It will take 99.5 years to achieve gender parity across the globe, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest calculations. A century is too long to wait. Women cannot close gaps in political representation, economic inclusion and health outcomes on their own—buy-in from men is half the battle. (And, luckily, as John F. Kennedy said: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”)
We asked male allies why men should care about gender equality and how men can do their part to advance gender justice. Here’s what they said.
[Watch a recap of the discussion below]
Acknowledge Male Privilege and Responsibility
Dr. Thomas Banchoff, vice president for global engagement, Georgetown University says:
“As the beneficiaries of an unjust status quo, men are called to promote gender equality through words and actions. We should do so because it is morally right. And we should do so because greater participation of women at all levels is critical if our institutions—from business and education to religion and government—are to reach their full potential and advance the common good.”
Dr. Robert Nagel, post-doctoral fellow, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security says:
“I (and most other men) benefit from a range of privileges and I want to use these to work for structural changes and equality—whether that is along the lines of gender, race, class or any possible intersection of these dimensions.”
Know Your Place as Allies
Ambassador Don Steinberg, Former U.S. Ambassador to Angola says:
“The single clearest lesson that I’ve learned is that peaceful and prosperous and just societies only emerge when we draw on the leadership and the full contributions of all of our citizens, and especially women, people with disabilities, the LGBT community, displaced people and other marginalized groups. And the paradox we face is that nearly all of the gatekeepers, who are the key to ensuring this diversity and inclusion, are people like me: privileged, white, in my case, straight, older men—who have little direct experience with exclusion and abuse based on identity factors.
“It is vital for us to know our place. We are allies. We are partners. We are facilitators of women’s leadership. But the agenda and the leadership of the movement itself needs to come from those who are impacted.”
Lord Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, special representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict, United Kingdom says:
“Whether it’s debates around what we’re discussing today—gender equality—whether it’s debates about racism, whether it’s issues around countering extremism, we’re looking at the communities to provide resolutions. Yes, they should.
“But equally, we need to look at ourselves […] People like me, men with responsibility, I rightly challenge to ask the question: ‘What are you doing, what are your governments doing, to ensure that women aren’t just represented in some token format, but actually truly empowered?”
If You Aren’t Part of the Solution, You’re Part of the Problem
Fikiri Nzoyisenga, founder and executive director of the Youth Coalition Against Gender-Based Violence says:
“The majority of men are not really doing anything. They are just sitting there. And for me, I consider these men as a very important pool of potential male allies.
“So the question that we need to ask ourselves is: How can we engage the majority of men, who are not violent against women, but who are hesitant to act? […] I think one male champion is enough to start influencing change in a community. “
Ambassador Neil Bush, UK ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says:
“It is important for all of us to play a role in supporting and promoting gender equality. Men hold part of the solution—setting an inclusive culture, promoting a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment and discrimination and ensuring equal participation.
“We have to work together to achieve this.”
It’s Not Only the Right Thing; It’s the Smart Thing
Major General Patrick Cammaert, former UN force commander, says:
“The issue should not be taken as an women’s-activist-only issue. In particular, men should be the ones advocating the importance that women should be empowered.
“As a UN official once said: ‘Empowered women are the best drivers of growth and the best hope for reconciliation. They are the best buffer against the radicalization of youth and the repetition of cycles of violence.'”
Eric Rudberg, retired U.S. Army captain and peace support operations trainer with the State Department’s Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program says:
“Some men have the opinion that for women to gain equality then they, in turn, must lose equality. This cannot be further from the truth. Rather, it’s like John F. Kennedy’s idea that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ since gender equality helps everyone, and society, as a whole benefits.”