What Role Do Men Have in Women’s Movements?

D&I 2

Today’s business world flutters with the buzzword of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). Based on my career experience as a female chemical engineer coming of age in the early 1980’s, I have a few thoughts on this topic. Today’s D&I movement is gaining momentum, likely due to the MeToo movement, and I’m thankful some attention has been directed toward this issue. D&I affects everyone—men, women, and people of all ages and ethnicities; however, I’m not convinced we’re solving the problem, because we’re not including the right people in the conversation.

What I see in many male-dominated industries is the formation of all-female groups chartered to bring awareness, support, and advancement of more qualified women at all levels. This single approach appears not to fully embrace diversity and inclusion, because its gender stratification creates silos of women within a predominantly male population. I believe these all-women groups have the best intentions and do provide internal support for its members, yet likely they have minimal impact in changing the status quo.

Human studies show people don’t care as much or are as committed to a cause if they aren’t invited to participate and included in the dialogue. Men are a vital part of growing D&I in male-dominated industries, because they can be called upon to make changes through their decisions as opposed to watching all-female groups from the sidelines who are grappling with this initiative.

If you’re part of an all-female group wanting to hold greater presence and power in a predominantly all-male industry, I encourage you to invite men into your organization. Ask for their support. Ask men to contribute in measurable ways. Challenge them to be part of the change. Don’t hold one more meeting without experiencing what men can and want to contribute to your cause.

What happens when you turn away men’s support? I share a male colleague’s story regarding his experience with D&I. Joe [not his real name] works in a male-dominated industry. Sanctioned by the national industry association, a local women’s chapter was formed with the purpose of advancing and promoting women in his industry. Joe learned of an upcoming chapter lunch and assumed anyone was welcome. He re-scheduled a few meetings to attend this lunch. At the last minute, he asked for the location details and was told he was not allowed to attend, because it was for women only. This women’s group lost out, because Joe’s stature in the industry would have given its charter credibility and influence. Joe was turned away.

How successful do you believe this women’s chapter will be in advancing its charter? My guess is it will struggle to get traction and may eventually morph into a women’s social networking group as opposed as to a force to create change. I encourage women’s groups to practice inclusion and diversity in order to live out what they seek out.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

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