November 19 is International Men’s Day – It is a time to highlight positive male role models, advocate for men’s physical and mental health, and improve gender relations.
Throughout the years, the image of a positive male role model has shifted away from the traditional ‘tough guy’ stereotype, where men refrain from sharing their emotions or showing any signs of vulnerability. Today these role models exemplify understanding, compassion, and an appreciation for inclusion and diversity.
In honor of International Men’s Day, Unum asked some of their male colleagues to share their perspectives.
“When I was in the U.S. Army, I was taught the best way to inspire greatness/change was to model what I want to see,” said Brian Seagroves, financial services representative. “In my personal life I struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, and one of the things I have done is try and be more comfortable talking about it. You don’t have to be afraid and there is no reason to be ashamed, a guy can talk about what is going on with them without being ‘less of a guy’.”
“Being a leader is not about being the best or being powerful. It’s about caring for those around you and making them better,” said Miles Archer, internal audit VP. “Doing what you can to be of service to people means connecting with others in a way that’s meaningful to them and demonstrating vulnerability and empathy.”
“As a former youth football coach, I try to lead by example while letting those I mentor know I’m not perfect, but I strive to a better person than I was the day before,” said Kin Wilson, STD lead benefits specialist. “I’ve seen the young men I’ve coached uplift each other and encourage one another on and off the field.”
International Men’s Day is also an opportunity to recognize the full spectrum of masculinities and celebrate men who broaden traditional manifestations of masculinity, such as gay/bisexual men, transgender men, and masculine non-binary people.
“I am not traditional in any way,” said Andrew Massey, life event specialist. “Being transgender, I blur all lines of gender. I grew up in the traditional way of being a female but knew all along I did not belong in the body I was born in. I started transitioning to male when I was 23, I started hormone therapy in 2016 and had gender affirming surgery (top surgery) in 2020. I am 100 percent male.”
At Unum, inclusion and diversity are essential in fostering a team that fully represents the communities and people we serve.
Many men here at Unum take initiative to use their voice to create space for those who might have been overlooked.
“As a straight white man, I seek to use my privilege to empower and create a space for others,” said Miles. “I try to role model the idea of respecting diverse viewpoints and experiences, particularly with women in the workplace. Understanding and celebrating that they bring different identities, different knowledge, and different strengths is important to me.”
“After the death of George Floyd and the summer of protest, Unum as a company took notice of several issues concerning race within its own walls,” said Kin. “During several safe space conversations, I was able to give voice for what it’s like to be a Black man in Unum and America at large. I felt I truly displayed positive masculinity by having the courage to talk about my emotions, frustrations, and prejudice I faced as a Black man.”
For a lot of men, mental and physical health go hand in hand. Better overall health can generally improve how a person may feel both at work and at home.
“I try to go to the gym four to five times a week,” said Kin. “I also try to eat healthy foods, but I do enjoy a good cheat meal every now and then. Working out also plays a major role in my mental health. I feel good when I achieve a workout goal or see my gains.”
“I like to get away from it all, when camping or hiking I get far away from technology to allow myself to mentally reset,” said Brian. “I also talk with other veterans and survivors of trauma, as it sometimes helps especially if you [are there for] others.”
Although the experiences of men vary, passing down those experiences and life lessons are important when helping the next generation succeed.
Andrew said, one of the biggest lessons he has learned was to never be afraid to continue to be himself. “Being transgender is a huge part of my identity and it’s not something I ever want to hide. I am proud of Unum for embracing me and my identity.”
“There’s nothing wrong with asking for advice or help from someone else,” said Kin. “As men we like to compete and that’s ok, but you need to understand that we need each other as well. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. As you grow and learn what it means to be a good man, pass own your knowledge to those coming after you, be a bridgebuilder for others.”
Let us know how you plan to celebrate positive male role models on International Men’s Day.