The male team members of Fabrick Viewpoint

INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY - THE FABRICK PERSPECTIVE

Posted by Fabrick on 19 November 2021

International Men’s Day (IMD) officially aims to celebrate the positive value that men bring to the world. It is intended to highlight positive roles models, raise awareness of men’s well-being and improve gender relations. The theme internationally is ‘Better Relations Between Men and Women’, which is certainly a very important and positive message. In the construction sector, we regularly hear about the industry’s need to attract a more diverse mix, including more women if it is to thrive - and rightfully so. But do we ever stop to think about, and recognise the efforts, of the men and women within construction and the contribution they’ve made thus far? IMD in the UK seeks to go deeper to promote awareness about other important topics such as; men’s health, male suicide rates, and boys’ academic underachievement, among others. Fabrick’s Digital Content Creator, Melissa Pilfold took the opportunity to speak with the Fabrick men about the challenges they and other men face.

Opening up space for conversation

There is a need to harness conversations about wellness, self-expression, and gender norms; without these, negative consequences and poor mental health can result. While both men and women face many of the same wellness concerns, some obstacles are more relevant to males, such as pressures of masculinity and the reluctance to seek help.

“I still find that a lot of men want to hide their emotions, I think creating awareness of mental health and teaching men that it is alright to speak up is hugely important.” highlights Account Executive, Frank Godfrey.

Senior Account Manager, Darren Laws, further highlights “It’s a good thing that mental health is now being seen as important as physical health and the stigma is being removed, but persuading men to be more open is the real challenge.”

So, is there a stigma as to how males ‘should’ act? Men may be hesitant to seek help for their mental health and disclose this to family and friends due to stereotypes. The result can be men ignoring feelings in fear of appearing vulnerable. This stigma, in any sense, can lead to violent or self-destructive behaviour.

The pressure to act hyper-masculine can have a negative influence on their own and others’ well-being. “I feel we still have some way to go in creating a space for empathy” recognises Digital Account Executive, James Threadingham. “Mental health means everything and I feel as a man we’ve created a culture where we’re scared to show any true emotion to each other as we’re told to ‘man up”. Mental health affects everything we do so, surely, we should feel comfortable talking about it? We must drop the ‘lad banter’ 24/7 approach and take things more seriously.”

Senior Creative, Darryl Hartley, holds the same sentiment as James, “I think this could be achieved best by removing old ideas of masculinity where it is still seen as a weakness to admit to your mental health issues and instead promote this as a sign of strength.”

Do gender stereotypes start at a young age?

Many argue that stereotypes begin at a young development age with the idea of ‘pink for girls’, ‘blue for boys’, and toys having an impact on a person’s later development. A girl, for example, can have a large selection of dolls and toy babies, instilling in them a maternal sense from an early age. Boys, on the other hand, will be more exposed to problem-solving toys - building bricks, cars, and action figures - toys initially that won’t allow natural empathy to grow. Switching toys and enabling access to all could play a key role in stereotypes later in life.

“When I was at school, a lot of the boys would do more practical classes like bricklaying and carpentry. Whereas a lot of the girls would look at health and beauty classes” adds Frank.

Men, like women, are incredibly diverse, however, there can be harmful outcomes of what a ‘man’ is supposed to be. The spectrum of masculinity is becoming more and more open and there are more men today expressing gender fluidity. However, a percentage of men are still imprisoned by stereotype danger on one extreme of the spectrum. Some people refer to conforming to society’s view of what a man should be as ‘toxic masculinity.’

Men and the stigma of ‘man up’ to ‘enhance’ strength, both physically and mentally can be ultimately damaging. Some would argue men with role models crossing gender stereotypes when they’re young may be the key. Showing compassion to others and being comfortable to explore their identity can help with sharing emotion and the mental health struggles men face.

Gender Fluidity

Men are defying social standards as a result of the greater advocacy of gender fluidity. This ultimately calls into question the fundamental concept of binary gender distinctions and what it means to be a ‘man’.

For example, being perceived as gay can be thrown around as an insult, and these types of discussions may give those who are struggling with their sexual identity a lack of expression and confidence. Despite this, we all share a sincere desire to grow as individuals and find our place in the world. This is a problem that both men and women face.

Ditching the stereotypes

So, how can we untangle the pressures that men face and how can we have a more progressive and beneficial impact on them? Being vulnerable is considerably more difficult for men because it contradicts their gender stereotypes, but having role models can help. As a result, having that celebrate male diversity and remind us all that nobody should be constrained by stereotypes is a good thing.

“I see the small gestures as a good starting point, thinking of myself in the world and how others perceive me. While many women can list unpleasant situations they’ve been in, a lot of men will have no way of relating. I try to think about the language I use, avoid ‘mansplaining’, listen more than I talk. All men can probably think about a time they’ve seen something and said nothing, we should treat people the same way we want to be treated” explains Digital Content Manager, Rob Cursons.

