Even with more than 400 women at Miami’s S.H.E. Bacardi Women’s Summit, all eyes are on four men on stage. One of the male panelists, Simon Isaacs, co-founder of Fatherly.com, boldly states that men, just like women, are expected to “crush it” at work and home with “effortless perfection,” and that that pursuit creates a lot of anxiety.
Isaac’s words strike a chord with the suited women in the crowd who are struggling to achieve a fulfilling personal life and hold top jobs within South Florida’s businesses. If this conference is any indication, a major shift has taken hold in the “Can we do it all?” debate: Men have joined the conversation.
During the all-day women’s empowerment summit, men played key roles as they shared wisdom and perspective on leadership and work/life balance and participated in conversations with women leaders about their spouse’s experiences at work and home.
The discussions speak to the momentum: The HeForShe initiative was developed by UN Women, a United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality, to encourage men to remove leadership hurdles for women in the workplace. More than 1.4 million people have taken the HeForShe commitment globally.
Not only are men doing more to help women advance, they are vocalizing the same conflicts working mothers experience. A report by the Boston College Center for Work & Family this summer found that two-thirds of dads gave an equal priority to caring for their children and meeting their financial needs.
These revelations show that change is taking hold, both in perspective and in action inside organizations.
▪ Men are beginning to see the business case for advancing women. Wayne Chaplin, CEO of his family’s Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits since 2014, said he discovered within his 107-year-old company that gender diversity has become a business imperative. “More than half the population is women, so the status quo cannot exist as we go forward,” he said. Top leaders at the company now have a mandate to bring more women into managerial roles.
▪ Men are encouraging women to take risks at work. Pete Carr, regional president Bacardi North America, said women need to believe they are qualified for advancement. “I have offered positions to women who have told me they don’t think they are ready,” he told the audience. “I tell them men in leadership roles don’t have the roadmap, either.” Carr said that even when men are out front taking risks, women often are behind the scenes. He regularly turns to his wife for help with problem-solving. “She motivates me to find solutions.”
▪ Men are admitting to mistakes: Mauricio Vergara, chief marketing officer for Bacardi, the 154-year-old global spirits company in Miami, said he wasn’t ready for the first managerial position he took on. “I had the technical skills, but I didn’t have the leadership skills.” Vergara said he took a tough-guy approach that wasn’t effective. “It took courage to admit it and take the feedback.”
Ned Duggan, vice president/brand managing director for Bacardi, who led a discussion on well-being, told the audience: “Six years ago, I had an a-ha moment. I was working 100 hours a week, and one day I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed. I knew something had to change. That’s when I embraced self-care.” Carr, too, admitted to making mistakes and self-correcting and offered this advice: “Own your mistake and let it go!”
▪ Men are coping with guilt. It is not just women who are reluctant to give the real reasons they need to leave by 5 p.m. Isaacs of Fatherly.com said men want to play a role in childcare and live up to what it means to be a “good dad.” They feel just as guilty as mothers when work and life conflict, he said. “If men and women want to have it all, we need to half it all.”
▪ Men and women are working together to boost companies’ bottom lines. Scott Northcutt, senior vice president of human resources, Bacardi Ltd., said spirits drinkers today are evenly split between the genders, which makes having women and men in decision-making positions important for global sales. In the last six years, Bacardi has boosted its women in leadership by 35 percent, partly because it has a program in place to make its leadership team look like the global markets where it serves its products. “Now we are creating cocktails that are more in line with what men and women both want,” Northcutt said.
▪ Men are stepping up at home. Throughout the day, women leaders spoke on the role their husbands play and how couples are working together to decide who steps sideways at work when necessary, how spouses cover for each other when business travel is required, and the challenges men may face when taking paternity leave or trying to go back to work after taking time off.
▪ Men are speaking up more for women. John Kozyak, co-founder Kozyak, Tropin & Throckmorton, said women need someone to be their advocate when they are not in the room. He often is that person for women at his firm and sees other men sponsoring women, too. Initially, Kozyak said, his firm brought on female lawyers to appeal to gender-diverse juries. Now, he said, having female lawyers makes good overall business sense.
▪ Men are inspiring women to rise to their potential. Motivational speaker Andy Henriguez prodded the women not to give in when they hit turbulence in their careers. “To find your purpose, you have to show up — in spite of circumstances, in spite of naysayers.”
Bacardi general counsel Marlene Gordon, organizer of the event, said that creating leadership equality within companies requires buy-in from men. “We are hoping the men who join the conversation and ‘get it’ become the role models for other men,” she said.
Cindy Krischer Goodman writes regularly on work life and workplace topics. If you have comments or suggestions, connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org, @balancegal, or worklifebalancingact.com.