I’m going to take a step outside the book and my writing to make a note about something that I think is really important. Hey, this is my blog, and I can pretty much do whatever I want here, right? In case this looks like an advertisement for my book, I want to note that I only devoted a few sentences to gender equality in the book. I tried to make female characters important, and avoided making them objects, but this really isn’t about the book, and the book isn’t about this.
I’ve been working in the past few months with a women’s group at my company. They are an incredible group of people that are doing their best to help make my company a welcoming, safe, fair, equal, and better place for women. I’ve been attending meetings for several years and this fall I signed on as a director of the Men as Allies program.
The research in this area is incredible. The vast majority of men want to help, for no other reason than it is the right thing to do. Most men want the world to be fair, and would be willing to sacrifice some of their privilege to get there. Privilege, however, is not often visible to the people who have it. We take for granted a number of freedoms of which we are not even aware. This list doesn’t even begin, but think, when was the last time you walked into a meeting and you were the only person of your gender in the room? How often do you get interrupted in meetings? What is the general make-up of your company in terms of gender? I mean if you dig deeper beyond the top line summary of numbers. What if you remove female-dominated departments like human resources from the total? The fact is, despite our best efforts, workplaces in general are not fair and equal. We want them to be, most of us, we are trying to get them there, but they aren’t there yet. I know my company and many others are trying, and that is commendable. I want to help.
I volunteered to be a director because I thought I could use my voice as a man to get the message out about the efforts of this group. I thought they could use me as a megaphone, as a symbol, as an example. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, mostly I wanted to be a tool that the fantastic women running this group could use to help advance equality. I knew I would have to do some work, but I didn’t really have a clear picture yet.
I’ve learned a lot.
In the past few months I’ve read hundreds of papers on the subject, watched videos and TED talks, and last week I was allowed to attend a Catalyst conference specifically about Men Advocating Real Change. This conference was nothing like I expected. I thought they would talk mostly about what we can do to help women: Tips and tricks for advancing and correcting the culture at our companies. There was a little bit about that from some excellent leaders at P&G and Chevron, but it was more focused on men. A lot of what they said really hit home for me, and I’m going to make an effort to step out of my “man box.” The biggest thing that I took away is that if men want to help, to truly make a difference, we have to recognize and change ourselves and our own culture.
There were some excellent speakers, one of the subjects was about the “Man Box.” I strongly encourage you to watch it. It is excellent, moving, eye-opening, and beautiful.
This is a scary time in which we’re living. Very scary. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I am terrified right now.
- I’m scared of Covid-19 – we’re doing everything we can as a family to protect ourselves and our communities, but it is scary as hell.
- I’m afraid of constant fighting: the way that communication, negotiation, and understanding have been replaced by arguing, name-calling, and echo-chambers. There is common, middle ground.
- I’m scared of the world that my son and daughter are inherit, in so many ways. Economically, environmentally, socially, etc.
- I’m scared that I’m not a good enough dad, and that my kids aren’t going to have the best possible life.
- I’m scared that I could lose my job, and that it’d be hard to find another one.
- I’m scared of failing to provide for my family the best possible life.
- I’m scared, for my kids, that something could happen to me
These are just the ones that came to mind. I’m a man, I’m afraid, and that’s ok.
- It is ok to have feelings;
- It is ok to need connections with people;
- It is ok to be afraid, sad, happy, worried, angry, etc.;
- It is ok to be a woman;
- It is ok to be gay;
- It is ok to be weak;
- It is ok to cry;
- It is ok to follow, or not to dominate others;
- It is ok to be a man.
You are welcome to disagree with anything that I say. I encourage it wholeheartedly. As with my writing, I only hope to make things better and to encourage meaningful discussion. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you scared of?
May your world always grow,