Workplace masculinity, including “societal norms” dictating what a man’s position in society is and how they’re expected to behave, stops them from calling out workplace sexism.
Men are failing to call out sexism
Catalyst, a global NGO, found that managers were the “least likely” to stop sexist incidents at work, which paints a bleak picture for eradicating sexist behaviour at a cultural level within organisations.
They also found that 28% of men said “they would be likely to do nothing if their colleague makes a sexist comment at work”, where the more respondents experienced “masculine anxiety” at work (the fear of not living up to masculine ideals), the less likely they were to report sexist behaviour.
Catalyst’s report also found that 94% of respondents said they experienced “at least some degree of masculine anxiety at work,” which doesn’t bode well for men acting as allies in the workplace and calling out sexism.
The more senior the male employee, the more likely they are to also not react to workplace sexism, where managers (32%) were more likely than non-managers (17%) to “do nothing in response to workplace sexism.”
“Masculine anxiety”, senior roles, and sexism
Furthermore, 29% of managers “are more likely to experience high masculine anxiety than non-managers (9%),” which shows that work needs to be done to dismantle outdated ideas around masculinity and its relationship to organisational seniority.
The study said this revealed “that power brings more anxiety, which may be felt as increased pressure to live up to masculine ideals and more to lose if men don’t live up to those ideals.”
The study also found that a combative culture, where work and competition are prized over family life, affects one in three male respondents, which leads to increased masculine anxiety and therefore reduced incidences of reporting workplace sexism.
“Men with higher levels of masculine anxiety are 12 times more likely to do nothing if they work in a highly combative culture compared to a less combative culture,” the report added.
Lost productivity and mental health problems for men
Apart from the fact a combative culture reinforces negative stereotypes about masculinity, including that men should be “tough, aggressive, sexually assertive, and confident”, it can also lead to higher suicide rates and poor mental health for men, said the report, along with a likelihood that sexism won’t be reported, showing that a combative work culture is bad for both men and women.
On a productivity level, “toxic leadership and combative cultures both contribute to lower work engagement, lower meaningfulness and turnover intentions.”
To dismantle this poor work culture, Catalyst suggests these three starting points:
- Make caregiver and parental leave policies gender-free
- Make it okay to admit failure
- Get permission to go against the status quo
To read the Catalyst report in full, click here.