The plight of women in the workforce is improving – slowly. We still have a lot of work to do. And there is one specific group of people attempting to play an increasingly large role in the issue of workplace gender diversity: male champions of change. These male champions of change are making a conscious and actionable effort to improve the lives and probability of success of women in the workplace.
As many of them are fathers of daughters, and brothers of sisters themselves, it makes sense for them to care deeply about how females are treated, compensated, and perceived in the workplace. But it also makes sense from a business perspective. Many of these men are highly successful business leaders, and they are well aware of the tangible benefits gained from increasing female representation at the management and executive level – with many stats and case studies speaking to the power of gender diversity (gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to have better financial returns).
So how are these men elevating women and breaking down systemic barriers to progress? And how can other men help make this still nascent movement a part of our everyday lives?
Mentoring is one of the simplest and most effective ways to get involved in helping women bridge the male-female divide. Unfortunately, 1 out of 5 women say they’ve never had a mentor at work. And even fewer have had male mentors. This means that a number of women aren’t getting the support, advice, or leadership learnings that will result in a shift in the current status quo. It also means that not enough women are getting support from men who understand what it takes to succeed in a male-dominated landscape.
Mentoring works at all levels: women who were born in the 1970s are three times more likely than those born at the beginning of the twentieth century to work in the same field as their fathers – a finding that researchers have attributed to daughters receiving more mentoring from their fathers, along with the shifts in societal expectations. If this same mentoring shift can take place in the workplace, then women may be three-times more likely to reach the same management or executive level as their fathers as well.
The act of mentoring a female also alerts the male mentor to the problem at hand; by making them aware of the struggles women can face – as well as the extent of their ambitions and capabilities. This simple understanding and acknowledgment can go a long way to men engaging in the next two simple steps.
And these mentors aren’t coming out of these relationships empty handed. We interviewed some of Australia’s best mentors to find out what’s in it for them.
Sponsorship is the natural next step beyond mentoring; the step from supporting a female through active communication and advice – to supporting that same female by communicating their abilities to others. We all know how much a good review or strong word-of-mouth can affect and influence our opinions of others. In fact, most of us rely on this to make smart decisions about who to hire, fire, or promote.
We all hang our hats and reputation on others all the time, and male champions of change are more than willing to hedge their bets on many of these high potential women and the overall benefits of gender diversity in the workplace.
Currently, there just isn’t enough female sponsorship, with women being 54% less likely than men to have a sponsor. It is unclear what this gap in sponsorship ultimately comes down to. But what is clear, is that men actively seeking to sponsor high potential females would go a long way to bridging the gap: women with sponsors are 27% more likely than their unsponsored female peers to ask for a raise and 22% more likely to ask for the ‘stretch assignments’ that build their reputations as leaders.
Be a conscious advocate
After engaging and impacting females at the individual level, true male champions of change start impacting the entire paradigm too. They do this by making their voices heard on the topic; advocating for women and gender diversity in their workplaces; and by implementing systems, policies, and processes that impact the collective progress of women (hiring practices, leave policy, promotional opportunities).
These men make a conscious effort to shift the standard framework and status quo which resulted in an unequal playing field.
Creating true gender diversity
The common thread and theme that runs through these simple steps is that men need to be more active in their support for females – and more active in engaging in simple activities that dramatically impact the unconscious bias that continues to inhibit progress.
While the current cohort of men didn’t create this paradigm, nor are they specifically at fault for it, sitting idly by as females continue to look up at the glass ceiling simply isn’t good enough. Increasing the number of men interested in fostering change for women – the number of male champions of change – will undoubtedly affect women, businesses, and men for the better. As we have written about before, inclusion is the road to true diversity.
It’s time more men got involved.