“Step up and talk your walk!” That’s just one action men can take to support gender equality, shared by visiting American sociologist Dr Michael Kimmel at our recent ‘Men as Allies’ breakfast panel event, co-hosted by Xplore, AICD’s 30%Club, and venue partner PwC on 15 August 2017.
Michael Kimmel, Sam Weiss and Peter O’Brien shared openly and honestly how they see the current state of gender equality in Australia and abroad, and what they think can be done to engage more men to take action. They were candid, real and practical, and left guests with a number of “golden nuggets”, captured by Vicki Forbes in the next article.
We’re grateful to PwC for filming the discussion and producing this short highlights video for those who weren’t in the room, and if you were there, you might see yourself in some of the event photos.
A shared belief of our panelists and others “in the know” is that more women need to take on “line” positions. Diana Ryall has often spoken on this topic, and shares her thoughts in Time to stop toeing the line on line positions, to coincide with the CEW’s release of its first ASX Senior Executive Census.
“I wish they would stop trying to ‘fix’ me”. We are hearing this from women who have well-intentioned men keen to support them in their career pursuits. Guys, us women don’t need ‘fixing’, but we do need your sponsorship. Our recently reprinted book, ‘Got your Back’ is a great resource, giving practical tips and stories on how to successfully sponsor women.
Finally, if you’re looking for a way to give back and like the idea of some travel abroad with a touch of adventure, consider joining us on our Cambodia Field Trip, from 11 to 18 November 2017. We have only ONE place left, so contact me directly if you are keen to join us.
Until next time,
Michael Kimmel, Sam Weiss and Peter O’Brien on what it takes to engage men as allies in gender equality
On Tuesday, 15 August, Xplore partnered with AICD’s 30%Club and PwC to host a breakfast panel discussion with Dr Michael Kimmel (visiting American sociologist specialising in gender studies), Sam Weiss (Chairman, Altium Limited), and Peter O’Brien (Managing Director, Russell Reynolds Associates) on how to engage men as allies in gender equality.
Xplore’s Founder and Managing Director Diana Ryall opened proceedings by noting the male-female split of the audience, before handing over to General Manager Amanda Webb to facilitate the discussion.
Diana said, “In the room today we have 87% women and 13% men. One of the major challenges we face in the conversation about gender equality is that men don’t see gender equality as a men’s issue. Our event with a title, ‘Calling all men’, has brought just 20 men into the room. Of course we are grateful to the men who are here, on the whole men see gender equality as being only about women.”
Michael Kimmel agrees: “We (men) don’t typically see ourselves as stakeholders in the conversation. I think very often we see gender equality as fair and just, but what this does is it leaves it in our heads; it’s a cognitive thing. We need to bring men into the conversation so we see ourselves as stakeholders in gender equality.”
Many insights on how best to do this were shared by the panelists during the formal discussion, and also through the questions raised by guests, a number of which were covered by media outlets who attended the event (see links at the end of this article).
Here, we share the top three “golden nuggets” or actions that men can take to support gender equality in the workplace and beyond. We invite you to share these points with the men in your networks.
1. Step up and “talk your walk”
We know what it means to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk”, but Michael Kimmel calls on men to “talk their walk”.
Michael says, “Everyone here has been in a meeting where you’re the only woman – or there’s one other woman in the room – and a whole bunch of men, and somebody says something really sexist and stupid, and everybody looks at you. You get the eye roll, and they go, ‘Oh God, here she goes, she’s going to say something now that’s going to ruin it for everybody’. That’s the token moment.”
“So, here’s what’s likely to happen later. One of those guys is going to come up to you later and say, ‘I’m really sorry about what that guy said, I’m not down with that at all.’ And what you feel in that moment is, ‘Where were you when I needed you, publicly with other men?’”
Michael says that we are already – as fathers, as sons, as partners – “walking the walk”, at home, in private, in our personal relationships, and he sees the challenge for men now is to step up and ‘Talk their walk’. “This means saying,‘Yes, I believe in gender equality because I have these kind of relationships.’ That’s the next stage, not just ‘walk your walk’, but ‘talk your walk’ publicly, and that includes shamelessly advocating for women.”
