There’s a lot of talk about toxic masculinity these days: how it affects parenthood; its validity as a concept; its link to crime, politics; and more. But how does this concept play out in the workplace? Most scholars use the term “toxic” masculinity to refer to stereotypical gender roles that restrict boys and men to only portray certain masculine emotions and expect them to live up to the social expectations of playing the role of dominant “alpha” male. Such toxic masculinity in the workplace includes domination and control, devaluation of women, misogyny, homophobia and subtle sexist comments that have severe effects on female employees physically and mentally.
The need of the hour is to ensure and enforce a culture of non-toxic masculinity in the workplace. Creating a safe space where there’s equality and equity, visibility and a mutual respect will be a stepping stone to eradicate this systemic concept of toxic masculinity. First of the many ill- effects of toxic masculinity is the toll it takes on an employee’s mental health. Mental health impacts the economy each year through its cost to employers:
sickness and absence
lower staff turnover
To combat this, a lot of corporates today are taking steps to focus on mental health and how to make it an indispensable part of their company culture. For instance, António Horta-Osório, the CEO of Lloyds Bank talks about ending workplace taboos around mental health. He describes how he’s made mental health a big focus for his company due to his personal experience. He talks about how we need to give mental health the same importance and treat it as we treat physical illnesses. “A change in mindset is needed,” he says, “with a culture of adequate support and sufficient time off, an employee can return to work with confidence and without embarrassment”.
Another instance where toxic masculinity seriously harms employees is in the way it causes psychological damage to employees’ self-esteem. When traits of hegemonic masculinity are displayed by employees, the work that female employees do can be disregarded or dismissed, female talent is overlooked. Such small but subtle instances can seriously harm an employee’s belief in their own self in addition to not being noticed or seen in the first place.
Toxic masculinity is partly spread because of the way we’re socialised, and this in turn reinforces potentially damaging workplace norms. What we need is to support open and encouraging dialogues about the diverse experiences of employees. Environments that encourage individuals to bring their whole selves to work encourage a form of masculinity where men aren't afraid to express their full range of emotions, be sensitive, display their authentic personalities and most importantly understand the value of respecting women.
WERKIN is helping build more inclusive and supportive company cultures through mentorship, connecting employees through shared experiences and diverse skills. WERKIN’s platform raises the visibility of underrepresented groups at large global organisations.
The corporate culture needs individuals who are held accountable for their actions, where underrepresented groups, including women are given roles to take action and be change makers instead of only being a secondary character that holds the narrative and not controls it. WERKIN is helping bring diverse teams into the mix, changing who managers see and what they do.