why men matter for women at the top

Pernilla Alexandersson is the founder and CEO of Add Gender. She has a BA in gender studies and is a certified project manager through IHM Business School. Her main expertise is in gender equality and innovation. Pernilla is often engaged by CEO’s, leaders and HR strategists for professional coaching in diversity and gender equality management. Add Gender is a creative analysis and advisory company with focus on equality and diversity as a way of improving organizations.

Christopher P. Skroupa: What benefits do companies stand to gain by having gender inclusivity?

Pernilla Alexandersson: There are oceans of data to support the benefits of diverse and inclusive teams,such as lower staff turnover, higher performing teams and increased innovation. A focus on gender inclusivity will benefit an array of fields, ranging from your company’s brand reputation to the return on investment. However, I recently saw a scientific study which showed that people who don’t believe in gender equality or diversity will not trust a conclusive study that supports the case for gender diversity. So the largest gain is perhaps within company leadership, to become fully aware of the potential risk of being left behind when the competitors are entering a gender equal future.

Skroupa: What factors are driving the focus on a gender inclusive workspace, how have they evolved?

Alexandersson: All around the world we are seeing the employer-workplace contract changing.
I believe that we are standing in the very midst of this ongoing revolution. We have a more transparent job market in a world with endless possibilities available, from technology and communication, that we’ve never seen before. And then there is life. I hate to say it because it sounds so stereotypical, but women are entering the work life and saying ”I want more than just money to support my family at home, I want time to live, spend it with my family and in my life, I also want to do something meaningful in a team with other people. Can I do that in this company, with you?” Men are also saying this. However, being a minority in a workplace gives women an advantage as we are often excluded already, so there is less to lose for us being honest.

Moreover, thanks to social media and the ability to easily share any experience, there is an increased awareness about gender equality. Young talented employees want to work for progressive companies where they feel represented and where they can see themselves grow.

Skroupa: What are the greatest challenges faced in regard to actively incorporating diverse leadership roles?

Alexandersson: One big and common misconception is that it’s enough to just add women to solve the issue. Representation is just one aspect of the diversity puzzle. Unless you have a culture that is inclusive it doesn’t matter how many women you employ. It’s as if you were at a party and you’re the world’s best mingler, but if everyone is standing in small groups with their back to you it will be hard to mingle. Sure, you’re at the party, but you’re not included. We need to throw parties for everyone.

Another aspect is that many consider this problem to be an issue solely for women. There is a plethora of initiatives geared towards women, networks for women, mentoring programs for women, and an endless list of things women should do. But we all have responsibility to work towards gender equality, women and men alike (and those outside these labels as well). Therefore Add Gender has recently started a leadership program on gender equality exclusively for men, this is to include them in the work. The men need to get on board.

Yet another challenge is that people see gender equality to be a matter of opinion alone. But there are studies, facts and figures. It’s a question of knowledge. Many perceive gender equality at the bottom of a company’s to do list, therefore goals are not set, measured, or budgeted. Gender diversity is a question of business strategy and it should be treated as such.