With its theme of “Men leading by example”, this year’s International Men’s Day aims to celebrate “the value men bring to the world, their families and communities”. It’s about role models. Positive ones. The type I would be happy for my sons to emulate.
I’ve been lucky. During my career, and especially in the last few years through my work with IP Inclusive, I have met and worked with many wonderful men. Men who really do lead by example. For some, that’s meant flying in the face of convention, and I commend them for that. In a world where it would be so easy to sit back and enjoy the default male privileges, their enthusiasm for change is invaluable.
This post is to celebrate the men that I work with. And it is also for the countless others like them who are out there doing their bit for gender equality.
Specifically, it’s to celebrate:
- The men who don’t feel threatened by gender equality, but rather, see the opportunities it can bring – for themselves, their businesses, their colleagues and friends, and of course for their partners, children and other family members.
- The ones who understand that women’s issues are everybody’s issues; who appreciate the power of male allies and embrace the chance to be one.
- The ones who see that we’re not there yet; that getting the vote and a few often toothless equality laws don’t suffice to make our workplaces truly inclusive.
- The ones who recognise the privileges they have, and selflessly cede the unfair advantages in favour of a level playing field for all.
- The ones who shun stereotypes, and judge for themselves, case by case; who keep an open mind; who see the value of new perspectives.
- The ones who know that none of this affects their masculinity.
I want to celebrate the men who provide the apparently trivial day-to-day gestures of support:
- The ones who see me first and foremost as a professional, not a person of gender.
- The ones who listen to what I say, who give credit where it’s due and don’t talk over me.
- The ones who invite me to join them or ask my opinion.
- The ones who offer me constructive criticism and challenge, even if I reach for the tissue box, because I am their equal and I deserve their respect.
- The ones who don’t mansplain over the top of my pretty little head.
- The ones who are aware that they take up more space than me, or have greater physical strength, and move considerately to avoid that being an issue; the ones who actually ask before appropriating the arm rest between the train seats.
- The ones who know you don’t need two X chromosomes to care about diversity and inclusion, or indeed about HR and people, or about the office Christmas party or the meeting minutes or whether the room’s warm enough or there’s milk in the office fridge.
- The ones who think about what they’re saying, and care about what they’re doing, and now and then ask if they could be doing it better.
- The ones who don’t mind talking about feelings, and mental health, because they get the fact that these things matter, at work as well as at home.
- The ones who know that none of this affects their masculinity either.
And I also salute the men – there are more of them now than ever – whose friendships with women are as genuine equals. Again I’ve been lucky.
Respect to the men who do 50% of the childcare and the domestic duties, who know their way round the supermarket, who can choose a birthday card, change a nappy, handle the laundry, take a child to the dentist. None of this should be noteworthy, of course, and yet somehow, it still is. I salute the men who can cope with putting tampons in the shopping basket. And the ones who see the womb as a part of the human anatomy, not a shameful secret, even when it isn’t working properly. Not to mention the ones who understand that female hormones are about on a par with viruses: inconvenient, sometimes unpleasant, but not per se a barrier to competence.
Some say we shouldn’t celebrate things that we ought to be taking as read. I don’t think that’s true, or at least not yet. The men who behave like this have had to stand above the parapet. They are kind, generous and brave. I am glad I know so many of them. From a Woman in IP to the Men in IP: thank you!
And to the men who are not yet like this, well, please accept the above as a blueprint. It’s in your hands now.