Lars Einar Engström has written five books. Tree of them have been translated into English: "Thoughts of a sexist" 2012, "Your Career In Your Hands" 2011 and "Confessions of a Sexist" 2007. For more information, please contact the author.
Lars Einar Engström writes colums for a number of media entities. For information in English, please go to www.onthemarc.org
Continues with seminars during 2014
Profitability and Equality
A number of international investigations show that mixed groups are more profitable.
Can that be right?
We discuss the pros and cons.
What do we know about leadership in the future?
Do new generations require new leaders?
Individuals from different generations may not be as different as we believe.
Career Coaching for Women
How can you as a woman succeed in a male-dominated working life?
Is it possible to combine career and family?
Listen to Lars Einar, discuss with him and design your future.
For more information or booking, click here
Among the satisfied customers are these companies:
Yale University (U.S)
Parks & Resorts
IHM Business School
Catalyst (the U.S.)
Ernst & Young
Along with a number of city halls, universities and federal companies.
Is managing director and owner of Edcolby AB and partner in Eventum Exhibitions (ABBA World) and VIP Dogs
2013 - 2014 Executive search and seminars in the U.S, Germany, Holland, Polen, Russia and Sweden
March 2012 - 2013 A project with Vattenfall.
September 2012 A project with IHM Business School opens.
Was engaged by Expression of Humankind and the project Aday starting in 2012.
Has been a member of the board of the Swedish authors' federation, Linqsearch and Eventum AB.
2011 The book Your Career In Your Hands (together with Michael Warner).
2010 The book Reflections of a Sexist.
2009-2010 Project Leader of the world premier of ABBA World in England and Australia. During the same period, Project Leader of Bjorn Ulveaus' and Benny Andersson's musical Kristina at Carnegie Hall in New York and Royal Albert Hall in London.
2009 Listed among the men in the world recognized by the U.N. as bringing the equality matter into a greater perspective.
2008-2010 Managing Director of Eventum Corporate Events AB.
2008 Co-author of the anthology Everyday Violence.
2007 The book Confessions of a Sexist was available in Denmark, the U.K., Iceland, the U.S. as well as at amazon.com
2007 The book The Sexist's Career Guide for Young Women was published.
2006 Worked with the managing group of Live Nation with re-organization of the company.
2005 The book Confessions of a Sexist was published and got a lot of attention in media (TV, radio and around 40 interviews in newspapers and magazines), as well as at least 60 lectures during the year. Invited to the political seminar in Almedalen as a lecturer. Received "The Big Barrier Demolisher Prize" by the Employers' Association in the county of Gävleborg and a scholarship from the Swedish Authors' Foundation.
2005 Contributed to the start of the recruiting company Linqsearch AB.
2002 Consultant, working with organization development and recruiting at DHJ Media (Sweden and the U.K.) for eight months.
2001 Partner and Project Leader at Eventum from 1996 and until the company was sold.
1996-1997 Project Leader of the Non Violence Project in London.
1995 Consultant, Marketing Manager and working with organization development at ARE Bolagen during eight months. Tried unsuccessfully together with the Managing Director to save the company.
1993-1994 Consultant, Managing Director/General Secretary at A Non Smoking Generation for 18 months. Brought the company from bankruptcy to profitability, hired a new Managing Director/General Secretary and around 60 project employees.
Introduced campaigns that were recognized in TV and newspapers in Sweden as well as all over Europe. ("Welcome to Marlboro Country" and "Raped by a Prince".) Started telemarketing enterprise and a sponsor pool.
1992 Consultant at the SVEA 92 project in Barcelona, during the Olympics. One of the greatest Swedish sponsoring projects abroad.
1988-1992 Management Training Director at Apple Europe in Paris. Member of the management group at bigger events for Apple Computer in Cannes, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Vienna and San Francisco.
Influencing Other Men – In the Real World
The hard part is that you have to stand up, there are no short cuts...
I was once asked by a CEO at an American company if there was gender equality software that you could run on a computer, for all employees, to show company commitment to the “struggle” for implementing equal opportunities for women and men. I said, “Sorry, not yet, but I’m sure that the Americans will come up with a solution in the year 2525.”
However, there are some ways where I, as a man, can influence other men. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of courage, and the results are often poor. It is, in fact, a daily struggle where I have to think about everything I do and say, and sometimes think. There is no way you can change another person’s behaviour just buy telling him (or her) to behave in another way than they are used to. Human beings do not function like that because it’s like saying to someone that everything you learnt so far, everything your parents told you, your whole background and upbringing is and was wrong. It’s like saying, “Trust me, I know, since I know the truth. I have seen the light.” Simply, it does not work.
