Why organizations need to include men

Why organizations need to include men to promote diversity

By Gabriele Schambach
July 1, 2019


Diversity is a women's topic
Women are still (strongly) underrepresented in the top management of Swiss companies. Women earn less than men. Their skills and potential as managers and experts are still underestimated. As mothers, they take care of most of the so-called care work, i.e. the everyday caring for children and relatives as well as managing the household. Their professional biographies are incomplete due to family periods. Their career prospects are limited by part-time work. Pensions are correspondingly low. They are regarded as emotional, conflict-shy, bitchy, family-oriented - all characteristics that are not particularly appreciated in professional life.
Companies react – if at all - with individual measures for further qualification and empowerment of women. They offer solutions to help balance career and family, mentoring and seminar programs, networks of women etc. These are indisputably meaningful activities - but the assumption that the focus on women alone changes the situation is not enough. The reason being that these activities are usually designed to change women and make them conform with the circumstances of the company, which is also known as "Fixing the Women". Necessary changes in corporate structures and cultures are not taken into account.
Likewise, male colleagues, superiors and employees are not taken into account - and thus the potential they offer for equality is not exploited. Even though it is absolutely necessary to include all employees in a company, in order to initiate the necessary cultural change. Especially the – predominantly male – managers need to be brought on board. They represent a resource for equality that has hardly been used to date and which also represents – quantitatively and qualitatively – an influential stakeholder group. Only together, it is possible to implement adequate measures and achieve equal opportunities.
But why should men support gender equality? After all, they no longer have the same career opportunities if there are to be more women in management positions!
There are (at least) two answers to this question:
1. Men also benefit from gender equality. So far they have worked long hours in the office and bear the largest burden in generating family income. This responsibility, as well as the culture of competition and dominance that often exists in male-dominated companies, is unhealthy for men. Their life plans are based on the role of "tough guys", who feed the family and have a career. Variation and diversity exists in the form of sabbaticals, family time, part-time work, being a houseman or the like, but as of right now, they are still all too often the exotic exception and not yet the norm. 
Many fathers would also like to have more time for their family. Both fathers and mothers want to be there for their children after starting a family. A more reliable professional development of women would enable men to live a more relaxed life and at the same time help reduce their wives' overall workload. It becomes clear: If corporate cultures and structures change towards more equality, this also opens up a vast range of opportunities for men.
2. Promoting equal opportunities is a task for – male - managers. Implementing equal opportunities in day-to-day business is a question of fairness and justice. It has also been known for some time that equality, equal opportunities and diversity are by no means harmful for companies - on the contrary, they contribute significantly to the economic success of companies. If something is to change here in the coming years, men are wanted in their function as managers and as designers of change.  – and in this function, we should urgently help them to assume this responsibility!
Of course, promoting equal opportunities does not only require men. It also requires women. And because we believe that equality and change can likely be achieved by managers, we have named our project "Leaders for Equality – managers seizing opportunities”.