Looking forward to 2021: Engaging men in the fight for equality

This year has been filled with unexpected twists and turns. No organization would have predicted at this time last year that we would be losing hundreds of thousands of women from the workplace in 2020. The headlines are stark – 865,000 women over age 20 left the American workforce in September compared with 216,000 men in the same age group. This trend holds the potential to erase decades of progress for women unless we take action immediately!

The virus sent most people home to work virtually, some indefinitely. Women have faced the ever-increasing pressures of balancing caretaking, educating children at home, and finding enough bandwidth and quiet space to work, all while ensuring their voices are still being heard in decision-making. The McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2020 report puts it quite simply: women are burned out!

While many companies have extended flexibility to their employees to address these concerns, few have adjusted their performance expectations, which were set prior to the pandemic. This puts employees in a no-win situation, and hundreds of thousands of women have left the workforce rather than continue at what had become an unsustainable pace.

What does this mean for your organization? Unless you take immediate action, you risk losing years of progress in advancing women. This has serious, long-term implications for your talent pipeline, business revenue and ultimately your ability to successfully compete in the marketplace.

How can we turn the tide?

To this end, I recommend doubling-down on your efforts to focus on the recruitment, retention and advancement of women, and creating more male advocates for women.

During the past decade, Business Resource Groups have gained enormous traction within companies as a place for bold thinking, decisive action and leadership development. As women’s BRGs plan for 2021, it’s the ideal moment to more closely align their strategies to corporate strategy and initiatives. The planning process should aim to drive resources to their cause and garner real money and commitment, and it should answer the following questions:

How is your business plan connecting women to revenue, talent and engagement?
Does your plan have an exponential growth element?
How are you creating a greater sense of urgency to your plan?
What is your plan to drive more male engagement for next year?
As you create your budgets, do you have adequate resources (time, people and money) to meet your business goals? If not, how can you engage your Executive Sponsor for support?
How will your 2021 BRG plan help stem the tide for 800,000+ women nationally and an unknown number of women at your company? The answer lies in male engagement.

In addition to having an integrated Women’s Leadership Strategy, I’ve found that the organizations with visible and vocal male advocates for advancing women are the ones making real inroads toward gender balance. In light of the numbers of women leaving the workforce, this is as important as ever.

To overcome the four most common barriers to male engagement — Empathy, Apathy, Accountability and Fear —  senior leaders must Listen, Learn, Lead and Have the Will. There are tools to help BRGs accomplish these objectives, including a new virtual series from YWomen called Creating Gender Advocates, which includes a free virtual BRG toolkit called Creating an Integrated Women’s Leadership Strategy. Check out these valuable resources as you plan for the coming year.

NEW is currently piloting a brand new program to support male allyship within organizations. ‘Beyond Allies’ is a powerful new digital program created to develop male allies. The program is currently accepting applicants for its next pilot session on Jan. 13 – you can learn more and register right here.

Your women’s BRG is positioned to make a real difference in women’s leadership advancement in 2021. Let’s do this!


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