Companies intent on improving their Gender Diversity ratios are increasingly involving men as allies to their gender diversity and inclusion programs. But isn’t gender diversity all about increasing women’s workforce participation? What are men doing in these programs, you wonder?
Well, let’s begin with some hard facts – while 46% of university graduates in India today are women, ironically women are seen missing at the workplace – from 27% at entry levels to 15% at mid-management levels to 5% at senior management levels.
Gender diversity is a business issue. Many companies have and continue to invest in gender diversity and inclusion. Companies are striving towards a gender balanced workplace that will have a positive impact both on the society and business. But all efforts of bringing diversity into the workplace will fall flat if inclusion is absent.
With 85% at mid-management and 95% at senior management, men currently (and natively) hold a majority of formal and informal positions of power across organizations in various sectors. And they have a great deal of influence on the organizational set-up - in subtle everyday interactions and in inspiring change in larger systems and processes. To ensure the success of a gender-balanced agenda, it becomes imperative that organizations bring men into the conversations related to gender diversity and inclusion.
How do men play their role of allies?
There are ways in which men can be role models. But being a male ally is going beyond just advocating or helping specific women. It is about
- Creating an organizational culture of inclusion through a systemic change where men actively participate in changing the prevailing mindsets and eliminating subtle biases – both conscious and unconscious.
- It also involves engaging and encouraging men in the creation of policies, practices and culture that promotes gender balanced workplace and an inclusive environment for all irrespective of the gender.
- Male allies also need to realize that while it can be exhausting to work towards bringing forth systemic change and the threat of being subjected to negative stereotypes, they need to approach this whole challenge with a growth mindset.
- Negative reactions could be converted into opportunities to drive understanding and empathy about gender-related issues.
- To be successful despite the challenges, they need to have the desire and commitment to make gender inclusion a reality in their respective organizations.
- Most importantly, they have to listen to the issues of women employees and understand their professional challenges at grass-root levels. They need to understand how it feels for a lot of women to feel like a minority in a majority environment.
- They should actively participate in mentoring, coaching, sponsorship programs and Women network/employee resource groups initiatives.
Case Studies: A look what companies are doing
A number of organizations are committed to the cause; their vision and execution are driving change in the gender landscape in corporate India!
In fact, 88% of 2017 Working Mother and AVTAR Best Companies for Women in India (BCWI) intentionally create a male ally culture in their organizations. As many as 1,655 senior male leaders (of which 951 are from the Top 10 Companies) mentor over 1.2 lakh women professionals at their respective organizations – the ripple effects leading to more women rising to leadership, moving us closer to our vision of the gender-balanced talent pipeline!
Retention of women also has proven to get better when the male ally culture is the norm – for the record, BCWI Companies that invested in consciously creating a male ally culture recorded 7% less of women’s attrition than others that didn’t.
Companies across industries and sectors such as Accenture, Deloitte in India, Johnson & Johnson, Mastercard, PepsiCo, Pega India, Schneider Electric have been running initiatives that have brought about significant change in the Inclusion culture of these organizations.
- At Accenture, men play an active role as advocates of gender diversity and leaders consistently engage in fostering a culture of inclusion in their businesses by sponsoring and advocating for diversity – this is further driven by extensive training for male managers to become allies.
- One of the key initiatives at Pega is sponsoring & promoting mentoring for the Women Talent in the organization.
- At Deloitte India, a “Men as Champions” programme helps men play an active role at every stage of the organizational process to ensure that practices are aligned with the organizations' gender diversity policies.
- Schneider Electric believes that a movement for change begins with a shift in mindsets and its possibility of effecting major change that leads them to enthusiastically embrace the HeforShe Campaign - the results of which have proved all the expectations true! (HeForShe is a UN campaign which encourages men to be advocates for gender equality).
The way forward
Change – especially when it involves societal, attitudinal transformations around gender roles have become significant. Towards male allyship, what is also important is the extent of the reach of these changes – across levels and verticals in organizations. And for these changes to be truly sustainable, for the culture of male allies to become the norm, consistent and methodical, inclusion is key!