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Why Excluding Men Is Not the Path to Promoting Women

Improving relations between men and women is key to increasing opportunities for women in business.

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There was male/female discord in the workplace well before the #MeToo movement. But, if the #MeToo movement has taught me anything, it's that we need men to be part of this conversation. We cannot isolate ourselves from men and expect to change the status quo. Women are instinctively more collaborative in their approach to business. So, instead of looking at business as a place to compete with each other, we need to work together to empower women in the workplace, in politics and in the overall economy. Being pro-women doesn't mean one must be anti-men. So, why perpetuate the cycle?

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Related: Men: Be the Hero

Improving relations between men and women is key to increasing opportunities for women in business. A survey released last year by Morning Consult, a tech and media company, found that a portion of men and women are uncomfortable with one-on-one business meetings with members of the opposite sex. And in fact, one quarter of those surveyed said they actually disapproved of these meetings.

Unfortunately, men still hold a lot of the keys in the business realm. But, their experience means that we can learn a lot from them. Segregating people by gender eliminates opportunities for women to gain valuable knowledge. Instead, we should be focused on working with men to change the way they look at gender equality issues.

Last year, consulting firm McKinsey & Company released Women in the Workplace 2017, a report that looked at how opinions between women and men differ. The report was the result of a survey of more than 70,000 employees working at 76 companies. Overall, it found that 63 percent of men and 49 percent of women believe their company is doing what it takes to improve gender diversity. Fifty-five percent of men said disrespectful behavior in their workplaces is addressed quickly, but only 34 percent of women agreed. Half of the men surveyed said their companies consider diverse candidates for open jobs, compared to only 35 percent of women.

Related: How to Address Gender Inequity at Work

While not entirely surprising, the survey revealed other differences of opinion as well. For example, in those companies where just one in 10 senior leaders is female, nearly 50 percent of men said women were "well represented" in the senior ranks, but only one-third of women agreed. Only 47 percent of men said gender diversity was a very important or top personal priority for them.

But, regardless of what the men surveyed believe, the McKinsey report demonstrates that disparities do exist. According to the report, women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers when it comes to the first critical step up to manager. Additionally, the report indicates "women are less likely to receive advice from managers and senior leaders on how to advance, and employees who do are more likely to say they've been promoted in the last two years."

So, what can we do about it?

Instead of excluding men, we can support the men who want to support women. First, we need to have safe places for open dialogue. We need to understand how each gender is feeling and address our concerns with a focus on solutions, not finger pointing. While there are going to be bad seeds (both male and female) in every company, by starting with the assumption that everyone wants equal opportunity for women, you can create a collaborative environment for enacting change.

For companies, start by conducting a pay audit. Cold, hard numbers can be a great starting point for admitting that there is an issue and getting buy-in to change company culture. Review and analyze compensation by gender and don't hide the numbers. Create transparency to build trust from the women in your company that you will work toward equal pay and opportunities for women.

Related: How to Get Male Venture Capitalists to Invest in Your Female-Targeted Product

Finally, look inward. Embracing your own personal power will help you take risks, have uncomfortable conversations, ask for that promotion or raise, take the lead on a high profile project or start your own business. Going fearlessly after what you deserve is an important component to making progress for women, as well as putting you on the path to personal success.

Women are shifting the paradigm. The traditional pillars of business, which prize competition, getting ahead at all costs, and looking out for number one were built by men. These are all outdated business theories and we're introducing a different mindset. As the Dalai Lama said, "The world will be saved by the western woman," but we need the men in our lives to be part of that movement, too. It's impossible for women to advance if men aren't a part of their journey. And if men don't play a major role in revolutionizing the business world as a whole, real change won't be possible.

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