A year into #MeToo, the industry is struggling to define the rules of engagement for men (and women) in the workplace. A recent study by LeanIn.org reported that almost half of male managers say they’re uncomfortable working with women. To bring some clarity to the conversation, Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient invited thought leaders and male executives from top companies to anchor the Men of Action Summit in The Girls Lounge during Advertising Week. “Gender equality is not a female issue; it’s a social and economic imperative,” Zalis explained. “We’re all in this together; we for we. It’s important to create proactive solutions for change and respect for all in the workplace.”
With only four female speakers on the agenda and more than thirty men, the room was filled with curiosity as this diverse set of industry leaders addressed important questions of the day. Speaker after speaker shared candid, passionate and raw perspectives based on their personal experience, new research and sense of what’s on the horizon. The Men of Action Summit was a valuable forum to help the industry start to identify and address solutions for change. A series of questions and responses are summarized below to provide a sense of the complexity and depth of these issues.
What Does it Mean to Be a “Good Man” in Today’s Workplace?
There was consensus in response to this question, including:
- Michael Grimes of Hill Holiday said, “It’s about empathy, emotional vulnerability, honesty and creating the conditions to have those conversations.”
- Lisa Winjum of Joyful Heart Foundation explained that their Defining Manhood for the Next Generation study of males aged 11-24 revealed that the clear majority believed that “a good man is caring.”
Is There Room for Emotion in the Boardroom?
A recent study titled Shift/Forward Redefining Leadership: The Inclusion Imperative from Deloitte and The Female Quotient reveals that a good leader embodies traditionally masculine traits (hard-working, confident) and softer power traits (communicative, flexible, patient) traditionally associated with women. The study identifies actions that leaders can take to become more human and ways to create a more inclusive workplace.
- Anthony Stephan of Deloitte Consulting LLP cautioned that “emotion in the boardroom takes on many different faces.” [It] is not something that we have fully accepted but we have a responsibility to create a human experience and amplify humanness.
- Sean Moran ofViacomsuggested that companies must cultivate respect, empathy and openness at all levels, noting, “Strength means standing up for what’s right; it means being able to care and show kindness.”
Can There Be a Safe Space for Men at Work?
- Michael Grimes shared results from its Millennial Men and Modern Manhood: The Pressure to Be it All report which revealed that 94% of men agree that they need more opportunities where they can feel safe talking about their emotions. They want a place to be open and honest. This insight begs the question of how a company or industry can get there when so many resources are dedicated to women, LGBTQ and other underrepresented groups.
What Does Equality Mean to You?
Diversity of thought best sums up the responses to this lynchpin question. Here are a few excerpted responses to illustrate the complexity of this issue.
- Jack Myers, Founder of MediaVillage and Advancing Diversity.org and author of The Future of Men said, “Equality to me means mutual respect, listening to each other, being completely truthful and honest. Equality is not something that is given to us, it is something we earn.”
- Louis Carr, of BET Networks/Viacom replied, “To me it is equal opportunities, equal resources, equal pay.” Carr doesn’t believe that equality is earned; instead he said it’s a given as people on the sidelines may never get that opportunity to earn it.
- Greg Fischer of The Martin Agency said,“Equality is the opportunity to prove your ability based on strategy and risk.”
- Faith Popcorn of Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve declared, “I don’t believe in equality. I believe in superiority. Why shouldn’t the best people be on top?”
What Is the Future of Men?
- Mark McCaffrey of PwC said, “It is inevitable, change is coming. To remain an economic power, we need to keep diverse talent in the workforce.”
- Louis Carr said, “The future of men in the workplace will be challenged as they will need to share power to create diversity and equality. The future of women will be great, and they will have a major seat at the table.”
- Charlotte Beers, Author, Teacher and Former CEO, Ogilvy answered, “It’s about partnership. When we win as a team life gets a lot better. Right now, we are really beginning to understand that we can’t make it without each other.”
- Jack Myers replied, “The next generation is a lean-in generation of women and a lean-out generation of men. The age of reparations is coming for another two decades and young men are going to continue to be impacted by it. We need to find a way to support these young men, so they do not turn against feminism and against women.”
- Shelley Zalis, said, “Modern feminism must include men – we for we. Equal rights are the concern for all of us and we get that it’s not going to happen tomorrow. All in favor say aye.”
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