People often ask me – what is it going to take for women to achieve real equality in the world of work?
Here’s my answer.
Companies that faired the best during the financial tsunami of 2008 had a high percentage of women in management and in the boardroom. I thought that might have proven the value of women to the corporate world but, two years later, the 2010 World Economic Forum confirmed what women still know only too well, “Gender –balance is still a myth.”
When You’re Down and Troubled – You Gotta Friend
Don’t faint – I believe men will be the salvation of women in the workplace.
Men have the inside advantage. They are the opinion makers, they have their own lingo and they pay more attention to the thoughts and views of other men. Women will never force change by storming the castle walls – this revolution will get its start from inside the corporate fortress.
Ladies, we don’t need ladders to climb the wall – we need friends to let down the drawbridge.
The New York Times put it this way. “It was a man who championed Norway’s boardroom quota by obliging companies to fill at least 40 percent of the seats with women.” The article went on to say, “Would a female Spanish prime minister have been able to appoint a cabinet that is 50 percent female in 2004?”
Don’t Get Mad – Get the Keys
A man I worked with ‘let down the drawbridge’ and then handed me the keys to the front door and invited me to show him what I could do.
He had respect around the organization and when he talked the guys listened. “I’ve always liked having women my team,” he said with confidence one day. “They work hard, bring a different prospective and improve discussion. You guys who don’t include them are missing out.”
Be still my beating heart! The men nodded in agreement and I watched with pride as they all began to include women as valued members of their teams.
I say Maternity, You say Paternity
Now when people ask me what it is going to take to accomplish equal status for women, I say, “When men start taking paternity leave. When they truly become equal partners at home, we’ll become equals at work.”
In Iceland, where paternity leave is a matter of public policy, 9 out of 10 men take advantage of it. Many say, not since women won the right to vote has there been such a significant step towards equality.
In North America, most companies offer men paternity leave but they don’t take it because they think it is career suicide. We know darn well that there are highly evolved men occupying the executive offices and we need those men to step up and encourage others to take the time to be fathers and husbands.
Did you know Obama knocks off at 6 pm every night to have dinner with Michelle and the kids? He is doing what most men want to do. In fact, research shows that men are increasingly feeling work/life conflict. They would benefit from, not only paternity leave, but flexible hours as well.
The world is moving forward faster than the workplace! As our ‘male insiders’ begin to spread the word that the way we did business is not the way we are going to continue to do business – when we drop the late night dinners and unnecessary trips – the playing field will level.
This is Not a Palace Coupe!
Men who are ambassadors for equality in work and life make change acceptable and possible. There is a lot for men to gain as they want what women want – satisfying careers and healthy, happy families in a peaceful world. And, championing the rights of women presents the perfect opportunity to participate on both frontiers.
Women led the way in developing their opposite when they entered the working world, and now men have the opportunity to do the same as they assume more responsibility for parenting.
It represents the evolution of our species. As the gender differentiation decreases, both men and women will openly access either energy from within themselves.
The end result is a balance of energy that improves all our lives and that’s when we will find equality.
So that’s why I believe the salvation of women lies in the hearts and minds of men.