Men For Inclusion: disrupting the lived experience gap

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a rallying cry to fight for a more gender-equal workplace. Themes like “Break the Bias”, “Choose to Challenge” or “Press for Progress” highlight the challenges that remain in many sectors.

Unfortunately by many measures, not a lot seems to be changing. Gender pay gaps remain across many sectors.  At Men for Inclusion, our research suggests that at the current rates, nearly half of the companies reporting their gender pay gap will never achieve gender parity (i.e. 50/50 male/female) in the upper pay quartile.  When it comes to the IT sector, the percentage of women working in IT in Europe and the US remains stubbornly stuck in the 20 – 25% range (less if you look at core engineering roles), which correlate to similar percentages of women studying computer science at college and university.

A lot of DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) programmes around gender have been focused on “fixing women”.  But this is not the right approach: we need to fix the system, and we need everyone’s help to do that.  

This year’s IWD theme is “Inspire Inclusion”. It denotes a shift in emphasis from the earlier themes and moves us towards having more balanced conversations which recognise that if we truly want gender equity in the workplace, we need discussions across all genders.

Getting men in IT involved in gender inclusion

I have spent the last ten years talking to thousands of men on why this is so important and why they should care. Men's behaviour and attitudes towards women in the workplace is one of the keys to accelerating change in gender equality, and when men are the majority (e.g. in IT), it is easy for them to create barriers for their female colleagues without even realising. 

Are we working in an environment that continues to portray itself as unfriendly to women (unintentional or otherwise)? Are we looking hard enough at the skills that are required and opening our minds to whether graduates from other subjects can be successful in IT (clearly they can)? So why does this matter? And why does it matter so much now? And what's it got to do with men who might be reading this?

You can’t move for stories about AI in the media at the moment. And along with the rise in AI-assisted decision making, comes a similar rise in concerns about its long-term impact if it continues to be largely unregulated. As noted by many commentators - like Caroline Criado Perez - if assisted decisions are made on the data that assumes an average (probably, white male) human being or is based on data that is highly skewed by the advantages of a previously privileged subset, some of those outcomes are going to be disastrous. Particularly for: women; under-represented communities; those not in positions of power and influence; and those that need the most help. Is that the world you want to live in? Or you want your wife, daughter, mother, friends and colleagues to live in?

So, for everyone who works in the IT industry, greater representation of traditionally under-represented groups is a moral imperative. We must do it to protect us from ourselves. This is not necessarily anyone's fault. We are all influenced by our own cultural upbringing. But it is everyone's problem.

What can you do as a male ally for gender inclusion?

So, men (in IT and beyond), even though International Women’s Day is now over, I implore you to start thinking about how you can take action to attract and retain more women in technology.  Attend events, publicly celebrate the women in your team and in your life and join them in learning more about what needs to change. And when you get back from celebrating, take a long, hard look at your team and ask yourself "are we diverse enough? Could we make a critical mistake in our solutions by not considering someone different to us?".

At Men for Inclusion, our research shows that there is a lived experience gap between men and women in the workplace, particularly in male-dominated sectors. This contributes to women not joining, or being more likely to leave, those sectors. Once you know about these, you can start thinking about specific things you can do to disrupt them.

Here are 4 things to consider to help disrupt the lived experience gap between men and women in the workplace:

  1. Consider who is being allocated what tasks within your sprint plans or product delivery activities.  Are the career-enhancing or deeply technical development activities always being given to the men and the administrative or relationship-based work to the women?
  2. Are you dividing your social time evenly across all members of the team or do you gravitate towards just the men in the team and only talk about topics of interest to them? Opportunities often arise through these informal channels, so have equality of access to social capital is critical.
  3. Make sure that you are not making assumptions about women who have families. It is easy to assume that they don’t want tough project assignments, late hours, or travel, but make sure you have a conversation with them first. There is a huge variety of work preferences amongst women.
  4. Review how meetings are run in your team.  Does everyone get a chance to contribute and when they do, are everyone’s ideas always credited to the right people and listened to respectfully?  Running inclusive meetings is essential for getting the best out of all team members.

I am sure there are plenty of other ideas that you have to disrupt the lived experience gap. If these challenges exist in your organisation (it would be rare if they didn’t), explore ideas with your team. They might identify different approaches to your work practices that could make a big difference.

My conclusion is that we all have to start taking action now, in whatever small way we can. The challenge remains significant; if it wasn’t we would have solved it years ago. But creating a gender-balanced IT workforce requires everyone’s effort, because everyone will benefit and the alternatives really are quite alarming.

If you feel you need help with this subject, don’t hesitate to get in touch at

To hear more from Gary, join our upcoming Signatory Forum webinar on Supporting Male Allyship.