Roxanne Hobbs is the founder of the HeANDShe initiative promoting gender equality focusing on the male perspective. We caught up with her to find out more.
D.A.D: HeANDShe is a brilliant concept, can you tell us the thinking and inspiration behind it?
RH: I realised that a lot of the conversations about gender were taking place in female only groups. Change is only going to happen if we bring men along to the conversation. I initially liked initiatives like Manbassadors and HeforShe, but then started to feel a little bit patronised; like we needed the men to fix us.
I asked myself how could I could invite men to the conversation and get them to engage equally and inclusively in the debate? I pretty quickly realised that men face struggles as a result of gender stereotypes as much as women do, but they are just different struggles. I started HeANDShe to raise awareness of the impact of gender stereotyping on both men and women and to create a space where men and women could come together to have a conversation about just that.
D.A.D: What are you main goals to achieve with HeANDShe?
RH: I want to get men involved in the debate and to realise that they have loads to gain from being part of that debate. The challenges facing women are well documented, but men are also in pain. They may be making inauthentic career decisions because of expectations on them or they may be finding it hard to reach out about their struggle because our society says they need to be strong and it doesn’t need to be this way.
D.A.D: How has the reaction been so far? Was it what you expected?
RH: It continues to be a struggle to get men in to the room. I think we’ve not invited men in to these spaces for so long that they make up that they’re going to get lectured at or moaned at. Even when the topic is very focused on men, I get a predominantly female turn out.
However, the reaction to the content itself has been phenomenal. Really a sense that we are having a different conversation that isn’t being had elsewhere.
D.A.D: What do you feel are the biggest issues surrounding gender inequality in the market place currently?
RH: I think we need to support men to lean in at home, should that be what they want to do, so that men and women can lead more fulfilling lives.
I also think we need to have a conversation about shame. We hold so much fear and pain about not living up to our culturally conditioned ideas of what we should be doing. This is shame as we are just not talking about it. We often don’t have the language to explain our feelings and our fears and we think we’re the only one that could ever have felt that way so a more ambitious challenge is to get men and women talking about shame and vulnerability together.
D.A.D: If you had power for a day, what would you change?
RH: I would ensure you had to opt out of flexible working, rather than opt in for it.
D.A.D: What are your future plans for HeANDShe?
RH: Our next event is in collaboration with Token Man and we’re discussing what it is going to take to change the corporate culture around fatherhood, men taking extended parental leave and men asking for flexible working.
D.A.D: Who would be your ideal guest and why?
RH: I’m a massive fan of Brené Brown and have been fortunate to meet her on a few occasions as I am trained in her work. I’d love to be able to sit down for longer with her, have a glass of wine and not be overcome by my awe and fangirldom!
D.A.D is extremely proud to be the official media partner of HeANDShe and Token Man’s upcoming event:
Fathers In The Workplace
Tuesday 7th November, 6pm
Havas Media Group, The HKX Building, 3 Pancras Square, Kings Cross, N1C 4AG
Tickets available here
Image on homepage by Johan Bavman