According to a report by McKinsey there are 6 types of intervention necessary to bridge the gender gap, which globally could contribute $12trillion to global growth. Isn’t that great?! Someone has finally valued all that work that teaches us how to build connections, how to imagine and how to love, and valued it at $12trillion!!!
Of course, the list of interventions to bridge the gender gap are not quite as exciting, although necessary:
- Financial incentives and support;
- Technology and infrastructure;
- The creation of economic opportunity;
- Capability building;
- Advocacy and shaping attitudes; and
- Laws, policies and regulations.
The most important of these is advocacy and shaping – or reshaping – the attitudes responsible for reinforcing traditional and patriarchal stereotypes. They directly undermine our capacity to achieve equality, but importantly, they also affect the mental health of both men and women:
And of course, it becomes a vicious cycle with work then impacting on family, and vice versa.
What Impact Does The Gender Gap Have On Men?
What is less understood is that for men, the impact of those gendered expectations is often seen earlier than at the time of family.
Suicide in Australia is the largest single cause of death in young males aged 15-24 years, accounting for 22% of deaths. According to the Counting the Cost report by Ernst & Young, while both young men and women suffer from anxiety and depression, young men have higher rates of completed suicide, antisocial behaviour and drug and alcohol problems than women. Further, even when those young men at risk are able to identify support services, there is a frequent reluctance to use it.
Socially, it is acceptable for Australian women to take parental leave and return to work in a part time capacity (albeit with some stigma attached). Yet for a man, the gendered stereotype continues to expect him to conform to a life of long working hours if he wants to be seen as a success. Less than 3% of Australian families have both parents working part time. Not only does this have a direct impact on their partner’s career, but because we haven’t provided them with the space to reimagine what it means to be a working father, they also miss out on some of the most precious moments life brings when a new baby arrives.
It’s time for us as a nation to redefine what it means to be the ‘lucky country’. Luck won’t get us out of this one; rather, we’re stuck in a time warp gender gap that is significantly affecting our mental health, and our prosperity as a country.
Workplaces have enormous capacity to drive interventions. Making them a success depends on three things:
Firstly, they must get the timing of the interventions right;
Secondly, they must ensure the policies, procedures and programs they have in place are not reinforcing stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity; and
Thirdly, they must ensure the advocacy and role modelling by senior men and women directly addresses the issue of stereotypes and equality.
Then, and only then, will we see the gender gap bridged and all employees able to realise their full potential, bringing their whole self to work, and capable of pursuing their dreams in the pursuit of happiness.
This week we recognised World NET Day – raising awareness for neuroendocrine tumours (See our Women We Love on Unicorn Foundation CEO Simone Leyden). Steve Jobs reportedly died from NETs cancer in the pancreas. It seems fitting therefore to leave you with his parting words this week. Because love, connection & life are the best reasons for men to also invest in care and homemaking. Now.