The publication of Wonder Women has given Giles Lury and me a platform to highlight the brilliant success stories of women in marketing as well as to provoke discussion and debate around equal opportunity, recognition, and rewards for women, not just in marketing, but in much wider areas of business. 

What we have learnt is that to create gender equality, WOMEN NEED MEN AS ALLIES.  Whilst many men have been hugely supportive, only a minority have really engaged.  So this led us to explore and hypothesize why this is the case and what we need to do to address this.

1. They think it’s all over

For some men, not all but a reasonable proportion of them, they think equality has been achieved.   They have seen the improvements that have happened in the attitudes and behaviours towards women. They know about equal pay legislation and the changes to maternity and parental leave, they see women moving into senior management and leadership positions, they work with amazing women – and they think it’s all over.  But the statistics unfortunately tell a very different story. 

They think it’s all over …. but it isn’t

2. There’s enough going on in men’s own lives without having to worry about women’s issues

Fernando Desouches, Managing Director of New Macho at BBD Perfect Storm is an advocate for a better understanding of the state of masculinity today and its implications on the role of marketing to men.  BBD Perfect Storm published a brilliant report based on revelatory new research into male attitudes.

What I found fascinating is that across the developed world, men are in crisis, uncertain of their identity and struggling to find their place in society. Traditional ideas of masculinity have given way, with little new to replace them.

The report argues that men, particularly young urban men, are caught in a status trap in which success is ever more tightly identified with money and image. Social media has created a confusion between being popular and being respected.

Across the developed world, men are showing signs of strain. They are stressed, anxious, adrift, and searching for answers to the question of what it means to be manly.

Fewer and fewer men have jobs that give them the satisfaction and self-respect every person craves. Men have traditionally been the ‘breadwinners’, the providers, the head of the family; the leaders, makers and shapers. Such stereotypes suited men when they had more dominance over the economic sphere. Now that their dominance has been undermined – rightfully – by the rise of working women, men are finding it hard to know what to do with themselves. They don’t know where to locate their sense of pride and self-worth and they are casting around for answers.

Men are trapped between the old world and the new and masculinity is in crisis. 

Is it surprising, therefore, that men struggle to engage with women’s issues when they have enough problems going on in their own lives!

You can request a full copy of the report on the BBD Perfect Storm New Macho website:


3. What can men say without getting into trouble – how do we de-risk men engaging in the debate?

My thought piece about unconscious bias highlighted that we’re all vulnerable to getting into trouble in our daily conversations by saying the wrong thing.  We may believe one thing, but our language may inadvertently communicate something different – unconsciously.   The problem with this is that it can lead to people saying nothing at all.  Anecdotally, many men have told us they are fearful of engaging with the women’s fight for gender equality because they might just say the wrong thing – so they say nothing at all.   

Are you aware of your unconscious bias?

The idea of men not engaging because they are fearful they’ll get it wrong was developed further in the book Belonging: The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work by Sue Unerman, Kathryn Jacob, and Mark Edwards.

Following extensive research and interviews at over 200 international businesses, the authors discovered that men not getting involved is the one of the biggest problems that is holding back the move towards greater diversity.

Most men are not engaged with D&I initiatives in the workplace – at one extreme they may be feeling actively hostile and threatened by the changing cultural landscape. But others may be unmotivated to change – recognising the abstract benefits of diversity but not realising what’s in it for them.

The book argues that we need male allies and specifically the men currently in power to battle discrimination, harassment and pay gaps – not simply hand it over to the head of HR (who is likely to be a woman).  But all too often they hand over the responsibility of D&I initiatives because they are fearful they’ll say the wrong thing and potentially lose their jobs and their careers. 

Belonging: The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work: Amazon.co.uk: Unerman, Sue, Jacob, Kathryn, Edwards, Mark: 9781472979612: Books

What this means for the future …

This is a hugely complex area, but put simply, we’re seeking equal opportunity, recognition and rewards for women.  In order to achieve this, we need men to support, engage and become allies.  We need men to look at the statistics and see that it’s not all over, we need men to share their own problems and issues with each other and with women so we can create empathy and mutually beneficial solutions, we need men (and women) to become aware of their unconscious bias, and we need women to help men speak out without it jeopardizing their careers.  We need women and men working together. 

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