In a post-#MeToo world, many men feel under scrutiny, owing to the actions of a minority, and may sideline women even more as a result. We must co-operate to ensure equality and close the pay gap, writes Caroline Whaley, co-founder of Shine for Women
Three-quarters of large firms pay men more than women. The latest gender pay gap report identified an 8.6 per cent median gender pay gap in the UK in favour of men, a widening figure since last year.
In this context it may sound counterintuitive to say that men have had a rough time. But, ever since the first #MeToo tweet in October 2017, they’ve been vilified as rapists, misogynists, sexists and a generally pretty nasty bunch.
In many small ways, this continues today. If we don’t address it in the workplace, we’ll all suffer.
Let’s be clear: some deserve the criticism they’ve received, but many are just normal blokes who feel scared – and astonished at those acting incredibly badly.
There’s often a palpable sense of threat among men. Rather than involving themselves in discussions about what’s gone on, they stay quiet, trying to “keep out of trouble”. We’ve seen examples of guys losing their jobs for opening up.
Worryingly, in some minds it’s safer to employ a man than a woman, who are already being sidelined. Unless we all pull together, the gender pay gap will widen and women will only suffer as they get sidelined further.
We need to openly talk about this – and empower men to do so – to allow everyone to progress. Obviously, the first step any organisation should take is to provide strong procedures to ensure harassment can be reported and dealt with.
Once this is in place – and it really should be in every organisation’s HR policy by now – leaders need to address the issue head on, starting to build bridges where needed.
Blind spots revealed
A powerful tool in this respect is training in how to recognise unconscious bias. Effective courses can significantly improve awareness, building mutual empathy and genuine communication between men and women.
Men who manage women also need to understand the processes in place, but this shouldn’t change how they interact. Specifically, they mustn’t feel scared of making mistakes in the way they work with female team members and encouraged to talk openly about how they feel.
The next step, and perhaps the most important, is to make the workplace more human. It’s vital that everyone can bring all of themselves to work and not leave the fun and empathetic side of themselves at home.
Thinking about “how to be”, not just “what to do”, at work can help. Setting expectations on how team members should “be” in meetings can have a difference, creating a collective awareness and a renewed feeling of collaboration and openness.
Lastly, my colleague and co-founder of Shine for Women, Anna Baréz-Brown, often gives the following direct piece of advice: don’t do or say anything to a female colleague that you wouldn’t if she were your boss. Simple? All the best ideas are.
Creating an environment for women to thrive also makes commercial sense, with more diversity in management, businesses are proven to be more innovative.
Companies with above-average diversity on their management teams also report revenue from innovation is nearly a fifth greater than the average.
Men and women can and should energise each other by fuelling each other’s strengths to close the gender pay gap. We’re better together – and making small changes can create the more inclusive culture we all deserve.