How can business advance gender equality across the value chain by engaging men as allies?

It will be hard to reach gender equality without the participation of men. Men are half the population and half the workforce, if they are not interested or not allied with the cause it will be difficult to create.Un Women launched an inclusive message with invitation for positive engagement; this was also based on human psychology, social movements are successful if people feel that they belong to a tribe so they implemented a map for men in communities to show their engagement, it was encouraging for men to see that they could go on the website to make a commitment, that they could be counted as someone standing up for gender equality. However, according to Catalyst, “before individuals will support efforts to right an inequality they must first recognize that the inequality exists. Men who were more aware of gender bias were more likely to say that it was important to them to achieve gender equality.”

Despite many decades of struggle, we are still a long way from gender equality in the workplace or in government. And progress is not always in one direction. Men hold the majority of senior positions in business- 475 of Fortune 500 CEOs, for example. They make up 76% of Members of Parliament worldwide. And 89% of elected heads of state. But this also means they have a tremendous amount of power to make positive changes that can make a huge difference, not only to gender equality in the world, but to businesses – and to men themselves.

And this is not only a matter of equality and human rights. There is also a well-argued business case for change. Boosting gender and diversity within business operations could enhance companies’ staffing and talent; research suggests that increasing the presence and responsibility of women is correlated with improved company performance, and that there is a connection between the representation of women in leadership positions and corporate returns. Women make up a large percentage of consumers; marketing that uses gender stereotypes to sell them goods may have an adverse effect on the bottom line. Women are also involved in the supply chains from the start as farmers, factory workers and creators and producers of goods.

So it is in men’s interests to boost gender equality in business, and in supporting positive workplace policies and culture. It is also in their power to bring about real change.

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Love this question. For us, I think, first and foremost we believe that men have an essential responsibility and role to play - in partnership with women - in creating a world we all want to live in: grounded in equality, human rights, and respectful relationships. So it starts from there. As Robert and Nikki point out, there are of course the arguments that it’s good for business, and we love that there is that synergy between what’s right, and what is good for companies.

Some wisdom from our interview with Elizabeth Nyamayaro founder of He For She, which has brought together more than 2 million men in the cause is that “when you look back at history, in the 19th century, one of the key moments was when slavery was an issue and we all came together and made the situation better; in the 20th century, when it was the apartheid in South Africa, we made it better; in the 21st century we started a very important journey for gay rights, and progress is being made in the United States in terms of same-sex marriage.” Men need to be invited to the table not just as allies, but to contribute concrete solutions to gender equality. “From the classroom to the streets, local leaders and everyday male champions are addressing violence against women and redefining masculine identities through community intervention programmes, education and even music.”

A1: Advancing gender equality in general is something that businesses should be concerned about in terms of its fundamental impact to the societies and communities where their staff and clients work and live and the work place. Men have a key role to play in advancing gender equality both in their own behaviours and as potential agents of change. Addressing gender inequality can lead to workplace that are more collaborative and healthy for example with decreased workplace harassment and greater parity in pay and recruitment between men and women. We should also keep in mind that gender equitable workplaces and communities are also in the benefit of men and boys as it supports healthier intimate partnerships, closer and stronger relationships with children, improved health for men, etc).

Several companies that we spoke with mentioned that getting leadership involved was crucial to obtaining change, because since men hold many positions of power in companies. Today men still are at the heart of many decisions and if they are not aware they will continue to perpetuate those same biased decisions. With a new awareness of these issues men can assume a role of greater responsibility in becoming champions and ambassadors for the cause.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 is a standalone goal to achieve Gender Equality. However, gender equality is also increasingly recognized as a pre-condition for achieving the overall 2030 sustainable development agenda. Everyone has a role to play in achieving gender equality, including male allies!

AB InBev’s diversity and inclusion strategy extends beyond our workforce and workplace to also consider our supply chain and brands. As we built out our approach to gender equality within the strategy, we recognized there was an opportunity to better understand how we could more effectively engage men to strengthen the impact. But we knew we couldn’t do it alone!

That was the impetus for us to kick off a Challenge with Business Fights Poverty and with our great thought partners Stanford and CARE to understand lessons learned and good practices on how to best engage men in the gender equality movement.


Gender inequality has a huge social and economic cost. When women don’t fully participate in the workforce for example, businesses lose out on great talent. Businesses also lose out in market share when women aren’t able to consume because they don’t have spending power. There is a huge economic upside for businesses to help level the playing field.

It is great to see all these different perspectives but also how we have many common elements in terms of gender equality being good for business, society, women, men and all genders!!

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Completely agree Chiara - visible leadership commitment on this is absolutely key. Its important that this is not just talk, it needs to be actively role modeled by leaders as well. Senior male leaders talking about the importance of gender diversity, listening to understand others’s experiences, taking paternity leave and so on has such a powerful impact.

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Now we just have to convince the world @RobertBaker!


In the UK we a real workforce shortage emerging and the economic impact of getting more women into the work place and progressing through it is vital

I think we’re all on the same page about why it’s important, more or less, even if we’re coming at it in slightly different ways. What I think we may need to talk about more is why some men are resistant. Yes, we have a lot of “HeForShes” but there are a lot of men who are threatened by the discussion and we also need to understand where that comes from and how we address it. So we agree it’s good for business and that it’s good for the workforce, but does everyone see it that way, and if not why not? There are plenty of men who are afraid that gender equality in their workplace means reduced opportunity for them and aren’t seeing it as a win-win. So what do we need to do differently given there’s little argument about the underlying case?

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Business also need to think about its customer base and the massive proportion of consumer and business decisions made by women. Businesses where the leadership and workforce does not reflect the customer base are going to face real challenges in growing and thriving!

This is a complex discussion in the end. We know for example that upward of 1 and 3 women experience violence from men. So even by that one measure (which is one of the most extreme in regards to gender inequality) we are long ways off.


Really important Dan. Catalyst has done some really valuable research on the root causes of why men might not engage in organisational efforts to support greater gender diversity. They divide these into three main categories: apathy (not my problem), fear (both of saying the wrong thing and / or of losing out) and ignorance (either perceived or real). Each of these needs to be addressed in a different way and therefore requires a combination of different programmes. For example, reciprocal mentoring programmes where senior leaders are matched with women from a different discipline and geography within the business can be an impactful way of learning from someone whose experience of the organisation is different from yours.


Let’s all work on it together!! @Nikkivdg

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Good point @Dan Seymour. We are also seeing a huge backlash against gender equality in many countries. So how to counter this in the corporate world as elsewhere? Lots of ideas which no doubt we will come to later. In the workplace, I have found that giving men space to talk about gender (on their own and with women too) helps to articulate some of those fears and move the dialogue forward.

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Thanks Rob - to which I’d add advertising and marketing explicitly. It’s remarkable that even brands and SKUs that have heavily female-slanting customer bases are only now, and even then only in some markets, realising that their advertising has to reflect their real customers.

Totally agree - more on getting men to talk openly and honestly about this coming up :slight_smile: