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International Men's Day – Mental Health and Gender Roles

International Men's Day
16 November 2020

November 19 is International Men’s Day, in succession to International Women’s Day. What is important for men in FM to consider, and how do we progress a versatile understanding of masculinity in the workplace this year?

Equality is a key social focus in our society, that has seen consistent progression throughout history. More recently in the workplace this has centred around addressing gender stereotypes and differences in treatment, such as any pay gap or incorrect form of address. It has proven difficult to dismantle some of this due to the entrenched ideas of femininity and masculinity, and ideals brought through from the 20th century.

Earlier this year we dived into explaining exactly what International Men's Day is all about. As part of our commitment to mental health we have a strategic partnership, with Boxing Futures that organise Brothers Through Boxing – bringing young people who identify as men together to improve their physical and mental wellbeing through non-contact boxing. They also run Sisters Through Boxing. We have exciting news on how you can support the charity coming soon.

On International Men’s day we can reflect on how as men, we can help support new, and more diverse talent and the important role we play in helping the next generation working in FM to thrive.”

– Phil Byrne 
Head of Public Accounts, Integral


“I have been in the FM sector for over 20 years and during this time the industry has transformed,” said Phil Byrne, Head of Public Accounts at Integral, a JLL company. “Traditionally, it has been a male-dominated sector especially in the hard services space. I believe we are now becoming more diverse. We are attracting talent from multiple sectors, across various age profiles, ethnic groups as well as becoming more gender diverse. 

"But there is a long way to go and we can all play a role. The FM industry is becoming more professional with the rise of accreditation and the influence of strong industry bodies governing the profession. With new talent entering the industry through grad schemes and other avenues, we are recruiting the best and the brightest. On International Men’s day we can reflect on how as men, we can help support new, and more diverse talent and the important role we play in helping the next generation working in FM to thrive.”


Gender Neutrality


A vital focus for the future is that we increase awareness of subtle prejudice. This means taking note of the underlying ways in which women, men, and those that do not identify with either concept are treated differently. It has often been a vital focus to improve the respect given to females in male-dominated sectors, and this progress is seeing more balance come to fruition, although there is still much work to be done.

In places where these issues persist, many would be forgiven for believing that this is not detrimental for men also. However, inequality has a negative influence for everyone involved – where there are polarised character expectations aside from the necessities of productivity and manners, a lot of people can feel victimised. 

Are men given the same sensitivity and empathy in regards to their personal lives as women in your workplace? Are they encouraged to speak honestly about their emotions when they are struggling with their work or something externally? Do they feel amongst their peers that certain ways of self-expression through appearance or communication at work are not masculine? Is this the same for transgender men?


Stereotyping Male and Female Roles


Masculinity and femininity are social constructs. While they are influenced by biology, modern understanding allows us to see the flawed logic in traditional perspectives. Strength – often seen as an integral component of masculinity – can be shown in many ways. In physical strength, both men and women are able to achieve comparable and incomparable feats, especially when you think outside of the box.

Mentally and hormonally, both are instrumental to raising children, critical thinking, engaging emotional intelligence, governing and directing. Diversifying the workplace with the destruction of the typical housewife set up has evolved society. This journey will continue to benefit business and leisure the more individuals are assessed away from labels of sex, sexuality, or gender. Childcare and teaching are women-dominated professions, where construction and engineering are dominated by men. Employees in the latter departments are found to be struggling, with more than a third taking time off due to poor mental health, according to new research from not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health.

These are not roles that are defined by biology, only skillsets – it is often the stigma or imbalance already present that is discouraging for the opposite sex, or those that identify with an alternate gender. This can be tackled through education and promotion. 


Industry Experience and Advice


We reached out to two members of the LGBT+ in Facilities Management group, for comments on how they have been inspired during their career by positive male role models. What men's issues would they like to see addressed more in the workplace?

