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Business Insights for Women
PNC INSIGHTS Magazine Spring/Summer 2014 Issue
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How including men in planning diversity initiatives contributes to women's success.

Gender equality is more than just a noble goal. Diversity of all types has been proven time and again to improve innovation and productivity. And while it should be self-evident that men play a crucial role in establishing gender parity, they are all too often left out of initiatives meant to achieve that goal. A 2010 study by Catalyst (catalyst.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in business, indicated that without buy-in by male co-workers, even the most well-meaning program makes little headway. Here are a few tips to engage men at every stage of gender-diversity initiatives:

Build Awareness: Researchers have found that men best understand gender issues when they're made aware of how such issues affect them personally. For example, some programs ask men to reflect on the stress involved in conforming to "traditional" social expectations, such as being the sole breadwinner in a family, or not being able to take time off for caretaking.

Emphasize a Level Playing Field: Men who exhibit a strong sense of fair play are very likely to support gender initiatives. Re-casting the argument in terms of fairness, then, can open productive dialogue.

Encourage Collaboration: Research has shown that one fear men have about diversity initiatives is that gains made by women will mean losses for them. A culture of collaboration - rather than competition - would help dispel this zero-sum thinking.

Provide Role Models: Men who have had female mentors are far more likely to be aware of gender bias, so pairing women leaders with male mentees can have a positive effect. Similarly, using successful male leaders as champions of gender diversity can sway those who fear that participating in such initiatives is a sign of weakness.

Offer a Safe Space: The most innovative diversity programs provide moderated all-male groups in which men can discuss issues and voice concerns without fear of appearing insensitive or ignorant. This also alleviates the anxiety of being cast as the enemy by female co-workers. At the same time, diversity initiatives should offer opportunities for men and women to discuss the issues together as well.

As arguably the largest and often the most powerful stakeholder group, men have a critical role to play in gender diversity. Make sure you tap this important resource in all of your diversity initiatives.


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