops around awareness and sensitization will be instrumental in paving the way for authentic inclusion.
Several industries across the globe have been male-dominated for far too long. To break the age-old stereotypical expectations around the mindset and behaviour of men, encouraging interaction and networking among diverse groups, with a sharp focus on sensitization, will help shape a more evolved and inclusive outlook as men redefine masculinity and equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to own their role in making workplaces inclusive.
True inclusion and equity can only happen when every individual - irrespective of their gender, or other social identities - is provided with equal opportunity to thrive. The ecosystem we rebuild under the umbrella of inclusion, must make way to provide every individual with the support they need to break through stereotypes and barriers. It’s time to widen the inclusion lens and ensure gender parity in every sense of the term.
Wishing all the men a very Happy Men’s Day!