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Dear men, being nice to women isn’t gender equality

Thursday, September 29, 2016  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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Gender expert Michael Kimmel offered his insights on "Engaging Men in Gender Equality" at NEW Leadership Summit 2016.

"We cannot empower girls and women without the full support of boys and men. Full stop. Period,” according to gender expert Michael Kimmel, who opened the Network of Executive Women's NEWLeadership Summit2016, Sept. 28 at the Omni Resort at ChampionsGate.

"Men come at gender equality as the fair thing to do, the ethical thing to do, the natural thing to do,” according to Kimmel, author of the best-sellers Angry White Men,The Gendered Society and Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. "[But] they see gender equality as being nicer to women."

Men often approach gender equality like the cavalry, ‘Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’ll take it from here," Kimmel said. "I call it ‘premature congratulation.’”

The most common corporate culture response to gender equality, is the "We’ll invite you to join us” model, which Kimmel describes as "Okay, we’ll set a place for you at the table. We won’t change the menu or table setting, but you can sit here, as long as you act just like us.”

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To create gender equality, advocates must make the case to men that being a stakeholder in gender equality is not just about being nice or doing the right thing, but that it's in their interest, Kimmel said.

Kimmel called out two obstacles to gender equality -- gender and equality.

Men don't see themselves in the gender equation," Kimmel said. "When you say 'gender' you think 'women.'"

Most men believe gender equality is a win-lose proposition – if women win, men lose. "White men have been the beneficiaries of the single greatest affirmative action program in the history of the world – it’s called ‘the history of the world.’ A sense of entitlement keeps men from entering the gender equality conversation.”

In men's best interest

The premise that women’s gains in the workplace are men’s losses is based on the faulty premise that the size of the pie remains the same as women move into leadership roles, Kimmel said. "We know that gender equality is good for business. It leads to higher profits, higher ROI, lower turnover, higher productivity – the pie gets much bigger.”

Though the proven business case will get men enrolled in the gender equality conversation as workers, it does not engage them as men, Kimmel said.

Many men come to the gender equality conversation afraid they are "bad or wrong or have to change," he said. "But [supporting] gender equality is not asking men to do something different – because they are already doing it [on a personal level.]”

"Every man knows what it’s like to love a woman and want her to thrive, because all men are fathers, sons, husbands, lovers, partners and friends of women. We know what it feels like to want women to succeed and not face discrimination or assault.”

Now, men must talk the walk, Kimmel said. They must say publicly, in the workplace, "This matters to me, because there are women in my life who want to succeed and not face discrimination. Gender equality matters not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s in our best interest. It's the only way [men] can live as their authentic selves."


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