Three cheers for men on International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day (8 March 2017)! It’s an important day, and at the very least, a great opportunity to mock misogynistic Facebook memes, enjoy the odd feminist rap battle, or participate in aggressively passionate poetry slams down at your local library.Women in the industry, career progression and women’s empowerment have all been hot topics of late. So amongst all the celebrations, awareness campaigns, feminist rants, and empowering discussions, I consider it a timely occasion to reflect on the admirable traits of men in the business. What can we learn from men? Based on the informal survey I conducted yesterday by the office printer, two-thirds of women agree that “men are better at carrying things than women because my husband can lift me up, but I can’t lift him”. A very profound observation.

Jokes aside, there is value in observing what’s working for some of the most successful leaders in business, many of whom, are male. Generally speaking, men have a few characteristics that really do assist when climbing the corporate ladder, although it goes without saying, men could learn a lot from women too.

On the top positions…

Men are unapologetic. At times, women have a tendency to be too polite about what they want, for fear of offending someone or being ignored. Men, on the other hand, won’t tone down who they are, or what they want. They won’t change for anyone. It’s hard enough persuading a man to change into a clean t-shirt, let alone change his mind when it comes to his career objectives. No one should ever apologise for wanting more from their career, and sometimes it does require you to vocalise your ambitions because no one will do it for you.

On the pay gap…

Men advocate for themselves. This is perhaps part of the reason why men get paid more. Women accept being paid less. Of course equal pay is, well fair and equal, but generally speaking, women won’t make sure they’re earning what they should be earning.

There is no difference between men and women in the workforce, in terms of quality of output and capacity to perform. If you’ve accepted a smaller pay package, perhaps you’ve told yourself, “the money will come”, or simply haven’t done your market research? Perhaps you’ve accepted the smaller annual raise because it’s accompanied by your boss’ carefully plotted reasoning as to why he/she can’t offer you more, and you believe it? Do you negate to dispute your salary because you’d rather “show” the boss you’re worth more, than “tell” him/her?

No one can listen to what you’re not saying. Men are more likely to push hard for what they want, because they don’t doubt themselves, or anticipate being shut down. They are not afraid to hear “no”. If you’re not afraid of “no”, there’s nothing stopping you from getting to “yes”.

On taking the lead…

Men are far more likely to look after themselves first and do so without remorse. Whilst this attitude may not be appropriate in all circumstances, it certainly works towards achieving career goals and milestones. Have you ever noticed who dives in first whenever a cake appears in the office? Society tells women that it’s “unladylike”, “bitchy” and “self-centred” to fixate on themselves.

As mothers, girlfriends, and wives, women are self-sacrificing and often prioritize the needs of others over their own. Whilst this depends on individual career goals and responsibilities, success is largely down to self-belief and attitude. So, for a change, cut yourself the biggest slice of cake, and loudly pronounce “I’m first” when someone asks you to pass them a plate.

On letting go…

Many men have an uncanny ability just to “let it go” and move on when they need to. Women have a tendency to hold onto other people’s reactions and attitudes long after the situation has passed. It’s a negative way of using up valuable headspace and energy. Letting go means more sleep, more energy, a clearer mind and greater productivity.

On getting more done…

Men tune out. Whilst this clever trick is one of the root causes of female frustration, women can often reluctantly admit that office politics provides a lot of background noise that’s hard to drown out. Engaging in a discrete little 10 am word slam at the desk next door, or consulting with your colleagues on whether to choose duck egg blue or soft slate gray for the feature wall in the kitchen, can be a tricky temptation to avoid, particularly when you have 128 emails to answer.

You may notice, that it is not often the males around the office; provide poor Susan with the emotional support she needs whilst she’s sitting in the toilets crying because her boyfriend ran off with a David Bowie impersonator, remark to others about how Jane has been loudly complaining that it’s “not in her job description” to fill up the water jug for client meetings, or excitedly report back to the team about Christina’s skirt being waaaaaaay too short – again.

Men just seem to have an uncanny ability to tune out. In the offices I have worked in, men remain uninterested and removed from all trivial workplace drama. The ability to put your head down, and avoid all distractions can have a powerful effect on how others will view you in the workplace, and your productivity. Leaders have more important things to focus on. I’m not suggesting this is an easy habit to adopt. Walking away from hot gossip on the receptionist’s botched up nose job takes strength and determination! The more it’s practiced, the less interesting background noise becomes.

A final note on Women’s day and empowerment…

Empowering women is a gateway for change. Developing an assertive approach, focusing on goals and taking the lead in life will assist with achieving success and create role models for generations to come. Empowerment is not bitching and moaning about men, blaming men for the pay gap, or moaning about the lack of females in leadership roles. This only creates animosity, not unity.

