Research confirms engaging men is crucial to advancing women

October 16, 20192 minute read

Women participating in AWESOME Symposiums and other events have often said that engaging men in the efforts to advance women’s leadership is essential, and one of the recently published “Seven Smart Moves” of the AWESOME Action Agenda gives steps women can take. An article in Harvard Business Review supports the view that diversity initiatives won’t succeed without men being involved.

The article cites research showing that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress — compared to only 30% of organizations where men are not engaged.

According to the article “including men in diversity efforts is not as simple as inviting them to a gender-equity event. These efforts often reveal reluctance, if not palpable anxiety among targeted men. Sexism is a system, and while it’s a system that privileges men, it also polices male behavior. Understanding that is important to changing the system.”

The authors, W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith, explain challenges men may face when they try to act as allies. They quote diversity consultant Jennifer Brown who cautions that women would be well-served to view potential male allies on a continuum – from apathetic to aware to active to advocate.

The article also offers suggestions or “best practices” for men who want to be better collaborators with women.

Further information on the topic of ways men can improve gender diversity at work is available in a series of articles stemming from BCG’s (Boston Consulting Group) study of gender diversity at organizations around the world for the past several years. One of the key findings from that research is that “the career obstacles women face, such as being overlooked for promotions, tend to be institutional, with deep roots in the organization’s culture,” and not just a result of overt discrimination or women’s lack of ambition.