Ideas from an ebbf Meaningful Fridays discussion
ebbf is passionate about #genderequality (one of ebbf’s core values) and we keep seeking for new angles to keep the exploration fresh and reach the final goal we all aim for: justice. We therefore decided to open a meaningful conversation with this new perspective highlighting all that men are losing out on when equality is not reached.
When you look at the gender inequality and the current imbalance, it is unfortunately very easy to come up with a list, and a long one at that, of points that women are deprived of even today: pay gap, discrimination, double burden and expectations at work and in the households, their additional role of educators. The list is worryingly long.
#ebbfmember Adrian Kielhorn, the convener of this conversation, shared what inspired him to create this ebbf webinar: a conversation over dinner.
“One evening, while setting the dinner table, I asked my two daughters, ages 13 and 15, whether men should help women achieve gender equality. Of course, they replied! Men are in charge and have all the power, they went on to explain. If they used their power towards this goal, a society where men and women are equally valued could easily be achieved.
Their comments got me thinking. Not whether the solution is really that easy. Rather, why men are not working side by side with women on this challenge?
The point that is additionally being missed is how much men are losing out due to this injustice and how it is in their own best interest to earnestly push forward gender justice .
Supporting the equal opportunities for half of under used, under respected part of the population is a great loss for all.
“Children of men know ye not why we created you all from the same dust?
That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created.”
So I see this applying to races to gender to basically everything and this next quote:
“women have equal rights with men upon earth; in religion and society they are a very important element. As long as women are prevented from attaining their highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to achieve the greatness which might be theirs”
This really struck me because when you think of an imbalance you know if you think of a scale that you know is uneven, then what you do is to assign a weight on one side or another to bring it back to balance.
But this quote brings home how the current imbalance is depriving the entire society, even men are deprived of “a greatness that could be theirs”.
And a third quote to get our conversation going:
“The world of humanity has two wings one is women and the other man not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly.
Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible.
Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be.”
So this quote and the example used here visualizes that when both wings are not equally developed the bird cannot really fly and you know you don’t need to be a biologist or scientist to say okay I can really see this happening.
So today we want to go deeper and really understand all that men are deprived of and how much they too could they benefit from true partnership between women and men moving forward. For this purpose, we invited participants of a Meaningful Fridays session to share their ideas.
How could men benefit from a more equal society?
More time to explore, less rush to action?
One participant shared the experience of creating a start-up with a balance of four women and four men as part of the founding team and how the experiences of those meetings were different from others he witnessed:
the four guys always pushing for a decision “let’s get to action, there’s so much we have to do, let’s go quickly” and then the feminine element of those meetings instead slowing the pace down, “hold on a second, have we looked at this? What does this really mean? What if …?” and there was always a moment of “male” frustration with an eagerness for quick action balanced by female elements to make us think stop and take more time to engage, exploring more areas that we had not looked into and that would turn out to be some of the most important for the now thriving company’s evolution.
The end result was much much better thanks to this balance of the empathy and the action the thinking fast and slow, the going deep and getting into action.
A more peaceful world?
Another participant working at the World Bank shared how we’re all depriving ourselves of peace, there are many examples of women not allowing their children to think of or to go to war, to avoid conflict, and that spoke to us of the things we can’t even imagine would take place if there was equality, if women were truly listened to, if they were valued equally.
Why are we running our world using only half of its potential?
From Canada a participant commented on one underlying concept: by leaving out half of the population we are depriving the world of half of its potential full contributions. Specially at times of scarcity and crisis this is totally counterproductive, for men and for everyone.
Participation of women / the feminine is demeaned or not looked on with the same level of importance. A balanced approach would allow the world to also grow its global prosperity with more productive souls being allowed to deliver their potential.
Different priorities, different values, better outcomes?
Participation of women / the feminine is all too often demeaned or not looked with the same level of importance. Then we read the news and find out that, for example, the countries with least COVID-related deaths, that have handled the crisis better than anyone else are always led by women.
Plenty of stats confirm that being also the case when business are women-led.
Why is demeaning of appreciation happening? What’s keeping us back, what kind of standards and values are we using in order to determine that criteria?
It affects our decision making, as per the earlier example we are depriving ourselves of the feminine characteristics of decision making which are so critical now and in the future.
More freedom for men to choose their role?
In one participant’s experience he worked in the NGO world “saving the world” and his wife was the breadwinner working in a corporation, and besides the egoistic [he said smiling] personal benefit of being left out of the stressful angry and competitive corporate world he was also mentioning how that family work balance influence their children who see it as normal for Daddy to stay at home and work from home and Mommy going to her corporate executive job.
