Empowering Men As Gender Equity Advocates


Man woman contemplating moon, Friedrich 1830
Man woman contemplating moon, Friedrich 1830

Despite the big gains made in the last few decades, we still have a gender equality problem. Women represent about 40 percent of the global labor force, but are 50 percent of the population, according to the World Bank. Men are over 95 percent of the CEOs of the world’s largest corporations.

The gap between women and men when it comes to both economic participation and political empowerment is big, as the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2015 finds. “Only 59 percent of the economic outcomes gap and 23 percent of the political outcomes gap have been closed,” the report states.

One important way to help women achieve gender equality is to engage men. And that’s why the UN launched the HeForShe campaign in September 2014: to engage men in achieving gender equity. The stated goal of HeForShe is to “achieve gender equality by 2030.” As UN Populations Fund said, “Gender equality cannot be achieved without the involvement of men and boys.”

Actress Emma Watson spoke as part of the launch of the HeForShe campaign in September 2014. “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?” Watson said. “Men — I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) signed on to the HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 Initiative in January of last year, making it one of the first 10 corporations around the world to commit to bold action on gender equality.

“In the past conversations about gender equity often fell on the shoulders of women,” Chris Brassell, Director in the US Office of Diversity and Inclusion at PwC told Triple Pundit. “That’s not a sustainable strategy, and it allowed those who weren’t actively engaged to remain on the sidelines. It takes all of us to address gender equity.”

Working towards gender equality in the Oscars

Last night people all over the world tuned into the Oscars. And Hollywood is one place where gender equality has yet to be achieved. “There is one group that’s not a minority, but still under-represented in the film world: women, who are half the population, but represent a small fraction of workers in the film industry,” a Variety article stated.

There is bad and good news when it comes to women as Oscar nominees, as the article points out. First, the good news. Women represent 50 percent of the nominees in makeup and hairstyling and editing. In production design, women are four out of 11 nominees, two of the six nominees in adapted screenplay. However, in original screenplay they are only two out of 14. There are only seven women in 24 producers for best picture, and only one women in visual-effects out of 20 nominees. In certain categories there are no women nominees, including directing, music score, and sound editing.

One way PwC promotes a message of gender equality is through a global Aspire to Lead series in which inspiring leaders in their fields provide practical insights into leadership. On February 17, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted an event with PwC featuring Geena Davis,  Founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. “We had a real open dialogue about gender equity.” Brassel said. [Ed. Note: read TriplePundit’s coverage of the event here.]

PwC’s involvement with the Oscars doesn’t end with the Aspire to Lead webcast. They have counted the Oscar ballots since 1934 and this year they put a unique spin on the red carpet in the lead up to the event, Instead of asking about what or who they are wearing, Shannon Schuyler, head of corporate responsibility and chief purpose officer at PwC, asked social entrepreneurs, educators, fashion designers and professional sports players about their purpose.

People like MSNBC anchor and HeForShe advocate, Richard Lui and fashion designer Carrie Hammer walked alongside the 2015 Hart Vision Teacher of the Year and Donorschoose.org board member, Genein Letford.

That is a big deal because the questions usually fielded to women Oscar attendees have to do with their clothing, shoes and jewelry. But men are usually not asked about what they are wearing. As Brassell says, “instead of asking women on the red carpet what they’re wearing, ask them for more,” he said. “Some individuals can be provoked to offer more.”

What men need to understand about gender equality

There are a few things men need to understand about gender equality and one is that gender equality is good for men too. “Everyone benefits from this,” says Brassell. Teaching men about the issues involved is also important. Men must realize “you can’t buy a book and then become an effective leader,” says Brassell. “There’s a process involved and a man has to understand he only really becomes an ally to women when a woman says he is, not just when he thinks he is.” Brassell told a story that showed how one PwC man is working to empower women and “buck traditional norms.” Kirk, a PwC professional, was moved by the HeForShe campaigns and made a decision to change his last name to his wife’s when he married. In an email to his PwC teammates, Kirk explained that he toiled with the idea of changing his last name but ultimately decided it was one way to show his personal dedication to support gender equality in a very visible way.

Image credit: Public Domain, Flickr

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Leave a Reply