An Incomplete List of Things Guys Can Do to Advance Gender Equality
Because International Women’s Day isn't just for the girls.
She popped the question somewhere between Cambridge and Boston, but I knew it had been percolating for most of our morning commute.
Can I order you one of those “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirts?
My wife doesn’t normally dress me. But it was International Women’s Day. And she had heard me railing on about the global gender gap, wage inequality and work-family balance all week as the team here at Care.com prepped our CEO for a panel with the ILO, Gallup and some actress named Eva Longoria. So … maybe?
Nah. Not going to wear the T-shirt. No problem wearing that label though.
I’m no Justin Trudeau. Not even Barack Obama. But I am a husband, a brother, son, cousin and co-worker to a whole bunch of incredible women. Millions of people aren’t listening to me, but a couple dozen might.
So just because it’s International Women’s Day, and on International Women’s Day we tell the truth… Here are a couple of things us guys can do to promote gender inequality and support the women in all of our lives.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 1,000 times: We need more male feminists, and men need to take an active role in lifting women up. These sentiments echo this thing Care.com’s CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo (who is basically a real-life Superwoman, btw) talks about in the context of leadership. She calls it “being proximate.” And what she means by that is getting close to an issue -- especially when it relates to inequality and injustice -- rather than just reading about it and having some measure of intellectual understanding.
One area where it often comes up is -- you guessed it -- gender equality. For example, LeanIn.org and McKinsey’s “Women in the Workplace” report found only 12 percent of men believe women have fewer opportunities than men, when in fact women are three times more likely than men to say they’ve missed out on an opportunity because of gender. To put that another way, it means 88 percent of men don’t think there’s a problem.
Until those dudes recognize the problem -- until they get proximate to it -- they’re not going to be a part of the solution. Writing for the Wall Street Journal and AT Kearney’s America@250 project last year, Sheila suggested the following solution to the proximity problem: “We need men to consider the fate of their sisters, wives, mothers and daughters. Feeling empathy is a critical conduit for real behavior change.”
Share the Load
Around the world, women are doing considerably more “unpaid work” than men. Unpaid work roughly translates to “chores.” In America that might mean cooking dinner and loading the dishwasher, but in other parts of the world it could mean fetching water and handwashing laundry. When you look at all the time women spend on unpaid work, and recognize that’s time they’re not spending on paid work, you get what we call opportunity cost. Which is to say, our economies suffer.
New research from Gallup and the International Labor Organization revealed that balancing work and family is the biggest barrier to increased female labor force participation in the majority of countries across the globe. We're making some progress in this regard. American dads more than doubled the amount of time they’re spending on housework and child care between 1965 and 2015, while women nearly tripled the amount of paid work they’re doing. Coincidence? Not likely. But American moms are still spending twice as much time -- about 32 hours each week -- on unpaid work around the house, while dads are spending a total of 17 hours on housework and child care. Closing the gender gap at home is a major step on the road to closing the gender gap in the workplace.
International Women’s Day is about celebrating the “social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.” But really it’s a call to action because not a single country in the world has closed its gender gap on politics or economic participation. You don’t have to join the “A Day Without Women” strike to show your support for gender equality.
We can donate to the nonprofits supporting the UN SDGs. Or consider taking the #BeBoldForAction pledge and spreading the word using the social tools on the IWD website. We can speak up whenever we witness mistreatment of women. At work, we can mentor female colleagues who are looking for one. We can prioritize our own work-life balance, because normalizing it levels the playing field for working moms and women with caregiving responsibilities. We can be willing to play a leadership role in bringing women up.
Supporting gender equality isn’t just the right thing to do (because, duh) it’s also the smart thing to do. Study after study has shown that the advancement of women and girls has short- and long-term positive outcomes for families, society and the global economy.
UN estimates say an extra year in school can add up to 25 percent to a girl’s future income. Want to talk labor force participation? Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to the global GDP, the UN says. Here in the United States, the stagnating female labor force participation is costing businesses and families billions in lost wages and productivity each year.
The UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 is a good place to start your reading list. For more on the impact here in the U.S., check out the Center for American Progress report on “The Cost of Work-Family Policy Inaction.” And Vox has a pretty solid explainer on what International Women’s Day is all about.
Closing the gender gap won’t happen overnight. But it doesn’t have to take 170 years, either. Hit us in the comments to share your plans to #BeBoldForChange and advance gender equality.