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As you may already know on 19th November, we will celebrate International Men’s Day. This day was started to celebrate positive male role models and raise awareness of issues such as toxic masculinity and suicide. But actually, recognising positive male role models may present issues in itself.

What makes someone a role model, and who decides the parameters can also be problematic, and play into the traditional stereotypes that may be at the root of the issues in the first place. I googled the qualities a male role model should have and these were the results:

  • He’s smart.  
  • He makes you laugh.
  • He actively supports your career.
  • He makes as much effort with your friends and family as you do with his.
  • He’s emotionally intelligent.
  • He respects your opinions and listens to what you have to say.
  • He’s willing to put the work in.
  • He celebrates your achievements. 

There are plenty of male role models in my life whom I don’t think tick all those boxes necessarily, but it is interesting to read that someone has considered these traits to be positive masculine qualities.

Several of the statements are not quantifiable, so it is problematic to label men (or anyone for that matter), which I believe can only add to the pressure they are already under to behave a certain way.

 

Defining Men in the Workplace

This leads me to question the meaning of masculinity in the workplace. Men in the workplace often have an image of how they should act. We are all aware of the deep-rooted stereotypes that exist in the workplace and the defined gender roles that can exist in the workplace.

It concerns me that the messages that we all give to our young men about how they should behave whether in the workplace or socially have not changed enough. I question whether men at work are being able to discuss their feelings and emotions and if they know how to talk about them. It is apparent that men in 2022 still do not talk about their feelings as much as women.

Watch my YouTube interview with Rob Osman, founder of Dudes and Dogs, on my Mental Health Chats programme, and take it from him on how he encourages men to open up and talk about their mental health and well-being. He believes that talking helps keep those dark thoughts away.

Breaking the stigma

Mind published their findings that made for very uncomfortable reading in my opinion. They had carried out a survey in 2009 and were commissioned by the English Football League (EFL), and in 2020 although some progress was reported in men being more likely to ask for help, the overwhelming headline was that more men ‘felt worried or low more regularly than 10 years ago and are consequently twice as likely to feel suicidal.

In my opinion, these stigmas around speaking about feelings or crying in front of others all need to be broken down. Suppressing anything just creates a bottleneck of issues that could have been handled differently.

We are a long way from men feeling that they don’t always have to be ‘strong’ or the ones to hold things together, but by taking collective responsibility in our workplaces and communities, I am sure we can create less judgemental environments and more supportive of what it is like to be human and experience life.

 

Feel free to schedule a strategy call with me here if you or any men on your team need assistance starting those crucial conversations about mental health.