Standing Up for Equality

April 24, 2012The Atlantic recently posed an important question to its readers: “Is the economy a level playing field for men and women, or are the cards stacked against one sex—as the result of workplace sexism or the natural evolution of the economy?” The magazine then published a range of responses, some more thoughtful than others.

Added to the mix of replies was a submission by Catalyst’s Mike Otterman, Social Media Manager, and Jeanine Prime, PhD, Vice President of Research. Among their roles at Catalyst, Mike and Jeanine are community managers of Men Advocating Real Change, or MARC, Catalyst’s new online community for men committed to achieving equality in the workplace. Their work with MARC gives them a unique vantage point to answer this question—especially regarding the role men can play to ensure a level playing field for both sexes.

Below is Mike and Jeanine’s response to the Atlantic. They write that when it comes to equality, most guys “get it”:

Most guys get that equality programs—things like flexible work arrangements, mentoring programs, on-site childcare, and legislative solutions for equal pay—are good for women and men. They support equality, not just because they care about women, but because they recognize it's in their own interests.

There are a lot of big-picture economic reasons why gender equality makes sense. Economies are stronger in countries where more women participate in the workforce. In fact, if women participated in the paid labor market at the same rate as men, America's GDP would jump 9%, the eurozone's 13%, and Japan's 16%. And research suggests a correlation between diversity on boards and better financial performance and innovation.

But here's where it gets even more interesting: Men now have more personal reasons to support equality too. Take fair pay. Of the more than 25 million married couples with children in the US in 2010, 57.7% were dual-career couples. And in 2009, working wives contributed 37.1% to family income. Yet many women today still earn less and get promoted less frequently than men from day-one of their careers—regardless of their aspirations, credentials, work experience and parenthood status. Over the course of a 40-year career, this can add up to an average of $380,000 in lost wages. For fathers who rely on their partner's income, support for pay equity is a no-brainer. Equal pay equals more money for the family.

Or take other traditional "women's issues" like child care and flexible work arrangements. Catalyst research shows that men, not just women, experience anxiety about whether their children are being adequately cared for while at work--anxiety that can affect how productive they are. Employers who provide on-site child care help make the men they employ more productive too.

Furthermore, research shows that men increasingly see fatherhood as more than a matter of financial support and are placing importance on it above their careers. But at the same time, men don't feel supported by their employers in fulfilling parental responsibilities—with many men resorting to hiding absences to take care of their kids.

To foster an environment where men can build better relationships, personal fulfillment and financial security, more and more guys are joining initiatives like The Good Men Project and more recently, Men Advocating Real Change or MARC (full disclosure: Mike Otterman and Jeanine Prime are MARC's community managers). These online movements connect and amplify the "good guys" and give men who "get it" greater voice and visibility. Plus, they create a platform for men to stand up to those who call for a return to our Mad Men past.

Supporting equality does not mean the end of men. It is not a zero-sum game. Scaling back initiatives that foster workplace equality is not only anti-women, but anti-men too.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.