What role should men and masculinities play in the D&I discussion?

A Future of Fairness includes a roadmap for companies to follow no matter where they are on their diversity and inclusion journey.

What can men do to help create more inclusive, more diverse workplaces where everyone feels they belong? Writing for our publication A Future of Fairness, Utopia's Danielle Fiandaca asks what about men and masculinities in D&I?

Last year, for International Men’s Day, we conducted a UK-wide study around people’s thoughts on the impact of masculinity in the workplace. The results were telling - seven in ten men (71%) felt they needed to be the main provider for their family while just one in ten (11%) said their employers were comfortable with their taking unexpected days off due to their kids being ill.

These stats are significant for two reasons: first, our work cultures are still defined by traditional masculine stereotypes; and, second, these cultures also put an untold amount of pressure on men, both in the workplace and at home. And away from the stats, there’s a third, often unspoken, element that impacts how men perceive their role today: the lack of reference to them when it comes to any gender-equality discussion.

Despite the fact that International Men’s Day has been recognised since the 1990s, inevitably the focus is more on why we 'need' an International Men’s Day, rather than on the real pressures men feel. Of course, it’s understandable and obvious why this should be a knee-jerk reaction. But International Men’s Day is important in ensuring that we recognise that inclusion and diversity is for everyone.

But the moot point is that we often forget about men in the gender discussion. We assume all men occupy a place of privilege, but simply being male doesn’t automatically give you the castle keys. In order to drive change, and we need to start recognising that the gender inequality damages everyone. 87% of fathers wished they could spend more time with their children (source: CALM) while men are significantly more likely to experience work stress than women (source: Perkbox Workplace Stress Survey). To really get a handle on the gender-equality issue, the idea of 'us vs them', 'men vs women' - needs to be set aside. We live, breathe, eat and work together, not exclusively of each other. 

Instead, replace it with a keen focus on inclusion and diversity, with the 'I' firmly before the 'D'. If you go all-in on diversity first, you’re just bringing people into an environment that only fits one 'type' of person. In a hyper-masculine workplace, only those whose behaviours and attitudes chime will actually feel like they belong. By instead creating cultures that are inclusive, top to bottom, business leaders can then open their doors to people from different backgrounds and prove that the workplace is truly for them.

And as I have found personally, embracing leadership skills such as empathy, vulnerability and cultural intelligence is not only going to make you a better leader, it will ultimately make you a better and happier human being. Most importantly it will lead to workplaces that are more inclusive, more diverse, and an industry where everyone can truly belong.

Daniele is co-founder of Utopia, an award winning culture change business that creates more inclusive, more entrepreneurial and healthier cultures for clients. Utopia’s top-to-bottom, boardroom to factory floor approach has clinched household names including Coca-Cola European Partners, Google, Schneider Electric, Spotify and Universal Music.

He also co-founded Token Man in 2014, an initiative that gives men a better understanding of gender inequality in the workplace and inspire them to become change-makers. He was named one of Management Today’s Top 30 Male Agents of Change, and in 2019 was on the Advisory Board for Inclusion Matters. He continues to nurture a number of communities he co-founded, including Culture Social, a community for anyone who wants to build better work cultures, and has co-authored a number of books including Creative Superpowers: Equip Yourself for the Age of Creativity.

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Last updated 01 May 2024