The dominant management group in New Zealand is made up of men who tick "NZ European" on census forms and are often stereotyped as "pale, stale males" who seek to employ only other pale, stale males. However, it was evident at a recent Diversity Works NZ workshop, "Men as Allies", that many men are moving to make inclusion of minority groups a priority and to actively advocate for them.
This year's annual survey by Diversity Works NZ found that achieving better gender equity ranked significantly higher as a goal than it did last year. But with women making up less than a quarter of the leadership team in nearly 40 per cent of organisations, chief executive Rachel Hopkins says that simply having a policy on achieving better gender equity is not enough.
"Programmes or interventions must be put in place to ensure organisations are on track to meet their targets."
Hopkins says diversity cannot thrive without a culture of inclusion and the hallmark of an inclusive workplace culture is confident, inclusive leaders. "Organisations must support their people leaders to understand and implement their diversity and inclusion vision day-to-day."
Mark Carrick, organisational development manager for PwC and facilitator of the Men as Allies workshop, said men played an important role in progressing gender equality in the workplace.
"Organisations should give men the tools they need to influence cultural and organisational change to empower the women in their workforce."
According to a 2017 Grant Thornton report, the percentage of senior roles in New Zealand held by women are 20 per cent — down 11 per cent from 2004. Carrick said the global financial crisis had a big impact on this reduction because risk aversion went through the roof and the only senior, proven people available were experienced men. However, a key reason was that initiatives in the 1990s brought more women into leadership roles, but once the "problem" was considered "fixed", the focus came off, funds were diverted into other areas and hard-fought gains were rapidly eroded. "This shows that diversity and inclusion is not a project with an end date — it needs to be woven into everything we do, like including transparency in pay parity as just part of the workplace culture."
Carrick said men would sometimes look at things like scholarships for women and say, "why is this needed here? That's discrimination against men". "They haven't appreciated that there is an imbalance. According to the Human Rights Commission, you're well within your means to take affirmative action, positive discrimination, until the data shows that the gap has been closed and then the discrimination can be removed."
There is much data proving the business benefits of diversity. A 2015 PwC report found that 77 per cent of CEOs who have led strategies to promote diversity and inclusion have enhanced customer satisfaction and are better at innovating. Most also have enhanced business performance and have been better at attracting talent.
How can men become effective allies?
Be conscious of bias hotspots
Carrick explained that bias hotspots were points where biased decision-making kicked in and that the current format of business meetings was a hotspot for bias. "It favours the boss who has come in and set the agenda and it favours the dominant extrovert ones that are verbal processors," he said. "Shift the chair of those meetings around. Set an agenda in advance. Have pre-reading so reflective thinkers can come in well-prepared and won't be caught off-guard."
Role model flexible working practices
One of the biggest enablers to involve more women, and to be a more appealing workplace for women to join, is to create a flexible workforce, Carrick noted. "That starts with men working flexibly... starting later so they can drop their kids at school and taking parental leave."
Call out racism, sexism and micro-aggressionsIt's the micro-aggressions and micro-racism/sexism that are doing the damage in today's workplaces, said Carrick. "The 'just jokes' culture is no longer appropriate. It's the role of the most senior member of the dominant group to call it out, and that sets the tone for culture change. Other men will then say, 'I've seen my boss do it, so it's safe for me to do it'."
"Privilege is an opportunity to make space for those who haven't had access to the same life advantages," said Carrick. He cited the example of setting up a women's network at work. "Have men involved. Men need to ask, 'what is it that you need us to hear, how can I help, who is a good person for me to sponsor, can I connect you up with that person over there?' If support groups are left for the minorities to run themselves, they don't get the traction."
Hopkins says there are simple strategies to mitigate the impact of bias and enable inclusion.
"We are regularly working with our members to review their processes and recommend changes. Usually these don't involve any extra cost or changes to policy."
How men can enable inclusion
●Call out racism, sexism and micro-aggressions
●Encourage culture-add, not culture-fit
●Be conscious of bias hotspots
●Role-model flexible working practices
●Advocate for minorities
●Actively sponsor others