Male leader? Use that power to champion change

A celebrated CEO discusses the myth of the meritocracy and how men can use their positions in power to ameliorate it.

After retiring from a high-profile position in KPMG at the mere age of 28 and then pursuing a prosperous career in business leadership, Nicholas Barnett knew he owed much of his success to hard work and determination.
He also realised, however, that his position in life helped propel him forward by providing him opportunities and advantages not afforded to others.
“I have always felt part of the in-crowd’ and have never been discriminated against,” Barnett said.
He imagined himself in the shoes of his female, nonwhite, and disabled colleagues, and recognised how much extra effort they required to be seen as competent and worthy of respect. 
Now he advocates for male leaders to take part in reversing the status quo.  These are his six recommended steps to do so: 
  • Reflect on how your career path may have been easier as the result of gender or status, and try to imagine what it would feel like to be the only person like yourself in the boardroom
  • Remain apprised of research conveying inequalities in business and the obstacles that exist for various demographics
  • Be aware of any unconscious bias that may be imbedded in routine and habits.  The Harvard Implicit Tool is useful for evaluating whether one may exist
  • Create a dialogue about these topics in the workplace, and back up assertions with the company’s own data
  • Participate in a coalition that fights inequality with similar organisations in the area
  • Be prepared to commit to a long-term journey which may require mitigating backlash
It’s also important to include as many voices as possible, and not denigrate those who may not understand the cause at first.
“There are many white Anglo-Saxon male executives, perhaps most, who genuinely believe their organisations are meritocracies, that they don’t make biased decisions or prejudge.  These men are not bad people,” said Barnett.  “They have never been discriminated against and can’t see what those in minority groups see so clearly.”

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