Despite all the research and reports about gender, leadership, mixed groups etc, that are published as often as David Letterman is on TV, the real work regarding changes in attitudes and behaviour is something you yourself—no one else—has to work with every day, in every meetings with other people, regardless of their sex, both in and out of the workplace. You have to think about how you are perceived. This is hard. Trust me, I know. After I came out of the closet, telling my male friends that I Am a Feminist, the struggle has taken its toll. Have I had discussions with men about why, how, when? You bet!
But what the hell, life is a struggle and if you don’t have to fight for getting your opinion heard, what’s the point with being human? Try to:
Change your own behaviour and you will force other men to react in a different way then they are used to. Tell people that you are protecting human rights and that women are humans too. Dont ask/tell other men that they have to change—they will, they have to, if you no longer are playing their macho games. Or, some of your “friends” will disappear.
Ask other men what they mean when they say something negative about women. Ask if what they said relates to their mother/wife/daughter as well.
Give your male friends books about gender. They will be surprised and ask WHAT is this, but they may read the book, secretly, when they are alone.
Say stop! When you are at a get-together or meeting with only men in the room, and the topic regarding women and competence is discussed, don’t participate. Competence has nothing to do with a person’s sex. Leave the meeting, if you have to.
Ask men who have daughters if they look upon women as second class citizens. Most of them don’t. If they do, well then I’m sorry that they are fathers in the first place.
Focus on men that are positive and interested. I think we are spending too much time trying to convince the negatives. It takes a lot of time and effort, and usually doesn’t get us anywhere.
Ask men who behave badly if they would have behaved in the same way if there wife/mother/girlfriend would have been in the room.
See, I told you, this is not easy, but there are more men out there that know that you are right then you may think. Remember, you can start to make a hole in solid rock only with a drop of water. It’s a long and winding road ahead, but time is a friend and the good cause will win in the end. If not? Well, at least you tried and did your part, it’s easier then to look at your face in the mirror.
The hard part is that you have to stand up, there are no short cuts and you have to behave like a "real man." There are no computer programs that will solve this. So you have to be honest, straightforward, strong, brave and clear about what you think and believe in. That’s what you are claming that manhood is all about, right? Well do it then, what are you waiting for?
Who Holds Some Men Back: Me
My mother was literally a sexist and I became the same. I have to work with my attitudes every day.
For the last 30 years, I have been actively engaged in the business world. I have held hundreds of conferences within the fields of communication and leadership and have developed leadership programmes. I have been part of about ten management groups and I have acted as an adviser to a number of managers, men as well as women.
Once, in a conference in 2002, I raised the issue of equality. Once in 30 years.
What was it that, until the last years, held me back? Fear? Fear of what?
Many Women Are Even Better
For sure, women are heard and seen more now than ever before, but today the number of women on boards in Sweden is decreasing. So, unfortunately, there are still a substantial number of men who close their eyes and hope that the “nightmare” will disappear. The nightmare is the “unpleasant” fact that many women are just as capable as men, or even more so, in a wide range of fields.
The Picture Is Clear For Me
I have passively and actively participated in the oppression of women and I have defended the current order of discrimination on the basis of gender. And to be honest, I am ashamed of myself. But only to a certain degree, as I do not consider the fault to be entirely mine – even though I am fully aware of that I alone carry the ultimate responsibility.
I was raised – well, drilled – to believe that men are better than women and therefore shall be in charge. Women tend the household and take care of the children and therefore ought to work part-time. Men take care of the economy and support the family. That’s my upbringing. I still consider men to be superior, even though I know it is wrong.
I know that men and women have the same value. But this thought does not come naturally to me. The delusion about male superiority is deeply rooted. My upbringing, advertising, TV and film have affected my 50-year-old plus brain and my way of thinking. But I have not given up. Intellectually, I know what is right and what is wrong, and I want to change. Even though I know that values run deep.
You could say that sexists, like me, have changed strategy, which enables us to continue our segregation. I claim to be in favour of equality and the principle of equal pay, but that is only as long as it does not affect my own sphere of influence and salary.
The Upbringing of a Sexist
Retrospectively, I can see a clear pattern regarding my values in life. My mother was both a strong and dominant woman. One of her most important strengths was her unbending will to mix professional life with domestic life, to give it another try when problems mounted up, to seek solutions and see opportunities. In short, my mother, like most women, protected life.
