Michael Lake

How does female leadership improve our world?

As a father, I feel that strong, competent female leadership helps to break down stereotypes and preconceived prejudices. Seeing women succeed in the business world gives me hope that my daughters will have every opportunity to succeed without the threat of gender bias to stifle their ambitions.

Name a woman who has influenced your life, and describe why she is exceptionally remarkable.

My wife. Next to my mother, the single most influential person in my life. She is my hero, my confidant and my inspiration. She has overcome difficulties in her life that would make most people give up. When she was 14, a horse riding accident left her with a shattered pelvis. Doctors told her that she may never walk with a ‘normal’ gait again. They also told her she may never be able to have children due to complications with the steel pins in her hips. Needless to say, she has had two happy, healthy daughters. The remarkable thing about her, is her attitude. She has a super-human ability to remain dedicated and determined and despite unfavorable circumstances she continues to be happy, kind and humble. She is exceptionally remarkable.

What do you do to help support the women in your life as they pursue their professional goals?

Michelle, my wife, has had many jobs since we’ve been married. Ranging from a waitress, a photo lab technician, a nanny, a daycare provider, and a convenience store manager among others. One day she came home from work and said, “I think I want to become a Nurse. I think that’s the career that fits me. My grandma was a nurse for most of her life. That’s what I want to do.” At the time, she was making a decent income and losing that income and becoming a one-income family of four – we have two daughters, who were then 7 and 4 – was a difficult situation to overcome. However, an investment in education is invaluable, and an invaluable lesson for my daughters, that no matter your circumstances you can direct your own path. That was five years ago. She is now a fully licensed and registered nurse specializing in Pulmonary and Cardiology. We moved to Great Falls after her graduation to pursue her career. I could not be more proud of her. My oldest daughter has recently informed me that she would like to become a Pediatric Cardiologist, and I will do everything in my power to realize that goal.

What can men do to help women break down gender barriers that still exist in the business world?

Our ideas about gender barriers have to be taken down through a cultural shift in thinking. I’ve always believed that every human on this planet deserves to be recognized for their own actions, regardless of past prejudices, religion, race or gender, etc. It’s a Forrest Gump kinda thing. “Stupid is, as Stupid does.” Meaning ‘judge me on my actions, not my looks.’ Becoming a father made me more aware of how pertinent those words are. I want my children to have every opportunity to succeed in life and so I advocate to my peers that a person should be judged on their abilities alone. Through that interaction we can continue to break down the notions that people from a different gender, religion, race etc. are somehow inferior or not capable of performing the same actions or duties that we can. By sharing my beliefs about equality for all mankind on a peer-to-peer, informal, non-confrontational setting, perhaps I can help another person to understand my point of view.

How has supporting a woman in her pursuit of her dreams added value to your own life?

There’s a tangible reward in supporting my wife and family through four years of college. She has doubled her income since leaving her former career. But aside from that, the long term reward has been that my daughters now have an expectation of what a healthy marriage should be. Without gender biases or culturally predefined roles.