It’s time to ‘man up’ for gender parity

I recently sat on a panel discussing gender diversity composed of bankers, consultants, Google employees, economists and a room full of European Business School students.

The expectation was pretty clear – Gen Z students would be completely gender-blind, Google would be a utopia where everyone is treated equally and banks faced a difficult balancing act between being perceived as gender biased towards men (or women).

"If you are reading this and you are still unconvinced of the merits of gender parity… you are in the minority. And you’re wrong."
Alex Kewley, Director, Client Insights & Solutions, ANZ

In reality, this wasn’t entirely the case.

Google does indeed sound like utopia and Gen Z clearly has an expectation of total equality but the mountain of gender imbalance is very much still there.

In early 2016, research from The Innovation Group showed 56 per cent of US Gen Zs know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns. That’s over half.  Proud of their attitudes, the study found over a third of Gen Zs strongly agreed gender did not define a person as much as it has in the past.

Still, gender parity continues to be an issue of concern across professions and generations, and something people care passionately about. 

Back on the panel, we agreed to call it ‘gender parity’ rather than ‘diversity’ as the term better reflects we are only seeking basic fairness and equality.

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Parity is much harder to argue against than the more vague 'diversity'

Our session specifically provided four simple takeaways:


If you are reading this and you are still unconvinced of the merits of gender parity, it is probably time to bow out of society (or move to the US, where you have a chance of a President who shares your view). You are now in the minority of educated people. And you’re wrong.  

The empirical evidence of improved company and team performance is overwhelming and the cultural arguments even more powerful. This fantastic Ted talk covers all you need to know – specifically that:

• Workplaces with gender parity are more profitable;

• Workplaces with gender parity offer a better quality of life for men and women (and everyone in between); and

• Men are happier and more successful in a world with gender parity.

Still think you need more convincing? What about this from the Peterson Institute for International Economics which shows putting women in just a third of your leadership positions adds 6 per cent to your profit margin.

Or this research from the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy showing a more diverse set of employees gives businesses a more diverse and therefore valuable set of skills.

Or the many others.


Even those convinced of the benefits could be forgiven should the phrase ‘positive discrimination’ cross their mind. 

It crops up a lot as some resourcing and events today actively target one gender over the other. We should have an open discussion about this.

We could make the excuse that all movements in history created fast positive change were inevitably a bit clunky in execution and ask both genders be patient with what may look like positive discrimination.

Alternatively, we could simply call it what it is and wrap some context around it. Men have been the beneficiary of thousands of years of positive discrimination.

In order to address the very real physical and psychological barriers and biases this has created (see the ‘Merit Trap’), an element of positive discrimination is necessary. We could therefore be proud our generation is the one to proactively rebalance this.

Gender blindness is not the answer to the problem, as many biases towards women are unconscious (you did watch the Ted Talk didn’t you?).

Women and men behave differently. In fact some humans behave differently to others, regardless of their gender. We therefore need augmented blindness – blindness in our fair decision making but not to awareness of gender differences, which can in fact be a competitive advantage.

To get there, we need men to take a proactive stance, be aware of these issues, and comfortable describing themselves as feminists.

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The antonym of feminism is in fact stupidism.


A great motivation for all the guys to do so is to realise we’re not actually chasing a ‘better world for women’ but a better world for everyone.

Men who support equality and exist in an equal environment are empirically proven to perform better, be happier, and have better love lives. Being pro-female is actually the most effective way of being pro-male.


The diversity iceberg provides a great graphic of the diversity issues we face in the world.

Gender is just one source of conscious and unconscious biases – there are many other visible and invisible differences we need to embrace. You could probably repost this entire article replacing the words “gender” and “women” with race or age or disability.

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“It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see” said Henry David Thoreau. Actually, no Henry, it is also what you don’t see.


If you think it sucks being a man in finance these days - and I know from where I sit and who I talk to some days it may feel like gender-reassignment is a genuine career option - recognise it is in all of our interests to embrace gender parity. Enjoy the upside.

‘Man up’ is a horribly dismissive phrase that reinforces redundant gender stereotypes. But, if you are the kind of person who is still unsure on this issue, I implore you to man up for gender parity.

Alex Kewley is Director, Client Insights & Solutions at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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