My mother’s upbringing turned me into a sexist. I did not fully realize this until I started to work with gender and equal opportunities. However, she is not alone to blame. My father contributed, as well as my grandfather and grandmother, and the whole village where I grew up. Society in general carries its responsibility, not least school. Many of my male friends are sexists and many of my female friends too.
My values are deeply rooted. They can not be changed overnight and it is a difficult procedure even in a longer perspective. Attitudes and behaviours are extremely difficult to change during one generation. You are brought up with certain values that you carry through life. My mother was litterally a sexist and I became the same. And by joining the patriarchy I am hiding my inferiority towards women and the fear of being left outside the fellowship.
Good Girls, Bad Girls
I may banter, but I seriously claim that I had categorized men and women already in my early childhood. And the picture was either black or white. Good girls, bad girls, whores, madonnas, dragons and doormats (you have heard that before, no?) Even though I did not realize it then, I was brought up to be a sexist by a woman and a man who seemed to be “normal and honest” citizens.
So, do I trust women? Do I promote and stand up for women if I see sexism out there? Should I? Yes I should and yes I do. But, does anyone believe that you change your profound values and contradict mummy just because someone suggests that? Or that you read a book? No sir. I have to work with my attitudes every day.
I have made a lot of progress, but I know that I will never entirely get rid of that burden, and that affects my everyday life - the burden and fear of being left outside the powerful group of “boys.”
Men must accept our responsibility for making things happen regarding equality. We have to speak up. It’s not enough to say something or react after a meeting—you need to take a stand...
I have heard many stories about women who have reached their positions through sex. I haven't got the faintest idea whether these are true or not. Probably they are all false. Have I forwarded such information?
Yes, I have. Not as an intended strategy of mine, but as gossip, just for fun, between men. But perhaps it has been a kind of strategy, a sign of male weakness because these women have been more successful than me.
Many of the women I have interviewed have laughed in recognition about rumours that have been spread about them regarding affairs with their bosses. There are always rumours going around about competent women, and the purpose of this is of course to hurt them and to prevent them from being promoted. I don’t spread stories like that any longer. I challenge them instead asking the person: “what do you mean exactly?”
To be a middle aged man means that I have a responsibility to think about how I behave and react when I see, hear or experience situations where women are treated badly. This may be by so-called “jokes,” sexual harassment or when a company recruits based on sex instead of competence.
I am not perfect when it comes to making an assumption based on stereotypes. For example, about a year ago, I told my wife about a managing director who had declined an offer to join me and some colleagues at a bar after a board meeting.
“I bet he’s not allowed to because of his wife,” I laughed. “What are you talking about,” my wife answered. “What do you know about that man and his family?”
She was right, of course. My comment must have been based on the assumption that he preferred to hang around with his colleagues instead of his wife and children. So, to choose to go home to one’s family must be a sign of having a dominant wife?! The sexist in me showed his ugly face. “Not allowed to.” What did I actually mean? Comments like this are backbone mechanisms implanted in me from me childhood, from my military services and from working with men (mostly) for a large part of my life.
But here are two examples when I saw gender bias and took a stand:
1. One day a 32-year old colleague called me and told me about a meeting he just had had. “Did you know that their managing director is a woman? She looks like Dolly Parton,” he said. “She’s rather attractive, well, not as attractive as Dolly, and her breasts were smaller, of course. She wore a lot of make-up and is a little bit older, but nice.”
How was I supposed to reply to that? Did I make it a big deal? Instead of laughing, I asked him in what way this had anything to do with doing business and he replied a little surprised: “Well, nothing.” And after that, we talked about it and we came to an agreement that we do not use this kind of language in our company.
2. At a company where I was on the board, jokes about “fags” and women where sometimes common. Nowadays, this makes me uncomfortable and for the first time in 30 years I told off the offender. “Aren’t we a little too old for these kind of jokes?” I asked. “Yes, maybe you're right,” someone answered after a moment of silence. After this exchange, no one made jokes about homosexuals or women. I was pleased with myself for having made my position clear, even though it shouldn’t really be anything to brag about. It ought to go without saying that you must put your foot down when someone is crossing the line.
These examples show that we men must accept our responsibility for making things happen regarding equality. We have to speak up. It’s not enough to say something or react after a meeting—you need to take a stand when sexism occurs. Of course, there are situations when it would be too embarrassing to critize your manager (or CEO) at a meeting, but you can still do it with her or him directly afterwards.
