Gender equality is not a female issue, it’s a social and economic issue. It’s proven in countless research that when women are equally represented in government and in the C-suite, everyone wins. When women are paid equally for equal work, everyone wins. When women are represented in the media as they truly are, everyone wins.
Modern feMENism must include men because we’re all in this together. Women are 50 percent of the population, and we can’t transform culture without working together.
Gloria Steinem sparked a feminist movement that mobilized women to support other women in the fight for equality. We call this Feminism 1.0 or “She for She.” Feminism 2.0, “HeForShe,” was led by Emma Watson’s UN campaign on gender equality and brought men into the conversation.
Modern FeMENism 3.0, what we call “We for We,” brings both men and women together to recognize that equality is in everyone’s best interest. Transformation must include men if change is going to happen. The evolution of feminism is all about equality and inclusivity. We started a new conversation around feMENism in January 2015 in the Girls’ Lounge at the Consumer Electronics Show.
So what does this mean for middle management? It means that both women and men need to be part of the conversation and part of the solution surrounding equality. It means finding ways to get both men and women on board to help transform middle management when women often feel their only choices are either to opt in or opt out. It means that both men and women are essential for creating the new rules when the old rules are no longer working. Here are some ideas to get started.
It starts in the home. If feMENism is about gender equality, then it’s time to redefine partnership roles for both women and men. The more that men understand the toll that women face from caregiving at home along with their professional workload, the more they can understand the work-life balance challenges.
Research shows that our stereotypes are a roadblock on the path to equality. “Traditional cultural norms around what jobs women do—both in the workplace and at home—hold women back,” says Aline Santos, executive vice-president, global marketing at Unilever, who worked with us on a study called the Unstereotyped Mindset to better understand the root cause of stereotypes. “For example, according to our research, only about one-third of men are likely to see unequal distribution of housework and childcare as a challenge to gender equality as opposed to nearly half of women.”
Equality isn’t a female issue, it’s a caregiver issue. Women often find themselves in middle management taking on more responsibilities at work during the same life stage when they’re taking on more responsibilities at home, such as having kids, building families and caring for aging parents—or “ageless” parents as my Dad likes to say. The caregiving role tends to traditionally fall on women, so men in the messy middle aren’t as affected by these issues unless they are the primary caregiver. As a result, men might not understand the challenges that women face having to “do it all.”
When my husband and I were raising our three children, we didn’t have traditional parenting roles. My kids didn’t care if mom or dad were home as long as one of us was there. That meant if I had to travel for work, we coordinated so he would be home. If my husband had to work late one night, I made sure I was home, and if I worked late he would be home.
Both of us assumed each other’s roles when we had to cover for one another. When he did, I never complained that he didn’t do it “my way,” and instead just appreciated that he did it! For example, my husband may not have packed the the kids’ lunches the way I did and I may not have tied their hockey skates as tight. For us, it was about co-parenting, and dividing and conquering together.
By Shelley Zalis
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