Our Daughters Still Need Us As Activists.
A call to action my male friends and colleagues.
My dad was a construction and engineering man. UK Major projects, Middle East and North Sea – in all these he worked for change in working conditions.
I followed in his footsteps.
Now, my daughters (9 & 11) have already been ‘inspired’ by the possibilities of wondrous global careers in the community impacting engineering and construction space. (They both love Minecraft – so design beckons no doubt).
And when the girls talk of being Architects, Project Managers or Civil Engineers I consider that the efforts to bridge the industry gender gap have come a long way in my time.
But not far enough.
Not far enough for me to be completely at ease that ‘my girls’ would be entering a world of equality, a respectful, fear free and supportive environment for women.
There is day to day work to be done gentlemen by each and everyone one of us and if you don’t think so, well, you need to wake up and sniff a double espresso:
I still see and hear about behaviour that is frankly, bullying. Strong word bully – you bet. Men still thinking it’s OK to ‘lose the head’, shout down others, raise their voices to win or suppress dissent need to be confronted. They need to be consigned to history. ‘No way should my daughters have to put up with that crap’ – I tell myself in moments when I’m thinking it’s risky to confront and I may be seen to be getting involved beyond my contractual remit. Then I remember our remit as men of change is universal – it goes beyond any lines of accountability, contract or management structure.My dad walked away from a lucrative job in South Africa when he felt he could no longer tolerate or alter the blatant discrimination at play. Bad things occur when good men do nothing.
Sexual Banter. I fear for men, that the worst banter is not that spoken openly in mixed company where strong women have the opportunity counter it. No, it’s the banter we men have behind closed doors, when no women are present and it demeans us inside for our inability to get past juvenile and cowardly behaviour.
End male tribalism. I hear it all the time, the little insidious remarks that separate the genders rather than connect our men and women across the tribes. There is no such thing as an insignificant comment, a put down of women’s ability, skills or potential ‘because they are female’ when you are in a position of leadership, especially when you are a man talking about women.
Double standards. Men Getting pissed off that their strong determined female boss is well, strong determined and straight talking. Whereas those qualities in the male boss will be held as virtues.
What the activist can do.
Promote more women into leadership roles– deliberately and with positive discrimination if necessary. The statistics are still not good enough and won’t be without concerted direct action.
Be seen and engage with Women’s Special Interest Groups. I a contributor to Women in Property and Women in Rail. The networking events, funnily enough, are far more fun than those mostly populated by ultra-competitive alpha selling male.
In thinking about this piece, and my heart occasionally sinking with the work still to be done, I’d still love my girls to enjoy the extraordinary world of construction as it is. Who’s to join me gents in being an active participant versus a passive bystander?
Image by Ben Forsberg