There is a big debate on why should there be an International Men's Day? Like many Diversity advocates, myself included, believe that there is a systematic imbalance being created because of a greater thrust on women's issues, where many other dimensions are being ignored outrightly. For over two decades in my Diversity coaching, it surprises me to no uncertain extent when I enter into discussion with organizations to develop a charter for diversity, that the discussions are still centered around women and there is a shallow need to understand the issues affecting other dimensions.
Particularly men sharing their experiences of returning to work after battling prostate cancer, heart attack, shared parental leave, and anxiety, emotions and mental health pressures of maintaining a facade both at work and outside of it - this dialogue is increasingly missing from Diversity agendas of leading organizations or doesn't have a clear narrative.
My reasoning is that there are many intersectionalities that are being brushed under as unimportant and not urgent. Gender equality is definitely essential, however, for real equality, all voices have to be heard and all dimensions need to be respected and given an equal platform. Men included. In reality, men aren't the problem always as much as they are made out to be. A lot of men are allies and harbingers of change and staunch supporters of equality. As such D&I should be led by the mass, not the minority.
I believe the diversity pendulum has swung too far to a point where affirmative actions seem to be benefitting women more, which is great but the imbalance it creates is leading to a great deal of debate in recognizing the need of many other dimensions in light of the workplace and societal challenges. With more emphasis on women, men too find themselves getting less attention.
I am a staunch advocate in bringing forth women's issues and without sounding motivated to justify, I have been part of a consortium finding ways to overcome those challenges.
What I mean is that my post is not to undermine the importance and need of the hour to talk about women's development, but I strongly believe that there is a greater need for the right balance where neither of the genders feels left out or more privileged than the other.
Conversations and sensitization to this is a very important and necessary aspect of inclusion. Issues like the gender pay gap, sexual harassment, #Metoo movement are extremely important however, I equally profess in my diversity workshops that we cannot, and should not define an entire gender (men) as perpetrators. Because, when we do that, we make it harder for them to be vulnerable and receive help without judgment.
We are all lucky and unlucky in a variety of different ways, and equality really means showing empathy for all as from the point of view of gender equality, men and women have different but equivalent needs in work and life.
We love highly conscious and insightful men who embark on the introspective journey and recognize the importance of fundamentally shifting the life experiences of women to that of complete equality. We need to be equally vocal about men's health, wellness, work-life balance this Men's International Day.
So, today I also take the opportunity to celebrate men who are positive role models in my life and I am blessed to have them teach me to be compassionate, loving, understanding, inclusive, and enabling.
Happy International Men's Day, indeed!
- Amit Anand