I am Matthias Thönnessen, Team Lead Marketing Partnerships & Affiliates in the FinTech industry, systemic team and business coach and longtime volunteer Community Ambassador for the Movember Foundation in Germany.
The Movember Foundation aims to improve men’s health globally. Because men still take poor care of themselves, they die an average of six years earlier than women. There is no biological reason for men’s lower life expectancy, but the way men treat their bodies and how they are socialized is to blame. The Movember Foundation is particularly committed to raising awareness about diseases such as testicular cancer, prostate cancer, mental health and suicide prevention, and supports research and social projects in these areas with donations.
I would introduce an unconditional basic income. I’m currently trying to set up my own business and had to finance my education parallel. Thanks to my part-time job, that was possible, but the idea of unconditional basic income is that people would be much better able to develop their strengths if they didn’t have to worry about basic financial provision. So, we would all be much freer to pursue our strengths and passions.
It’s because of how men grow up. Sayings like “An Indian knows no pain” or “Men don’t cry” have been heard by everyone of my generation. Growing up, men have also only seen “strong” male role models on TV and the Internet. This is all super homogeneous, alternative images of men did not exist. Proactively taking care of your mental and physical health, admitting to pain, or regularly going to the doctor and getting preventive care doesn’t fit into the common image of the “strong man.” We need a new image of masculinity – also to drastically reduce mortality among men.
Basically, it’s said that women have stronger networks and can talk about personal issues more easily overall than men. Accordingly, they find help more quickly or are motivated by others to seek help. Men often totally lack that.
It all starts with how we are socialized, that influences us our whole life, especially our interactions with each other. What do we see as “normal”?
There is a preconceived societal standard that we grow up with and deviating from that is difficult. Both men and women are pigeonholed and oppressed. For men, this standard is the rather emotionless, outwardly strong target persona of “man” that men have been molded after for so many decades, if not centuries. In the end, we need to be clear that just because men deviate from this standardization in behavior and appearance: showing themselves vulnerable and emotional, dressing colorfully and unconventionally, or their sexuality is not 100% hetero on the spectrum, does not make them any less “masculine.” The concept of gender and masculinity is in flux and needs to be rethought in our society.
Fortunately, I already see a change in trend: I think it’s really great how multifaceted the image of men in our society has become. More and more men are suddenly talking about topics that were taboo for a long time: Whether it’s young national players or well-known athletes who talk about their testicular cancer, but also about their homosexuality or depression, and make this public via social media, a lot has definitely already happened. This also encourages others to go to the doctor, to talk about their depression or to come out. Ten to 20 years ago, this was unthinkable on a broad scale, and it’s a very important and healthy development.
For example, since the soccer players Baumgartl, Richter, Hallers and Boëtius made their testicular cancer public last year, I have heard from urologist friends that the number of early diagnoses through self-scanning has increased noticeably. And that’s important, because with early detection, the chances of treating cancer are much better. Social media can be helpful here, especially for men, as an exchange platform and drive the trend reversal away from toxic masculinity.
In appearance: men’s appearance, style and fashion are becoming more fluid and exciting. People are proud to be queer or to be an ally…. Even among pop singers and actors there is now a much wider range than in the 90s during Bruce Willis’ time.
The actor Timothée Chalamet, for example, plays very action-packed characters, but he has a very strong facet and range that I would actually like to see in all men. Apart from that, he presents himself on the red carpet with gender-untypical colors and outfits. He shows that masculinity is not defined by the smallest possible pigeonhole size. The singer Harry Styles or also artists like Lil Nas X, a black rapper who represents a counter-image to the hyper-masculine colleague and many more.
I think the most important thing is that there is a company culture that allows you to be authentic without judging you for it, no matter where you come from, how old you are, what your sexual orientation is or what your religion is.
You have to prioritize the topic, allocate budgets for training and coaching and, above all, the management must take on the topic and act accordingly. So, from recruiting to employee development, you need a holistic system in which these values are perceptibly lived. All people in management positions must live this culture of inclusion, of belonging, so that something noticeably happens. Another success factor is that organizations train employees to become promoters who support this culture and sensitize and diversify the rest of the team. For example, promoters can give talks on the different diversity categories – in startups, for example, on age. Or they point out the various religious, national or international holidays on Slack and invite people to celebrate together. Of course, there must also be a clear official commitment to the fact that diversity and inclusion are absolute core values of the company and that these are then also taken up again and again in meetings, for example. There should also be a contact point for cases of discrimination in the company.
Fortunately, I have experienced only a few moments of discrimination in my work environment. But maybe that’s also because when I applied for jobs, I always made sure that the companies I applied to were from the most open, international environment possible.
I would introduce an unconditional basic income. I’m currently trying to set up my own business and had to finance my education parallel. Thanks to my part-time job, that was possible, but the idea of unconditional basic income is that people would be much better able to develop their strengths if they didn’t have to worry about basic financial provision. So, we would all be much freer to pursue our strengths and passions. I believe that would lead to a society where we would all be much happier and healthier, while also creating value. The social sector would also get a boost, because that is currently discouraged, especially because of the pay. For me, the basic income would be an absolute game changer in the area of personal development and a social contribution. We have to get away from the idea that ‘the main thing is to earn a lot of money so that afterwards you can do the things you dream of’.