Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What Leads to Gender Equality

Want to work where the genders are treated equally? Look for a workplace where four factors exist:

  • company officials acknowledge that gender bias exists,
  • the men are willing to defy masculine norms,
  • women are mentors and
  • fair play is valued.

That’s the take-home message from a new Catalyst survey Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents Need to Know.

People have to recognize that inequality exists before they’ll support efforts to correct the inequality and men who were more aware of gender bias were more likely to think that achieving gender equality was important, Catalyst concluded.

“Other findings revealed three key factors that predicted men’s awareness of gender bias: 1) defiance of certain masculine norms, 2) the presence or absence of women mentors, and 3) a sense of fair play,” the study found. “Of those three factors, having a strong sense of fair play, defined as a strong commitment to the ideals of fairness, was what also best differentiated men who actively championed gender equality from those who were not similarly engaged.”

The masculine norms the study is talking about include workplaces where people use phrases such as “take it like a man,” avoid all things feminine, never show fear, nervousness or sadness, and participate in stereotypical male activities such as beer drinking, strip clubs and watching sports.

The survey also uncovered three roadblocks to ending gender bias: apathy, fear and ignorance about gender issues.

When asked about what keeps men from supporting gender initiatives, some men who were interviewed for the study pointed to a “zero-sum” mentality – a belief that gains for women necessarily mean losses for men.

Companies may inadvertently encourage this line of thinking by instituting practices that increase competition between employees and put the focus on the individual first above the organization as a whole, the study says.

Other obstacles included fear of losing status or of being seen as part of the problem, and apathy – a sense that issues of gender do not concern men

Catalyst, meanwhile, counters that research shows that men gain significant personal benefits such as better health, freedom to be themselves, and the ability to share financial responsibilities with a spouse or partner when working in a place free of gender bias.

1 comment:

Jane Sanders said...

Great article, thank you. I will link to it from my GenderSmart blog.
Jane Sanders, President, GenderSmart Solutions