Women have made great strides in our society, but they still lag behind men in pay and promotions to the corner office at work. Many young men, on the other hand, are finding that women are getting a lot of support from employers and advocacy groups while they’re left out in the cold – and sometimes even ridiculed in the media. Our guests talk about these issues and offer suggestions for why they happen and how we can level the playing field for both women and men.
- Jeffery Tobias Halter is President of YWomen, a strategic consulting company, and author of Why Women: The leadership imperative to advancing women and engaging men
- Jack Myers, award-winning documentary filmmaker and author of the book, The Future of Men: Masculinity in the twenty-first century.
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Men, Women and Equality
Marty Petersen: Women’s equality issues have been in the news since the 19th century when the suffragettes protested for the right to vote. Women have come a long way since then, and with the real possibility of a female in the Oval Office next year, you might think that women have finally “arrived.” However, there are millions of women who are hitting the glass ceiling at their jobs and making less money than their male colleagues for the same work. We discuss why this is still the case, and what can be done to level the playing field. We’ll also hear about how the trend of advancing women affects men and how they are. Jeffrey Tobias Halter is President of Y-Women, a strategic consulting company, and author of “Why Women: The leadership imperative to advancing women and engaging men.” He says that one of the reasons why women continue to lag behind men in pay and advancement is that CEOs look around the organization and think they’re already doing a good job of bringing women up the corporate ladder. Halter says there’s a name for this: Male Leader Gender Fatigue.
Jeffrey Halter: What the research shows is 56 percent of men versus 39 percent of women think women are making considerable progress in the last ten years. When you ask them why, over 50 percent of men say it’s because men have been trying harder. If you ask women why, they say, no, it’s their own educational credentials that are driving that process forward, but here’s the scary one: men are unintentional, for the most part, in gender bias. It’s not the 80’s where there is overt gender discrimination going on in most companies; it’s very subtle or men might not even be aware of it. But one out of every two women, versus just one out of four men, today think gender bias is alive in organizations.
Petersen: Halter says that men are afraid to talk about it because they fear they’ll say the wrong thing and women will report them to Human Resources. On the other hand, he says that women don’t want to talk about gender either.
Halter: They want to be recognized as great engineers, great salespeople, great scientists, and yet, what is lost in the organization by not being able to talk about this most common denominator of gender.
Petersen: There’s another concept at work here too. Something Halter calls “The Man Code.” It’s what he says is drilled into little boys almost from the time of birth: Be tough, don’t be soft because those traits are linked to femininity and weakness and they also have no place in business.
Halter: This notion of, in my mind, as a man, if I’m even advocating for women’s leadership advancement, I’m kind of betraying the “Man Code” of doing this kind of touchy-feely, soft-skill stuff. So, just even men advocating for women lies in the face of many cultural norms that we’ve been born and raised with. This is another concept around men being a winner and we’re raised to be winners. What that says is, in my mind, as a man, if I’m advocating for women, then by default I must be leaving men behind, so I’ve got a zero sum mindset.
Petersen: But the numbers don’t bear this out. In fact, Halter says that men still have the advantage in most companies.
Halter: The corporations that I work with, the data never says men are being despairingly impacted by advancing women. Even in companies where they have an aggressive promote women programs, two out of three promotions are still going to men, so there is no factual data that men are being disparaged by advancing women. It’s a very emotional argument.
Petersen: Though some women are making big advances in the workplace, most are still being paid only about 78 cents to a male worker’s dollar. Halter says that in many companies, setting wages and giving raises is a complex business.
Halter: There are really three or four reasons that women make less than men for the exact same job. Number one: only about six percent of women versus 61 percent of men negotiate their salary coming into the company or when they gain a promotion, so companies need to say, “Look, Mary, you want 58 thousand, well the job pays 65 thousand, so we’re going to give you 65 thousand.” Now, that seems counterintuitive as a business leader because wait a second, I could save 7 thousand dollars hiring her. I’ll tell you that’s fair, but that’s not equitable. And that’s where companies have to take that internal look and say this is what’s the right thing to do.
Petersen: He says that the second problem is the subtle subjectivity that often permeates the system of giving raises.
Halter: If you’re managing a department of fifteen, and you’re going to give out ratings – you know, fives, fours, threes, twos, ones – what you find is, in a department size, you might give Jeff a four and you might give Mary a 3.5, and it’s just because Jeff’s a little better particularly in roles like staff functions where you don’t have hard measures and metrics, but you give Jeff the benefit of the doubt. Why? You know, for whatever reason. He’s more like you than Mary is, but it’s very subtle; you don’t notice that half percent. Quite frankly, Mary’s probably happy with her 3.5.
Petersen: Finally, when women go on maternity leave, Halter says she probably loses another three to four percent because she wasn’t working for several months.
