Gender and Men

How often when we hear about gender equity or gender diversity do we automatically think that gender = women? Recent and ongoing work for the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation found that while a majority agreed that gender [in]equality is still a problem, a majority of men agreed that “political correctness means I cannot openly say what I think about gender equality.”[ http://www.5050foundation.edu.au/gender-equality-attitudes/ ]

If many men have the sense that gender is not about them, but only about women, then as a man:

  • when you hear gender diversity, do you switch off?
  • do you feel a sense of anxiety or struggle about needing to “get it right” in what you say, and what you do, regarding gender diversity?
  • can you acknowledge the deep socialisation/conditioning not to show insecurity or vulnerability as a man?
  • is it hard to admit that you’re struggling with how to engage with the topic of gender equity, even when you think the goals of gender equity work are positive?

Gender equity involves shifting our perspectives on and understanding of workplace roles and social roles — shifts that can be deeply unsettling even as we embrace the changes. If as a man I am committed to dismantling the patriarchy, I may have many complex — even conflicting – responses. My intellect and my emotions may seem to be at odds with each other.

To navigate these responses requires deep inquiry, deep and attentive listening, and compassion – beginning with oneself. It’s easy – as a man or as a woman – to think that “men are biased, and that’s the basis of the problem.” The reality is that around gender – as with all aspects of difference – we are all biased, women and men equally (if sometimes in different directions). To inquire with care, compassion, openness, and vulnerability into our biases requires a safe and supportive environment and skilled facilitation to hold the space. To make real progress, both women and men must be engaged – and we must create such environments for both women and – crucially – for men, where we can do our work both separately and together.