By Arvin Patel, EVP & CIPO at TiVo, Entertainment + Tech Thought Leader, Forbes Contributor
Amidst all the chaos, I want to continue to recognize this month as Women’s History Month.
This is an ideal occasion for creating a fairer and more equitable workplace for women and men. Gender equality is not just about the wage gap, it’s not just about the #MeToo movement, it’s not just about looking for better gender balance and diverse talent pools when recruiting for jobs. I want to challenge men, particularly men who are executives and managers, to really look deep inside of themselves and take specific action to dismantle the subtle and structural gender biases that cause gender discrimination.
Men have a special responsibility to make our workplaces more inclusive and welcoming of all people. We need to confront the entrenched biases and systemic issues that too often are used to excuse lower pay for women or reduce opportunities for women. Those of us who are men in executive positions have a big chance to make a difference, starting today.
Here are a few key opportunities where men in business leadership can dismantle gender biases against women.
1. Improve gender balance for boards, conferences, and in everyday life.
Too often, the world tends to de-value and dismiss women’s voices. This happens everywhere from TV shows and movies, where women tend to have fewer lines of spoken dialogue than men, to business conferences where the lineups of expert speakers are often overwhelmingly male.
Next time you’re hosting a business conference, make an extra effort to include women as speakers on stage. Make sure your talent pool for speaking opportunities includes more than just men.
Company boards are also re-assessing gender equity. Goldman Sachs recently made headlines when the investment bank announced that they would not take a company public unless the company has at least one “diverse” board member, with an emphasis on women. The days of the all-male corporate boardroom may be numbered, and I think that’s a good thing. How can our companies be responsive to the needs of the market and the evolving trends of our industries when the board doesn’t have any women?
I would also challenge men to pay attention to who they’re following on social media. Are the industry thought leaders, media commentators, and members of your online professional and social networks that you’re listening to everyday mostly men? What if you could change that, and make a conscious effort to follow and listen to more women online?
Sometimes just listening to a wider range of voices is the most important way to gain perspective and get better informed, in ways that you might not have been exposed to or considered if you were getting all your information from other men.
2. Promote women (and more so when they’re pregnant).
One of the proudest moments for my team in 2019 was when we decided to promote one of our star employees when she was pregnant and about to go on maternity leave! Too often, women in the workplace face discrimination, pay cuts, and career derailment after they become mothers. I don’t want that to happen on my team; in fact, I believe that becoming a parent has made me a better manager.
More men need to get proactive about creating bigger opportunities for the women on their teams, and getting more women into the pipeline for upper management. And a good way to achieve this is to take a broader look at the culture of the organization.
Is your company a welcoming, inclusive place for talented people, regardless of gender?
Is your company still supporting subtle biases against mothers or pregnant women?
Let’s dismantle these biases, by proactively supporting the idea that women are just as capable (and even more capable) and productive after having babies. Let’s make our companies such great places to work, with such family-friendly policies, that people want to have children and keep their careers going strong.
3. Promote work-life balance and paid family leave (for men too)
One important way to create a more inclusive workplace for women is to promote work-life balance and paid family leave — not just for women, but for men too. I believe that paid family leave is not just a “women’s issue,” it is an issue for all people. Any one of us, whether we are women or men, might need to take time away from our careers at some point for a medical issue or to care for aging parents. This is just a reality of life and part of being human.
Companies need generous paid family leave policies, and I believe that men should avail themselves of these policies too — not just women. This will help us dismantle the bias that says caring for children and aging relatives is only “women’s work,” and that men are the only ones who need to be able to focus on their career.
I believe that in this way, by dismantling bias against women, we can also make the workplace healthier and friendlier for men. After all, many men would love to be more involved with their children, and would love to have more flexibility to deal with life outside of work. When life gets better for women in the workplace, life gets better for men too.