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What Are Men Doing in a Professional Women's Network? Doing Their Best

07/03/2014 14:56 GMT | Updated 07/05/2014 10:59 BST

We are celebrating today the International Women's Day. Isn't it the perfect time to talk about men? Indeed, engaging Men in the crusade to inspire a shift in corporate cultures, promoting gender balanced leadership teams up and down the corporate ladder seems to be imperative in 2014.

Involving men for better gender balance

However, adapting to a new norm isn't easy. By embracing that gender wisdom brings added value to decision-making, team dynamics and results, men can then begin to identify ways to improve the business structure and processes which will allow for gender balance. Men still hold the majority of executive leadership roles so it's imperative to have them be front and center along with women in creating and implementing a solution on this topic. By bringing them into the movement to advance, we create a grass roots campaign. By getting men to actively engage on this topic, we can create a web of influence. It's only natural that the more people who dialogue on behalf of gender balance, the more people will pay attention. Institutions, corporations, media must enlighten the topic.

This must be the goal of professional networks as well. PWN Global (Professional Women's Network) kicked off a Men's Advisory Board last year after numerous events across our city networks which included men as speakers, on panels and as most importantly participants in the dialogue. As president of this network run entirely by volunteers, I have the privilege of exchanging ideas and insightful experiences with these executive champions as we more effectively engage men across industries in our dialogue and hopefully inspire them to take action. As one member of our men's community put it, there are "leaders, learners, and laggars" on this topic in business, and our objective is to partner with the leaders, motivate the learners to take action and through example, the laggers will get on board.

When I asked PWN Global Men's Advisory Board member Todd Skare (President of Praxair Europe) how he saw this movement developing, he responded, "Change is not easy and may happen naturally over time, but I am confident that with recruiting discipline and active career development, gender balance can be accelerated." To do this we need to engage more men executives to create even more influence and visibility on the topic.

Understand men's insights to inspire change

Then what should be the next steps? Our next steps are to identify what would inspire men and industries to more readily engage in gender balance and inclusion. Especially in traditionally male-dominated industries, such as the construction, airspace, oil, and gas, what would be the spark that causes a reticent or apathetic person to transform into an active learner or leader? Also, inversely, what would stop someone from becoming more active? Would they fear a backlash? Do their CEO's need state this as a priority on the business agenda? Is this topic too distracting from their jobs? Do some find it threatening to their own roles? These important insights are key to understanding not only how our cause is currently perceived, but also how we can address these issues as our network expands.

In the spirit of International Women's Day Inspiring Change, we will be polling the men in our network to understand what inspired them to change. What was it that inspired these men into believing that gender balance makes business sense and thus a priority and what convinced them that they are in a position to personally do something about it? With this information, we will be better able to assess the shift that needs to take place for businesses to intellectually and wholeheartedly rethink their culture with women on both sides.