The business rewards of greater gender diversity are potentially huge, with benefits that accrue not only to women but to men and wider society.

But progress cannot come without an open debate.  We know quite a lot about what junior and senior women think about gender issues at work but do we have much insight into the male perspective?

The problem is that women mostly talk to other women about gender and men mostly stay silent or are excluded – so this is not the answer. Businesses need a more open debate so both sexes can pull together on this.

Without the full participation of men – particularly leaders – we may never move the dial on gender equality. If we want to persuade, first we have to listen.

We’ve spoken to men who say they dare not comment, claiming that whatever they say, someone responds with ‘How would you know?’  Others believe the call for quotas for more women in leadership is PC gone mad and that we should be promoting on talent and experience.  Some men have become fearful of their behaviour and actions in response to the #MeToo movement and simply don’t know what to do. 

The best gender-equality policies will achieve nothing if unsupported by cultural change and achieving the necessary cultural change will happen all the slower if men are not wholeheartedly on board with the mission.

So it’s important to talk to men as well as women about gender issues, let them say what they really think, don’t shut them out for fear their ideas might be deemed unacceptable or politically incorrect.  Embrace the diversity of thinking and work together to get to creative solutions that work for everyone. 

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