When I was asked to write for International Men’s Day I was honored but also conflicted. Why should I, a white privileged male, who is doing great in his career share his story? I’m typically lumped in with the group that needs to take off the rose-tinted glasses and make an effort to see and recognize the inequality that exists for those who face discrimination and/or inequality. So why on earth is there even a day to celebrate men, those who account for 61.2% of the global workforce and have been promoted 3 times more than women during the pandemic?
After some quick research, it became apparent that everyone needs to speak up and participate for initiatives to work, to build a culture where everyone feels they belong. This is exactly what inclusion means. Singling out one group as the core offenders is not part of the plan – as such, men are integral to the solution.
Men have an important role to play
I believe that for every generation in my own family the role of “the man of the house” has changed to be more equal and more inclusive. Even if you’re considered privileged, you can be faced with inequality in areas, especially those that challenge social norms. For me, this is what International Men’s Day represents – an opportunity to recognize the role men have in achieving gender equality for all. Its six main pillars focus on:
- Promoting positive male role models; not just movie stars and sportsmen but everyday men who are living decent, honest lives.
- Celebrating men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, childcare, and to the environment.
- Focusing on men’s health and wellbeing – social, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
- Highlighting discrimination against men in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law
- Improving gender relations and promoting gender equality
- Creating a safer, better world, where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.
In reflecting on these pillars, I would like to share what International Men’s day means to me and how I think I can help build a more just and equal future.
It’s ok to choose for your family to come first and still grow in your career
When we were expecting our first daughter, my wife and I decided that we would be dual-income, 50/50 parents. What I didn’t expect were the struggles I would face in helping my wife in her recovery and managing being a 50/50 parent for the first 6 months. I had starkly different experiences than some of my colleagues that chose a different model where their partners did not work or worked fewer hours to be able to manage more of the homelife.
Managing my work and family life came to a head when I was asked to travel abroad on more than one occasion with short notice. I found myself having to choose between work and my new role as a parent. I felt like I was failing my family when traveling abroad a lot and felt guilty at work when declining to go on a third foreign trip in the same month.
Having great HR resources and colleagues to consult with, I came to the realization, during this first year as a new dad, that the global role I had was not compatible anymore with my new family life. I needed to speak up to find a solution that worked for me and Schneider. In the end, Schneider offered me a role that allowed me to continue to progress my career but reduced my travel, which enabled me to manage my work-life balance better. This experience taught me that it is ok to ask for flexibility in your role and that I should not be apologetic about being the primary parent 50% of the time too. In finding a balance in my work and home life I was able to grow and I feel it made me a better employee at Schneider Electric. Additionally over the last five years, Schneider Electric has introduced more inclusive policies, which I use, to help us manage our unique life and work. For example, our New Ways of Working – allows employees to work two days at home – and I was so happy to use our new Global Family Leave policy when my third daughter was born.
Be an advocate for equality to your kids and those around you, address behavior and biases early on
As a dad to 3 young girls, it is important to show them that it is good to be assertive, strong, and independent early on. We try to teach them that women are different from men, but not in value, worth or ability. When I, my wife, or other family members talk over our daughters, which does occasionally happen on my side of the family, I encourage them to point this out. My three-year-old is not shy to say “Daddy, I’m still talking”. As a result, when I see this happening at work, I point it out and try to address it. It seems like a small issue to many, but such behaviors / micro-aggressions that are too often dismissed as cultural are one of the subtle ways inequalities or a lack of respect can rear its head.
Think about how stress and traditional expectations affect your mental health
For ages, men have been told that their feelings of sadness and deeper emotion were signs of weakness. They were told to have a stiff upper lip. It’s important to recognize your needs and support mental wellness so you can also be emotionally invested to support, sympathize and help others. At Schneider Electric, we are encouraged to find ways to support our own mental health. For me, this is making time to go to the gym, spending time with my family, but also being able to discuss the stresses of work and life with my partner.
I’m still on the journey and still have things I am working on!
- Being open and speaking up. I recognize that I am learning every day. By being more aware of my own biases, educating myself, and truly listening, I am changing my perspective… without judgment. Schneider Electric does a good job making its employees more aware of unknown or hidden biases and helping those that are impacted to share their stories. For me my journey continues by learning from others, being open to different perspectives and knowing when to speak up. Hopefully, my role in all this will help build a better world for my daughters and the next generation.
- 50/50 Parenting is an ongoing effort. 50/50 parenting is a goal I continue to work on but it is ‘give and takes’ with my wife. By utilizing the resources provided by Schneider Electric, like our Global Family Leave and Flexibility Policies, I feel I can find the balance or work-life integration that works for me and my family. And as my kids grow and our family changes, it is important I keep reassessing my situation, keep leaning in and speaking up to ensure I maintain the balance.
To learn more about Schneider Electric’s diversity, equity, and inclusion policies, visit us here www.se.com/diversity. To join the #SEGreatPeople team, check out our job opportunities here www.se.com/careers
About the Author:
Norbert Reuder, Director of PMO & Agile Transformation for Global Services has been with Schneider Electric since 2002. He first started at APC in Ireland and then moved to the US and has held multiple positions in APC, Schneider Electric Secure Power, Services, and more. Norbert is originally from the Netherlands but has since moved to the US and is based in Boston, MA with his wife and 3 daughters. His hobbies include coaching the kids’ soccer and riding bikes.