The Role of Men in Advancing Gender Equality

In the last few decades, efforts to promote gender equality in health, social development and human rights have been driven by women. Because women are often the victims of gender inequality and stereotyping, it isn’t surprising that they are the ones to lead the call for changes on how the world perceives them. However, gender equality doesn’t concern only women. It concerns everybody.

The European Commission recently pointed out, gender inequality is not just a “women’s concern.” Promoting gender balance is the “responsibility of all individuals and of the society as whole and requires the active contribution and input from both women and men.” As such, men are encouraged to take joint responsibility with women to actively participate in efforts to establish gender balance in society and in business.

Men have a lot to gain from a gender-equal society, according to UNESCO. It is no secret that many men suffer from socially-constructed gender stereotypes that force them to be tough, place themselves in great danger and be someone they are not. If a man is perceived as being “too feminine” or if he enjoys activities that are mostly associated with women, he is often labelled as effeminate or a homosexual. Boys exhibiting such traits are often bullied by their peers who believe in the old notions of masculinity.

Because of these gender stereotypes, men often suppress a very important aspect of being human: the ability to experience and express a wide range of emotions. In many cultures, the display of affection and expression of vulnerabilities in times of distress are considered a weakness among men. As a result, men often miss the chance to experience the simple joys of caring for their children, being with their family and loved ones, or simply enjoying the things and activities they like.

For this reason, men need to have an active role in the advancement of gender equality. By helping establish a gender-equal society, they can be free to be themselves without the fear of being ridiculed or ostracised. They ideally may live in a world where their sons and daughters won’t have to suffer from prejudice, injustice, and discrimination.

Instead of blaming each other for inequalities and inequities, men and women need to reach a compromise and work together for the greater good of everyone. As the popular saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Fortunately, there has been a remarkable improvement in the participation of men in the advancement of gender equality over the last few years. According to the European Commission, in the past, the “battle for gender equality has mainly been fought by women and for women” and related policies have been contextualised simply as a women’s issue. In the last decade, however, both genders are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the role of men in advancing gender equality as equal partners with women.

In Australia, initiatives such as the Male Champions of Change Program are also helping to drive change in advancing women’s representation in leadership and putting the topic of gender diversity back on the table as a moral and business imperative.

Let’s not let such efforts be in vain. We should all work together to break free from gender stereotypes and to ensure that in the future, all human beings will be treated equally and with respect, regardless of their gender.

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