The Wharton 22s, a male advocacy student organization for gender equality at work and at home, sat down last week with Josh Levs, a champion of gender equality and author of All In, to discuss how men can contribute to this fight.
Why should men care?
We all face challenges surrounding career choices and work-life balance. By getting involved, men will actively make their lives and those of their families more balanced and enjoyable.
“There will be a time when you will want [or need] to be a caregiver,” Levs said. “And the American workplace will try hard to prevent you from having the option because you are a man.”
Levs stressed that men have been afraid to push back on the “hours stigma” that rewards and promotes men for prioritizing time in the office. Levs argues that men need to have open and honest conversations with colleagues, employers, and partners to find the right work-life balance.
Our existing work culture and policies represent a model that no longer supports our workforce’s needs. In order to reduce gender inequality, men must play an active and vocal role.
What can we do as Wharton men?
Levs explained that most boys are raised to avoid talking about gender equality issues so as to not say anything offensive. As men, we may also be hesitant to share our challenges or concerns for fear of coming off as privileged. But everyone should be talking about gender equality.
“When we stop those worries and we start having conversations, we create stronger allies and change mindsets,” Levs said.
When men confront and challenge norms about traditional work-life balance expectations along gender lines, we build a stronger foundation to make a difference. Additionally, unconscious biases are the primary driver of workplace inequality. By opening ourselves up to these conversations, we can identify and addresses these biases.
To be clear, this is not about us hoping to change things as men to help women.
“It is about all of us working together to get rid of nonsensical expectations that are hurting women and men,” Levs said. “It’s about making sure that everyone in the workplace can have an equal voice, equal say, equal opportunities to advance at work, and equal opportunities to have time off work.”
While the U.S. falls behind global norms, there is cause for optimism. Levs cited research showing that men are switching jobs and careers in order to spend time with their families more often than women. This sends a strong message to employers, Levs said, and more companies are adopting increasingly flexible and gender-neutral leave policies.
Women are also taking notice of paternity leave policies, Levs said.
“A [work]place that allows men to be caregivers is a place that wants to give women a chance to advance their careers and does not make the assumption that they have to be caregivers because of their gender,” Levs said.
So, get involved
The most important thing we can do as men is to be a part of the conversation. Let’s discuss our professional and personal goals. Let’s break down barriers preventing us from being equal players at home and at work. And most importantly, let’s remember to look inward to identify and address any unconscious biases we may have.
Begin the dialogue: Unconscious biases are the primary barrier to women advancing in the workplace, according to a World Economic Forum survey of HR executives across 15 markets.