I have had people ask me: why is working to eliminate gender bias such a passion for you as a man? My response: how could it not be?
On a personal level, I grew up in a family where my parents shared the care giving and the financial responsibilities. My sister, brother and I were raised without stereotypic suggestions on what we could be or do. I saw how gender equality made my very strong family even stronger.
On a professional level, gender bias is more than a legal and moral wrong. It is bad business.
While the numbers vary depending on the field, generally speaking, women account for at least half of the talent in the workforce. Employers who discriminate against women, consciously or unconsciously, do so at their economic peril.
Women do not need paternalistic rescuing. Women need organizations to understand where there are explicit or implicit barriers to true equality and to eliminate them.
Where equal employment opportunity at all levels and in all areas is a reality and not just a slogan, it is not just women and the organization which benefit. Men, too, benefit when we expand the range of socially-acceptable options by eradicating gender-based stereotypes.
I am not very popular with members of boys’ clubs, the invisible but often impenetrable group of (white) men with power. Nothing could bother me less, because I am more likely to be successful and happy working through inclusive groups of diverse individuals.
Still, I look forward to the day when these clubs don’t exist so that women and men who don’t belong to these de facto fraternities have an equal chance to succeed—or to fail. No preferences—just an even playing field.
We should follow Sheryl Sandberg’s clarion call for more dialogue. But the dialogue must produce positive changes or it will serve only to raise expectations unfairly and dangerously.
Enough writing. We have work to do.
Join me in New York at the Lean In Dialogues to continue the conversation on June 18.