Secret mens business
It has just occurred to me, that men in many countries don’t get to have the seclusion of venues for “secret mens business” any more.
Take business clubs for instance - once the preserve of men, where they could mingle exclusively with their own. The stereotypes would have you believe these were venues for "secret mens business" where the chaps could cuss, burp, smoke like chimneys, drink whiskey in the morning and tell ribald stories at will whilst turning the wheels of power. Today in many countries, such clubs have been forced to accept both sexes, to avoid anti-discrimination claims and comply with equality laws.
At my own golf course, the HRD at the time led a group of women members through legal action, to force the club to allow women to play on Saturdays. Fair enough to secure the Saturday given that plenty of women worked through the week and like their male counterparts, really only got time for a game on the weekends. It did however always occur as odd to me that the women additionally had exclusive course access on Wednesdays as “ladies day” but the men never got a day of their own once the Saturday was opened to both sexes. Additionally the women never had to pay the same level of membership fees as their male counterparts even though the former then had greater course access.
Then there was my local swimming pool. Tuesday and Thursday nights were “women only” access to the pool – to fit in I guess with overly modest folks, or those with religious restrictions. But there were no days or times set aside for “men only” pool access – I always found that odd and wonder whether their HRD ever worried about a reverse equality claim.
Perusing the home décor and design pages of late, I see an interesting trend for creating a “man cave” within the fashionable homes – a room which is dedicated for the sole use of He of the house, often with a bar, a big screen TV, (his) music collection and acres of leather and steel. I wonder if this is a knock-on effect from fellows not having their own public domain venues anymore.
There are of course, still plenty of places and events where men can go and be with their mates, and be the majority of the sex present. But it is not the same as the exclusive nature of those venues which had traditionally been the men’s preserve.
Women of course have always had their own exclusive societies, their own sporting venues, clubs and beauty and spa retreats. And whilst it is still common for spa centres to offer "women only" sessions with no options for "men only" sessions – I cannot help but think that these centres are missing a trick, given the rise of boutique treatment salons targeted to men in various "modern" cities.
Maybe these things always run the course of a pendulum. But with the additional pressures in the business world to increase female representation on company leadership teams, to adjust employment conditions to fit with working Moms, and to secure equality of pay between the sexes, I do wonder how many men feel that their "domains" are being eroded?
There may be something in how we as a HR function can actively help redefine the role of men in our society. We could for instance start with helping to ensure the acceptance of "stay at home Dads" as surely as traditional Mothers in our policy making and work culture strategies. Or ensuring that our company sports teams and sponsorship efforts cover interests for both men and women. Equality after all should cut both ways - and surely what is good for the gander is good for the goose?