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Image Let's Hear it for the Boys!

A survey earlier this year revealed that many men have started to feel that women dominate the world these days, and that they have lost their role in society.

This belief, the findings from the survey* suggest, is fuelling feelings of depression and being undervalued amongst men. When asked in the survey what it meant to be a man in the 21st century, more than 50% said that society was turning them into "waxed and coiffed metrosexuals", while 52% of the men surveyed said that they had to live according to women's rules.

The study also suggested that, just as many women feel that their work-life balance has been stretched to breaking point, men also believe that they have too many roles to play. So, with so much publicity about the struggles of women, are we in danger of forgetting the good things about men?

Struggling to Fulfil Demand

The good news for men is that women do occasionally acknowledge their plight. The survey also revealed that 63% of women thought that men were struggling to meet the demands made of them.

The risk of being labelled a sexist holds some men back from speaking freely and two-thirds of those who responded said that they found it safer to conceal their opinions. As some of these opinions included the fact that 34% of the men surveyed said that once fatherhood arrived, they would prefer being the sole breadwinner with their partner a full-time mother and homemaker, this reticence could be somewhat understandable.

With so much publicity about the struggles of women, are we in danger of forgetting the good things about men?

But does elevating the potential of women have to come at the price of lowering the bar for men? As a firm believer in the wisdom of children, I asked my young daughters to tell me some good things about men. After citing their usefulness for lifting heavy loads and putting together flat-pack furniture, top marks were awarded for their ability to ‘spoil you rotten when your Mum says 'no'.'

But, apart from their admirable ability to carry large boxes and put together bookcases, what else are men good for?

Well, like it or not, a quick look around us points to the fact that men are very good indeed at many things. But, in the process of creating a better world for women, we are in danger of creating a culture that is, at best contemptuous and, at worst, hostile towards men. Intelligent and decent men who care about their families and their jobs are rarely portrayed in popular culture while images of domineering men, egocentric business titans and bumbling buffoons seem more likely to dominate our screens.

What does this negativity do to relationships between men and women? Tempting though it may be for some women to blame the entire species for their bad experiences with some of them, institutionalising this mindset helps nobody.

Undermining the worth and value of men leads to the destruction of the very role models that we want and need for our young males. Every negative casual remark about men, however humorously intended, contributes to a self-fulfilling cycle that leaves many men feeling marginalised and alienated. What we expect of them – integrity, consideration and openness to the contribution of women – then becomes an unattainable fantasy. And without strong men, the examples of leadership that we need for young boys and the safe havens for the emotional development of young girls will not exist.

Recognising, respecting and appreciating what men provide and have the potential to offer has to be a better way of engaging and encouraging the very qualities that we seek. At its most pragmatic, being nice to men is actually in all our own best interests.

Undermining the worth and value of men leads to the destruction of the very role models we want and need for our young males.

Research has shown that men and women have innately different characteristics and the ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus' expression often rings true for both sexes. Yet, the best outcomes are achieved when these differing traits are harnessed rather than placed in conflict with each other. When the talents brought by both genders are used in a complementary fashion, the results can be truly amazing.

The 'A' Word

In my young daughter's words, ‘men are handsome – and very good at working hard to make women happy.' As many men will point out, however, women don't necessarily work very hard at showing their appreciation; that elusive 'a' word that men rarely hear.

Appreciation, communication and honesty are the basis of any good relationship – whether in or out of the office. But honest communication will only happen if the environment is one that is both respectful and conducive to positive challenge. Whether in the boardroom or in the kitchen, holding men back from genuine communication for the wrong reasons will not help women to advance for the right reasons.

The survey also revealed that men hold other men who speak their mind in high regard, with Churchill emerging as the biggest hero of those who responded. Maybe it's time for us women to allow men the space to discover their inner Churchill.

In This Issue

With the financial crisis looming over almost every sector of the economy, the competition for jobs is getting fiercer. Follow our 7 top tips on how to excel at job interviews and increase your chances of getting the job you want.

If you've ever wondered what a professional stylist does, read our interview with Zoe Huskisson, ‘the ultimate personal shopper', for some insights into this fascinating profession.

While returning to Africa is high on the agenda of many Africans in the Diaspora, the change is not always easy. In this month's issue, our Career Coach has some useful tips to deal with making the transition to working back home.

Working for yourself can seem an attractive alternative to the drudgery of ‘9-5' but it can also be incredibly lonely, as Steve Gardner points out, offering some useful advice on how to deal with this hidden side of self-employment.

In appreciation of our men, our '5 Minute Interview' this month is with Technology Manager Kofi Atuah – a consummate professional (and a new father). We stay with inspiring men for this month's selection from the ReConnect Africa Archives. In ‘Open for Africa', we look back at our interview with Daniel Nti of the Open University on the work of his team in building capacity for distance learning in Africa.

November sees a huge range of events taking place in the UK and overseas and our Events listing give you details of what's on this month.

As ever, we report on news from the UK and around the world and bring you an overview of news from across the African continent.

ReConnect Africa Members’ Forum

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Enjoy this issue - and write in and share your comments!


* Survey commissioned by DMAX, an entertainment television channel from Discovery Networks.

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