What men actually think about gender relations and emancipation? Traditional attitudes in Germany

The past 50 years have changed the relations between both genders a lot. Along the way, women had to demand their equal share in society, economics and politics, and this so-called emancipation has brought a lot of positive aspects for everyone. But the term emancipation is used as combat term at times, and some men or women misinterpret equal opportunities as a sign for an ongoing gender battle. Therefore it is essential for successful Gender Diversity programmes to acknowledge and include male reservations and fears. Clearly, the formerly dominant group has to be part of the change needed, and what could be worse than starting with accusations that fuel the perception of a zero-sum game – while it can be a win-win perspective? What is the perception of gender diversity and gender balance among men – especially from the so-called Generation Y? Mazars Group, a globally operating auditor, has surveyed 750 men from 60 different countries about their attitudes towards male/female relations and continuing emancipation. The highest score in the entire survey shows a spirit of partnership: 88% of the respondents accept Gender Diversity at the workplace and a smaller but still large majority prefers working in a gender-mixed team, because it offers a more pleasant atmosphere, enables greater balance and more innovation. For 15% of the respondents Gender-Diversity is strongly related to sexual aspects and a quarter thinks the topic is of no importance and does not require attention any longer. This group thinks Diversity is already sufficiently established as a norm and a small group of 9% even thinks women “have gained too much headway”. These figures should worry us if we assume that these 9 – 15 % of men might make it to the top of an organisation that must rely on the best available talent and high performing teams…

And what is it that people have in their heads when they intuitively think about women or men? The attributes related to men and women are constantly becoming more multi-faceted and hence more vague. Nearly half of the respondents think that men increasingly acquire feminine traits and vice versa. As one consequence, shared domestic work is perfectly normal for 80% of the respondents. Nevertheless this is rather an imagined concept than reality. The actual gender roles are much more traditional: The majority associates ironing, cleaning, doing the laundry, cooking or giving a bath to the children with female tasks, while men should take over do-it-yourself tasks and drive the car. Only 26% of the men are willing to slow down their career in order to care for their children, another 44% would put their career on ice temporarily.

Meanwhile a recent survey in Germany confirms the above insights. Three quarters of the male respondents think that the current state of emancipation is completely sufficient, one in four respondents declared to be on edge due to the topic. The changing and fading attributes related to the genders are problematic as well, more than one third of all respondents notice to have problems to fulfil gender-related expectations. Still traditional roles in domestic work persist, and it is quite concerning that younger men do not differ in regard to their attitudes when compared to older generations.

What the data suggests, though, is that gender-equal values are more pronounced at the workplace than in the private sphere. But: In which direction will spill-over be more likely to happen? “Our work has been showing that for the most part, people bring their private background, values and attitudes to work, not the other way round”, says Diversity expert Michael Stuber. This is one reason why companies have to make substantial efforts to eliminate unwanted effects, e.g. when privately acquired bias threatens sound business decisions. “Helping people realise the linkages and how to manage them is a key component of effective D&I education”, the experienced consultant adds.