Among a sea of women…… 5000 at the sold out Lead On Women in Silicon Valley conference … I saw a man standing alone at a pillar, between breakout sessions. This was a huge networking event, a superb opportunity to connect with so many fascinating women and in that moment …. I thought, who better to speak to at a women’s conference than a man?! I mean …… why was he here?
So I introduced myself and asked him. “I’m curious” I said. Very politely he shared that as a senior executive at Meryl Lynch, he’d taken notice at the lack of women. Not just at the top of his organisation but at all levels. So a few months prior to this conference he had decided to take on the issue: Why was that the case and what could he do about it? He identified a female co-worker to collaborate with and see what they could champion. They conducted a focus group session for research and now they are even looking at creating different financial products just the women.
I probed further into his motivation and he warmly shared the inspiration of his mom, a hard working single mother and I could see he had real empathy for the broad ranging challenges that are faced by so many earnest, capable, hard-working, family bread-winning women today.
I asked another man his reason for coming to the event. Research he said. Finding out more… Oh… And by the way, not all men are bad he told me. “Don’t criticise us then expect us to be your advocates. You need our help”.
My best conversations of the day!
It’s not the men we are up against in our quest to advance women and bring about change. It’s the system… the hierarchy created by previous generations of men over a long period of time, mostly with the best of intentions. But this system, our current way of working, doesn’t just trap women, it limits men too. And now many brave ones are choosing to step out of an OLD way of thinking and look for something new. That is definitely something that we can work on together.
And now I have arrived in Australia I am excited to catch up with the Male Champions of Change programme where 20 + of the country’s leading male CEOs are really taking on the challenge to bring more women to the top of their organisations. As the project’s founder Elizabeth Broderick, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, has said: “After 6 years in my post I concluded that to deliver equality for women we have to focus on men”.
So I voice my gratitude to all the men who are waking up to the needs of women and stepping out to take some kind of action. Thank you guys.