Championing Change: 7 Ways Men Can Advance Gender Equality at Work
Discover Power Africa’s joint efforts with Electricity Generation Company in Malawi & Electricidade de Moçambique to enhance men’s gender equality knowledge. DOWNLOAD poster for your office!
Men are vital in championing gender equality in the workplace and helping to create an environment in which everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed and thrive. Power Africa partnered with electric utilities in Malawi and Mozambique to equip men in leadership positions with the knowledge and skills to identify and create opportunities for gender equality and social inclusion in their teams, workplaces, and communities.
A gender-inclusive energy sector requires action from everyone.
It is not only up to women to empower or better themselves, but also for men to support women in their careers and understand the role they can play to create change. Once men are engaged with issues surrounding gender equality and bias in the power sector workforce, they will better understand the role they can play to create change. Additionally, leaders must be committed to gender equality and equity and model the change they want to see in their employees.
The Electricity Generation Company in Malawi (EGENCO) and Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM) are two energy utilities at the forefront of gender equality in sub-Saharan Africa. Male engagement is key to their success, and in 2022 they bolstered their commitment through a Power Africa-led training for men in leadership positions.
Creating Awareness and Facilitating Change
The three-day men’s engagement training focused on increasing knowledge and awareness among men to improve gender-equitable attitudes and create an enabling environment for gender equity. With support from the utilities’ gender advisors, a few men within each utility were identified to help facilitate and champion the change during the training.
The training honed in on workplace bias, gender-based violence, respectful workplaces, and bystander action. It included coaching sessions to highlight the impact of gender inequality at work, at home, and in broader society.
Power Africa customized the training curriculum to address the current needs and gender efforts of each utility, including their work as partners in USAID’s Engendering Industries program.
The attendees participated in breakout sessions on power and privilege, everyday sexism, unequal care burden, and active listening. These sessions resulted in personal reflections on these issues, new insights, and bonding to ignite action by a group of men committed to an inclusive energy sector.
How Men Can Champion Change
DOWNLOAD: ‘Seven Ways Men Can Champion Gender Equality at Work’ Poster
Source: Promundo US (2019). So, You Want to be a Male Ally for Gender Equality? (And You Should): Results from a National Survey, and a Few Things You Should Know. Washington, DC: Promundo. https://www.equimundo.org/resources/male-allyship/
- Actively listen to women’s perspectives
Women are the experts on their own life experiences, so seek out opportunities to hear women’s stories. Acknowledge their experiences — and take on the role of educating other men — in a way that inspires trust and respect; these are fundamental commitments men can make.
2. Reflect on your own power and privilege as a man
Being an effective ally starts with self-awareness: How has your gender influenced the opportunities you’ve had in life? What are you able to do only because you are a man?
3. Credit your female co-workers’ ideas fairly
Women are underrepresented in many workplaces and paid less than their male colleagues, in part because their contributions and ideas are often overlooked. Emphasizing the good ideas of female co-workers, mentioning them in front of higher-ups, and correcting colleagues who misattribute credit isn’t giving special treatment to women — it’s treating them with fairness.
4. Advocate for gender-equitable policies in the workplace
To close this “allyship gap” between intention and action, speak up for policies that remove bias and advance equality, including pay transparency, parental leave, and confidential reporting structures for sexual harassment.
5. Challenge sexism, and speak up when you hear sexist language
It’s hard to step in or speak up when you see someone being harassed or treated unfairly, or when those around you are engaging in derogatory “banter” but men calling each other out sends a powerful message that sexist language and actions will no longer be tolerated.
6. Step up at home — take on your full share of the housework and childcare
Women’s advancement in the workplace is hindered by the disproportionate responsibilities they continue to take on at home; household labor, childcare and all the invisible work behind the scenes that keeps everything running smoothly. Step up at home, advocate at your workplace for work-life balance measures, including paid leave for all caregivers.
7. Support diverse female leaders you believe in
More women need positions of political power, yet women hold only a minority of these positions around the world. Think about how you can support women outside of the workplace.
Unpacking Gender Perceptions, Consequences, and Reasons for Change
Women’s underrepresentation in the energy sector results from a complex interplay of cultural, social, economic, and educational factors perpetuating gender-based inequalities that inevitably transcend into the workplace. Social norms — sometimes rooted in religious, traditional, or other beliefs — have historically dictated specific and separate roles for men and women, culminating in the workplace gender gaps women experience today.
When it comes to workplace gender inequality, impacts are not only felt by women. Gender inequality in the workplace can also affect men.
Some feel pressured to be a “real man,” physically and emotionally strong, succumbing to bullying if they fall short. Others have limited access to paternity leave, restricting their ability to be “present” fathers. Because of societal norms, workplace flexibility for men may not be an option, limiting their ability to navigate work-life balance.
Gender equality not only improves the working environment by empowering both women and men equally, it results in an overall better experience for all workers and higher-quality productivity.
Having constructive conversations at home and work will give men the freedom to step outside of stereotypical mindsets and will place more focus on getting the work done in the most effective manner, in the least discriminating way. The first step toward gender equality is grappling with these issues on a personal level and discussing them among peers.
The men’s training followed Power Africa’s September 2022 training to 70 women leaders from EGENCO and EDM, which focused on building women’s leadership skills. The next phase of training is directed to the utilities’ board members and entail aligning capacity-building with gender strategies and supporting gender action at the company level.
Power Africa is proud to work with EGENCO and EDM to improve gender equality in the energy sector, including supporting women’s career advancement and enhancing men’s capacity to champion change.