Why organizations should celebrate International Men’s Day
- Posted on November 16, 2022
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
I had no idea. I’m very familiar with International Women’s Day as we celebrate it across Avanade every year in March, but I was completely unaware of the related International Men’s Day (IMD). In the technology industry where we have historically had a majority of male employees, it seems odd to think that an International Men’s Day is needed. What, after all, is the point of celebrating an event like this in an industry that likely has an overrepresentation of men?
Prior to joining a recent planning session discussing how Avanade will celebrate the International Men’s Day event, I read up on the history of IMD and was pleasantly surprised to learn of the focus on issues affecting men and boys. In addition to the pillars of promoting gender equality and positive role models, one leaped out at me – “focus on men’s health and well-being: social, emotional, physical and spiritual.”
As a man, I am often guilty of the sin of not seeking prompt medical attention when things aren’t quite right. All the men in my family and most of my male friends are equally guilty up to a point where something happens, then doctors and medical professionals are on speed dial. But preventative maintenance? Meh. Just take more vitamins, eat more vegetables, or work out more.
There’s something about our society that defines men as those who don’t read maps, don’t ask for help and don’t go to the doctor. For the first two, the outcome could be inconvenient but likely not significantly so. For the latter, not talking openly about health concerns with medical professionals could be a life-changing mistake.
When I was in my late 20s, I was traveling practically every week of the year and scheduling check-ups was a chore that didn’t matter much to me. When I did manage to get into the doctor’s office for a checkup, I almost never took any advice or follow-up actions, thinking my youth would save me. That all changed at one visit when one of my routine lab tests came back very, very wrong.
What I remember most about the follow-up visit, after spending an hour in the waiting room, was the surprise on the doctor’s face when he studied the results and looked me over. “There’s a problem with your bones,” he told me. The level of calcium in my blood was dramatically off from where it should have been and, as he explained it, the likely cause was a faulty parathyroid (which I had to Google). He referred me to a specialist who counseled the best remedy was surgical removal.
This was terrifying news for me and my wife, who I called in hysterics after leaving the appointment. Men don’t get this, I thought. Men don’t have fundamental bone issues (my surgeon told me I had the bone structure of a much older person) and they certainly don’t have to have surgery on in their thyroid area in their 20s. The only surgery I had prior to this was on my eyes and wisdom teeth – the thought of going into an operating room while my wife and new baby were counting on me to be the sole bread winner was absolutely daunting.
The miracle of modern medicine came through for me as the surgery was a success, as proven by yearly blood tests that I have had ever since. The emotional toll of the experience was enough to convince me of the wisdom of yearly checkups and comprehensive testing.
While I am not unique in having an experience early on in life, there is still a stigma about going to the doctor for several men I know and work with. How can we talk about well-being at the workplace without addressing health and encouraging our people to be as proactive as possible with all things medical? This part of the IMD agenda really makes me happy – talking about these subjects helps others realize they are not alone and ultimately that it’s OK to talk about it, ask questions and seek help.
At Avanade, we’ve been on a journey for the last few years to embrace diversity, inclusion and well-being across our organization. While IMD may seem like an odd choice to celebrate, it’s clear to me that the values we see across all other inclusion & diversity events extend to International Men’s Day, and I’m excited to celebrate with my colleagues across the globe. For me personally, I have found that being open and transparent with the people I work with helps build stronger bonds, which ultimately leads to better performance and results. I’m proud of what we have accomplished thus far but even more excited about where we are going and living our mantra of “do what matters.”