Men Advocating Real Change
Making men part of the solution
This is my husband, Ryan. He's a father to our beautiful daughter, Financial Analyst, sports addict, incredible chef and the program leader of a group at work called MARC. There are so many things that make me proud of my husband, but his leadership in this capacity gets close to topping the list. MARC stands for Men Advocating Real Change and is the brainchild of Catalyst.org, an organization dedicated to creating workplaces that work for women. The goal of MARC is to engage men as inclusion advocates so that they can play an active role in recognizing bias to create equitable and inclusive workplaces.
While gender dynamics in the workplace are changing for the absolute better, the reality still exists that the majority of leadership roles today are held by men. Women are more often than not the champions for gender parity. But if we don't engage men in the conversation, create awareness about gender bias, and empower them to be champions, we as women will face headwinds as we strive for equity.
So I sat down with my husband to learn more about the MARC program, how he's seen it change his workplace and how others can bring it to their own.
Lindsay: What is the MARC program and what compelled you to join it?
Ryan: MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) is a Catalyst.org initiative created for and led by men who are committed to creating a culture of inclusion. The Women’s Network at my employer is taking this program and deploying across many of our US and International worksites. Participants, both men and women in the program, will learn more about how inclusion impacts our business, the role we all play in creating an inclusive culture and will have an opportunity to develop their inclusive leadership skills. Men have a critical role to play in creating inclusive workplaces, yet too often men aren't engaged in the conversation. This program is intended to bring men to this gender inclusion discussion.
The reason I initially joined was because I wanted to help shape and create a work environment where my wife, daughter and other women could flourish and not be made to sacrifice parts of themselves that men would never be asked to do. Now as a participant and MARC Leadership Team member, I also see the business case - when women have access to the jobs and opportunities that men do, we create a stronger company with a true diversity of ideas and skill sets.
Lindsay: What are some of the major themes taught by the program?
Ryan: The core of MARC revolves around making unconscious bias known, forcing us to reflect on how pre-conceived notions of women, and to a larger extent personality, are viewed in the workplace. Before fixing problems we need to build awareness that these problems exist and admit that we as men may be part of the problem. We then talk about overcoming these biases and learning inclusive leadership behaviors that can be used to create a workplace that encourages people to bring whole selves to work. We attempt to put ourselves in other people’s shoes to understand how language and actions can negatively impact those around us. This includes not just our stereotypes and expectations of women but of men as well. For example, what a strong effective leader looks like and sounds like (typically a loud white male) needs to be re-thought in today’s work environment. Finally we become champions for inclusion, help to position others for success and most importantly become comfortable speaking up when the correct behaviors are not visible. All of this really aims to get to the action of not staying silent just because something doesn’t impact us personally, we need to be loud advocates for all those who struggle with diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
Lindsay: How has being part of this program personally impacted you?
Ryan: As someone who grew up with a stay-at-home dad who cared for me and my brother, and dedicated much of my adolescence to playing sports, I spent a lot of time in male dominated environments. As a result, I'm used to being outspoken, sometimes brash and humorous, and have always believed I'm right. At the same time, I grew up with a working mother, a successful one at that, and never thought of women in the workplace as anything other than normal. I went to my dad for emotional support and my mom to learn about IPOs and performance reviews. So while being a straight white male, I also had a fairly unique perspective on what gender roles men and women could play in the world. This program really accentuated the positive behaviors I had built from my upbringing but certainly highlighted some of my shortcomings. It’s tough giving yourself an honest assessment about the things 20-year-old you would think or say and realize how that may impact your unconscious bias in the world. I learned that my tendency to be loud and dominant in a conversation wasn’t necessarily good or bad, but that when I did it in meetings, it might mean that a great idea from someone who was more quiet and reserved didn’t get to express their views. That’s not fair to them and not creating value for the company. Through this program I have tried to let others opine first, ask for input, and not be afraid to speak up when we fail to meet the standards we are pushing ourselves towards. MARC gave me an opportunity to be better, to fight for my mom and my wife and daughter, and in general to be a better person and leader at work. The program has impacted me immensely and is part of the reason I have tried to recruit others and help coordinate the program going forward.
Lindsay: How can people without formal MARC programs at work create change in their organizations and inspire their male colleagues to be advocates for women in the workplace?
Ryan: Speaking to the men out there (TRP community, share this with your husbands/partners/co-workers!) I think the first thing I would say is, if you have women in your life and want the world to be better for them, you have a starting place. Awareness is the place to start and there are tons of great public resources to get you going. I also think it’s important to understand the benefits of equitable pay, paid parental leave, and flexible work/childcare options…these items are too often classified as “for women” but they are for families, for business and for society as well. We all gain when more of our population is lifted up and given the tools and support they need to succeed. Finally, I would say from personal experience that just because you sit on a Women’s Council or participate in something like MARC today, that doesn’t mean that you were never part of the problem, and just because you may exhibit less than perfect behaviors or had been part of the problem in the past, doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the solution going forward. So long as you are cognizant of the larger picture at hand and are willing to be introspective and brave when it matters, I believe we can all become advocates for the women in our workplaces, our communities, and especially our homes.
None of the tools or education provided by MARC are a guarded secret and there are a number of ways that you can “find your why” when it comes to being an advocate for women. You can access Catalyst.org for more information on how to engage with this program and bring it to your workplace!