Workplace Inequality In The Global Movement

Can we talk about workplace inequality globally?

By Cliff Leek. For nearly 10 years I have been involved in efforts to engage men in gender justice but my work never revolved around workplace equality until I joined Catalyst earlier this year. In fact, even as I sought to engage men as allies to prevent sexual and domestic violence or to promote men’s involvement in conversations around sexual and reproductive health, I almost never thought about workplace equality. It seemed that no matter how deep into the efforts to engage men in gender justice I became, efforts to engage men in the workplace felt like a separate movement. Whether I was working on the local level or at the global scale, workplace inequality was conspicuously absent from the conversation.

I think it is time for that to change.

In November I had the privilege of attending the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium on men, boys, and gender justice in New Delhi. The event, following in the footsteps of the first symposium in Rio de Janeiro in 2009, hosted over 1,200 activists, scholars, and government officials from around the world who are interested in getting men and boys involved in efforts to end gender inequalities and injustices.

The symposium showcased the tremendous work being done by small and large non-profits and non-governmental organizations around the world working to create change on all imaginable levels and scales -- covering everything from interpersonal relationship dynamics to international policy.

The symposium was a truly inspiring reminder that we aren’t alone in this work. We are one piece of a growing global movement.

The themes of the symposium included a wide range of issues including violence, fatherhood, sexual and reproductive rights, poverty, and health. But, inequality and injustice in the workplace seemed to be mostly missing from the conversation. Sadly, it was mostly missing from the conversation at the symposium because there simply isn’t enough work being done on the issue.

When workplace inequality is discussed on a global scale, the conversation is for the most part limited to what we can do to end workplace violence and harassment. And, while I don’t want to downplay how important that work is, we need to be doing more. The forces driving workplace inequality extend far beyond violence and harassment. We need to find ways to make micro-aggressions, unconscious biases, parental leave, and leadership diversity a part of the mainstream global discourse and activism on workplace inequality.

The way I see it there are two ways that those of us doing gender equality work in the workplace can put these issues on the agenda of the larger movement to engage men and boys.

First, we need to talk about our work, and I don’t mean to each other. We need to make sure that we have our foot in the door when events like this global symposium happen so that our voice is at the table. How else do we expect to shape the agenda?

Second, we can do more to reach out to organizations working with men on other gender equality issues to develop partnerships and learn from one another. There is too much great work happening in the world for those of us operating in the business-world to be silo-ed from it.

Cliff Leek is the MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) Research Fellow and Community Manager. He is also a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Stony Brook University (SUNY). He has worked as Prevention Specialist for the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force and as a consultant for a variety of gender-focused non-profits. Cliff is currently writing his dissertation on the growth patterns and effectiveness of organizations seeking to engage men and boys in gender justice work around the world.  He is also a founding editor of, a blog that connects activist and scholarly work on men and masculinities.

Posted by Cliff Leek on Dec 12, 2014 4:04 PM America/New_York

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