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Diversity and Inclusion – A Case for Men

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By Nyokabi Florence

The 19th day of November offers people from across continents, professional fields, diverse thoughts and beliefs an opportunity to recognise and celebrate men for the unique value they bring, and equally important, a chance to surface pertinent issues affecting men across the world.

This day seeks to promote conversations about being male, with the aim to make a positive difference to the lives and wellbeing of men and by extension, the ecosystems that men operate in.

Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, who is recognised as the founder of International Men’s Day began the call for the United Nations to identify and officially endorse the day back in the 1960s.

Over the years, the awareness has continued to grow on the importance of setting aside a day in honour of men and equally, optimism continues to thrive in hopeful expectation that the day becomes globally accepted and endorsed.

This year’s theme, Better relationship between men and women, is both timeless and timely in that it addresses the bedrock for equality in its call for harmonious cooperation and support among the genders.

It amplifies the theme of the recently celebrated International Women’s Day, #choosetochallenge, by highlighting the need to foster a better understanding of gender alignment and harmony towards a productive and purposeful existence among the genders.

As men and women are actively working to close the gender disparity gap in society, this course remains firmly present within the workplace. The roles of men and women are continually evolving to adapt to the present world realities, and there is a growing need to provide platforms in the workplace that foster a better understanding of these realities, the unique value each gender brings to the table and how we might harmoniously chart clearer paths towards an equitable environment where all genders get to thrive.

Delving deeper on the point of building an equitable environment for collective growth, according to a report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), only twenty per cent of Nigerian women are in management and related decision-making positions in various industries including the financial services sector; and yet an increasing number of women are seeking employment within the same industry.

A growing number of men are at the forefront in supporting women towards the realisation that they too can compete equitably in various perceived male-dominated fields. They continue to support women in identifying these opportunities for growth and while not losing sight of the fact that women are well-positioned, well informed and empowered to overcome past notions and biases surrounding their participation in decision making. The same support can be provided to men by their female peers and contemporaries in the workplace.

At Standard Chartered Bank, we are passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  We understand the value of leveraging the synergies for growth, productivity and development and seek to continuously advance better relations among the genders.

Our policies provide a levelled platform that encourages both men and women to contribute meaningfully to their work and to collaborate and share best practices with each other.

In Nigeria, through our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) we have set up initiatives that support men and women towards the achievement of their personal and professional development.

Our Network of Men initiative provides a platform for men to discuss, collaborate, mentor and support men in the office and the community we operate in. The Network of Men also collaborates extensively with the Network of Women towards events and projects that foster collective advancement for all.

Over the past 18 months, the Network of Men has been at the forefront in championing all-round wellbeing to enable men to build resilience, through physical, mental, emotional and financial growth as well as investment in human skills that enable the men to become well-rounded and authentic leaders.

The Network of Men has also contributed to the community through the various mentoring sessions for at-risk young boys within the community.

Our bank policies and benefits provide a level playing field for both genders to thrive in the organisation. Indeed, our talent development agenda sets to recognise and celebrate the men, who purposely spot and elevate female talent to grow in the organisation.

As a result of the contribution by both male and female leaders, our senior leadership team today comprises 42% women leaders, a proportion higher than the average industry in Nigeria according to the aforementioned research by the IFC.

We must never forget that as a human race, our diversity is indeed one of our greatest strengths and asset. Although masculinity is often perceived to have an advantage amongst the genders, in reality, the challenges men are faced with seem to oftentimes go unrecognised, under-reported and misunderstood.

We should therefore support the younger men and boys in the society to listen actively, and speak out against the impositions society places regarding what it means to be a man.

We must be prepared to have those uncomfortable conversations that help women unlearn biases about men and the issues or challenges they equally tackle, such as their physical wellness, loss of employment, inability to provide for their families, inadequacies in parenting, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and others.

We should courageously discuss these issues irrespective of the gender we represent so we give each other room to grow, learn, empower ourselves and others. Our ability to support each other towards being and achieving the best in whatever endeavours we pursue is what speaks to our humanity and women too can help to change the narrative to support the challenges men face.

International Men’s Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on our journey towards inclusion and synergy between the genders; and also gives us an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the contributions of men towards society. We recognise the critical role men play in moving the dialogue forward for both genders.

For this, we continue to say thank you to those at the forefront of empowerment for women and equality across board. We remain confident that every step taken since the 1960s continues to bring us closer to a world where both men and women are recognised and appreciated for their contributions towards improvements in society, their individuality and their strengths. After all, aren’t we better together?

Nyokabi Florence is the Head of Human Resources at Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited

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