As a woman who was raised by a single father who was (thankfully) way ahead of his time in the world of gender equality, I couldn’t help but smile in agreement when I watched the 24-year-old actress and U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson deliver a speech at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City recently. As you’ll see in the video clip below, her introduction of the UN’s HeForShe.org campaign, and what she says about men, women, and gender roles simply makes sense.
“…Fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man hating. If there is one thing I know for certain. This has to stop,” she says.
Between my father, my oldest brother, my husband and several friends and mentors and managers—all who are men and all who supported me to shoot for the stars—I may be one of the lucky few who simply didn’t grow up feeling anything but supported by the men in my life. This viewpoint has allowed me to approach the entire discussion around the advancement of women leaders, my professional focus, in a naturally inclusive (ok –non-man hating) way. We women don’t do ourselves much good by blaming men for the state of our representation. Instead, the call to action is to partner with the men around us, ask them for their advocacy, and ignite them as our partners in action.
Emma went on to say:
“…How can we expect change in the world when only half is invited or feel welcomed to participate in the conversation? Men, I would like to take the opportunity to extend your formal invitation,” said Watson. “Gender equality is your issue, too.”
“…I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too. To reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.”
While it may prove difficult to argue with this logic, with every society-shifting idea, change is often easier said than done. While the statistics still show a serious discrepancy between the number of men and women in leadership positions—not to mention salaries—we are beginning to see some progress. I am encouraged daily as I speak with organizations around the world about our Advancing Women & Inclusion practice about men stepping in, leaning in, and taking on gender equality in their organizations.
There’s no question that programs like HeForShe.org that are introduced and advocated for by sincere celebrities like Emma Watson and backed by the United Nations bring much needed global awareness to the problem of gender bias and violence in particular.
However, I’m also excited to see the dial on women’s and inclusion issues being moved in very real ways all across the country because the simple fact is: Organizations that are more inclusive and have a clear strategy for advancing their women leaders create better results than those that don’t.
The bottom line is gender equality and mutual respect aren’t just “women’s issues.” I wholeheartedly (and not sarcastically) believe that “Men are people too!” And by that I mean that many male leaders I work with totally “get” that advancing women and inclusion is a requirement to competing and winning. They also get that it’s up to them to take responsibility for doing whatever they can to help the process along.
I also really appreciate the sentiment in Emma’s speech when it comes to allowing men to be more vulnerable and human too. There is no weakness in being a great advocate for women. In fact, my Dad, and many of the men I have been supported by in my lifetime, are models of what good looks like: aware men who take a stand and make a difference alongside the women in their lives.
The question is what are you doing to advance your women leaders today?