A gender-equal world has long-remained a feminist utopia, with women across the globe fighting for equality. But the past few years have seen more men speaking up for women, accepting their own privilege, and calling out on the injustices to the female population. The non-binary gender-spectrum is widening every day, and movements like MeToo and HeForShe is spreading awareness for inclusivity and the need to stand together.
While equality has to begin at home, workplaces are essentially the one dais where men can, and must, speak up for women’s empowerment. Creating a productive, positive working environment is essential for personal and professional success.
The following are a few ways in which men can be better colleagues and bosses to female workforce.
1. Include women in leadership team. While men are often applauded for their leadership skills, women tend to be labelled ‘bossy’ and are often shown in poor light for taking initiative. Instead, take your women colleagues seriously. Instead of joining the bandwagon of casual sexism by calling them too emotional and unstable in leading a team, ensure that your best performing women are given a spot and a voice in important meetings. Research has shown that organisations can benefit from women leaders, who provide diverse perspectives and skills. After all, women are widely lauded for being better at negotiations and multitasking.
2. No mansplaining! The word ‘Mansplaining’ refers to a man explaining something to a woman in a condescending manner, often under the wrongful assumption that she is ignorant about the subject. According to psychologists, men tend to establish their dominance by talking about a topic they are knowledgeable in (or can pass off as knowledgeable in) so that they can wrangle a place at the top of the hierarchy in that setting. In workplaces, this often comes at the cost of shutting down a woman who is making a point, which is demeaning and demotivating. A work culture where everybody, man or woman, is supportive of each other and discourage interruptions, say, by telling the interrupter, “let her finish,” pre-empts the need for a larger intervention or strategy.
3. Avoid sexist comments.
Casual sexism creeps up into our daily conversations without us even realising it. A comment about women’s bodies or outfits may be causal banter for the boys’ club. But questioning or teasing one’s choice of lifestyle reeks of sexism, as does asking a woman to work on her tolerance level for your convenience. Also, calling a woman ‘sweetie’ or ‘darling’ in a workplace setting in cringey and crosses the line of professionalism. Next time you hear a colleague making a sexist joke or comment, tell them it’s not funny. Sexism flourishes because most men don’t want to get on the wrong side of their fellow "dude-bros" by being categorical in their criticism. They are complicit if they chuckle at sexist WhatsApp forwards in work groups, or hate the forward but won’t voice their opinion.
4. Be mindful about existing gender gaps. Most men believe there is no gender discrimination simply because they haven’t “seen it happen”. The problem is that men are not trained to recognize the signs of sexism. Having open conversations with women will help recognize sexism when it happens, so you will be more conscious of it. Also, provide a safe space for women employees to voice their concerns. If a woman wants to leave work before late at night, understand that she is worried for her safety. Either arrange safe travel after hours or ensure that female workers don’t stay too late at work. The world is unsafe more for women than for men.
5. Have open one-to-one discussions with female colleagues about how you can work better as a team and support each other more. When it comes assessing performances of female subordinates, be considerate about aspects like maternity leave and having to work from home for domestic needs. Often, women returning from maternity leave are given less important work than they were given before. This can impact her career badly, and bring stagnancy to her growth inside the organisation too. It is only fair to consult with her about her roles and responsibilities. We celebrate female power in ‘Mangalyaan’ and Durga Pujo. Why not celebrate our own colleagues too?
No revolution can make an impact or achieve glory without participation from half of its stakeholders. Next time when a male colleague makes a poor comment about a woman colleague, do not hesitate to clarify that it is the prejudice talking. Your voice has the power to bring down people who think they are free to treat women as lesser beings. Raise your voice, bring the change and be the change you want to see in the world.