Audacious Opinion – Why We Need Men Front and Centre this International Women’s Day

By Aradhana Khowala*

I was raised by egalitarian parents who have egged me on to believe that I can do anything a man can. As an ambitious, educated woman who has prioritised my career, worked hard and travelled the globe, I have owned and claimed the narrative that as a woman “I might want a man, but do not need a man.” However, as I stare into the WEF gender gap study and as a woman in my mid-forties, as a mother of two boys and as a passionate champion of women in leadership, I am realising that the reality is a bit more complex, and, interestingly heavily gendered. Hence, my seemingly controversial opinion and flip of the script is that if you want to influence policies, challenge harmful stereotypes, and create more inclusive environments for women, we need more men engaged including on this International Women’s Day (IWD)!

IWD has long been hailed as a platform for women to champion their rights and celebrate their achievements. It’s traditionally the day when women celebrate their achievements and advocate for gender equality. Yet, what if I told you that we don’t need a day for the world to express solidarity with women and demonstrate commitment to building a more just and inclusive world for all? Instead, women need men at the forefront of this movement to truly succeed.

One of the great successes of humanity in the last century is to have educated and empowered the other half of the human race. Well at least made an earnest attempt at it. Women are good for countries; women are good for companies and women are good for communities. Without a doubt, we need better career paths for women, more supportive policies and cultures and we need more women in leadership positions. We also need to de-bias recruitment, promotion, and succession planning. And, we need to enhance the representation of women in higher-paid roles and reduce the gender pay gap. But, if we want faster progress towards broader diversity, equity and inclusion, we need more men. And, we need a lot more partnership and collaboration with men.

Gender equality is not a women’s issue.

All too often, discussions about gender equality can devolve into finger-pointing and blame. Gender equality is not just a women’s issue—it’s a human rights issue. Gender norms and stereotypes affect men too. A truly equitable society needs both men and women to rethink our attitudes and behaviours. While women have been at the forefront of the fight for gender equality, men have their own experiences and insights to contribute. Overcome your fear of saying and doing the wrong thing. The more you do and say as a champion for women, the more you learn to do and say things better. This is not a “zero-sum game”.

Allyship needs action.  So, ACT.

Like love, allyship is a verb, not a noun. Owing to their gender-conferred privilege and the existing societal norms and organisational work structures, men still dominate many of the key decision-making positions in society – whether it’s in the boardroom or the corridors of power. Men also (still) hold the keys to resources and networks and all of this ideally positions men to bring about meaningful workplace change. But that needs men to walk the talk not just performative, feel-good lip service. Start by questioning the status quo and examining longstanding practices that perpetuate systemic inequities. Then, dare to change those practices including handing the baton to women.

The glass ceiling needs shattering

Women represent 60% of university graduates globally, women are gaining skills, experience and – yes – salaries in an ever-expanding range of sectors. Yet, women aren’t making it to the top. Despite gains in middle and senior management, they hold just 3% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. In the C-suite, they’re outnumbered four to one. One of the key things keeping women under the glass ceiling is the absence of male advocacy. High-performing women simply don’t have the sponsorship they need to reach the top. Women need men to advance the cause of women. Women need men to leverage their power and privilege, share their perspectives, foster understanding and empathy, and commit to positive action and drive meaningful change.

#GirlDad and #BoyMum

I am not a fan of gendered hashtags but a big believer in confronting gendered stereotypes head-on. Bring it home this IWD24 and talk to your daughters and sons about the importance of gender equality and the things you are doing to make a difference. Hold yourselves accountable. Raising sensitive, respectful sons or strong and feminine daughters doesn’t have to be rooted in any societal view or ideal. Men have a crucial role to play in raising the next generation and we need more men to reflect on their roles as fathers, brothers, and mentors, and to commit to being positive agents of change in the lives of future generations.


The UN Women International Women’s Day Theme for 2024 is: Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress. What does that mean for men? Too often, discussions about gender equality devolve into an us-versus-them mentality, with men cast as the villains in the story. By inviting men to take centre stage on International Women’s Day, we can shift this narrative and create allies instead of adversaries. When men and women come together in solidarity, united in their commitment to gender equality, the possibilities for change are limitless – in the workplace, the home, or the broader community. Let’s flip the script this IWD and invite men to join us at the forefront of the movement for gender equality.

*Author Aradhana Khowala is a distinguished leader in the field of business and finance, serving as the CEO and Founder of Aptamind Partners. With a wealth of experience and expertise, she has garnered recognition as the Chair of the Group Advisory Board at Red Sea Global. Additionally, Aradhana holds a pivotal role as a Board Member and Chair of the Nomination and Remuneration Committee at Elaf Group, under SEDCO Holding Company. She was a Board Member & Member of the Steering Committee – World Tourism Forum Lucerne. Her strategic acumen and leadership skills have positioned her as a driving force in shaping organizational success and fostering growth across diverse industries

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