Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents Need to Know

This report from the Catalyst series "Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives" examines men's support of gender initiatives in their workplace. This include ways to increase men's awareness of gender bias and the associated costs, factors that encourage men to lend their support to gender initiatives, and barriers that prevent them from supporting such initiatives.

Please see below for the full report, in PDF.


Catalyst believes that men have a critical role to play in diversity and inclusion efforts, especially initiatives to eliminate gender bias. Yet too often men are an untapped resource in such gender initiatives. To address this gap, Catalyst has embarked on a new series of research called Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives, which offers evidence-based advice about the most effective ways to partner with men in ending gender inequalities at work.

Impetus: In Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents Need to Know, Catalyst provides critical information about the cultural forces that can undermine organizational efforts to fully engage men as champions of gender initiatives. The study also reveals important insights about the experiences and belief systems that can cause men to either support or resist gender initiatives.

Methodology: This study was conducted via 1) in-depth interviews and 2) an online survey. The interviews were conducted first to develop in-depth insights or hypotheses about the factors that predict men’s awareness of gender bias and their advocacy for gender equality. An online survey was then administered to 178 business men to test the hypotheses that were developed based on the interviews. By surveying both men who were championing gender equality as well as a comparison group of men who were not engaged in such activity, Catalyst was able to examine what attitudes and experiences differentiate the two groups.

Findings: The study findings supported the view that before individuals will support efforts to right an inequality they must first recognize that the inequality exists. Men who were more aware of gender bias were more likely to say that it was important to them to achieve gender equality. Other findings revealed three key factors that predicted men’s awareness of gender bias: 1) defiance of certain masculine norms, 2) the presence or absence of women mentors, and 3) a sense of fair play. Of those three factors, having a strong sense of fair play, defined as a strong commitment to the ideals of fairness, was what also best differentiated men who actively championed gender equality from those who were not similarly engaged. Lastly, interview findings revealed three key barriers that could undermine men’s support for initiatives to end gender bias: apathy, fear, and ignorance about gender issues.

Sponsors: The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.; Ernst & Young LLP; IBM Corporation; and Shell International, B.V.