Amanda Webb suggests that women in these situations be more overt in asking for support from men: “Be explicit in your request to your male colleague. Say to them, ‘There are times when I’m the only woman and the room goes silent. Next time around, can you please play this part for me?’”
2. Focus on the executive ranks
Peter O’Brien believes that the executive levels within organisations have a critical role to play when it comes to supporting gender equality. He says we need to find the males who can authentically lead and drive the executive agenda, and put support mechanisms in place for women to succeed.
“It’s one thing to appoint a woman to a P&L role, it’s another thing to make sure that that person is going to be successful,” Peter said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to authentic leadership; that those leaders actually deliver on what they say they are going to do and walk the floor, whether it be boards and directors getting to know not just the top levels of management, but three or four rungs down, and finding opportunities for people to succeed.”
Sam Weiss agrees that accountability within the executive ranks is key, and suggests we ask the males we know – the husbands, partners, friends, fathers, uncles, and particularly those in executive roles where they themselves are decision-makers – what they are doing to support gender equality.
Sam says, “While I believe young men are intellectual supporters of gender equality in the same way that they’re intellectual supporters of racial equality or religious equality – and they may even have some emotional recognition of the importance of it –on a practical level the progress is far less advanced. I quite often see conversations about hiring people default to ‘Well, we need to get the person with the most experience or the person who deserves the job based on merit’, and all too often this creates a default list of men, and getting women into the executive ranks of companies is a really big challenge. I think the real club that we need to form – not only here but in other parts of the world – is a 30% club for executives, and a 30% club for women in P&L jobs.”
“Profits come from having gender equality, and if gender equality isn’t present in the workforce, then those firms over the long term will be less successful financially. Firms that can demonstrate a superior return on capital and can do that because they have a better gender balance, are the ones that will succeed in the long term. To the women in the room, I urge you to get yourselves into roles where you have your hands on the levers of the P&L, in whatever firm you are in.”
3. Advocate for women
When Sam Weiss was chief operating officer at Nike Europe over 20 years ago and an executive sponsor of senior women across the company, he advised his colleagues to ‘advocate for women’, in response to their concerns about the low number of female candidates applying for senior leadership roles.
Sam says, “Men should advocate for women when roles become available. Men do this unconsciously for other men. Unconsciously they pluck out some young guy and they take him under their wing and help him in his career. I think women should also consciously advocate for each other.”
What we are talking about here is ‘sponsorship’, and Amanda called on the men in the room to take action: “If you are already advocating for men, start doing it for women.”
Sam says,“Supporting gender equality in the workplace is a business imperative as much as it is a moral one. The younger generation of workers will vote with its feet; they will not want to work for organisations that they perceive to be intolerant, and that will apply to both 23-year-old men, and to women. So organisations that have women in the workforce but who disappear the higher up the organisation you go, these organisations will find it increasingly challenging to compete for talent.”
Michael holds an optimistic view for the future, driven by a trend that he is seeing in companies he works with around the world. “What makes me optimistic is younger men – the Millennials – because they are coming into the workplace today with the exact same profile that women are coming into the workplace with. That is, they all want to have great careers, they want to be awesome parents. They are not there yet, but they are in the game and they know that this is what they want – to be able to balance work and family just as their partners and wives do, and what that means, I think, is that they are ready to have a personal stake in this.”
Michael says, “What gender inequality ultimately does, is it keeps women and men from living the lives that they say they want, so my feeling is that if we want to engage men as allies, the thing to do is make the business case to businesses, and also make the personal case to men – to say, ‘It’s in your interest to support gender equality.’”
“I’m an activist! Change is possible. You have to believe that, right?” says Michael.
We are on this journey with you, Michael, and we hope you are right!
