Men have critical role in pushing forward gender diversity at work, finds report

Younger men just as likely to value family-friendly policies as their female co-workers – even if they aren’t parents themselves

Men, particularly younger men, are key in improving gender diversity in their workplaces, a recent study has found.

In the report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), How Millennial Men Can Help Break the Glass Ceiling, 96 per cent of companies in which men were actively involved in pushing forward gender diversity reported progress being made. By comparison, at companies where men were not involved with such endeavours, just 30 per cent showed progress.

“Younger men today are more attuned to fairness in the workplace and are looking for a different way of working relative to their predecessors,” said Katie Abouzahr, principal at the BCG and one of the authors of the report. “These insights offer an opportunity for companies attempting to create a progressive work environment to differentiate themselves and gain an edge in recruiting and retaining the next generation of talent.”

The findings, which were based on the answers of more than 17,500 respondents from more than 20 countries, also revealed that millennial men’s wants tended to be much better aligned with women’s views than their older counterparts. When asked what kind of policies their business should introduce next, men under 40 ranked work-life balance initiatives, including flexible working, as their number one priority – much like their female colleagues. Men over 40, on the other hand, were more focused on promoting leadership transparency and commitment.

And when asked to rank the policies they would value the most from an employer from a list of 39 options, men under 40 were much more likely than men over 40 to place family friendly proposals – such as onsite childcare and parental leave – in their top six. This was true even when the younger men were not parents themselves.

“These findings provide company leadership with crucial proof that gender equality is not just a women’s issue,” said Matt Krentz, a senior partner at the BCG and another of the report’s authors. “With these insights, companies can enlist younger men as part of the solution, implementing initiatives that help them support workplace equality, increase the retention of women, and, ultimately, improve corporate financial performance.”

Denise Keating, chief executive of the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion, told People Management: “It is important to avoid a ‘them and us’ mentality when addressing underrepresentation in diversity; white, straight males are often identified as losing out to diversity initiatives, but an inclusive workforce benefits everyone in the organisation. It is very encouraging that the men under 40 in this study recognise this and are working to change the current situation.”

In light of their research, the authors of the BCG report are calling on organisations to: make sure their flexible working policies are open to both men and women; consider setting up a support network for employees with young children; communicate the business case for diversity clearly to older male employees; and build measures such as these into their recruitment strategy.

A report by the European Institute for Gender Equality, published last month, warned that gender equality at work in the UK, and across the EU more widely, had improved little over the last 10 years.

Meanwhile, a survey carried out on behalf of charity the Young Women’s Trust, published in September, found that 63 per cent of HR practitioners believe sexism still exists in most workplaces.