Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Why Do So Many Men Shy Away from Women Led Events?

Men badly need the professional resources and capacities available only in those spaces.

Four years ago, I had the honor of presenting on Man Box culture as part of a UN panel on gender at Columbia University. It was part of a larger series of panels on the United Nations’ sustainability goals. While men made up a large percentage of the audiences at other events, the audience of this particular panel was 95% women and I was the only man presenting. As I was entering, I passed one of the few male attendees signing in outside. As I passed him, he jokingly said to the woman singing him in, “I hope they’re not going to beat me up too badly in there.”

And therein lies the challenge. In my experience, too many men view any conversation about gender as being led by women and non binary people. That makes it a conversation that doesn’t center men and we don’t know how to be in spaces that don’t center us.

How is it that many of men shy away from women led conversations about leadership, climate change, innovation, gender, politics, or any other subject? (BTW, it is exactly this avoidance that contributes to men’s deep social isolation.) What is it about our cultural conditioning that makes it difficult for us to decenter ourselves and listen to others, be led by others?

Because, I’ll tell you a little secret. I still feel that urge to shy away from women led events and it is this “shying away” that isolated me for decades in my own personal and professional communities. Instead, I have to lean into it, every damn time it comes up for me because that conditioning runs so very deep in our generations old, deeply isolating, dominance-based culture of masculinity.

Men, we have a lot of work to do to push past our resistance and contribute to the creation of a fully inclusive, diverse and equitable world. But we have no choice. Research shared by Deloitte verifies that organizations with inclusive cultures have six times higher levels of innovation and agility, and are eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. Which means if we want to be in the game at all, we had better enter spaces where women and speaking and leading and learn what it means to be part of diverse and vibrant communities.

Learn more about the damaging impacts of our dominance-based culture of masculinity in The Little #MeToo Book for Men. All of our books, podcasts, videos are here:



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