Male opinion leaders of Ukraine openly discuss gender stereotypes at the first Barbershop event in the region

Date: Thursday, November 22, 2018

Photo: UN Women/Roman Shalamov
HeForShe Barbershop Talks in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: UN Women/Roman Shalamov

Three male opinion leaders from the government, business and arts sectors joined the HeForShe Barbershop Talks in Kyiv, Ukraine on 22 November where they chopped stereotypes, shaved off sexism and promoted tolerance in a sincere and fun public debate.

The speakers shared their own struggle for equal rights and challenged the most common gender stereotypes. Anton Drobovych, a well-known expert in culture and philosophy; Andriy Klen, co-founder of the most world-renowned IT startup PetCube; singer Taras Topolia; and moderator Andriy Bashtovyi, editor-in-chief of digital lifestyle media platform The Village Ukraine talked about the way to benefit from gender equality.

Anton Drobovych, an expert in culture and philosophy, and Andriy Klen, co-founder of the IT startup PetCube responding to the questions of the audience at the HeForShe Barbershop Talk. Photo: UN Women/Roman Shalamov
Anton Drobovych (left), an expert in culture and philosophy, and Andriy Klen, co-founder of the IT startup PetCube responding to the questions of the audience at the HeForShe Barbershop Talk. Photo: UN Women/Roman Shalamov

“It is a convenient position for men to say, ‘Gender equality is a woman's issue, let them do it.’ I am sure, if we creatively set the trend and popularize the image of a male human rights activist, everything will change,” said Anton Drobovych, who is also the former advisor to the Minister of Education of Ukraine.

Barbershops are spaces where men and boys can talk safely about their attitudes and gender roles. That’s where they can open up about their perceptions of what it means to be a man or a woman, and challenge social norms.

A male-to-male conversation encourages men and boys to make a proactive commitment to gender equality at an individual level, inspire other men to join them and bring the discourse on gender equality into their businesses and communities. The concept of HeForShe Barbershop Talks conference was developed jointly by the Governments of Iceland and Suriname, as a way to get men involved and committed as partners in promoting gender equality.

The HeForShe Barbershop Talk was attended by 50 guests, both women and men, who had the possibility to join the discussion about gender roles.

Singer Taras Topolia (left) and moderator Andriy Bashtovyi, editor-in-chief of digital lifestyle media platform The Village Ukraine talk about the way to benefit from gender equality. Photo: UN Women/Roman Shalamov
Singer Taras Topolia (left) and moderator Andriy Bashtovyi, editor-in-chief of digital lifestyle media platform The Village Ukraine talk about the way to benefit from gender equality. Photo: UN Women/Roman Shalamov

“Let’s be pragmatic, there are evidence-based studies that ultimately support the fact that the companies with more than 30 per cent of women in leadership make more revenue. In fact, I do not need any statistics, because I see concrete examples, on how gender equality at the workplace helps to make more effective decisions that work better and bring more money,” said Andriy Klen.

The moderator, Andriy Bashtovyi, named stereotypes about women that exist in the Ukrainian society such as "A woman's place is in kitchen", "Women are too emotional for serious work", and "Women are weak" to name a few, and speakers discussed how to challenge these harmful perceptions that set barriers to women’s participation in every field of life.

“When I'm at home, the household chores are on me, such things that are stereotypically considered as ‘women's business’. But I easily do them myself, when my wife [a famous Ukrainian singer, Alyosha, a participant of Eurovision song contest in 2010] goes on a tour for a few days. Just like when I`m not at home, my wife takes on [what are known as] ‘male responsibilities,’ said Taras Topolia, frontman of a popular Ukrainian band Antytila.

The event was organized by the UN Women Ukraine project “Gender equality at the center of reforms, peace and security” funded by the Government of Sweden.