For many, gender equality is perceived to be a women’s issue, affecting those who are discriminated against. However, the reality is when women become empowered enough to make changes or propose solutions, everyone benefits from them. If we want the condition of women to change then the entire environment around them must also change. In a deeply patriarchal society, this means involving men in every step of the way.
Why women empowerment helps men as well
Women continue to face disadvantages across the globe and in almost every sphere. However, as times have changed, the utopian society does not just heavily favour women. It grants equal opportunity to all genders. It starts with empowering the disadvantaged half of the population.
As William Petrocellis said in his article: “The reason is simple. The empowerment of women is crucial to solving a lot of seemingly unrelated problems that are as important to men as they are to women.… Once you grasp the idea, you’ll be able to see and realise the impact all around”. Here are some examples how women empowerment also changes things for men and well everyone else:
- Women deal with problems differently – for example, the more women gain access to education, legal rights and economic opportunity, the more control they gain over their bodies and eventually giving birth.
- This is backed by the Harvard College Global Health Review. Referencing Joel Cohen, “increasing female secondary education in developing nations, where birth rates are the highest, has the potential to dramatically decrease population growth by 2050”. There have been case studies supporting the impact of secondary education on overpopulation. According to a 1998 study of Niger, fertility rate among women decreased by as much as 31% among women who received secondary education. Education has been linked to more access to income opportunities and better understanding of fertility – including measures to control pregnancy.
- SSIR also found that when men and women became part of maternal and infant health programs, it has some positive results like more shared decision-making in the household, better communication between the couples and increased support for women on their pregnancy.
- Women’s rights protection is protection for everyone – protecting women’s rights can be one of our answers to dismantling repressive institutions and regimes. From fundamentalists religions to repressive governments and totalitarian, one concept is prevalent regardless of the belief or creed – these structures keep women in specific places. In male-dominated society, women’s voices are often repressed or have little power. Addressing women’s rights and giving more voice to them can mean toppling down these institutions.
As Christine LaGarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, said:
“I do believe women have different ways of taking risks, of addressing issues … of ruminating a bit more before they jump to conclusions. And I think that as a result, particularly on the trading floor, in the financial markets in general, the approach would be different”.
Diversity in business leaderships can be beneficial to everyone. An all-male management sometimes lead to “echo” structures where ideas remain unchallenged. The best ideas come out when there are different voices and opinions.
How to involve men in empowering women
Achieving an equitable society requires empowering not just women. We must also empower men but not traditionally wherein men have more power over women. Empowering, in this case, means allowing them to challenge the norms, changing their behaviours accordingly. Gender functions as a “system” so both men and women are crucial parts of the system. Meaningful change means men and women are both accountable. You cannot just empower women and expect that men will just follow.
It is not as easy as it sounds as men are often evaluated and judged critically by many – themselves, their peers, their elders and even women in general. These judgements and standards are deeply rooted in the “dominant ideals of manhood”. In many societies, this means men exercising more power and control over women. Challenging these deeply rooted behaviours and norms is a collective challenge for both men and women.
As Stanford Social Innovation Review stresses:
“Women may hold up half the sky, but they cannot hold it up all by themselves. Because most social structures are still highly patriarchal, focusing on women without including men can end up being counterproductive or even dangerous. When men are not involved in development projects, they may feel disempowered and actively oppose women’s involvement or interfere with their success”.
Men and women working together for collective benefit isn’t a fantasy dream. It is something achievable. Orbium work is not segregated by gender. Opportunities are earned by merit. As described by one of our Managers in Singapore:
“From my point of view, the nature of work at Orbium doesn’t need to be segregated between gender. I consider that, whether at work and not, we are all equal regardless of gender or any other consideration”.
He also added: “I always think that gender and nationalities do not come in the way of work. It is a source of multiple points of view that can be leverage while at work. We are all people with our own point of views regardless of gender!”
A Senior Manager also shared: “I don’t believe that gender should come in the way of work. I believe here at Orbium there are no barriers where gender is an issue, and all are treated equally”.
“In my line of work, I have always worked in mixed teams as equals, this enables a good team mix and spirit to be formed and always helped get the work done”.
One of Orbium’s country managers in Asia also discussed some key points to successful organisations including creating a friendly workspace: “It is important to build an organisation and workplace that ensures all gender are equally appreciated; a place where everyone want to work in, feel rewarded and cared for”.
“Without discrimination of gender, we see increase in company performance, improvement of productivity and growth of the firm, allowing organizations to attract talents, loyalty and promotes retention of employees, which indirectly enhance the reputation of a company”.