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Breaking Glass

How men can be a 'catalyst' for an inclusive workplace

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So we've got a new plan — to involve more men in women's issues in the workplace — and we're ready to move forward.

But simply telling men to “Do more!” has not worked.

Banding together and commanding respect has been proactive and positive, but we’ve isolated our gender in doing so.

And telling our stories about the issues we’ve faced and those we have yet to tackle to rooms full of women has helped younger generations move forward — but has not created a male audience.

So, what is the best way to encourage men to support women colleagues?

Catalyst.org has some good ideas and resources. Maybe we should start there.

Perhaps I’m a bit late to the bandwagon, but even as a millennial woman in the workplace, I’ve never seen or heard of this website. So, in case you also missed it, here you go:

Catalyst studies women and men across job levels, functions and geographies to learn about and research women’s experiences in business. By providing easily accessible data and graphics, Catalyst is a go-to source for information on women and work.

In other words, bookmark this site for your daily reading list if you haven’t done so already.

Be sure to check out its research series “Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives” and its online learning community “Men Advocating Real Change,” which engages and encourages candid conversations about how to most effectively combat inequality in the workplace, regardless of gender.

And finally, share this list of “Actions Men Can Take to Create an Inclusive Workplace” with all colleagues — both men and women — to foster further conversation.


  • Accept that it is your responsibility to help end sexism in the workplace.
  • Get involved in your organization’s gender-focused employee resource groups, or start one if your organization doesn’t have any.
  • Tell other men about your commitment to creating a workplace that is gender inclusive.
  • Talk to other men about the costs of gender inequity — for both men and women — in the workplace.
  • Include more women in your professional network, and let male peers know about the benefits of having a gender diverse network.
  • Mentor an emerging women leader and speak of her talents to male peers.
  • Volunteer to take on administrative tasks often assumed by women colleagues.
  • Listen to women colleagues when they attribute certain work experiences to sexism.
  • Be attentive to the subtle ways that some men may unconsciously cause women colleagues to feel diminished (e.g., interrupting women colleagues in meetings, giving more weight to views expressed by men). Avoid these behaviors and encourage male peers to do so as well.
  • Be attentive to whether men and women colleagues are being judged by different standards (e.g., promotion criteria based more on potential for men and more on demonstrated achievement for women). Speak up if you observe gender bias.
  • Speak up if you notice gender-based assumptions being made about your colleagues’ needs, work interests and competencies (e.g., she won’t want to relocate because she has a small child; he doesn’t need work-life flexibility because he’s single).
  • Actively use work-life flexibility benefits such as paternity leave and telecommuting. Communicate your support for male colleagues who do so as well.
  • Challenge the popular notion that the ideal employee is one who has no other commitments outside of work.
  • Allow every man and woman the chance to define themselves on their own terms without judgment.
  • Examine why there aren’t more men or women in your workgroup if dominated by one gender.
  • Seek opportunities to work with people who may see you as an “outsider,” based on your socio-demographic, functional, professional or cultural identity, to enhance your skills at working effectively in a diverse environment.


  • Become defensive, offer alternative explanations or otherwise invalidate a woman attributing certain work experiences to sexism.
  • Tell, laugh at or implicitly condone sexist jokes.
  • Make or ignore comments that objectify women colleagues.
  • Exclude women or men from decision-making processes and conversations in which they should be involved.
  • Use vocabulary intended to question masculinity or diminish women. DO confront others who do.
  • Rely on women colleagues to learn about gender inequality. DO use your own observational and research skills.


Painting the picture of gender inequality

Arianna Huffington’s “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder."

Meet our new 'Women in Business' blogger: Meg Fry

More Breaking Glass

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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