If white male leaders aren’t engaged in D+I and actively leveraging diversity in their organizations, they are under-performing. Driving business success means optimizing all assets, including the women and diverse people in the organization.
The gender equity movement got a boost in San Francisco when the Mayor announced a challenge to 400 companies to adopt gender equality measures. Creating a competition turned on men’s natural desire to compete and win, according to the observations of one participant (read blog).
Competitiveness is one of the traits discussed in Catalyst’s research on how to engage white men in diversity efforts. Catalyst recommends other success factors:
- Before they will support a change initiative (like inclusiveness), men have to first be convinced there is something wrong with the status quo (which means educating them about hidden barriers and blind spots)
- Men’s awareness of gender bias can be increased through dialogue with other men and cross-gender mentoring
- Men can be motivated to champion gender equity by heightening their sense of fair play and engaging them in solution-building
White male allies and champions were characterized by Catalyst as:
• Engaging in visible and “hands-on” leadership of organizational initiatives to reduce gender disparities in the workplace.
• Making continuous and substantive time investments in mentoring women.
• Easily recognizable by other women colleagues/peers as supporters of gender equality.
I have the privilege of knowing many white male allies and champions who are working hard to create structural, cultural, and behavioral change to eliminate hidden barriers. Advocates are calling for men to “lean in”:
“We need a new, game-changing strategy. We need men. We need men to “lean in” – to join women as allies, advocates and agents of change. We need male leaders to understand their role in perpetuating subtle gender dynamics and master the strategies to interrupt them. And we need male leaders to take up the business case for how expansion of women in leadership will strengthen their organization’s performance.”
Nothing will change until more allies and champions become engaged. Be strategic in cultivating them – it is worth it.