There is only one way to develop as a person and that is to look at oneself and take note of how one reacts in various situations. You should challenge preconceived notions, stereotypes and attitudes—let your guard down for a while.
I, as a middle aged man, have to open up, react and show other men that it’s OK to have a different opinion then other men in the group. Middle aged men, managers and leaders play a key role in this change. We should look at the advantages with more women in leading positions, and set an example for young men. They will do as we do, not as we say. But, of course, there is a large amount of middle aged men that don’t see the advantage of letting women in, but let’s leave them behind and focus on the future. Instead of the Don Drapers who wants to live in the past, they’ll never win this “fight.”
Gender Equality: Linking the Professional and Personal
Many men in Sweden have a hard time realizing that an equal balance of men and women in the workplace leads to increased profitability...
There is a link between profitability and a diverse workforce in terms of gender. And there is a link between your professional and private life. I have no doubts about that. It’s clear to me that mixed groups, women and men, will make a difference for your company. Many men in Sweden have a hard time realizing that an equal balance of men and women in the workplace leads to increased profitability. If a company does not actively and consciously pursue a gender equal staff, it risks losing business and getting negative publicity. This in turn can lead to a reduced market share and a weakened brand.
If you look at the hierarchy in companies or organizations in Scandinavia, you can clearly see how the number of women in decision-making positions diminishes the higher up you get. It has gotten “better” but it is still a sad fact that women are falling behind in their careers and salaries, especially if the woman stays home with children for some time.
Modern leadership depends on the leader’s ability to create a mixed workforce when it comes to gender. Companies who mirror their market and clients (which in most cases are both men and women—surprise!) will survive and evolve. They cannot be run only by “middle-aged, white, men.”
So what about you?
So what about you as a man? We all know that your professional and your private life are closely connected. If you are happy and are developing at work, this will have an impact on you in your daily life. And there are only gains to be made for the individual if your company implements a plan for gender equality.
In a gender equal society there will be fewer conflicts, and that can affect a whole generation. Research shows where there are women in positions of power, they will use conflict resolution more often. Women seek consensus, men want a clear winner, which usually ends with everybody losing.
As a man, being able to let go of some of the machismo allows us to express the more feminine sides of one self. These sides of ourselves do exist—and it’s easier to let them out if we have a society that allows it.
It’s hard enough starting a new job and most people do everything to avoid rocking the boat. What is the most natural thing to do in a new group? It's sticking with the standards and rules that are already in place. Many young men do things they don’t agree with just so that they can be accepted by the leader of the pack (i.e. the Silverback, or the Boss).
Think about this at the different stages of your career and ask about and encourage gender equality at each company that employs you. As a man or a woman in the workplace, you could have an influence in the company policies regarding gender equality.
I was asked once what is most important: love or gender equality within a marriage/partnership?
My answer is, of course, equality. I cannot understand how there can be love if one partner is dependent on the other. If the relationship is built on dependence, we have conditional love, i.e.: “do as I say otherwise don’t come to me if it doesn’t work out.”
The future belongs to those companies who look at competence and do not blindly look at gender, myths and old stereotypes. A workplace where you also can have a family and at the same time be able to face the competition. It's, difficult, but it's possible.
In Sweden today, most factors suggest that women are ahead of men. They are more competent, get better grades than young men, are more focused, work harder and there are simply more of them. They have waited long enough to get ahead. The latest report from the Swedish department of education show that boys are falling behind in all areas.
As far as grades, boys only have better grades in PE. There is resistance among young men today who only see women as competition and the "dinosaurs" in the workplace who want men to keep the power at any cost. And this is a trend you can see all over the world.
Many young men talk about gender equality as if it isn't a problem for them, but as soon as their wife/partner becomes pregnant, they act suspiciously like their fathers.
Traditionally, the mother is responsible for the child rearing, and the father "helps". Sweden is one of the most equal countries in the world and has very generous parental leave- for both parents. The father and the mother have the right to take paid parental leave. It is possible for the couple to split the time away from work equally, but only 3 % of all relationships in Sweden share the parental leave equally. When the child is sick, it's mom that stays home from work. 60 % of the dads don't take any time of at all. Not one single day. But, still, it has improved over time.
In the United States, it's a sad, harsh reality. Women have the responsibility to take care of the children. It's not even a question. And it's the same picture in most European countries.
We have to start realize that "staying at home with a child" is not a disadvantage for anyone. It's something that should be up there in your CV, especially if you are a man. It's something that widens your competence and makes you a more whole person. Many international companies are finally realizing this and are actively promoting men (and women) to stay home and take care of their kids. It should not be something that you punish, it should be something that you see as a development for this person in his/her career and that make him/her a more competent employee.
