Men are ‘missing ingredient’ in fixing workplace inequality, says Medwards study

Khushali Dodhia 10 November 2016

Men are the “missing ingredient” when it comes to dealing with workplace inequality, a study published by researchers at Murray Edwards claims.

The study, Collaborating with Men, appeals to men to do more to help improve workplace culture for women.

Academics found that women often reported feeling frustrated in the workplace, especially with the behaviours and assumptions of their male colleagues and bosses. These included things like being interrupted or ignored in meetings and being excluded from informal conversations where decisions are often really made.

They then interviewed 40 men in early career, middle management, and senior leadership roles in both small organisations and large businesses, in the private and public sectors.

The ground-breaking research asked both the women and men what could be done to change women’s workplace experiences. Previous studies have tended to focus on how women can adapt to a male-orientated work environment.

The study suggests five things men could do in order to assist their female colleagues’ development in the workplace.

These include building strong mixed-gendered relationships, facilitating neutral meetings where women can openly discuss issues that arise because of their gender, and amplifying women’s voices in meetings in which they are often spoken over.

Dr Jill Armstrong, a Research Associate working on gender equality in careers at Murray Edwards, led the study.

She said, “[I]f individuals are not prepared to change something themselves, then no amount of company policy is going to make a tangible difference.

“However, given that most men haven’t done much thinking about how their behaviour may negatively affect women’s careers, it follows that it’s not obvious what they can do to help. […]

“The effect [of the research] was to make unconscious behaviours visible and to prompt many men to suggest practical changes which could help redress the balance."