Male role models and mental health - International Men's Day and DMW

Posted by Helen Kilvington, Chief People Officer at DMW.

On November 19th every year, we celebrate International Men’s Day. This year, the theme circles around ‘Making a Difference for Men and Boys.’

Organiser Warwick Marsh, coordinator of internationalmensday.co.uk, explained the inspiration behind this year's chosen theme to The Independent:

“Boys need positive male role models. Our broader community also needs positive male role models. This is the best way to create a fair and safe society which allows everyone the opportunity to flourish." 

At DMW, many of the men that work for us act as role models to mentees as well as in their personal lives.  

Nick Vaughan, a Principal with DMW, talks about how his role in the family is very consciously different from his own upbringing.

I had a fantastic childhood, but my parents divided responsibilities in a pretty stereotypical way. I knew that I wanted to do things differently, to have a different kind of relationship with my own family. My wife had a busy career when I met her and I was probably more enthusiastic about starting a family than she was. I take care of cooking, washing, day to day finances, that kind of thing. Given how much project managing I need to do at work, I am happy to relinquish the reins a little at home. 

By the time we were ready to start a family, we were in a routine and childcare was divided very evenly (with a lot of family support).  It’s therefore really important to me that I can meet our client and company requirements but also balance that with being present for my family, particularly in a household with two working parents. 

And so far, it seems to be working.  On the odd occasion the balance has been wrong – either too much time at work or when I took a short leave of absence at home. I don’t always get it right but I’m at least conscious when it’s not. 

As a result, I have a very different relationship with my children. It is more informal and relaxed; more spontaneous; and built around common interests. And I can’t help but think that in the long run that will be better for all of us."

As a full-time Chief People Officer for DMW, I myself have a full-on job, a full-on family and my husband and I share everything. He took shared parental leave, which DMW also actively support, to help me transition back to work after we had my daughter and son and continues to share the childcare load.

At work, I have been, and am currently, lucky to be surrounded by forward thinking men, who push, challenge and mentor me. I work four days a week to help with the balance between being a parent and having a career, which DMW has been incredibly supportive of.  As an organisation, DMW wants to support parents, regardless of gender, in managing their responsibilities - because it can be really tough sometimes.

Richard Sutton, a Principal at DMW, talks about shared parental leave he is currently taking:

“Supporting equality means making changes to the way we live to give the same opportunities to all. I was able to take a step towards this on two occasions with DMW by making use of the Shared Parental Leave (SPL) laws introduced in 2015.  It was heartening when I did so to see DMW going beyond just what is obliged of the firm and instead showing genuine interest in wanting to help to make SPL work for me.

I received encouragement from colleagues and members of the firm's leadership. This included them working to find ways to provide cover that would make it easier for me to return; offers of exploring ways that suited me for keeping me updated on the progress of items personally important to me; and a genuine interest from colleagues at my 'in touch' days about what I was doing and how it was working out."

Keeping in touch and communication is also vital when considering mental health. Men have to cope with gender expectations that run deep through the core of our society. They are expected to be strong and silent; to 'man up,' so it is no surprise to hear that in the UK, middle aged men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

“Masculinity – the way men are brought up to behave and the roles, attributes and behaviours that society expects of them – contributes to suicide in men,” according to Samaritans.

There is no 'right' way to cope if you are finding it tough at work or at home, but there are always people to talk to and to help.

DMW will have eight trained Mental Health first aiders by the end of the year to ensure we are providing a fully supportive working culture. We also have an Employee Assistance Programme, which offers our employees free 24/7 Counselling and Wellbeing Support.  

We acknowledge that our lives are stressful and we will all go through tough times, and it’s important that our place of work cares for its people in the same way it recognises physical health problems. 

So let’s all pay a little R.E.S.P.EC.T to the men in our lives, make space for conversations, share and celebrate the contribution they make to society for the greater good of all. 

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