VIEW: Share This With Men for Mother’s Day

First, the news update:

On May 5, Sen. Sandy Pappas put forward a motion to pull ERA bill SF323 out of the Civil Law & Data Practices committee, where it did not receive a hearing this session, directly onto the Senate Floor for a vote. If passed, SF323 would give Minnesotans the opportunity to vote on whether or not they want the ERA added to the MN state constitution. Sadly the motion to pull SF323 out of committee failed with 32 Yea’s and 33 Nay’s. 

As Betty Folliard indicated to me, the ERA is not totally dead this year in Minnesota, but has high hurdles. One hurdle is that the House did not pass it due to pandemic priorities. There are several authors of similar bills in the Senate that may try to keep bringing it to a floor vote to get legislators on record for their support (or lack thereof) for ERA. 

I applaud the efforts of equality warriors in the Minnesota legislature. For those who voted against this motion, we have a clear line of sight on where you stand when it comes to ensuring all Minnesotans are treated equally under the law. We will remember in November 2022.

Suzann Willhite

Where are the men who support equal legal rights for women and girls? I have been asking this question for many years. All men have mothers, grandmothers, possibly daughters, wives, partners, girlfriends, women friends and females in their life that they respect and value. Why is there so little active support from men for women’s equality in the home, workplace, healthcare, education, safety and freedom from violence?

I searched on the internet for organizations focused on men supporting women’s equal rights and talked to some of my male friends for input. My online searches led me to a few organizations:

  • A CALL TO MEN is “helping create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women, girls, and those at the margins are valued and safe. They are paving the way for gender equity. Since 2002, A Call To Men has mobilized hundreds of thousands of male-identified aspiring allies to women and girls around the world.”
  • Men Engage Alliance is a “global alliance working towards advancing gender equality and justice, human rights and social justice, with a mission to achieve a world in which all people can enjoy healthy and equitable relationships and their full potential. The Men Engage Alliance works on engaging men and boys in gender equality and tries to build and improve the practice on engaging men in achieving gender justice.”
  • PROMUNDO is an “international organization that promotes gender justice and prevents violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women, girls, and individuals of all gender identities.” 

There are many other organizations that advocate for equality for women and girls but do not focus on engaging men in the mission. Women have had to advocate mostly for themselves with less power in leadership, government, business, and politics to make desired changes in laws and policies. 

Women (64%) are more likely than men (49%) to say we haven’t made enough progress on gender equality, according to a July 2020 Pew Research Center survey about gender equality.

Conducted 100 years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, most Americans surveyed support gender equality, even if they don’t identify as feminists. A majority of Democrats and Republicans — whether they identify as feminists or not — say it is very important for women to have equal rights with men and support adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

So why the disconnect between men surveyed saying they support women’s equality, but not taking action to make it happen in their areas of influence?

I have asked my male friends this question and get a range of responses. Some say they are afraid of looking like they are “taking over” a women’s issue when advocating for women’s rights. One man was honest in saying that most men don’t see women’s equality as a significant issue.

In a Forbes article titled “How To Engage More Male Leaders In The Gender Equality Movement,” Jeffrey Halter, a corporate consultant who is one of the country’s leading experts on engaging men to advance women, shared four common barriers preventing active male engagement:

  1. (Lack of) Empathy (“I don’t believe men and women are having different experiences in the workplace.”)
  2. Apathy (”I don’t know why gender equality and pay equity is important.”)
  3. Accountability (“If it’s not important to my boss or my paycheck, why should I care?”)
  4. Fear (“I may say or do the wrong thing or I will be judged by my peer group if I do this “women’s thing.”)

Halter’s solutions are to Listen, Learn, Lead, and Have the Will to Change.

A 2018 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article titled How Men Can Become Better Allies to Women presented evidence that showed when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96 percent of organizations see progress — compared to only 30 percent of organizations where men are not engaged.

By focusing gender initiatives solely on changing women — from the way they network to the way they lead — individualistic approaches to solving gender inequities overlook systemic structural causes. This reinforces the perception that these are women’s issues — effectively telling men they don’t need to be involved. 

These recommendations on best practices come from the HBR article “How Men Can Be Better Allies”:

  • First, just listen! Generous, world-class listening requires focus, sincerity, empathy, refusal to interrupt, and genuine valuing of both her experience and her willingness to share it with you.
  • Respect the space. Large events and local resource groups have afforded women a powerful platform for sharing experiences, providing support, and strategizing equity initiatives. Tread respectfully into these spaces and before you utter a word, revisit the recommendation above.
  • Remember, it’s not about you. Ask women how you can amplify, not replace or usurp existing gender parity efforts. A large dose of gender humility will help here. Refrain from taking center stage, speaking for women, or mansplaining how women should approach gender equity efforts.
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Developing psychological standing requires a commitment to learning and advocating for gender equity. Learning about the professional challenges of women may produce feelings of self-shame or self-blame that cause anxiety. The solution is more interaction and learning, not less.
  • Engage in supportive partnerships with women. The best cross-gender ally relationships are reciprocal, and mutually growth-enhancing. Share your social capital (influence, information, knowledge, and organizational resources) with women’s groups but ask them — don’t assume — how you can best support their efforts.
  • Remember the two parts to allyship. Keep in mind that committing to express as little sexism as possible in your interactions with women is the easy part of allyship. The hard part requires you to take informed action. Use your experience in women’s events and initiatives to learn how you can best become a public ally for social justice around gender. When the time comes, this may require you to upset the status quo.

Men are needed in the fight for equality. Being silent is being complicit. Be an ally. Support the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.”

For this Mother’s Day, ask the men in your life to take action for mothers, sisters, spouses, daughters, sons and self.

Action = Change