September 7, 2010 — Last week, I wrote about Catalystos—guys who are not afraid to stand up against gender inequity. These men are active role models and partners in our challenge to stamp out sexist stereotypes, ingrained biases and the barriers holding women back from leadership.
With a view to amplifying their voices, I asked some of the men of Catalyst to tell me why they support our mission. Some appeared in my previous post; here are more. These men are part of the solution. Please help me spread their inspiring message far and wide.
—Ilene H. Lang
Josh, Member Relations:
I have seen the effects that a glass ceiling can have on a woman’s career and even her own self-confidence. This was the case with my mother, and the story of my “a-ha” moment. My mother has had, in my eyes, a very successful career in the financial industry, yet she doesn’t think so. The company she worked for (which will remain unnamed) passed her over for promotions into the executive level time and time again, despite her obtaining an M.B.A. and consistently excellent performance reviews.
Her company, for some reason, gave her a job level that was rarely used between the most senior directorship and VP, but would not give her what she coveted – that VP title. It is upon reflecting back at her struggle that I realize it wasn’t an issue of her not being qualified, and to be fair, I don’t think it was outright discrimination. I think as a working mother, she never joined “the boys” at the bar or on the golf course. She came home to spend time with her family. It wasn’t that she didn’t do a good job, it was that she had far fewer opportunities to connect with the right people.
The experience my mother went through in the corporate world, as well as my own awareness of discrimination as a gay man, led to my studies in gender and sexual diversity and the development of a real sense of social justice and a drive to fight for equality. I decided long ago that I needed to contribute to something positive and feel as though I am making a difference.
Thomas, Member Services:
I've been interested in the topic of gender since sociology courses in undergrad—it wasn't just the classes that affected me, though. My time at college coincided with eye-opening experiences involving race, life, gender and sexuality. Things I wasn't prepared for coming from a corn-fed, Midwestern background. Anyway, I remember when we first began talking about the global implications of patriarchy in class—in patriarchy, no one wins, not even men. Understanding the shades of inequity helped me understand that while the system we live in may benefit some, it comes at a cost to everyone.
When it comes to women in business, it seems as if the workplace is one of the most important places to deconstruct patriarchy. When women have increased economic power, many of the other realms of patriarchy can come crashing down, too.
I care about opportunities for women and work because my mom was actually fired from her job teaching in the early 1970s in Boston for getting pregnant! That’s right, the policy in the Dorchester School District at the time was that pregnant women were not allowed to teach. After my parents were married and my mother was pregnant with my older sister, she tried to hide it from the school principal. But after five months, it was obvious she was pregnant, and the principal pulled her aside—and fired her on the spot. She never worked in education again. I hope to prevent discrimination along these lines for others.
On a bigger level, I really believe in the concept that if you invest in women, you invest in a better world. A woman with an education can teach her children important skills. And she can open a business. That business can bring in more money for her family, and it can improve everyone’s health. The growing business can hire more people and help them financially, too. In turn, this improves a local economy, and the wider economy as well. The more visible women become in business, the more others will follow. And the more everyone’s life can improve.