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Should we engage men more in women’s career development?

Like many of us last Thursday I wanted to ‘do my bit’ to support International Women’s Day. I attended a networking event in the morning celebrating Women in Business, and spent the day talking about the #PressforProgress campaign.

My social media on the day was full of posts celebrating IWD 2018 but I saw very few from men. Perhaps that’s because of who I follow?…algorithms and all that. But it did get me thinking that some of the biggest champions of my career have been men – and why aren’t we engaging men more actively in the debate?

For example, more men might want to take up shared parental leave, but why is there not enough being done in organizations to support this? There’s a big cultural stigma attached to this still. It really needs to change to allow both men and women to have equal choices.

When talking about leadership and career development let’s not just focus on women needing to ‘lean in’ and adopt the (what we typically call) ‘male traits’ including competitiveness, direct communication and performance focus.

Let’s instead talk more about the commercial value of women leaders (and men) having a mix of traits, and the positive impact that this has on organisations. The very best leaders that I coach (regardless of gender) learn to develop flexibility with the optimum mix of both ‘female traits’ such as task focus, collaboration, insight, and the ‘male traits’ as mentioned above, dialling them up or down depending on the situation.

I acknowledge that I’ve probably had a more positive experience of career development than a lot of women having worked in predominantly female led beauty organizations. I also value that I’ve progressed on my own merit, and worked very hard. I take full ownership of my own choices around maternity leave, career break etc. Ironically my break from work subsequently accelerated my own career!

I am in no way discounting the struggles, inequality and discrimination many women still face. I celebrate women’s achievements on a daily basis, and actively work to unlock the hidden potential in every woman I work with. (Women’s career development is my passion and coaching expertise after all). However, I do also appreciate the talented and successful men that also champion the movement towards gender equality, and believe that we’d stand more of a chance of getting closer to it if we engaged them more.