Time to stop toeing the line on line positions
There is no doubt that women – and most men – agree that we need more talented women inthe senior roles that have eluded them for some time. Of course this would change organisational culture and mean that fewer men would hold these positions, but there’s ample research to support that more women in senior positions is good for business. If ‘merit’ truly prevailed, there would be a roughly equal mix of men and women in leadership positions, bringing a diversity of thought, strengths and style.
Since 2015, we have seen a remarkable increase in the number of women in Board positions. This is encouraging, especially when little happened during the previous decade through self-regulation and an expectation that talented women would be promoted on merit. In fact, almost two thirds of board positions a decade ago were filled by a tap on the shoulder through the networks of existing board members. This meant that women held less than 10% of board positions in the ASX200.
What really made the difference was a carrot and stick approach. Firstly, encouraging board members and chairs that boards should have at least 30% women, both from a business profitability argument, and also that it was the ‘right’ thing to do to take advantage of different skill sets and perspectives.
Secondly, the Australian section of the global 30%Club supported by AICD and ASX, set a target that women should hold 30% of board positions in the ASX200 at the end of 2018. To support this, they release a quarterly update on the progress towards this target. The progress from 8.50% to over 25% has been a testament to the importance of targets. After a decade of no change there has been a significant shift, although to achieve the target by the end of next year is still ambitious.
The success in changing the dial on women in board positions has not, unfortunately, been replicated within the businesses themselves. The percentage of women in senior leadership roles has shown little movement in the ASX200. Perhaps it is due to the lack of an external group measuring and targeting change, or perhaps organisations simply don’t want to share their metrics. We know that “what gets measured gets done,” and while there is much discussion of change being needed, there is still a reluctance to make the hard decisions to make it happen.
The Chief Executive Women’s inaugural Senior Executive Census 2017, published on 8 September, found that women make up about 20% of ASX200 executive leadership teams, and hold just 12% of line roles and 30% of functional roles in executive leadership teams. Currently, it seems the natural progression to CEO is generally limited to those who have progressed through line positions and the CFO.
Men often assume women are nurturing (and women might present as such), and therefore be encouraged to work in non-line areas of the business. Others move away from line positions during their career. It is unfortunate that, too often, women say they want to help others and move into HR roles, and yet leadership is very much about managing and inspiring teams to achieve excellence.
When women take on line positions they gain a depth of understanding of the organisation, its strategy and its financial outcomes. We must encourage women to gain line experience if we want to increase the number of women in CEO positions. Too often women are mentored for confidence and presence, and men in business acumen, a challenge for women that’s clearly articulated by Susan Colantuono in her TED Talk, The career advice you probably didn’t get.
If you would be interested in a half-day workshop on developing business acumen, email Diana Ryall.
From around the web
- Mariam Veiszadeh, 2016 Fairfax Daily Life Woman of the Year, Lawyer and Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner, took the stage at this year’s TEDxSydney. Mariam’s powerful talk, Rethinking Privilege, is now available to watch online.
- Male Champions of Change has just released its ‘Closing the Gender Gap Report’.
- Interestingly, the ‘Closing the Gender Gap Report’ had some of us raising our eyebrows and asking some important questions. Kristine Ziwica asked, ‘Did Australian business leaders just pledge not to violate the most basic equal pay principle, and we’re happy about it?’
- The ‘Wonder Woman’ movie has grossed almost $800 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing live-action film by a female director. (Take that, James Cameron.) Alas, Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman herself, the female lead, is still copping a heap of sexist rhetoric. Check out her candid reply in ‘Whoever is not a feminist is a sexist’.
- Bill Gates made 15 predications in 1999 – that’s 15 years ago. Check them out and see how much of a visionary Gates truly is!
- Jenki Kohan, the creator of ‘Orange is the New Black’, wants her show to “break viewers out of their bubble”. And wouldn’t the world be a more understanding and kinder place if we all could break out of our bubble? Jenki is an amazingly creative and determined women, who has finally made her mark in a male dominated world. Read this story for inspiration and a laugh.
- And, if you missed the video link in our earlier article from our ‘Men as Allies’ event with Dr Michael Kimmel, here it is again.