Token Man is the fantastic initiative founded by Daniele Fiandaca aiming to educate men on the everyday challenges women face in the workplace. We caught up with him ahead of the ‘Fathers In The Workplace’ event to find out more.
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D.A.D: Token Man is a brilliant initiative – can you tell us about the thinking and inspiration behind it?
DF: Token Man was inspired by two things really. Firstly, having organised a dinner for 12 senior creative leaders who all happened to be women, I found that I lost my confidence, I found no affinity to many of the conversations happening around me and I even found myself cut off mid-speech. It was the first time in my career that I had experienced what it was like to be in the minority and I hated it. It gave me my first realisation what it must feel like to be in the out-group.
Secondly, having been aggressively challenged on the gender diversity of Creative Social, a club I run for Creative Leaders, at an intimate business event, I found myself getting defensive. Rather than talk about the good things we were doing, I talked about the wider issues and tried to justify the mix. It made me realise how difficult it is for men to get in the conversation and blaming it on men was not the solution. There had to be a better way. The fact is that no minority has ever effected change without the support of the majority and while women are not the minority in the workplace, they unfortunately are in senior management in many industries and that’s what we want to change.
D.A.D: What are the main goals you want to achieve with Token Man?
DF: Our aim is to educate men on the challenges women face everyday in the workplace, to create greater empathy and consequently to inspire behaviour change to enable gender equality. We want men to help become the change-agents to deliver more inclusive and diverse workplaces where everyone can flourish.
D.A.D: How has the reaction been so far? Was it what you expected?
DF: The reaction so far has been incredible and we have had positive feedback from women and men alike. By definition, we are looking at the issue from a different angle and accordingly providing fresh perspectives that are challenging some of the assumptions that have been made around the issue.
We have also developed a Hacking Gender Inclusion training workshop which brings to life our learnings so far and challenges people to become hackers in their own organisations by finding ways to become more inclusive and to combat some of our natural unconscious biases.
D.A.D: Are there ever any negative responses to the training?
DF: So far no. People come away inspired and armed to help drive change. Ultimately though, they are going to be limited by the ambition of the business they are in as diversity can only happen within an inclusive culture and that ultimately still requires support and investment from the board.
D.A.D: What do you feel are the biggest issues surrounding gender inequality in the market place currently?
DF: The biggest challenge we face is that the issues are ingrained in society and it is hard to change people’s unconscious bias; bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control, triggered by our brain making quick decisions. It was not so long ago that the expectation was for a man to work to provide for the family while the women looked after the family from home. Fortunately, this limited view of the world has changed but many generations are still hard-wired to the world in which they grew up in.
In addition, many of the processes have not yet caught up with this shift in society. For example, we only implemented Shared Parental Leave in the UK two years ago and it is going to take a while for people to change behaviour.
You just need to look at Sweden to see what impact Shared Parental Leave can have, with dads now taking 25% of the total parental allocation.
However, Sweden has an extremely progressive support structure for parents, with the government covering 100% of the salary for the time taken off (funded by a top tax rate of 60%). As long as we have one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world and continue to have a significant gender pay gap, change is not going to happen without the support of the business world.
What can dads expect to get from your event?
There have been very few events focused specifically at the challenges of fatherhood in our industry and just getting them all in a room together, to discuss the issues that dads face in the workplace, will be a good start. We have also pulled together some fantastic speakers who will give a perspective on the benefits and challenges to taking a different co-parenting approach as well as providing a very clear business case, for them to take to their companies, to show the positive impact increased paternity leave and more flexible working for men will have on the workplace. Which is why we encourage as many dads as possible to bring along their HR Directors, CEOs and Heads of Inclusion and Diversity.
D.A.D: If you had power for a day, what would you change?
DF: I would re-wire every CEO so that they understood the issues that people in their teams face everyday as a result of being part of the out-group.
D.A.D: What are your future plans for Token Man?
DF: The biggest challenge still remains getting men to become activists and help drive change. We have realised that the first thing we need to do is show how change can equally help both men and women in the workplace and have consequently launched our first event, aimed specifically at fathers. The aim of the event is to inspire more men to work flexibly and take greater responsibility as a parent. Research has shown that not only will this give them increased satisfaction in their job, but that it will also have a significant impact on their female partner’s career.
D.A.D: Who would be your ideal trainee / dinner guest and why?
DF: I would love to sit down with Sir Martin Luther King and just ask him if he was trying to do what we are trying to do, how he would approach it.
Fathers In The Workplace
Tuesday 7th November, 6pm
Havas Media Group, The HKX Building, 3 Pancras Square, Kings Cross, N1C 4AG
Get an exclusive 10% off the ticket price here