Planting the seeds of a better understanding of what is right and what is wrong, of what is normal and what is not normal, from a young age will also help shape a better society.
On that same thread a participant from Pakistan shared “from the minute that men are born everyone around them says that this is your bread winner, your future bread winner. He’s the one who’s supposed to take care of his sisters and of the parents when they grow old of his future wife and family.
If insted of this male-centred situation, women were given equal rights to contribute, that would actually take a lot of pressure and depression away from men. They felt they had to do this because they’ve been taught this is something that they have to do ever since they are born but it is not necessarily so.”
In that context men are also missing the flexibility of choosing whether they want that role.
We generally think of the equality agenda with men being in a position of privilege but now we’re also thinking of equality in terms of the over burdening that men have put on themselves for so long.
We are moving from worrying about what would men lose, to the realization of now just how much better the world will be but also how much of a burden would be lifted and instead shared.
Are new generations better prepared?
When I join meetings of younger generations we all agreed that the setting there tends to be more gender neutral, it is not your gender but your feminine and masculine which is more present in everyone. You see how that is really cherished and used to progress meetings and projects.
Hopefully the role of children as educators of parents can also be stronger, if they attend a meeting at school with certain traits underlined, then they can talk about how great it was back home with their parents. Ideally it is a two-way exchange which would be very healthy.
Another participant from Chicago shared how men are deprived of compassion. Compassion is felt for others and masculinity doesn’t put feelings, concerns, understanding or willingness to understand and feel.
Studies showed a tendency for boys to be asked to stop crying after a certain age of 9 or so and how that affects their emotions and makes that an impact on society for the rest of their lives a very human side of man is suppressed and not utilised.
Better bonds with children
There is a further benefit when men could accrue from participating more in the family and being with the children, without the pressure of work, giving full attention to the children.
Those children really benefitted from that constant presence.
Hopefully in a future society where the work schedule is re adjusted with less or better working hours.
Better in conflict resolution
Jokingly a participant mentioned how much being an active father can improve your managerial skills: if you have one ice cream and two children, the way you manage that potential conflict is a great training to then bring into the workplace to manage conflict.
Better work-life balance through re-designing workplaces
From Madrid came another view that we need to address to allow this gender justice element to come to full fruition: most workplaces have been built by men for men and now, in the middle of the pandemic, we are being forced to all work from home places that had been designed by women for women and children so perhaps this will also trigger a rethink of priorities in our future workplaces.
When a participant mentioned being surprised at their own unwanted gender bias when judging their children we highlighted how these are biases that we kind of absorb from the culture through osmosis and we hold while we are talking about equality. It’s good to be mindful of these things, both individually and collectively in our institutions
A balanced approach benefits both women and men
Now going back to what men are missing out on or deprived of. Where there is an unbalance, there is injustice. As a result, trust is lost. Whilst trust is not unique to the gender equation, it also appears in the race unity equation: where trust is missing between the two groups that are seen as opposite or defining themselves as opposing sides. If there is trust then you can consult and decide who takes on what role, or combination of roles between the two be it in a marriage or at work.
So how do we build trust and start that journey?
One of the things that I really feel that is always missing across the board at all levels whether it’s in business or politics or otherwise is a balanced approach. I think the current situation has been leaning so heavily on one gender that we’ve lost our balance. As a result we are constantly going around in circles because it’s only weighted towards one side, and we keep making the same mistakes.
The learning opportunities are lost on us because we don’t have the contribution from 51% of the population in a much more active and meaningful manner. We’re denying ourselves of immense amount of innovation, of advancement, and new and better ways of doing things.
How women seek solutions versus how men seek solutions or how quickly men might go towards certain extremes whereas women will take a much different approach with a different level of attention to detail can be quite different from one gender to the other.
How can men become more active supporter of this very beneficial gender equality?
1. Start discussions on this topic
We should all be trying to accelerate those kind of “aha” moments that come up in these conversations. Part of the problem why there hasn’t been more progress is because too few of these kinds of open conversations are happening.
I mean this kind of conversation is extremely rare so I applaud this discussion but it should really be happening more. We should all be taking to our workplaces these opportunities for men to achieve their, and their organizations’ full capacity and potential when gender equality is fully established.
So let’s avoid men depriving themselves by not engaging in these conversation, not fully aware, not actively working to rectify the situation and we all hope for a cascade of such conversations everywhere as soon as possible.
2. Send us your ideas what additional benefits you can come up with
Share your ideas as a response to this article. Let us create a larger pool of potential of benefits of gender equality for men.
Creating a society with gender equality will benefit both men and women. It is a long and hard path; we will get there faster if men and women work in partnership.
This is how it will move from a trickle to a mainstream wave of justice.”