“While equality is something that should start on an institutional level (such as equal pay across genders), it in fact happens through the actions of each and every individual in the way we treat one another. The choices we make in life have to be consciously driven to see everyone as an equal regardless of their gender, race, age, etc. That is a challenge whoever you are” adds Digital Development Manager, Mike Summers.

“We can begin to change and challenge some narratives that we feel are not kind to others, in the workplace or even within our society” Head of SEO Ayo Ogunrekun explains.

With conventional gender roles fading away, it is increasingly normal for both parents to participate in the traditional responsibilities that once existed. With the rise of shared parental leave, single parents and same-sex-parents, it’s become clear that each parent, regardless of gender, is exposed to all parts of the ‘conventional’ duties, pursuing equal opportunities and a more equal society when it comes to children, household and family upkeep as well as in the workplace.

Fabrick CEO, Colin Felton, elaborates: “Most men feel they should be the protector, the stronger person, at least physically. However, we need to respect the idea that roles have changed, but that said, we are still coming to terms with the fact that women are taking on more roles that were once taken on by men.”

Positive Role Models and rethinking masculinities

IMD may be able to highlight men who break stereotypes and encourage others to look at values, qualities, and obligations of being not just a man, but a responsible global citizen, which is vital. Men, like women, can be lonely and vulnerable, but they are less likely to admit it. James sheds a light on his role model, Daniel Craig “I’ve really taken note of his positive views towards embracing change in the film industry. He believes in creating fair opportunities for all and is open to the idea that 007 could easily be of a different race or gender.”

A diverse set of role models for men of all ages to aspire to, and relate to, can provide a positive perspective on the contributions men make to the world, their families, and communities.

“The actor, Keanu Reeves, is somebody that I admire hugely. In particular, he’s very respectful of women and doesn’t overstep boundaries. This behaviour should, of course, be the norm but it takes a quick look online and it’s easy to see why he’s leading by example in so many ways” says Rob. Darryl also agrees by saying “Keanu Reeves being a Hollywood actor, but remaining outside of the system, grounded down-to-earth and charitable without shouting about it.”

Frank looks to Marcus Rashford for inspiration “the work he is doing to bring change for children across the country is amazing. As a football fan seeing him use his platform to get so many people behind a great cause is amazing and should be done more often.” And with sport in mind, Mike adds that “Lewis Hamilton has made it his mission to evolve from being a racing driver to champion equal opportunities regardless of race, gender or background.”

Building the future of gender in construction

Construction is a largely male-dominated industry and tackling diversity and inclusion has been a long-standing issue. The workplace remains an issue of gender even after progress has been made.

“The education of women, especially at schools I think is hugely important in creating equality in the industry” explains Frank.

As a result of male ‘inclusion,’ the gender issue may become more diversified if there was greater inclusion as a whole. The construction industry in the UK might be a leader in attaining gender equality for all. Head of Finance Graham Felton adds that “It is absolutely necessary in order to meet the challenges ahead”.

Part of alleviating the construction industry’s labour shortage could start with attracting more women. The industry is taking big steps towards being a more diverse and inclusive space for future generations. “Of course, we rely on forward-thinking managers and leaders to allow everyone to thrive, whoever they are. I often think we need a broader term for construction, which is why I love saying the ‘built environment’, this somehow has a broader, more accessible sound to it” notes Rob.

Darryl echoes “as a traditionally male-dominated area, the construction industry has begun to embrace gender equality. It would be ideal to continue on this trajectory, so the wolf-whistling days of old remain firmly in the past. This attitude would be aided greatly by continuing to employ people keeping equality in mind. Employing the right person for the right job from executive status to workers onsite.” That being said, the construction industry celebrates the positive value men bring to the workplace.

There are many charities and organisations dedicated to helping men live better lives and support their mental wellbeing, such as CALM, Baggy Trousers, and abandofbrothers. IMD also raises awareness of physical health with open conversations about prostate and testicular cancer.

Let’s get talking

Ultimately, opening up a safe space for conversations in the workplace can have a healthy impact for both men and women to speak more openly. “Organisations and companies should mandate their staff members to go and engage in healthy mental health practices and actually support them”, says Ayo.

Partnering with some of the charities mentioned and having regular, open, positive talks about significant topics as a construction marketing agency can provide an opportunity for voice. The following are some discussion topics to consider:

  • Boys and young mens’ personal development
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Fatherhood
  • Health (including mental health)
  • Loneliness and Isolation
  • Self-identity
  • Sexual Abuse/Exploitation/Violence

A space to celebrate and share experiences with others in the workplace can contribute to society for the greater good.

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