Five Essential Habits for the Pursuit of Equity & Respect in the Workplace

By Tony Porter, CEO of A CALL TO MEN

Workplace Image.jpg

#MeToo brought about a forced cultural reckoning. It made it painfully apparent (to men) that nearly every woman has experienced some form of harassment and discrimination, and far too many have been victims of sexual assault and predatory behavior. And if we are being realistic, that means nearly every man has stepped right up to that line of what’s appropriate (a boundary set by men, I might add), and far too many have crossed it. But it has also given us a tremendous opportunity to create a world – and a workplace – that can better serve all of us. 

In the wake of #MeToo, countless organizations — from Fortune 500s to grassroots, community-based organizations — have been reaching out to ask us for tools to help them build a culture of respect, equity, and value. After two decades of doing this work, we’re thrilled to see this new level of interest — and we know that there’s still lots of work to do. 

Below are the five key habits we start with when we’re working with new organizations — I urge you to ask yourself whether your organization is living these habits, and what you can do better to create a safe, inclusive workplace:

1.      Diversity and inclusion efforts MUST include education for the dominant group.

One of the most common things that I see are diversity and inclusion and women’s leadership initiatives that solely focus on women and other under-represented groups.  These efforts are valuable and much needed, but if the overall program doesn’t include education for the dominant group (white men in positions of power and leadership), the organizations will not achieve the culture change they are seeking. The workplace is a microcosm of society – a society where men and boys are collectively socialized to view women as objects, as property and as having less value than men. Organizations must raise men’s awareness of that collective socialization so that they can think critically about how they might be reinforcing or passing on these harmful beliefs and so they can challenge those beliefs in other men.  

2.      HR policies and procedures are necessary but are not enough.

Organizations typically approach sexual harassment, domestic violence, and sexual assault solely from a policy perspective. This approach keeps the problem contained within one area, like the human resources department. It also allows men who are not actively harassing, abusing, or assaulting to say, “This is not my problem.” Those men can separate themselves from an “incident” when in reality, they are the solution. While we embrace and advocate for policy and procedure, A CALL TO MEN goes deeper to address the root of the problem: that the underlying causes of violence, harassment, and discrimination against women are rooted in the ways women and girls have been traditionally viewed and treated in our society.

3.      Meaningful culture change requires a top-down and bottom-up commitment.

The most successful partnerships that we have facilitated include a top-down and bottom-up commitment. Leadership sets the tone and empowers managers and employees with ways to learn more, get involved and become advocates for a healthy workplace culture. This requires a commitment beyond a single compliance training, but it also ensures more widespread and lasting results.

4.      Listen, listen, listen. 

Listen to those most affected. Make your efforts accountable to them. At A CALL TO MEN, we intentionally look to those “at the margins of the margins” to articulate their own lived experience and help define solutions that will be effective in their lives. When we center our attention and efforts on them, it’s our belief that everyone will benefit. This philosophy holds true for any anti-oppression work – sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism or ageism.

5.      Communicate goals and measure progress.

Communicating goals and measuring progress helps garner buy in, facilitate accountability, and stay on track. It also offers teachable moments and tangible progress to celebrate. 

We’ll be diving deeper into some of the steps we recommend to implement these culture shifts in the coming weeks so keep an eye out!