Why Talking to Men about Gender Diversity is so Difficult

Engaging men in gender diversity

Engaging men in a conversation about gender diversity can be tricky. Let me tell you why. When I meet people outside of the world of diversity and mention I work as a consultant on gender diversity, I get 2 types of responses.

The first one is, ‘Oh wow, that is really needed, do tell me more’, and it’s usually women who respond like that.

The second one is where the other person makes an off the cuff remark, indicating that they really don’t see the point. And it’s usually men who respond like that. That’s what I want to talk about in this blog, as it’s a more difficult response and I started noticing when I started engaging with men on gender diversity. It’s difficult especially as it’s often delivered in some sort of superior, confident way. That makes me want to hold back, or move on quickly to a different topic. Or worse, argue my point.

See, I know so much about this topic, and I know exactly where they are coming from, and I really do understand why they think like that. But I also know what they need to learn to see things differently. So, I argue. I make my point. I try to show them my point of view. However, that – of course – never works. Why would they even be interested in my points? Why would they suddenly be open to learn something new from a complete stranger on a topic they weren’t engaged with in the first place?

So, I am learning that what you need to do instead is take the route of appreciative inquiry. Ask questions. Plant a little seed that helps them to start thinking differently. I would love to share what I am learning, but would also really appreciate your insights. As I am nowhere near there. Please do share what kind of questions work for you.

Engaging men in Gender Diversity

Let me share the responses I get below, and give you what I believe could be a possible ideal response to start engaging men in gender diversity. Perhaps they help you in your conversations about gender diversity too.


‘Wow, gender diversity consultant, I didn’t even know that was a thing. Do you get paid for that?’

  • Why would you think gender balance is different from any other business issue such as leadership or getting venture capital?
  • That’s interesting. How did you think organisations find the expertise to help them close the gender pay gap?


‘I have no issues with women, in fact we have a very senior woman and she is quite scary’

  • What do you think it takes for a person to become like that?
  • Would you say your colleagues also have no issues with women?
  • It does make you wonder why there are so few women in your sort of senior job, why do you think that is?
  • What is your view, do you think it is fair that women are 5 times less likely to get to senior role than men?


‘We just never get CV’s from women’

  • Why do you think that is?
  • Would you be interested in changing that, just like company X in your industry has done?


‘Women are just not interested in these sort of roles’

  • What have you tried to attract them?
  • Where did you look to find women?
  • Did you know that in many STEM subjects over 30% of graduates is female?


‘We have tried recruiting women, but I don’t understand where they go as they don’t come to us’

  • What does that say about your employer brand? Your visibility in the job market place?


‘I never look at gender or colour, I just pick the best person for the role’

  • Would you say women are less qualified for the sort of roles you offer?

Do try these responses out and let me know how you get on. And if you are reading this and you think it’s nonsense, then do let me know too. Do you just stay away from men, and network with women-only? Or do you have much better conversations? What do you say? How do you respond?

In case you are looking to engage senior leaders in gender diversity, check out these tips.

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Author: Inge Woudstra

Would you like to know more or have a question? I am always happy to have a chat to discuss your needs. Why not drop me a line or pick up the phone? Call me at 01372 457 907 or Just contact me to discuss your requirements by e-mail.

I can help you recruit, retain and advance women, and typically work with organisations in tech and engineering.

Or just check out my book 'Be Gender Smart - The Key to Career Success for Women'

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