“You’re a man and so you must be strong. You must fight. You must put aside doubts, weaknesses, ..
Mark.Freed / 22 Nov 2018
1918 - “You’re a man and so you must be strong. You must fight. You must put aside doubts, weaknesses, mental or physical and be protectors of our country.”
2018 - Men are talking about wanting to be around for their children, and shared parental leave when a new baby arrives is on the rise. Men of today are supporting their wives and partners working and returning to work after maternity leave, seeing it as the rule rather than the exception.
Shell shock. Many men suffered from shell shock during the Great War but the impact it had wasn’t recognised. Instead they were forced to return to the front line and if they didn’t, they may be sentenced to execution, the acronym added to their papers, ‘LMF’. Lacking moral fibre. Their seniors thought they were weak.
Why is this relevant to today? For me, it demonstrates the messages that were reinforced to men of the time again and again. “You’re a man and so you must be strong. You must fight. You must put aside doubts, weaknesses, mental or physical and be protectors of our country.” And this message, in different forms, has been perpetuated ever since, taking its toll on men in a variety of ways.
But back in the early part of the twentieth century, while men were busy being men, some women were bucking their stereotype and fighting for change. The results that the Suffragettes achieved were momentous and, in fact, benefitted men as well as women. My great grandfather, for example, was a butler to a duke, but in 1918, he was given the vote as a non-property owning man at the same time as it was given to property owning women. I often wonder how my great-grandmother felt at the time – she wasn’t given the right to vote.
My grandfather was a pantry boy in a large fee-paying school, a lowly position without great prospects but society was beginning to change. My grandfather’s first son, my uncle was, in a way, a social climber. He became a priest and in the 1960s, himself, founded and opened a school for the children of the wealthy. He had broken through class barriers – partly through his own hard work, partly due to the aftermath of the world wars but also thanks to the disruptive forces of women before him.
So, men have been programmed to behave in a certain way and that still goes on to some extent but, you know, it is changing. We’re encouraged not to use the expression ‘man-up’ for example, gender neutrality for children is a hot topic and men are urged to express their feelings rather than maintain the traditional British ‘stiff upper lip’.
Men are talking about wanting to be around for their children, and shared parental leave when a new baby arrives is on the rise. Men of today are supporting their wives and partners working and returning to work after maternity leave, seeing it as the rule rather than the exception.
And you know what? We need more men to join the campaign for greater gender diversity.
We know women can fight a good fight and achieve great results but sadly, due to that continuous male programming, there are still a lot of men at the top of organisations and they’re the ones that need to come on board. We need them to take lessons from the past and be disruptive, shake things up, ask questions of their employers as to why candidate lists are moslty men; why do so many women not return after maternity leave? Why are most of the Board male?
So if you’re a man in financial services or you know a man in financial services that wants to work in a more gender diverse organisation, send them my way! I’ve been working towards this for the last twenty years and it’s been quite lonely.
Lacking moral fibre was the worst way a soldier could be described during World War I, and had horrendous consequences. As painful as it is to remember those times, I’d like to reframe those letters for 2018: LMF – Let’s Move Forward (Together).
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