Daniel Hawkins is the JLL Account Director for a major technology company. For many years Daniel has been actively involved in promoting Emerging Talent within the Facilities Management industry, being the lead judge for the PfM Young Leader of the Year award and a founding member of the EWL (Emerging Workplace Leaders) which is the evolution of the the YMF Industry network. You can learn more about Daniel in his spotlight interview with us, as a member of our Editorial Advisory Board.

“International Men’s Day, on November 19th is also the anniversary of when my Father passed away, so as you can imagine, it’s significant for me,” said Daniel. 

“In 2013 when Dad passed away, I was working at The Compass Group and my Managing Director was Steve Davies, who has been a long time positive male role model for me. I remember the day I returned to the office, he came and found me and gave me a hug – a moment of genuine care that I will never forget.


“Mental Health amongst men is already a crisis."

– Daniel Hawkins
Account Director, JLL

“Until quite recently, I generally have felt more at ease working with Women, because I felt I didn’t have to demonstrate toxic masculinity around them, but thankfully, I have felt a shift, not only in our industry but more generally that our environments are becoming more inclusive and so I can simply be me and not waste energy on toxic masculinity.

“The New York Times published an article in January 2019, at the height of the #MeToo movement, titled ‘What Is Toxic Masculinity’. To the men reading this article, are you man enough to read it? The irony in that statement is intentional!

“Mental Health amongst men is already a crisis. Did you know that in the UK, according to the Samaritans 2019 Suicide Report, the biggest overall increase is being driven by Male Suicide. Worryingly, men remain around three times more likely to take their own lives than Woman in the UK, with middle aged men at the greatest risk.

“With COVID-19 forcing many of us to sit with our thoughts and without the usual distractions of life to dilute the negative thoughts, men, please know it’s okay not to be okay and that the mental energy you are putting into toxic masculinity could be better spent on working on your mental health.”

ImagePicture: Daniel Hawkins with his father.

Increasing and Appreciating Role Models and Awareness


Colin Kimber, Associate Director at Pareto FM, told us that facilities management as an industry is well-placed to promote diversity. You can learn about his thoughts on why FM teams should support in creating more inclusive workplaces in our article from earlier this year. For International Men’s Day, Colin also had valuable insights.

“I have noticed a real increase in the number of positive male role models around as my career has progressed," he said. "Now that we are starting to break the hold that outdated or toxic male behaviours have in both society and our industry, men are being brave and starting to speak out about their own weaknesses and challenges. 

“Increased awareness around Mental Health has made it more commonplace to openly talk about your feelings, thus removing a lot of perceived stigma around the potential weakness of having them.  This in turn breaks down the idea that there are only a small number of stereotypes that men can fit into. Strength comes in many forms.    

“Higher profile coverage of equality issues globally, such as BLM / LGBT+ Rights / Gender Equality, makes the conversations on these subjects more commonplace. This creates situations where men can understand the part their gender has played in the past, but more importantly their opportunity to be part of the solution and challenging the status quo in the future.  Indeed the BLM challenge that inactivity could be construed as being complicit is an excellent lens to examine your own attitudes and actions through.

“Gone are the days of only looking above yourself for inspiration. These days I find that the most influential role models for me are the younger men coming into the industry and into Pareto FM specifically. Being exposed to a different generations ideas and experience of life has helped broaden my own perception of the world I live in and has identified areas where I could use my own influence to positively affect the working environments of my colleagues and customers.” 

Working From Home

Of course it’s particularly important that mental health is considered by those managing staff during lockdown. A direct result of the aforementioned issues is that many men working from home may not feel able to express their honest emotions and struggles, which is amplified by the difficulty of communicating through technology without an authentic support element that comes so easy in person. Everything from a pat on the shoulder or handshake to a hug has a personal effect that many have been missing –acts of care for other people that bring the humanity into business conduct.

A positive takeaway is that some fathers will be spending more time with their children and creating balance with mothers for parental care. There will also be cases of vice versa, depending on key workers in a family unit and those that are furloughed. For those that are still working, shifts in responsibilities should be considered – openness about pressure can be encouraged and returned with kindness, to push into next year with collective power.

Picture: silhouettes of people.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 16 November 2020


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