Gender equality is basically about having the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities for both men and women. It rules relationships among women and men at work and private life.
The Gains from gender equality
There are only gains to be made for the individual and the company if the company introduces rules about gender equality.
In a gender equal society there will be fewer conflicts. Research shows where there are women in positions of power, the will to use conflict resolution increases. Women seek consensus, men want a clear winner, which usually ends up with everybody loosing. For young women, the gain is clear. They are let in to the rooms of higher powers and can join in impacting our lives. Is there anyone who thinks it will be worse then? I doubt it.
As a man, it is ok to be able to let go of some of the machismo and be allowed to express your more feminine sides. Older generations of men need to be a part of this and have to show the way, since they have the power today.
What men lose in a gender equal society is apparent. They lose power and influence and many men think they will be short changed. Many men see life as a competition and the person with the most possessions when he dies wins. That's not the case. Gender and power is associated and the only way to divide power is to give women more room.
Think about this at the different stages of your career and ask about and encourage gender equality at each company that you are working. As a man or a woman in the workplace, have an influence in the company policies regarding gender equality.
There is only one way to develop as a human being, and that is to look at oneself and take note of how one reacts in various situations. You should challenge preconceived notions, stereotypes and attitudes; let your guard down for a while. There are big opportunities for men and women in the workplace, but you have to make your own way and dare to be visible. Of course it's not enough, but it's a good start.
I firmly believe in mixed groups at all levels in organizations and companies. I think that we men, young and old have a lot to learn from women. My belief is that if we would listen more to women, we will learn a lot about life. We will become better people, better managers, better fathers and more apt to meet all life's challenges. Young men who look at women and see them as a threat to their own careers should listen and learn. The job market will be tougher for them as women become more prominent. It will be harder for them to get a position as they will have to compete with women, but they will be better for it; and the company will gain.
Today more and more companies are starting to realize that women in leadership positions affect the bottom line positively. And that's great for the competition boys! But, again, it's not because of the sex, it's a question of mixed groups on all levels in a company/organization. There are a number of reports from Universities and organizations showing that mixed groups, men and women together have an impact on the end result, (see among many others, www.catalyst.org and McKinseys report. March 2011, Women matters.)
Lars Einar Engström
Profitability of Gender Equality - Debate in Fox news
Can you and your company afford to not have gender equality?
There is a link between profitability and a diverse workforce in terms of gender, ethnicity and age. Many men in Sweden have a hard time realizing that an equal balance of men and women (in the workplace) lead to increased profitability. If a company does not actively and consciously pursue a gender equal staff, it risks loosing business and negative publicity. This in turn can lead to a reduced market share and a weakened brand. Can a company afford to not have gender equality?
Research in Europe and the United States show the most profitable companies emphasize competence, not gender when hiring.
As you look at the hierarchy in Nordic companies or organizations, you can clearly see how the number of women in decision-making positions diminish the higher up you get. It has gotten "better" but it is still a sad fact that women is falling behind in their careers as well as salaries, especially if the woman stays home with children for a long time.
Some sad facts:
The 50 largest companies in Sweden 2008: The chairman of the board is in 96% of the cases a man and 2% of the companies have a female CEO/president.
Senior executives of Volvo Trucks consist of 17 men and one woman. There is no recruiting policy dictating that a candidate should be woman.
55 percent of a group of 94 recruitment consultant companies say their clients never or rarely demand that female candidates should be considered. And 29 percent think that it limits their work.
And, Sweden has one of the most gender-segregated labor markets in the world.
Modern leadership depends on the bosses ability to create a mixed workforce when it comes to gender, age and ethnicity. Companies who mirror their market and clients (which in most cases are both men and women, young and old) will survive and evolve and they cannot be run by "middle-aged, white, men". Sweden and Europe have a long way to go, but more and more companies are getting the point and the debate in Sweden is marked by the lack of women in leadership positions in the workforce. The debate will eventually force companies to change and the next generation of women will demand more space. But it will not happen "by it self" over a night and it will be hard work and a lot of discussions. The good news is that Sweden is getting better and one day it will be natural to look at competence instead of your sex.
Lars Einar Engström has worked in recruiting and business development in Europe for many years. He has lived and worked in Paris and London. Engström has written four books, two of them is translated to English, "Confessions of a sexist" and "Your career in your hands, 2011.
Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce, New York, 2009