Healthy Masculinity and Other Takeaways from Real Change with MARC (Blog Post)

For three days, global leaders held barrier-breaking conversations about some of the biggest DEI topics in workplaces today: gender equity, cancel culture, corporate responsibility to DEI, and more.

One attendee summed it up like this: “That was nothing short of tremendous. I don’t say ‘life-changing’ very often, but it really fits here.”

Real Change with MARC (Men Advocating Real Change): Reimagining Gender Equity brought together leaders from around the world virtually and in person at four on-site locations in Panama City, PA; San Ramon, CA, USA; Zurich, Switzerland; and Singapore. Google was the Presenting Sponsor.

The event addressed the workplace implications of traditional views of masculinity and sought to connect people of all genders committed to advancing gender equity at work.

“If we want to have inclusive workplaces, it is really important to have men involved,” said Lorraine Hariton, Catalyst President & CEO.

Here are the top 5 takeaways.

Don’t be afraid to stand up first.

Co-emcee and keynote speaker Gaby Nicole—triple-EMMY winning speaker, bestselling author, and entrepreneur—shared her experience as a Latina immigrant fighting gender bias in her career. She encouraged attendees to be “pioneers” and stand up against bias and inequity even when no one else is doing so.

People of all genders are capable of inappropriate behavior, but we need the courage to have uncomfortable conversations and challenge the status quo, she added.

Justin Baldoni, American actor, director, and entrepreneur, spoke with MARC VP Alixandra Pollack about the need for healthier role models who openly express vulnerability. “I wish I would have had somebody modeling vulnerability for me,” he said. “I wish I would’ve had somebody when I was younger telling me that vulnerability was strength.”

Men must recognize and reject “benevolent sexism.”

In a conversation with Catalyst Director of Research Negin Sattari, PhD, Mark Greene—author, speaker, and consultant—broke down the concept of benevolent sexism and why men should stop following this behavior:

“Benevolent sexism [is when] men believe it is their job to ‘look out for women by protecting them.’ But they can’t let go of this idea that they still have privilege over women.”

Mark added that men must instead see women and people of all genders as equal partners. “Until men dismiss this idea that we are somehow better… we’re going to continue to hold doors for women while [considering] ourselves to have the right to have power over them.”

Psychological safety is critical for breaking through barriers.

Google President of Asia Pacific Scott Beaumont, speaking with Catalyst VP of Advisory Services Vandana Juneja, discussed the need to ensure that all employees are engaged in DEI and understand its benefits. An environment of psychological safety—where employees and leaders alike can have difficult conversations, learn, and make mistakes—is equally critical.

“A lot of the most effective training internally is around… ‘How do I start a conversation?'” Beaumont said. “By peeling back that understanding, we get the ability to have the conversation. Paired with psychological safety, we’ve got an environment where people can be engaged, understanding can be improved, and as an organization we can move forward.”

Embrace a culture of forgiveness.

In her talk “The Destructive Nature of Cancel Culture,” celebrity stylist Ayishat Akanbi shared this important insight: “You can’t promote a culture that simultaneously threatens extreme repercussions for our missteps, and promises the kind of openness, forgiveness, and embrace that is required to nourish good mental health. Something has to give.”

Ayishat added that we should forgive both ourselves and others for our mistakes. “So much of the zeal for cancel culture is overcompensation. But if we can forgive ourselves for what we haven’t learned, then we can cope with what others are still yet to learn.”

Use your power and privilege to build awareness.

Going one step further, MARC alum Cristina Santos, Senior Vice President and Head of DEI at Capital Group, spoke about the power and privilege of everyone’s individual perspective. Through gender partnership—where people of all genders work together to advance gender equity—we can all use that power for good. “Gender partnership to me is an acknowledgment that we know different things. If you don’t know, how can you expect to do anything differently?”

Alixandra Pollack also noted that “it is not enough to be supportive or committed to advancing equity and inclusion. We must commit to personal learning, mutual accountability, and action through partnership. It is all of our work to do.”

Learn more about Catalyst’s MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) programming and how you can implement it in your workforce today.

Thank you to Presenting Sponsor, Google; 2022 Convening Presenting Sponsor, Visa; Breakout Session Sponsor, Spirit Aerosystems; and Hosts Dow, Procter & Gamble, Chevron, and Google.

“I walked away from [the MARC program] a changed person. I realized that I’d expressed good intention in this area, but I hadn’t properly internalized what gender equality meant. I certainly hadn’t understood what my role was–and needed to be–in balancing things and creating a more equal and inclusive environment at work and beyond.” — Gary Coombe & CEO, Global Grooming Business, P&G.

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