Men Need Help Removing Their Armour

Men Need Help Removing Their Armour

Patriarchy hurts men.

It is a system that drastically needs to be challenged and dismantled for everyone’s benefit.

Patriarchy’s continued impact on women is actively challenged. Progress is there but it’s slow and encounters frequent setbacks. 

Comparatively patriarchy’s impact on men is often sidelined and doesn’t garner as much attention.

Men speaking against patriarchy feels like an oxymoron or the ultimate betrayal. Who wouldn’t want to be a man in a patriarchal system?

The answer, as I’ve witnessed, is most men.

From an early age, a lot of men find themselves placed in the role of an armoured knight, a naïve soldier of the patriarchy. We are expected to be ready to face any challenges that the world throws up and emerge victorious. 

The origins of this ‘role’ derive from the inherent need within a patriarchal system to proactively challenge and fight other patriarchies. This requires literal man-power, and men willing to go to war, and make the ultimate sacrifice.

Compelling the majority of men to be prepared to give up their lives, requires considerable indoctrination. Indoctrination tells you that if aren’t willing to put everything on the line, there is something wrong with you. If you aren’t strong enough to perform when you are needed, there is something wrong with you.

A lot of men, throughout their lives, are expected to be strong, resilient, and unwavering in the face of adversity. The armour we wear is a collective construct of stoicism, emotional restraint, and the belief that seeking help is a sign of weakness. This armour protects us from judgments and vulnerabilities but can hinder growth, emotional well-being, and the ability to form genuine connections.

It can become an inseparable part of a man’s identity, shaping his perception of strength, vulnerability, and weakness.  

“Be a man” and “man up” are phrases that are uniquely conveyed to the male gender. And interestingly there is no female equivalent for the word ‘emasculating’.

Choosing to step out of this defined role, often brings ridicule, bullying and exclusion, as many men can attest to. 

It is a very difficult thing to do.

Just as a knight requires the assistance of squires to help him remove his armour, men often need support and understanding to dismantle the protective layers that have been built or imposed over time. Breaking free from the shackles of traditional masculinity is not a sign of defeat but a declaration of courage and growth.

Friends, family, mentors, therapists, coaches and support groups serve as the modern-day squires, offering a helping hand to assist in the delicate process of de-armouring. 

They encourage men to embrace vulnerability, express their emotions, and seek help without feeling inadequate. This support network helps men understand that seeking assistance doesn’t diminish their strength but empowers them to face their battles more authentically.

Just as a knight feels relief and liberation when his armour is removed, men experience a similar sense of freedom and peace when they shed the societal expectations that have bound them for so long. 

It allows them to stand tall, unencumbered, and authentic in their feelings and experiences.

Underneath this armour they find themselves. And others start to see the real them too – instead of another reluctant knight within the patriarchy.

Removing the armour doesn’t diminish their heroism; instead, it showcases their bravery in confronting their struggles and evolving into their true selves. 

Let us acknowledge this, extend our support, and create a world where men can be proud, unshielded, and truly empowered.

Pay Transparency

Pay Transparency

Pay Transparency to reduce disparity.

For a lot of organisations, this is the time of the year performance for the previous year gets recognised and bonuses and pay increases are awarded.

While progress has been made, there are still disparities between the earning potential and performance recognition of men and women.

I choose to believe that in the majority of organisations, inequality and gender pay gap issues are unintentional.

I choose to believe that enough organisations have come to recognise gender inequality within remuneration as an issue and have taken action to address the obvious issues.

However disparity still exists, and that is why we need to focus on some of the things that well-intended organisations can unknowingly do.

  1. Biased performance evaluations, even if unintentional, can lead to differences in salary adjustments and promotions. Assertiveness and overconfidence tend to benefit men more than women in overcoming performance issues.
  2. Negotiations: Men and women may approach salary negotiations differently. Research suggests that men are more likely to negotiate aggressively for higher pay, while women may feel uncomfortable or may be penalised for doing the same. This can lead to differences in starting salaries and pay raises over time.
  3. Lack of transparency: Organisations that do not openly discuss pay scales and salary ranges may inadvertently perpetuate pay disparities. Employees might not be aware of discrepancies, and this lack of transparency can make it challenging to address and rectify any inequities.
  4. Pay History: Basing salary offers on an employee’s previous pay history can perpetuate past gender pay gaps and exacerbate existing disparities, even if unintentional.

One powerful approach to addressing this issue is through pay and performance transparency within teams.

Sharing details of what people earn, as well as how they have performed, seems to be regarded as a faux pas, but why?

