Personal Reasons for Driving Gender Equity
I had the privilege of attending On PAR sponsored by Microsoft and The Study USA last week. One of the things that made this different than other women’s events was that many of the speakers shared very personal reasons why they champion gender equity at work. One was born into adversity and wanted the workplace to be a place that could really make a difference. Another spoke about how work was the place that helped her provide for her child when she became a single mom, and how she wanted more women to be able to benefit from the empowerment that can come from a great work environment. Another spoke about the power of women in numbers and the positive change we can make when there are more than one or two of us at the table.
The most moving story came from a man. He talked about how his usual answer is because he is tired of witnessing unfair treatment and that he has a daughter and wants things to be better for her. But he said when he is really honest with himself there are much deeper reasons he is motivated to create more equity for women at work. It’s because he watched his mother be abused when he was a child and felt helpless. Because he was part of conversations where other men would tear women’s abilities down by reducing them to their appearance, body parts, or how good they might be in bed. Because he knew he was given key opportunities in his career because he was a man. And because while he could call out individuals for bad behavior, he felt there was a need to address the issue on a grander scale.
It is easy to come up with air quote reasons for supporting gender equity at work. And too often it is assumed women should help make it better simply because they are women, and that men with daughters should do the same. But the reality is if there isn’t a personal reason there really is no point. Having a daughter you want a better work environment for is a very personal reason, as is having a son who you want to teach to be an outstanding partner to women and men at work. For me, it is that I just could not stand one more minute of the double standards I experienced all around me, and work was the place I could rally others and provide leadership to make a change. I happen to have a son and a daughter and want a better future for both of them. But my primary motivation is because the system I experienced is deeply broken and needs to be fixed now.
I would encourage you to reflect on your why because it will give you a focus to figure out what kind of change you really want to drive. Then you can share your story - and that will in turn empower others to do the same. If we can get enough men and women to do this together we can make a real difference.