Updated: Nov 28, 2020
A New Lens for Gender Equality Progress
Hi there! My name is Jessica Zhang and I will be attending Unionville High School as a grade 12 student when school starts again. In the past few months, I have been working on professional industry case studies while learning about the world of consulting with Illuminate College and their National Partners. Here is an article I wrote based on a previous study by Deloitte “The Design of Everyday Men: A New Lens for Gender Equality Progress”.
In this article, I cover the following insights: Organizational cultures in the workforce, four common themes surrounding masculinity in the workforce, and the actions senior leaders must take as role models to help create a change.
"The time is now for business leaders to enable and encourage men to take an active part
in creating a more equal and inclusive future. If they do, organizations will be more
competitive, women will be more empowered, and men will be more fulfilled.” (Lawrence,
Arthrell, Calamai, and Morris, 6)
Workplace gender equality. Something that all workplaces strive for, but don’t realize
the root of their problem comes from the workplace itself.
The answer lies not within man himself, but the expectations that reinforce the
traditional masculinity that people expect to see within him, as well as the actions of
those above him. More often than not, there’s an expectation for people to act, think,
and feel a certain way. And in the workforce, it’s not much different. Organizational
cultures in the workforce place a demanding expectation on people to succeed. Men
still feel the pressure from our culture’s expectations, feeling constrained to the
relentless pursuit of status and success amongst their peers. These pressures prevent
them from opening up about their feelings and their affairs outside of work, as to not
Deloitte’s report “The Design of Everyday Men” researches the impact of organizational
and cultural expectations on men, as well as their masculinity within and outside of the
workplace. Based on the intensive ethnographic research conducted on 16 professional
men in, and around, the Greater Toronto Area, there are four common themes
surrounding masculinity in the workforce.
The first being the “It’s on me” theme. It places an immense amount of pressure on men
to handle responsibilities themselves. This corporate culture not only promotes
individualism but devalues collectivism where collaboration is vital. This also poses the
risk of overworking their employees due to the lack of equally shared responsibilities
and trust amongst peers. The second being the “I’m terrified” theme, where men who
fear failure choose to mask their insecurities by overcompensating and dawning a
hyper-competitive behaviour. The more ambitious the person gets, the more their
insecurities will drive them to reach unrealistic goals to outperform others while putting
their own performance at risk. The third theme, “I can’t turn to anyone,” causes
difficulties for men to turn to personal relationships and vulnerable interactions in
hopes of alleviating pressure and fear. This discourages vulnerability in the workplace
and causes people to build more barriers around themselves, leading to a lack of trust
between workers. The final theme being “show me it’s ok,” demonstrates how men will
look to leaders and those around them to determine what behaviours are acceptable
and what actions lead to status. Therefore, the importance of senior leaders and their
efforts as role-models are the first steps in seeing a change in their workers. Their roles
as not only supporters but also active participants are key factors to changing
organizational cultures surrounding a man’s masculinity.
The “always-on, always available” mindset at senior organization levels is an essential
component of the lack of gender equality. This mindset causes individuals to prioritize
work over family, personal commitments, and their own well-being in hopes of
producing results. This is not only a key factor in gender inequality but also increases
the number of women who are left to pick up the household and other non-work-related
responsibilities, stripping them of their opportunities in the workforce. Therefore a
leaders’ power and responsibility will be an essential role-model and influence when it
comes down to knowing which behaviours will lead to success. These leaders must be
setting good examples of achieving gender equality by doing three related actions.
Firstly, knowing that the “always-on, always available” mindset is a crucial factor of
gender inequality. Research shows that diminishing results, poorer interpersonal
communications, and impaired judgment to increased insurance costs and higher
employee turnover are all effects of working longer hours. Therefore having scheduled
and predictable schedules improve overall productivity and quality of the results.
Secondly, the importance of leaders reflecting on their own behaviours will also allow
them to understand the expectations they set on others for success. And finally, the
most crucial action leaders and organizations can take is to break down the barriers
holding back change, and welcome more gender equality. Things like revealing their
own vulnerabilities, checking up on the people who need it, and building learning and
development programs around life goals are reasonable first steps that leaders can
Change must first begin at the root of the issue, otherwise, problems are bound to
occur once again. It is time for the business leaders of the world to take the first step in not only accepting gender equality in the workforce but alleviating men of their traditional
masculinity pressures as well.