“Men Want to be Involved in Gender Diversity:” How to Create a Seat at the Table
About 40 men as champions of women and female leaders of internal company women’s business resources groups (BRGs) from 13 financial services companies gathered at the NYC office of Thomson Reuters to discuss best practices on male engagement. This session of the Wall Street Women’s Alliance (WSWA), a inter-firm network of networks, dedicated to creating a culture that enables women to advance to c-suite roles in the financial services industry, started with Shmuel Bulka, General Counsel, Finance & Risk, Americas welcoming the participants as a senior advisory committee (SAC) member of Women@TR and how his participation in the SAC has informed his approach to being a women’s advocate. Then, a presentation was made by Natalie Runyon, Director, Key Accounts and fellow WSWA governance board member, on what TR had been doing globally around male engagement, providing an overview of its Men’s Voices in Gender Equality, a Reverse Mentoring initiative aimed at CEO minus 2 level leaders, and the Future of Our Daughters programming and the partnership with the technology organization on the launch of its gender partner/male allies community and e-Learning module for allies.
Next, Lisa Pent, a senior leader in the Finance & Risk business at Thomson Reuters, led a panel discussion that included Nancy Wisniewski, Managing Director & COO, Standard Chartered, Stephanie Epstein, Managing Director & COO, Global Marketing at BlackRock, and Jonathan Etheart, a manager in sales from Thomson Reuters. Panelists described their male engagements initiatives:
- One panelist told the story about the company’s journey in bringing men into the conversation by having the women’s network rebranded as the Gender Engagement Network (GEN). It was a decision that initially received some skepticism, but the almost overnight increase in men attending programs and signing up as members could not be ignored. It was first taken up in the Americas two years ago, and then just last month, was adopted by its European business.
- Another panelist shared about is Women in Focus program as its key male engagement initiative. It was a program that started in its San Francisco office two years ago and then was adopted by the New York office. After noticing a retention issue among senior women, female managing directors created the content around the typical environmental factors and highlighted individual and internal company factors that impact women leaders’ attrition. She went on to describe how Women in Focus is being rolled out globally and the company just committed funding to create an e-Learning module for male managers to increase their awareness of these factors to help grow female retention.
- Jonathan Etheart, as a leader of a team with many women and as co-chair of the Black Employee Network, described his role as a key male champion of women and as co-facilitator of a Men’s Voices in Gender Equality session, which was a collaboration among all of the BRGs in NYC. When asked what he learned from the session, he described two things:
1. the role of privilege in the gender diversity conversation and how those who have it are many times unaware of it.
2. how BRG leaders need to continue to personally invite those who are not part of our affinity groups i.e. women, people of color, pride because “…many men feel uncomfortable joining these sessions and it’s up to us as BRG leaders to provide personal invites so that we can have these progressive conversations.”
Feedback from the audience has been really interesting in terms of what people took away:
An attendee from JP Morgan Chase said, “It was inspiring to see the progress Thomson Reuters, Standard Chartered and Blackrock have been able to achieve with male engagement. Inviting men to the table and giving them a voice on the topic of advancing women is what is needed across Wall Street. The Wall Street Women’s Alliance is doing a great job of starting conversations that will help other organizations challenge the status quo.”
Another participant added that her key take-away was that “men want to be involved – just create a seat at the table for them, and another said that it is clear “male engagement is a big hands-on initiative across various corporations and it’s moved past the conversation stage.”
A leader from a BRG at TR indicated that for “…anyone wondering how they fit into the Diversity and Inclusion conversation, the Inclusion Starts with I video is a must watch! She additionally added that the “….discussion on Male Engagement was a great forum for BRG best practices, including:
the importance of co-hosting events with other Business Resource Groups
the impact of personally inviting men to attend and participate in BRG events
not being afraid to inject creativity to help your message resonate with the audience
use stories to make your message personal
provide tangible things your audience can do as a next step”
Another male attendee just starting out in his career stated he was surprised by “… how many individuals have not been taking advantage of the parental leave opportunities out of fear …Also, I have realized how big of an opportunity I have as an early careers employee to dive fully into this mission of supporting women in receiving the advancement opportunities and respect they deserve….”