Reasoning tends to focus on protecting the privacy of underperformers, and those who are the lowest earners.

I agree with that reasoning, but what about transparency at the top end?

By openly sharing information about top performers’ salaries and achievements, organisations can foster a culture of accountability and consequently, greater equality.

Transparency as a Benchmarking Tool

Sharing information about the highest earners and top performers within teams enables individuals to benchmark their own progress and career advancement. By knowing what it takes to be at the top, employees can set realistic goals and devise strategies to achieve excellence.

This is especially crucial for women who, despite having the skills and competence, might have lacked the information or confidence to aim for top positions.

Motivation to Excel

Transparency can be a powerful motivational tool. When employees are aware of the potential rewards for outstanding performance, they are inspired to put in their best efforts. This motivation transcends gender boundaries and propels everyone to strive for greatness. By creating a meritocracy, transparency ensures that hard work and dedication are recognised, irrespective of gender.

A Shift in Organisational Culture

Embracing transparency represents a significant shift in organisational culture. It demonstrates a commitment to fairness, equality, and empowering all team members. This cultural transformation attracts diverse talent and promotes an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and encouraged to participate actively.

Some Humble Pie for the Over-Confident

The impact of disclosing the pay and performance ratings of top performers could also result in some humility at this top end and maybe the dose of reality that those keen negotiators need.

Some might express concerns about sharing salary and performance data, fearing that it could lead to resentment or negative competition.

However, transparency does not mean exposing every employee’s information. Instead, it focuses on sharing the success stories and accomplishments of top performers, allowing others to learn from their experiences and emulate their strategies.

Ideally, if the organisation is being fair, and equitable and basing its decisions on merit, then there shouldn’t be an issue. Everyone should be able to see the evidence for themselves and come to a similar conclusion that those top performers deserve their higher salaries.

If that isn’t the case, then perhaps it’s actually exposed the underlying biases and inequality within the process. I’d count that as a win, albeit an uncomfortable truth for some organisations to swallow.

Pay and performance transparency is not a magical solution, but it represents a crucial step towards achieving gender equality in the workplace.

By sharing who earns the most within teams and celebrating top performers, organisations create an environment that values merit, dedication, and talent above all else.

These are things that most organisations think they do already, but we know that can often be just rhetoric.

Women in Leadership Programs…

Women in Leadership Programs…

The latest version of unpaid work?

In most of the leadership programs I have run, unfortunately, many participants who attend often feel the pressure of having to make up for time out of the office. 

They check their emails and make calls during breaks. Some arrive early to power through on their laptops before the workshop starts. Others share that they will be working late to make up for being ‘away’. 

 Without the appropriate resourcing and support to help them attend the program (which rarely happens), active participation in a leadership program frequently involves taking on more work on top of their day-to-day responsibilities.

Ironically, this frequently becomes a topic of conversation during the workshop and the development that most of the leaders need.


Now, let’s think about Women in Leadership Programs (WILPs).

As far as leadership programs go, most WILPs often require quite substantial investments of participants’ time and mental energy. Some even have a high visibility project component to be squeezed in.

Participation in these programs demands additional cognitive effort, as well as the above-mentioned challenge of how to re-juggle work priorities.

In addition, many women are likely to be reluctant to decline these development ‘opportunities,’ fearing it might signal a lack of interest in career advancement. 

Compound this with the reality that whilst they are working on their leadership skills, their male peers have more time to achieve their KPIs.

In isolation, WILPs may not be doing what you think they are doing. 

Instead, they may actually be reinforcing a system by which women have to work much harder than their male peers for the same rewards and outcomes. 

(In many instances they work harder and still get less.)


To push back on the invitation to attend a WILP, creates a kind of guilt equivalent to that frequently experienced by working mothers.

The fear (real or imagined) that saying ‘No’ would mean they aren’t as talented (they should be able to juggle better) or aren’t as motivated or ambitious as they should be. 

Then, imagine the added pressure of continuing to act engaged and appreciative of the opportunity when this is the fourth or fifth program they have attended that shares similar content. 

Imagine the pressure to present a quality project to the board or Exec team. Stuff it up, and it reflects poorly on you, not the lack of support you have received or how you may have been set up to fail. 

Many women I talk to are, simply, over it.


We need to rethink how we treat the talented women in our organisations.

As a McKinsey study suggests, WILPs can be highly beneficial but only if the organisation outside of the program is also developing itself.

Bloke Coaching works as a great complement to existing Women in Leadership Programs. 

