Raconteur

Diversity and Inclusion 2020

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D I V E R S I T Y & I N C L U S I O N 8 Businesses now have a role to play in redefining what masculinity needs to become, by revolting against outdated cues associated with gender Combating hyper-masculinity in the workplace While it's easy to identify toxic masculinity, doing something about it in the workplace can be a daunting challenge for business leaders f Harvey Weinstein is the deformed poster boy for toxic masculinity in the workplace, then his guilty ver- dict handed down for sexual assault and rape is truly symbolic. Admittedly the actions of the disgraced film mogul, whose penchant for bullying, degradation and depravity turbo-changed the #MeToo movement in October 2017, rank at the most heinous end of toxic masculin- ity in the workplace. But the majority of us have experienced the humiliating impact of machismo in the office, directly or otherwise. In the last two-and-a-half years, though, from when the American mogul's despicable behaviour was outed publicly, the working environment has improved, generally. "Since the #MeToo campaign, busi- nesses have had to demonstrate zero tol- erance of the most extreme forms," says employment lawyer Florence Brocklesby, founder of Bellevue Law. Martin Raymond, co-founder of strategic foresight consultancy The Future Labora- tory, goes further. "Post #MeToo, the main- stream perception of masculinity is under scrutiny," he says. "Businesses now have a role to play in redefining what masculinity needs to become, by revolting against out- dated cues associated with gender. "In the workplace, traditionally 'male' traits such as confidence, competitiveness and rational thinking have long positioned men as frontrunners. But expectations of the future workforce are rapidly changing and emotional intelligence will be one of the most crucial skills for men to exhibit at work in the decade ahead." Recent statistics indicate toxic masculin- ity in the workplace remains rife, however. The Kantar Inclusion Index, which was pub- lished last September and surveyed almost 20,000 people in 14 countries operating in 24 different industries, found that more than a quarter of women (27 per cent) feel they don't belong in their workplace. This desire for an alternative to the con- ventional workplace has driven the trend for niche, all-women offices. AllBright, for example, offers a growing cluster of female-only networking spaces, in the UK and abroad. Co-founder Anna Jones says: "We believe sisterhood works. By making the playing fields level between men and women, we will not only improve the way we do business, but everything we do in life." Business coach Jo Emerson argues that it's not just men who toxify the workplace. "I have seen women displaying domineer- ing, aggressive, dismissive and aggressively competitive behaviours just as much as I have seen in men," she says. "The root of any toxic behaviour is fear." Emerson recommends a four-point plan to root out workplace toxicity: raising aware- ness, led from the top; undertaking an audit of workplace behaviour; agreeing on a plan of action; and, crucially, regular reviews. Transforming the working environment is critical because "traditional office mod- els are broken", according to Jan Mikulin. "They are fuelled by the institutionalised expression of outdated, two-dimensional Oliver Pickup I masculinity: a nauseous mix of power plays, politics and distorted gender roles," says the business and communications strategy con- sultant, currently writing a book on toxic masculinity in the workplace. "It's the zero- sum, dog-eat-dog paradigm. Being envel- oped in such tense energy is bad for people's health, creativity and productivity." Indeed, Deloitte's Mental health and employers report, launched in January, cal- culates that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year. Alarm- ingly, that figure represents a 16 per cent (£6 billion) rise from 2016. The study also notes that for every £1 spent on mental health, it returns an average of £5. "The rise in awareness connected with toxic, hyper-masculine workplaces and the associated costs, both financial and social, is seeing a shift in behaviours and prac- tices," says Mikulin. "Investment in mindfulness programmes, mental health first aiders, flexible and remote working, all have positive impacts on employee wellbeing. While currently lim- ited to a few workplaces, giving the employ- ers a competitive advantage, they will soon become the norm." Many industries are playing catch-up. As Jack Norman, co-founder of Milk for Tea, a social enterprise that focuses on combating toxic masculinity in the workplace, points out: "Men still carry the majority of power in almost every industry around the world. In finance, 83 per cent of Financial Con- duct Authority-approved individuals are men, 77 per cent of people in STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] roles are male. And PwC states that women hold just 5 per cent of leadership positions in the technology industry." The lowest reported industry percent- age of female employees in the UK is con- struction at 12.5 per cent. And given that in 2018 the charity Lighthouse Club's research revealed that, on average, two construction workers take their lives in Britain every day, it highlights the problems of a male-domi- nated workplace, if left unchecked. "Toxic machismo plays its part in that shocking statistic," says Adam Christopher, co-founder and director of Active Train- ing Team (ATT), which uses immersive and experiential programmes to reshape behav- iour. "An environment full of bravado, ban- ter and one-upmanship stops people speak- ing up about unsafe practices because they don't want to be a 'grass'. Saying 'just man up' is an example of belittling behaviour that stops people talking." ATT's workshops empower individuals, break down systemic barriers and encourage people to start caring. Christopher contin- ues: "We believe that how people feel informs their actions. We aim to make people aware that regardless of rank or role, if they accept responsibility for their behaviour, and the health, safety and wellbeing of themselves and others, then they are leaders, whether they're a 16-year-old apprentice or a long-in- the-tooth veteran approaching retirement." As Weinstein begins his long sentence behind bars on Rikers Island, it's high time for all organisations to revamp and detox- ify their workplaces, and that individuals are enabled to become responsible leaders, regardless of gender. C U L T U R E 1. Awareness of the issue This has to come from the top. "If company bosses display any of these toxic behaviours or are unwilling to confront them, it is going to be very difficult to create change throughout the rest of the organisation," says business coach Jo Emerson. 2. Audit "Conduct an audit, either digitally or face to face, covering as much of the company as possible to understand what is going on and create a safe space to initiate conversations," recommends Cate Murden, founder of PUSH, a leading wellbeing and performance business consultancy. 3. Action (and accountability) "From here," says Emerson, "leaders need to decide how this will be handled and crucially stick to it. Communicate the new expected behaviours to the entire organisation through emails, posters, on the intranet and so on. Train everyone on what is acceptable and what is not." 4. Assessment "None of this guarantees a culture of trust, where suggestions are welcome and whistleblowers can be protected, but it certainly helps," says John Hackston, head of thought leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company. That's why regular reviews of behaviour and practices are essential, as is frequent communication about how the programme is working. Steps to detoxifying the workplace: the four 'As' MEN AT WORK Survey of over 1,600 people who identify as men about their ideas of masculinity and workplace culture 53% said it was very or somewhat important that others see them as masculine or manly 23% said one of the advantages of being a man in the workplace is that they are taken more seriously 8% said men are explicitly praised more often than women 60% said society puts pressure on men in a way that is unhealthy or bad FiveThirtyEight/WNYC 2018 Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

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