Enriching Education

The Next Women's Movement is Integrating Men: 6 Critical Steps

Forbes • TAGS: Education, Leadership, Women

Part of a new series “He for She” – inspired by UN Women and heforshe.org

As a writer about women’s issues in business and life, I’ve tackled many aspects of what hinders women from advancing to equality – in the domestic arena, the global economy, and in political and business life and leadership. It’s a vast topic – complex, rich and multifaceted – with factors and influences that defy easy quantification or understanding.

But one thing is easy to see: Equality of women cannot progress without involvement of – and collaboration with – men.

Last June I attended a global women’s conference called S.H.E Summit founded by Claudia Chan – and to me, the most riveting discussion of the two days emerged from the “He for She” panel – featuring Nigel Barker, Gary Barker, and Simon Isaacs, exploring new ways to encourage men’s support of women’s growth worldwide.

The Next Womens Movement Is Integrating Men

Speakers Simon Isaacs, Nigel Barker and Gary Barker at Claudia Chan’s S.H.E. Summit, June 2014

I caught up with Claudia recently, and asked her to share more about what she’s learned from her male colleagues on how to involve men successfully in the women’s equality movement. Claudia is the founder and CEO of S.H.E. Globl Media Inc., the multi-platform women’s empowerment media company behind the annual S.H.E. Summit conference, and a women’s leadership expert and social entrepreneur focused on unlocking women’s leadership potential.

Kathy Caprino: Claudia, can you tell me how your “He for She” focus emerged in your work?

Claudia Chan: Recently, there has been an exhilarating global awakening towards ending the global oppression of women and girls, investment in female potential, and promotion of gender equality in the workplace.

Famous and inspiring women – such as Tina Brown, Sheryl Sandberg, and Beyoncé Knowles – are speaking out for diverse women’s issues. Global corporations – such as Google and Apple – are beginning to invest in girls by expanding the tech education and employment pipeline, while brands like Under Armour, Cover Girl and Always replaced traditional “perfection-portraying and sexy” campaigns with empowering messages. As I recently wrote, feminism is trending today and it has created the most robust climate of women’s issues yet.

While the exciting momentum might indicate women have achieved equality, we have a long, long way to go to 50/50 . Men still make up 95.2% of Fortune 500 CEO’s positions, majority of corporate boards to heads of states. In my TED talk, I outline the need for full-participation from civil society, private, and public sectors to accelerate the current momentum. To accelerate and complete what I call the “S.H.E. Revolution,” there is one sector necessary but largely still uncertain of how to participate: men.

During the riveting discussion on this topic at my last S.H.E. Summit, I asked various male leaders and friends this question: “How do you believe men can support the advancement of women?” Based on what they shared and what I have been seeing, I am realizing women need to pave the way by meeting men where they are.

Caprino: What are some of the key ways to engage men in supporting women’s advancement and equality?

Chan: Here are six key recommendations from what I have learned:

For men on the defense: View women’s empowerment as human empowerment.

We have to be clear that pro-woman does not mean anti-male, but next-to male. The movement is about empowering women to have equal opportunities alongside men so today’s diverse institutions and communities can thrive through diverse leadership. I couldn’t agree more with NoVo Foundation’s co-president, Peter Buffett, who told me: “I believe partnering into the future is the only way humanity will survive. This is a global human issue, not a women’s issue. But, of course, while it affects us all, it’s crushing female life force.” So it is a women’s issue. TV personality, Nigel Barker shares, “It starts with love and compassion, not just for the opposite sex, but for ourselves. We can only progress and live in harmony if we support and encourage one another.”

For male leaders: Champion the stance that political and business innovation requires feminine traits.

My friend, John Gerzema, who wrote an entire book on this topic, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule The Future, says, “one of the most pivotal things that men can do is champion feminine skills and competencies that we all possess and are now essential to succeed in a social, open and interconnected society.” In a world sorely lacking female heads of state and CEOs, violence and financial instability continue to harm. To gain more sustainability and peace, we need to mix more feminine traits like transparency, empathy, patience, vulnerability into that leadership system so that we can create the space to resolve problems. Marshall Levin, EVP and CEO of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, points out, “It is well known that there are fewer women scientists than men, and that encouraging girls to study the STEM fields, is critical to our future…Women not only provide half of the world’s brain power, but also can bring a particularly collaborative approach to addressing today’s most pressing areas of scientific research from personalized medicine, to cryptology, to sustainable bio fuel.”

For male CEOs: Work with HR and managers to prioritize diversity of talent.

While there is no shortage of women’s networks and diversity initiatives inside corporations, what we need more of are initiatives that shrink the pay and leadership gap. I have heard many women in middle-management say they need the CEO to drive the mandate. David Stern, Commissioner Emeritus of the NBA, confirms this by sharing, “Male (and female) CEOs must reinforce the proposition that an enterprise known for its diversity will attract the widest pool of excellent candidates, and the absence of that reputation cuts you off from great talent. Beyond that, it becomes the obligation of the CEO, in partnership with Human Resources, to “enforce” that principle and non-compliant executives charged with hiring are pointedly reminded of their obligations.” Steve Howe, Americas Managing Partner and Managing Partner of the US firm, Ernst & Young LLP, recommends being “incredibly intentional and disciplined about making sure that both women and men have equitable access to experience, feedback, sponsors and promotions. This is the only way top talent will have what they need to develop, demonstrate their performance, and advance–both in terms of rank and earning potential.”

For fathers and husbands: Share and balance responsibility at home.

More gender-balanced participation in the home will lead to more gender-balanced participation in the workplace. Gary Barker, International Director of Promundo, says men can help advance women “by doing half the care work, the care for children, the care for elderly family members. There is perhaps nothing that changes the dynamics in workplaces and the home more than when men do fully half their share of the care work.” This is no doubt a controversial topic, but the point is that a greater understanding and compassion for both sides are necessary for all to thrive.

For men with media influence: Include more women’s stories in headlines.

Media’s power is unquestionable and another area where more male leaders and journalists can advance the movement. Just look at the impact New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof has made in his coverage of female oppression across the world with the Half the Sky movement, or how The Atlantic’s chairman and owner, David Bradley, has given a new face to gender issues journalism through strong feature stories penned by women such as Anne-Marie Slaughter, or Katty Clay and Claire Shipman or through designated channels such as The Atlantic Sexes.

For all men: Be role models for women’s issues.

Men can serve as role models by finding any opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and speak up for women’s advancement. Gary Barker adds, “We also need men to call out the everyday sexism that too many men continue to practice, in words, in use of violence, in objectifying women and girls. And we need to put our voices as men behind policies to end discrimination against women in our workplaces and our governments.” Just by participating in this conversation with me, the men in this article are being role models. By highlighting Women’s Equality Day on August 25, President Obama is a role model. By mentoring a woman to excel, you are a role model.

From the perspective I have at SHE Globl Media, men are the next and final frontier because they still predominantly create the institutions we live in. As Peter Buffett explains, “We are swimming in patriarchy (mostly of the white male variety). Whether it’s at home, at work, with strangers or intimate partners, male privilege is everywhere.”

Men have a lot of work ahead, but it is going to require an equal amount from women to work their feminine genius, be more inclusive, communicative, patient and committed to embrace men into the collaboration. This will be the most effective and wide-reaching women’s movement yet.