The expectation of ‘men’ needs to change.
I am a female writing a blog on gender equality and even though I’m on a mission to empower women within their careers, I am keen to tackle the problem of ‘Toxic masculinity’.
“In the UK, men are 3 times more likely to take their lives than women. On average, that is 12 men a day who lose their lives through suicide.”
As a woman, all I ever see or hear is that “men must provide.”
“They must take care of their partner and children.”
“They must stay physically and emotionally strong.”
“They must become the alphas of the world to succeed.”
However, to become “alpha” or “top dog”, or even to achieve in life as a man, it seems that society wants to take some of your humanity away. Strong leaders and providers require sensitivity, compassion, and empathy. Despite this, we push men, typically into ignoring their own emotional needs (‘rub some dirt on it’ is just an example). Would you tell your precious daughter the same thing? We need to look at the impact it is having on overall wellbeing and happiness. Masculinity is under attack here I’m afraid and it takes a brave person to ask for help. I am not tearing a man down for being brave, proud of his achievements, nor want to force him into therapy, but toxic masculinity is a harmful trait for our society, and we need preventative measures in place.
A lot of men are now realising that the traditional workforce/system isn’t working for them. We challenge behaviours and structure that has been taught for years and we uncover the struggles men are having, especially around their mental health. If we do not make a change in acknowledging that a man’s emotional needs are just as important as everyone else’s, a lot of people will suffer for it. Masking emotions and suppressing emotions are traits of toxic masculinity, usually starting from a young age. Not reaching out for help or talking about how you feel can cause issues such as aggression, suicidal thoughts and taking heavier risks, which ends up taking a toll on their emotional and mental wellbeing.
My father is the most hardworking person I have ever met, dedicated, a perfectionist, smarter than google on a good day. He has so many qualifications and experience ranging from: lorry driver, plumber, electrician, renovations, accountant and running his own business, to a landscape gardener just to name a few. Back in 2008, all the pressure and stress reached an overwhelming level, and after 25+ years, with sick days to count on 2 hands, my father’s life had changed drastically. He was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes, Depression, suffered a heart attack then a bleed on the brain.
‘Everything just went dark, and I felt alone’Lee.S
The strong man broke, and he broke very hard. For 6 months, my father wouldn’t leave his bed. He barely exchanged words or moved very much at all. He was broken was he not? He was supposed to be strong, at work, busy mowing the grass, but suddenly even a small conversation was a lot for him to handle. The idea of a ‘man’, a ‘father’, was no longer who I saw before my young eyes. He was lost and sad. I remember looking at him in his bed and without a word he apologised with his eyes for failing. Failing me, our family, everyone around him. ‘Men can’t suffer with mental health; they provide and that is their job’ – words from my father’s mouth just moments ago. He cannot remove the stigma even for himself. Life does get hard, not every day is successful, there are barriers and hurdles that try to trip you along the way.
“Dad, I want you to know you never failed us once; you just had to rest. I wish you had the support and information we do now, but you never did, so like a man, one day you brushed it off and went to work.”
The difference was, as a family, we had an open, honest conversation. People do have deep feelings beyond their control inside of them, but what’s important is to not bury these feelings, to reach out. It is so difficult asking for help, which is why Diversiti UK is making a stand to educate companies to really take an interest in their staff’s wellbeing. Not everyone is as ‘lucky’ as my Dad; support needs to be accessible for everyone in every workplace. Communication with staff is vital for employer’s productivity and motivation within the workplace. When a leader shows empathy and looks after their staff’s wellbeing, the employees and business flourish.
There are situations at work that reveal toxic masculinity, which usually result in a hostile work environment and completely undermine efforts in achieving diversity, equality, and inclusion. I will make it clear – there is nothing wrong with masculinity, but it is essential to notice the difference in traditional and toxic masculinity traits. When attitudes such as ‘Dog-eat-dog world’ come into play, noticeably abusive behaviour that helps men get ahead is almost encouraged and normalised within the workplace. These behaviours will affect other staff members’ morale, job satisfaction, productivity, mental health issues, settlements and even fines. Discriminating a staff member by comparing gender to perceptions, maybe without even realising it, can cause a case to be opened on sex discrimination due to the unfair treatment. The main law that protects discrimination at work is the Equality Act 2010. Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar are a few disabilities that are covered by the Equality Act. The last thing any company wants is to be taken to court for not having any preventable measures in place.
‘You have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’The Equality Act 2010
We need to look past gender bias, the first step in doing so being acknowledging behaviours, and as a society we could be doing better. Companies need to identify their own attitudes and values, to use this to reflect on ways they work to challenge discriminatory practice, in turn leading to greater equality. Being aware of the influences, both good and bad, around the workplace is a start, identifying discriminatory behaviour and how to prevent it. Diversiti UK are a team of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion specialists with a strong social purpose. Diversiti UK offer training packages tailored to suit individuals’ companies needs and goals. Training that is not just a box ticking exercise but makes a difference to the workplace and the community.