By Joshua Ehrlich*
I am not a feminist. I’m just a guy who wants to help, and who believes strongly in what NCRW is doing. But without more male allies, we risk preaching to the converted and not advancing anything.
Do you invite men to networking meetings or talks about women’s leadership? If you’re like me, you get a notice about an interesting event like The Female Vision and you only think of women who might want to go. Why? We assume men won’t want to come, and that perpetuates the problem.
The first time I spoke at a women’s leadership conference I suspected I was a token male. I was asked to talk about my work coaching senior executives to be more resilient. I attended a provocative panel on micro-inequities that helped me to wake up to some of my biases. I find I have to re-learn these lessons. Being in a room with 150 women and 5 men gives me a needed reminder of what it is like to be a minority. And women in the corporate world are often a minority. This makes it more challenging to find their voice, and harder for us to capitalize on their perspective.
My 2½ year-old daughter “T” helps me learn more about gender, and humbles me when I think I know. “T girl, daddy boy,” she says. What does that mean? I start to question if I really know what it means to be male vs. female. We too often make up stories and artificial distinctions, and end up seeing gender in black and white terms. As the Sufi poet Hafiz writes,
“Gender is like a beautiful animal
That people often take for a walk on a leash
And might enter into some odd contest
To try to win strange prizes.”
Looking at men and women more flexibly helps us avoid the risk of getting angry and putting up rigid walls. ‘This is a women’s event’ vs. ‘This is an important conversation.’ You tell me. Is this a blog for women, or a blog about difference?
*Joshua Ehrlich advises senior leaders in a variety of industries including financial services, consumer products, publishing, fashion, health care and pharmaceuticals. He coaches executives in critical leadership skills including communication, negotiating/influencing, network and relationship management, team building and stress management.