I’m a man, and I’m a feminist. Over the years, this word has developed a negative connotation. It’s become synonymous with man-hater. Even some women don’t like to be called feminists. As a guy, I am definitely not a man-hater or a woman-hater. I believe in gender equality, not only at home, but in the workplace. That means equal opportunities for both men and women. Before you say, “Hold on just one minute, men have had it too good for too long, it’s women’s turn.” Or, “Oh no, not another guy-bashing post about how we should feel guilty because men make more money,” I encourage you to read on. As a guy, I feel like it’s an obligation to not only support women, but also help support men support women. Here are five ways all men can take action to support gender equality in the workplace.
1. Lead by example
Spread the word about gender equality in the workplace. It doesn’t mean you have to hold rallies every Friday afternoon by the water cooler, but start talking about it! Talk about it with both men and women, and listen to both sides. You could even start a committee to ensure both men and women are being fairly represented. Not only can you be an avid supporter of women in the workplace, but you can be a supporter of men, too! Men also want to be heard and validated. Perhaps you could encourage men to take advantage of paternity leave where available. When you see men or women being treated unfairly, speak up about it. Other people probably are thinking the same thing, even though they don’t say anything.
2. Ask for help
As a guy, it’s not always easy to ask for help. I have no problem asking other women for help! When we take some of the ego way from the workplace, both men and women can support one another—which is crucial for workplace gender equality. By asking for help, men show women that they too are vulnerable. The more women see men this way, the less stigmatizing it will be for women when they ask for help. Men have needs too, but they might not communicate it was well. The more men communicate well, the more women won’t be seen as the only ones who have needs.
3. Share the workload at home
Men need to step up and volunteer to do more. It’s unacceptable that women do more household work, despite working equal hours. USA Today points out that, on average, women spend two hours and 10 minutes doing household work while men only spend one hour and 17 minutes. Too often we expect women to push for gender equality, instead of looking at reasons why they don’t have it already. More important, we fail to examine how men exacerbate the problem. So guys, learn how to cook, clean, and change a diaper.
4. Be aware of gender stereotypes
We often use different gender-based words or phrases to describe the same behavior. For instance, a man might have a bad temper so we describe him as “bold,” “strong,” or a “know-it-all.” That same behavior exhibited by a female is often described as “bitchy,” “difficult to work with,” or “lacking patience.” Both men and women are guilty of this. We’ve been conditioned to speak this way. But it’s a huge obstacle to gender equality. By simply being aware of stereotypes in language, we can point out the behavior for what it is, instead of resorting to gender stereotypes.
5. Empathize with women
Men need to put themselves in women’s shoes. The more men understand and experience struggles that women go through, the more likely they are to stand up for equal rights in the workplace. Although men and women have varying needs, we are more alike than different. The more we all realize this, the more we can see both sides of the gender equality debate. Yes, men have a lot of work to do but, as an individual man, I too have a lot of work to do. If one man can empathize with the opposite gender, many men can. As we continue to progress as a society, my hope is that both men and women better understand one another. Because the truth is that both men and women struggle in the workplace. The more we experience and share our struggles, the more we won’t see each other as so different and the more we can inch closer to gender equality. My hope is that some day gender equality will become the definition of the workplace, rather than an ideal the workplace should have.
Featured photo credit: Multi-Ethnic Group of People Working Together via shutterstock.com