Status, Fear, and Solitude: Men and Gender Equality at The Top

By Eric Arthrell, Carolyn Lawrence, Jodi Baker Calamai and Alex Morris | Deloitte | April 11, 2019

Why is workplace gender equality still so difficult to achieve? Much of the answer may lie in an unexpected place: how traditional masculinity keeps men tied to the strenuous expectations of many organizational cultures.

Why do organizations still struggle with gender equality at senior levels? Largely, it may be because men still feel culturally constrained to relentlessly pursue status in the workplace—preventing them from sharing nonwork responsibilities with their partners in a way that would allow women to more easily advance.

Deloitte’s new report The Design of Everyday Men investigates men’s experiences with work, family, and masculinity to explore the impact of organizational and cultural expectations on their behavior both within and outside the workplace. Based on an intensive ethnographic study of 16 professional men in and around the Greater Toronto Area, the study concludes that business leaders have a significant opportunity to change organizational cultures to enable men to approach gender equality, not just as supporters, but as active participants.

Today’s “always on, always available” workplace culture is a key factor holding back gender equality at senior organizational levels, the study finds. Individuals often prioritize work over family, personal commitments, and well-being to rise to the top, and men may be more predisposed to making this tradeoff at the expense of their outside-of-work commitments. Women then wind up picking up the slack on household and other nonwork responsibilities, thereby disadvantaging themselves by becoming unable to adhere to the “always on, always available” expectation as easily.

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What is your reaction to the fact that the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women will be chaired by a man?