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Welcome to GenderWorks’ September 2019 newsletter.

If you’re reading the newsletter for the first time, our June, July and August editions outlined GenderWorks’ Seven Core Elements of Diversity & Inclusion 2.0, an approach that broadens involvement, builds partnerships and closely links to real-time business issues.

We’re excited to launch our Neuroscience Nuggets series this month. We will share how neuroscience – and an understanding of how the brain works – powerfully informs organizational efforts to create inclusive work cultures.

We answer the question, Why Do So Few Men Get Involved with Gender Diversity Work? and share our GenderWorks in the Family column, Caring Really Counts.

We’re excited to share a GenderWorks News Flash, our very own Bryan Levey has been nominated as a finalist for the Global Manbassador of the Year Award by the Professional Women’s Network (PWN) headquartered in Paris France. You can read more below.

GenderWorks assists organizations with proactively and positively engaging men as gender diversity allies and partners. We involve men in gender diversity work safely, deeply, and in ways that resonate for men and women in the workplace and far beyond.

All the best,

Lisa D’Annolfo Levey & Bryan Levey

News Flash

Bryan Levey selected as a finalist for the Global Manbassador of the Year Award

pwn global logoWe’re thrilled that GenderWorks’ Advisor Bryan Levey has been nominated as a finalist for PWN Global’s Manbassdor of the Year Award.

PWN (Professional Women’s Network) – headquartered in Paris – is a global network of women and men accelerating gender balanced leadership in business and society. The Manbassador Award is presented to a man who has demonstrated outstanding support for advancing females in all aspects of his life – as a father, husband, brother, son, and work colleague. He is a man who is not only talking the talk, but leading by example.

“My personal gender equality journey began – though I didn’t know it at the time – when my dad passed away at 64 from colon cancer. I was 26 at the time. He was a dedicated college professor who worked a great deal while I was growing up. My parents talked a lot about traveling the world when my father retired but sadly, he did not make it to retirement. His early death helped me realize that I wanted greater involvement with my family than my dad had with ours, and to partner with my wife to share the financial load.”

Bryan explains why gender equality is important to him and how it’s affected how he leads:

“My understanding of gender diversity at this point in my professional life is far more sophisticated – and top of mind – than during earlier chapters of my career. I’ve seen the power of gender diversity ever more clearly while managing the engineering team at IntervalZero over the last six years. Since 2013, when I joined IntervalZero, the composition of the Engineering team has become more diverse under my leadership with women in technical roles rising from 0 to 25%. In addition, 60% of new hires have been female.”

Neuroscience Nuggets

The Negative Brain Takes Control

watch-outNeuroscience tells us that our brains are most open to learning new information, and understanding the perspective of others, when we are in a positive state of mind. Yet, the reality is our brains have a strong tendency to gravitate toward the negative.

In the absence of information, we often tend to assume the worse. For instance, suppose you are job hunting, had a terrific interview, and were told you’d hear back in about a week. It’s now been two weeks of radio silence and you’re certain you’re out of the running. Perhaps… but there could be many reasons for the delay which have nothing to do with you.

Our brains also focus on and overweight the negative. Just think of any performance review when the overwhelming majority of feedback was terrific but it’s that one ‘growth area’ or less than favorable comment from the 360 evaluation process, which lingers in your mind.

With diversity work, the conundrum of the brain’s instinctual negativity is exacerbated by the weight and emotional charge of words like feminism or gender equality. Try starting a conversation at your next barbecue or cocktail party with those words and you’ll see just how loaded they’ve come to be, laden with judgment, frustration, and sadly, far more often than not, lots of inaccurate information.

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Adding to the negativity bias of our brains, a perceived lack of safety – physical or psychological – causes us to see less clearly. Our field of vision narrows, we’re less receptive to new information and less able to learn. Our ability to empathize and to problem solve is compromised. We are more inclined to see what we want to see and to dig in.

Given we know the negative brain takes control, then the ability to engage men in gender diversity work requires creating safe environments. It requires an opportunity for men to ask questions, to learn, to struggle with the complexity, and to clarify their understanding, as a challenge, not a threat. With that foundation, men build their comfort – and through time their competence – with deeply understanding how gender manifests in their workplace.

Men come to recognize how to facilitate the professional growth of women colleagues and how to mitigate gender inequities in their-day-to day experiences. They come to share in the enthusiasm of watching talented women they’ve supported thrive.

Understanding begets understanding. A first step in engaging men as full gender diversity allies and partners at an organization is a thoughtful approach for who, how, where and when to get them involved.


Why Do So Few Men Get Involved in Gender Diversity Work?

At GenderWorks, we know there isn’t just one, but many, reasons that help to explain the lack of men’s involvement in gender diversity work. We’ve developed a graphic, illustrating the range of thoughts and feelings that men typically bring to the gender equality conversation, that helps to clarify the barriers.

  • Some men experience a focus on gender diversity as a direct threat to their oportunities. They don’t understand why the company would spend money focused specifically on women’s career development. Opposition is the barrier.
  • Some men see women in their organization and are stymied by all the conversation about the need for gender diversity. Not understanding the issue is the barrier.
  • Some men, conceding that women hold few leadership seats in their organization, don’t perceive the issue as personally related to their work. They’re sick of hearing about gender diversity and hope it will fade. A lack of perceived relevancy is the barrier.
  • Some men who perceive the lack of gender parity as a problem, are interested but generally don’t feel like they have a clue regarding what to do about it. A lack of knowledge is the barrier.
  • Some men, believing that the lack of gender diversity is an issue and having an interest in making things better, are open to getting involved. Competing work priorities, and/or not understanding how to get involved, are the barriers.

Understanding what prevents men from becoming active partners in gender diversity work, Genderworks employs a variety of strategies that mitigate – and eliminate – the hurdles. The ‘how’ of engaging men makes all the difference.

GenderWorks in the Family

Caring Really Counts

A recurring theme in our family is the importance of care work. We talk about how care work – which has primarily been the domain of women – is highly undervalued in society and particularly in the U.S. (which holds the dubious distinction of ranking dead last in family-supportive policies amongst affluent western countries.) Care work is often difficult, requires skill and stamina, and is foundational for a healthy society.

We believe that helping boys to deeply understand the value and importance of care work is an important way to support gender equality. Our sons see us seek to model what care looks like, not just for them as our children but also for each other and other people in our lives. So, a hard day at work might be met with an offer of a shoulder rub, to do dishes that night, or to make brownies for dessert.

We’ve found in recent years, as our sons have gotten older, they’re becoming far more mindful of what caring for others really involves and why it’s so important. This past month was a great example.

Their aunt, who has been an important part of their lives and who had a major milestone birthday this year, does not have children or a significant other in her life. They recognize we are an extremely important part of her family.

With a bit of encouragement from Mom and Dad, our sons began planning a special trip to take their aunt for a 2-day stay at a beautiful spot in New Hampshire. They researched to find restaurants that were just right and explore fun things to do, like playing mini-golf which has many funny and special memories for them. As the ones in charge, they did the planning, the driving, and the paying.

Upon their return, it was clear this experience made their aunt feel special, cared for and loved. She delights in sharing with friends and office mates, pictures from this special birthday celebration with her nephews.

As parents, it’s powerful to see our sons growing into young men who prioritize caring for others in their lives.