Gender Diversity: It’s Hard Being a Man

Not always, some things are pretty easy but when trying to deliver a diverse and inclusive workforce, it can be full of challenges. I have come to realise that intention, even when met with action, is not always enough. I am certainly keen to develop a more gender balanced agency unit – not just in terms of representation but in terms of culture where everyone can point to role models and can see they have a future that meets their personal needs and ambitions. So far so straightforward - but let me share a true story of how easy it is to mess things up.
Last week I spoke at our London company meeting, introducing our plan for the year ahead. I ended with a personal commitment to making progress on the D (diverse) in our global Wavemaker PACED values. It was a genuine and authentic attempt to lead by example and send a clear message to all the women and men in the audience that the future is bright. I sat down feeling I had made a positive statement and contribution. So, imagine my surprise when 30 minutes later one of our teams took to the stage to present their department plan and it was 11 men (yup, 11 men) up there. Totally my bad – I should have caught this well before anyone took to the stage and I used my closing address to recognise that this is unacceptable and won’t happen again.
It made me think though, why did I not catch this earlier and why didn’t any of the 11 men catch it either? How, when we actually have a gender balanced workforce and when diversity and inclusion is high on my personal priority list, did I allow 11 men to go on stage to represent the company?
I think the answer is obvious – I look at the world through the eyes of a man. I do not scan my environment as a woman. I have spoken to several senior women recently about this, and they all talk about the signals an organisation sends, often unintentionally but always powerful. Meeting rooms dominated by men, conversations dominated by men and now presentations dominated by men. I didn’t notice my 11 men on stage problem until it was too late, simply because I didn’t appreciate the issue – I was blind to it.
I was certainly embarrassed. However, I see it as a learning opportunity and I have made a commitment to myself. I will do my very best to better see situations through the eyes of a woman – is my language, my behaviour, my every-day work decision-making helping create an environment that is more inclusive, more balanced and more appealing to women?
I ask in return that people point out when my words or actions are “unhelpful”. My intention is sincere, but I do make mistakes, and if no one tells me, I can’t correct it next time.
It’s hard being a woman, and it’s hard being a man trying to make it less hard to be a woman. I used to think that I saw the world as it is but I’ve come to realise that I don’t: I see the world through a man’s eyes and it’s time to shift my perspective.
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