How does female leadership improve our world?
When one group of people become accustomed to occupying positions of power, they can start to feel entitled to it. They can let it go to their head. They can assume that their experience is everyone’s experience. For more than 200 years in America, this group has been white men. Whenever we have more diversity in our leadership, whether in politics or business, we have more perspectives, and we need as many perspectives as possible if we’re going to solve the problems of our day. Female leadership improves our world by proving to men that women are their equals. It improves our world by empowering other women to accept no ceiling to their dreams. It improves our world by allowing more of us to feel more invested in our workplaces, our country, and each other.
Name a woman who has influenced your life, and describe why she is exceptionally remarkable.
I’ve been lucky to have many strong women in my life, but the most immediately influential is my wife, Hilly. I learn from her every day. When we first started dating, nine years ago, Hilly told me about her dream to be a human rights lawyer. Since then, I’ve watched her finish a degree, volunteer in Guatemala, study through three grueling years of law school, and start a career as an impassioned domestic violence attorney. Through it all she hasn’t lost the grit, humor, compassion, and integrity that I first fell in love with. If that sounds pretty serious, she also has more fun being alive than anyone I know.
What do you do to help support the women in your life as they pursue their professional goals?
One way I help my wife pursue her professional goals is to be an equal parent to our young son. Historically, fathers have had it pretty easy on the whole parenting thing. I don’t think they knew what they were missing. When I’m spending time with my son, we’re bonding, and Hilly has a chance to do her work. She does the same for me. Also, I make toast. Because busy day or no, we all have to eat breakfast.
What can men do to help women break down gender barriers that still exist in the business world?
One way to start is by paying more attention. Men have enjoyed privilege in business and politics for so long that they don’t have much reason to think about gender barriers, much less about how to break them down. I don’t always notice when movies lack meaningful female roles, for example, but my wife does. Start by looking around the room at work. How many men do you see in a meeting? How many women? Who’s doing the talking? We should also pay attention to the subtle reinforcement of gender stereotypes that can happen in idle office chatter. We’ve all heard them–“I just wanted to watch the game, and the wife just kept talking.” Things like that. They’re tired lines and it’s about time men started speaking out against these stereotypes and the degrading message they convey about the opposite sex. Men might take women more seriously if they saw other men taking women seriously. All men can contribute to that effort.
How has supporting a woman in her pursuit of her dreams added value to your own life?
When my wife overcomes a challenge at work, when an opportunity opens up, or she gets positive feedback about something she’s done, I feel a sense of vicarious fulfillment. I’m invested in my wife’s success, just as she is in mine. I want her to pursue her dreams because I know what it feels like to be married to a woman who is fulfilling her potential, stretching her abilities, and growing as a person. The things my wife learns in her career enrich our discussions, inform our debates, and broaden our worldviews. Both of our professional pursuits contribute value to our relationship, provided we make the time to talk about them, interpret them, and appreciate them. When we grow as individuals, we grow as a couple. And that growth makes our dinnertime conversations so much more interesting.