Eventually, a buildup of animosity turns into a Tuesday night Lonely-Hearts-and-bitter-Alcoholics book club. If you’ve ever been to an all women’s book circle, you’ll know that intellectually rigorous discussions on 20th-century literature are not on the agenda, just an awful lot of alcohol-fueled rants about how everyone in the room ‘doesn’t need a man’. Oh, how naïve I was… Criticism and general complaints about men, without a call to action, only leads to a culture of resentment. So let today be an all-encompassing celebration of empowerment, awareness, and admiration – I’ll toast to that.


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11 thoughts on “Three cheers for men on International Women’s Day

  1. Well, here’s the thing…Yes, women can stop gossiping–though in my experience men can be just as petty, gossip just as much and it doesn’t impact their pay grade. There are many more factors at play than we can control. Can a woman negotiate more pay if she doesn’t know what the men, in the same position, are making? Can a woman merely focus more on her tasks if men perceive that she is gossiping or not working as hard because she’s a woman? To illustrate: I left a position because my boss believed I did not work as hard as my colleagues. I don’t know if it’s because I was a woman or not. I was in sales and my numbers were as strong, if not stronger than any of his best sales people. I had my review and he told me I was average and not working up to expectation. I made him go back and we looked at my numbers together. I explained that I kept my head down, on the phone, and in meetings, as he expected. He actually said to me, “Oh.” And that was it. Like he couldn’t really believe it. Or he didn’t really care. Now, that’s an extreme example, but I think it demonstrates a deeper truth. If a boss, for whatever reason, perceives you a certain way because of your sex, race, etc., well, that’s the problem. We face culturally imbedded preconceived notions about our abilities based on our sex…and many others based on their race or sexual orientation. That’s what I think the Woman’s march was about. That’s what I think International Women’s Day is about. We fight for the right to be seen, really seen for who we are, not what we are. For the right to be valued when we work as hard. We can do all of what you describe, but that doesn’t mean it will be recognized.

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    1. I agree that there is, and we’ll always have, sexism and discrimination within the workplace and life in general. It’s unrealistic to believe it can be stamped out for good because it’s human nature to have biases – whatever they are.

      However, there is so much women (and men) can focus on to change the situation they find themselves in. You can change someone’s opinion by the way you respond and react to their actions. Women have to work harder to gain the respect and the trust of their male colleagues – especially in more senior roles. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

      Of course women can negotiate a higher pay without having to know what everyone else is on. It’s about knowing your own worth – and googling the market rate so you know how realistic your expectations are. It’s not about what everyone else is on and using that as leverage, you play your own game when it comes to salary expectations. It’s selling your value back to your employer, and filling him with fear of knowing that he can’t lose you. Women are generally more modest about their successes than men, so they may not be as readily recognised. It’s the individual’s responsibility to make their achievements known.

      I disagree that gossip doesn’t impact pay. If people caught up caring about the trivial private lives of others at work then how can anyone be focusing properly? What does that say about your ability to prioritise work over distractions? Gossip sends a silent message about the maturity, professionalism and trustworthiness of the individual.

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      1. Ah, but here we are. You are a litigator, someone used to arguing facts. I am an artist, one more adept at intuiting perceptions based perhaps, only on my own experiences and what I’ve read or observed. You’re right. I don’t disagree with you. I’m aware of the argument and of the realities. Of course you can always negotiate your worth without knowing someone else’s pay. Of course gossip can impact pay…but my argument is about perception. If a boss, either male or female, perceives a certain reality based on someone’s sex or race…well that is the thing we fight for…a movement of those perceptions. A shift in the ways the undercurrents of prejudice move.

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      2. Good conversation. Sorry for the delayed response. My work schedule keeps me away from my computer for long stretches. 5 days is an eternity in this day, yes?

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      3. And thank you! (I really have to respond in a timely manner. I’m so sorry. I enjoy talking to people on the same side of the aisle, with a different take…It’s cool.)

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  2. Your words remind me of how some men sometimes say I’m anti-male as soon as they find out I call myself a “feminist” ~ which isn’t true! I’m for men AND women ~ I just want equality between the genders. When you wrote in this article, “women accept being paid less” I thought YES! Men ask for more money when they start a job or ask for a raise so they have more opportunity to get exactly that. Well written!

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    1. Thanks for you comments Christy. I think it’s easy for us all to see what’s wrong with the organisational setting, society and our cultures, but it’s not so obvious to look at ourselves as being part of the problem, but more importantly, part of the solution. I’ve started following your blog, I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

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