Halter: I get back to, well, it’s fair but it’s not equitable, so TWC is an example, just said, “We’re going to evaluate you based on the time you’re here as opposed to a twelve-month cycle because you have no control over that.” So this is a company saying, “We want to make sure you stay equitable throughout the process.”
Petersen: He says that Human Resources departments and employers don’t really want to discuss these issues. There are also issues about men that nobody wants to discuss – how many of them are floundering in the workplace and in society. Jack Myers is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and author of the book, The Future of Men: Masculinity in the twenty-first century. He researched all aspects of male relationships in our changing society and finds that many men are forgotten in all of this talk about helping women. He says that men need to step back, take a look at what’s happening in the world and find a new way to proceed.
Jack Myers: Men have to learn a new way of responding to relationships, responding in their career, and it’s a new definition around “what is a man today”. What is a real man? It’s no longer that strong, silent type from the Gary Cooper era; it’s no longer the “father knows best” era. It’s a completely new era, and while women have had the support of the women’s movement for 60 plus years to help make this transition and learn how to take advantage of these new opportunities, men don’t have the benefit of support groups, or infrastructure, to make this transformation. And that’s really what the Future of Men’s book is about; it’s about creating awareness of this new reality for men, and it’s really calling on men to step up and understand these new realities.
Petersen: Myers says that young men today are more prepared than their fathers because they’ve been brought up in a world of gender neutrality where women have taken leadership roles in schools and in the home. He says that 40 percent of children grow up in fatherless homes and that makes a big impression on kids. It also leaves a void for young men who are looking for role models to show them what a man really is.
Myers: When they come out of high school, or when they come into the workforce, into families, they don’t have that infrastructure to support them and help them be good dads, better husbands, better lovers, better workers, better collaborators, and that’s really what I focus on is how do we really call attention to the needs to create better dads, better husbands and better workers.
Petersen: Myers says that in addition to more male role models in schools and in families, men need to have help when they start that first job. He says that there is often a structure in place for women to be mentored in a company, and he says that men also need that help.
Myers: These young people have grown up, both young men and young women, have grown up with gender equality, gender neutrality. It’s been an embedded part of their lives and when they come into an organization and all of the sudden they’re segregated, where women get certain advantages that aren’t given to the same men, it’s confusing to both the men and women. So, if we want true gender neutrality, gender equality, we need to open up those mentoring organizations and have women mentoring young men as well.
Petersen: Myers also advocates for some financial and employment help for men who can’t afford or don’t want to go to a four-year college and can’t find work. He says that more lower-cost online educational opportunities for young men as well as community mentoring and training programs would help these students find their place in the working world. Finally, Myers says that the media have to change the way they depict men. He says that too often men are portrayed as bumbling idiots who can’t change a diaper, wash dishes or make a big family decision without screwing it up.
Myers: Just as we focused on objectification of women in advertising and media, we need to focus in on how men are being portrayed and the role models that men see for themselves on TV, especially in advertising and commercials. We need to create a narrative around positive male/female family relationships and constructive, contributing dads.
Petersen: Initiatives for both young men and women are important to create a gender-equal workplace and society. Halter says that when it comes to equal pay and promotions, fathers in business can do a great deal to help their daughters succeed. He came up with the “Father of a Daughter” initiative to bring dads into the picture. He, himself, has a daughter that he supported throughout her life, and he thinks that other men should be moving aggressively to bring gender equality into women’s work lives.
Halter: In fact, fathers of daughters need to be outraged that society only values our daughters at 78 cents to our son, so the Father-Daughter Initiative is ten simple things men can do in the workplace to advocate for women. Go to my website, http://www.ywomen.biz and you can download a copy of this. Print this out, put your daughter’s name on it and sign it, and it immediately marks you as a man who wants to advance women in the workplace. You are an advocate, and these are really simple things to do: things like seeking to understand, talking to a female coworker about the experiences she’s having, talk about the business case within your department around revenue or talent, support workplace flexibility.
Petersen: Halter hopes that business leaders will find that having the conversation about this issue will bring gender equality closer for all women – and men – in the workplace and make companies more responsive to their workers and more productive and profitable for everyone. You can read more about his Father of a Daughter initiative and suggestions for making business more equal for women in his book, Why Women available in stores and on his site, the letter “Y” Women.biz. For an in-depth look at what it means to be a man in the 21st century and how society and business can help them, pick up Jack Myers book, The Future of Men in stores and online at his sit at Future of Men.com. For more about all of our guests, log onto our site at Viewpoints online.net. You can find archives of past programs there and on iTunes and Stitcher. Our show is written and produced by Pat Reuter. Our production directors are Sean Waldron, Ronnie Sudarski and Reed Pence. I’m Marty Peterson.