How Male Middle Managers Can Boost Gender Diversity - IEDP
  • Managing people

How Male Middle Managers Can Boost Gender Diversity

Gender inclusivity in the workplace implies proactive engagement from both sexes

Wednesday 04 November 2015


By downloading this resource your information will be shared with its authors. Full privacy statement.

Gender inclusivity in the workplace implies proactive engagement from both sexes and, according to a recent report by Elisabeth Kelan, Professor of Leadership at Cranfield School of Management, men in middle management positions can play a pivotal role in creating fair and equal workplaces.

Despite progress made over recent years men still constitute 70% of managers and leaders in organizations (International Labour Organization 2015). There has been much focus on how women need to change in order to fit into organizations. However if, instead of changing women, organizational cultures need to change, men as well as women must change their working practices. Yet the relevance and responsibility of men for creating gender equality in the workplace is often ignored.

Considerable attention has been paid to the lack of female representation at board level and at the top of organizations there is a real awareness that gender diversity matters. However, a survey of leading European companies suggests that while most CEOs support moves toward gender parity, only 13% of middle managers share this idea (McKinsey 2012). Professor Kelan’s research looks at why this is and explores the micro-practices that men as middle managers can engage in to create gender inclusive leadership.


The research draws on job shadowing and interviews with middle managers from a number of different organizations and documents the everyday practices that are key to unlocking equality in organizations.

Even if male middle managers feel the urge to be more gender equal, they often struggle to display that in their practices. It is easy to acknowledge the importance of gender parity on an intellectual level but the practicalities of how to deliver it are less clearly understood and applied in a busy pressured workplace.

The report reveals these four practices that male middle managers need to engage in for change to happen in their organizations:

  • Celebrating and encouraging women - ensuing their skills are recognized and they take on the roles that can advance their careers
  • Calling out biases - making them visible to others
  • Championing and defending gender parity initiatives  - ensuring they are understood by men and women
  • Challenging existing work practices - making them more gender sensitive

“It is crucial that male middle managers start to model these desired practices. This will encourage others to do the same and over time gender inclusive leadership will be seen as a key part of how good leadership is achieved. Ideally, demonstrating gender inclusive leadership should be written into performance evaluations to formalise this commitment.” says Kelan.

Professor Kelan is Director of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders

Related program: Cranfield's Women as Leaders Program

You can download the report by clicking the Download resource button below

Thinking: brilliantly applied for the decade ahead

Google Analytics Alternative