Men want gender equality but don't want to do anything to get it

Men are talking it up when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. But we're not walking the talk.

A report released last week by Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women, Better Together: Increasing Male Engagement in Gender Equality Efforts in Australia, showed 76 per cent of men are supporters of gender equality, yet only 17 per cent would consider taking any action in support of that idea.

Just words

So, basically, the interviews of a robust sample of men in Australian business went like this:

Study: "So, do you support equality in the workplace?"

Men: "Um, yeah."

Study: "Great! So, what are you doing about that?"

Men: "Um, well, I've been quite busy, er … hey, look over there, a puppy!"

Pats on the back

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the research reveals that, overall, men are feeling pretty good about how supportive they are of equality initiatives in the workplace. Sixty-four per cent of us confirmed in interviews that we are indeed awesome at equality.

Again, unsurprisingly, women disagree. Seventy per cent of professional women said they would like to see men be more actively involved in changing workplace gender imbalance.


So, we think we're doing a great job and women are telling us we're not.

That's a significant disconnect in perceptions. What happens when someone who thinks they're doing a great job is told they're not? They take their toys and go home.

"Without a shared view of what is required, a dangerous cycle could ensure, in which women demand more participation, causing men to disengage or retract their support," said one of the report's writers, Chio Verastegui.

Money matters

That could be what's behind some stunning research out of the US which shows, despite the hard data, that nearly half American men surveyed believe the gender pay gap is "made up to serve a political purpose." It's like choosing to believe the Earth is flat, despite considerable evidence to the opposite. For the record, US census data shows women earn 81 cents for every male dollar.

Gender equality in the workplace isn't just a social and political issue, it's economic. Deep research and number show billions of dollars are to be won by the corporations who get this right first.

Yet despite howls of grief that young men don't know how to "be" in a post-#MeToo world, and calls from feminist commentators for men to join in the fight, for goodness' sake, men seem to be wilfully resisting change.

The louder the calls for men to get involved, the more we are pushing back.

Old fashioned or out of touch?

Think what you want about the Nine Network's ratings juggernaut, Married at First Sight (MAFS), but its influence across Australian society every night it's on, and to millions of eyeballs on social media each day, can't be underestimated. It's part of the zeitgeist right now. It out-rated the budget.

As an, ahem, serious author and writer, of course … hells yes I'll be watching wannabe models and actors throw themselves knowingly into the reality TV meatgrinder for my personal amusement on Sunday!

One MAFS character, the aptly-named Mike Gunner, took aim at accusations he was a toxic gaslighter on the show in media interviews. Boy, did he stick to his guns. There's been a public shift in consciousness towards me which favours women, according to Mike and, "I personally take umbrage to it and I refuse to accept I cannot use words [like "Sweetheart" and "My dear"] … that are now suddenly seen as something offensive," he growl-whined.

"Are men so emasculated that we can't speak our minds? That can't be real? That we have to somehow fulfil the expectations of those around us?"

It's called being nice, Mike.

A voice in a crowd

Then the clincher. "I simply refuse to do that and I am speaking on behalf of all men in this country."

I'm pretty sure Mike doesn't. But he speaks for way too many. For a character so influential and high-profile to happily vow to keep saying what he likes because everything's gone too far, gives licence to every other man who heard him other to happily do the same.

Equality in the workplace is better for us all, for our relationships, our self-worth, our societies, our creative output and, ultimately, our economies.

Men like Mike Gunner who are loudly refusing to shift their thinking, and ask other men to join in, need to be shot down.

Phil Barker is the author of The Revolution of Man, Allen & Unwin.