Guest Blog by Michael Lassman from Equality Edge
I am delighted that below is my first Guest Blog from Michael Lassman. Michael has in excess of 25 years experience in developing equality and diversity best practices for client organisations in the public, private and third sectors.
He has developed an original and creative approach to diversity and equality training, mentoring and coaching. Using his signature project of “Working with Difference”, Michael enables people to explore their own diversity to understand more about their inner prejudices and how they respond to differences in others. I am also Guest Blogging for him on his site
All too often I am approached by a woman manager asking for help in healing a difficult or dysfunctional workplace relationship she has with one of her male colleagues or direct reports. Invariably, she tells me that he is resistant to any attempt she makes to manage him and is regularly destructive in team meetings. Why should this be?
Having recently launched the “Men in Management” project, Equality Edge has been exploring the relationships men make in the workplace, not just with women but with other men too. One of the findings of recent research, carried out through a LinkedIn poll, is that some men find it particularly challenging to be managed by a woman. Another offers unsurprising reading: 65% of male respondents suggest there are no issues in relating to women in the workplace, whereas 84% of women think there are. I wonder, is this an issue of perception? Are men really without awareness or perhaps they just struggle to read what is really going on?
If, as the poll suggests, some men are challenged by having a woman as their manager, I asked myself how this would impact on the same man in the home. Whilst exploring this issue, I was led to read Jenny Garrett’s book “Rocking you Role, after hearing her on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She provides a fascinating insight into the affect of women being the major earner in a family. For many this is a new phenomenon, which now affects one in five couples – and is set to increase. Some men still baulk at the idea of their wife or partner earning more than they do and suffer as a result.
I wonder is it the same men that struggle in the home with their partner/wife being the major earner that also present an extra challenge to their female boss. If this is the case, how linked are the two circumstances; his inability to be managed by a woman and the challenge of have a wife/partner earning more than him. Certainly this creates an interesting topic for some future research.
For my part being born at the end of the 1950s, I was surrounded by traditional families, where the man went to work and the woman brought up children and ran the home. Everything around me reinforced this situation as being “the way things should be”. I was twelve before the first gender equality was taken seriously enough to enact legislation, first through the Equal Pay Act 1970 and then the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. Now amalgamated into the Equality Act 2010
In the forty years since then, we have come a long way, in gender equality but there is clearly still a way to go. Many men still respond to the socialised learning of their formative years, an unconscious bias exists within them and expectations (their own and other people’s) as to what their role should be thrive. I do not justify their actions but I do try to understand where they are founded. When I work with such men, it is by getting them to recognise the origins of behaviours that they can start to address them.
Jenny’s book empowers women in their positions as the major earner and whilst they are changing, men need to change too. I feel certain that with gender equality practitioners working together, the societal shifts of the past forty years will continue and develop. Let it be soon that five out of ten homes have women as MEs.
Guest blogging on each other’s pages is a great start.