More and more, organizations are realizing the importance of male engagement in their efforts to advance their women’s leadership initiatives. Simply stated, the industry will never obtain gender parity without the active advocacy of men.
The business case for women's leadership in the retail/consumer goods industry is an easy one — women are the primary consumers of everything Network of Executive Women partner companies sell. The challenge: most organizations perceive talk about the business case as conceptual conversation -- they don't integrate their women’s leadership strategy into all aspects of the business.
Organizations must move to ensure that marketing, sales, operations, human resources and senior leadership are all held accountable with measurable metrics. Men need to examine the scope of their business and understand the day-to-day accountabilities. But even that is not enough to move men from passive appreciation of the business case to active advocacy.
The key to advocacy is finding a personal reason for male engagement. True male champions, I have found, are typically the son of a working mother, the husband of a working spouse, the brother to a working sister or the father of a daughter. The power of a personal connection cannot be understated and, surprisingly, I have found many men do not make this connection on their own. Men tend to lead focused and compartmental lives. Unlike women, we separate our personal lives from our work lives. We seldom make the connection that the women in our personal lives face the same challenges as women in our organizations.
I’m often asked by other men why I’ve chosen a career dedicated to advancing women in the workplace. I tell them, that by and large, my generation of men — young Boomers— tried to be good and supportive fathers. We supported our daughters at soccer games and dance recitals. We talked about raising independent and strong girls. We ensured they went to good colleges. Yet, when our daughters graduate from college and make 78 cents on the dollar, we stop advocating. We stop advocating for the most important person in our lives.
We never make the connection that by not advocating for women today, our daughters will face the same biases, challenges and inequities that all female coworkers face.
Many women I speak to find it incredulous that men do not connect the women in their lives with women at work, yet this is often the case. The opportunity is not to challenge why this is true, but rather, to use it as a point of discussion. I have one question for women to ask their male coworkers: "Would you want your daughter to work for our company?”
Chances are they have never thought about it.