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Why Men Are Afraid to Deal with Gender Diversity

There’s an elephant in the boardroom of agencies across Australia and its name is gender diversity. More precisely, a lack of it.

Last year, the Communications Council placed female representation in agency leadership at just 27%.[1] Yet, women make up 56% of the overall workforce but aren’t being promoted. Is it because the other 73% aren’t invested in their futures, or is it more complicated than that? Mavens have explored five possible reasons why more Aussie men are afraid to become equality champions.

No one wants to be told their success is a result of privilege.

What many of us in fail to realise is that acknowledging our privilege doesn’t change the fact we’ve worked hard. It’s simply means accepting that someone else may work equally hard and never achieve the same level of success because of their race, gender, disability, sexuality or otherwise. Once we accept this, our egos will be safe (phew!) and we can use our privilege to help champion a more diverse future.

Gender quotas threaten the meritocracy.

There is a common fear that gender quotas discriminate against men. The problem is that without actively getting women into leadership roles, men will keep getting all the top jobs. Right now in advertising and media, women comprise only 23% of leadership teams.[2]

So if gender quotas are what it takes to unravel an eternity of patriarchy, surely that’s less terrifying than locking 51% of Australia’s population out of our industry’s talent pool?

Men secretly like gender roles, but they’re a double-edged sword.

Aussie men do fewer than 5 hours unpaid domestic work per week compared to women’s 14 hours.[3] However, they’re often expected to bring home the bread; there’s a pressure to succeed at all costs or face emasculation. As they strive to maintain an ‘always on, always available’ reputation at work, their mental health and family time can fall by the wayside. Their partner may also be left to pick up the slack at home, which could hold back her own career goals.

Boys club culture favours blokes, which is great if you’re a bloke.

Women have always been a minority in Australian leadership. It’s why there are still men with careers built on a boys’ club culture. For them, working for a woman equates to the unknown, which is something to be feared.

Radical feminists can be really frightening.

While misogyny is more prevalent than misandry, some feminists speak of men in aggressive, contemptuous ways. This can be both provocative and offensive to men who are not used to being judged on their gender.

Mavens is an independent digital publication championing women in Australian advertising and media. You can help by taking our Gender Diversity survey here.

[1] The Communications Council Member Report, 2019 [2] The State of Diversity and Inclusion in the Australian Marketing Communications Industry, 2019 (B&T and Honeycomb) [3] Australian Census 2016


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