By developing the men as well, we are able to address the actual barriers that get in the way of achieving gender equality, as well as sharing the onus of responsibility.

“We don’t talk about Bruno.”

“We don’t talk about Bruno.”

Let’s rethink NDAs.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) have long been utilised as a legal tool to protect sensitive information, trade secrets, and proprietary knowledge. 

However, NDAs are also employed to silence victims and anyone else that has become aware of the incidents, and consequently, cover up the wrongdoing of ‘Bruno’.

‘Bruno’ may have lost his job as a result, but he is free to start elsewhere in the industry without his reputation following him. If he gets away with a warning, then given a few months or years of staff turnover, the only record of the incident will be hidden in the depths of his employee file.

The victims aren’t so lucky. Bruno’s behaviour stays with them, and in many cases has a significant and lasting impact. 

When an organisation says they have zero tolerance for certain behaviours, why then do they choose to maintain a culture of secrecy when such behaviour occurs? 

By not talking about ‘Bruno’ so we inadvertently enable a cycle of misconduct, harassment, discrimination, and other harmful actions to persist unchecked.

We may think it’s about protecting reputations, but we have priorities wrong. Rather than giving Bruno the opportunity to start afresh, we should be more concerned about the victims of Bruno’s behaviour including those who might not have come forward yet.

We should be recognising now, thanks to Grace Tame’s advocacy, that victims should be able to talk about ‘Bruno’ rather than try to repair themselves in silence.

Imagine if organisations took the bold step to say they won’t do NDAs. If findings of misconduct or other inappropriate behaviour are made, there will be an organisational-wide apology. The perpetrator, ‘Bruno’ will be named, additional victims will be encouraged to come forward, and the organisation will reinforce its position that breaches of conduct, and acts of harassment will not be tolerated.

That speaks of true ‘zero tolerance’.

Think of the impact on Bruno and other potential perpetrators. Maybe they would seriously reconsider their actions?

Think of the staff reading that email. All of a sudden, having too many drinks at a work function and then feeling up a colleague doesn’t seem as innocent. They stand to lose a lot if they don’t keep their behaviour in check.

Even if they think it’s consensual, maybe they would think twice if the other person is noticeably intoxicated, or maybe has impaired decision-making. Perhaps we’d be inclined to think let’s not act on this.

Put Your Sword back in its place.

Put Your Sword back in its place.

Let’s get awkward instead.


Sexism and other forms of discrimination continue to plague our society, and many people are wondering what they can do to help.

This comes up a lot in my Bloke Coaching sessions with men.

One option that some people suggest is that men need to call out sexism when they see it. This seems logical and plenty of men promise to do this, but we know it’s harder than the rhetoric.

It requires courage. A lot of courage. And sets a high benchmark.

It’s ok to not have the courage. Plenty of us don’t.

Despite all the pledges and commitments we might make, when the pressure is on, most of us don’t step up to “Call it out!”

And that is ok.

But, what else can we do?

A recent coachee (a CEO) talked to me about the sexism being demonstrated by his company’s owners – three men – in some of their meetings together. He really wanted to start including his 2IC (a woman) but felt that it currently wasn’t a great environment for women.

How does he call this out? Does it help these men to change their behaviour? He wants to, but there is a lot on the line.

And so, like many men, every day, we choose to do nothing.

Which maintains the status quo.

There’s another option.


When we refuse to engage with sexist behaviour or comments, when a sexist joke falls flat, we shame the person telling the joke, or behaving that way, and send a covert signal that their behaviour is not welcome.

No one wants to be told a joke that isn’t funny. No one wants to behave in a way that gets strange looks or doesn’t evoke the reaction we are looking for.

When people make sexist jokes or comments, they are looking for attention and validation.

If they do not receive this attention or validation, they may begin to question whether their behaviour is appropriate or acceptable.

By refusing to engage with sexist behaviour, men can help shame the person and create a situation where the other person recognises (on their own) that their behaviour needs to change.

The more we do this, across a range of settings, men can help create an environment where such sexist behaviour is simply not tolerated in any situation.

There is no greater catalyst for a person to change their behaviour than feeling unwelcome, and our desire to be accepted.

It is important to note that this approach is not about avoiding difficult conversations that need to be had or shying away from addressing discrimination.

Rather, it is about choosing the most effective approach in each situation. A lot of behaviour we witness that needs to be addressed falls into a grey area. There are significant power imbalances present in many of these interactions.

In some cases, calling out sexism may be the best option, while in others, creating an awkward environment may be sufficient and a more comfortable solution for us to deploy.

We don’t have to take up a sword to win this battle.