“Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” This is one of my favorite quotes. Secretary Hillary Clinton delivered it at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing over 20 years ago. It was true in 1995 and it’s true today.
I’ll be honest, as a father of two young daughters—ages six and three—I have a vested interest in their success. I want my girls to be able to do anything they set their minds to. I want to know their lives will be better than my own and that they have an equitable shot at success without their gender being an impediment. I know all too well the workplace challenges women face through stories my wife, my mother, and my former colleagues have shared with me. Not only have I seen it firsthand, I’ve read anecdotes, articles, and studies clearly laying out a glaring problem that exists in the United States and around the globe. And I am troubled that in the year 2016 more progress has not been made.
Every day girls and women are denied the opportunity to advance through the workplace ranks due to systematic and structural constraints that directly benefit men through a twisted system of male protectionism. Some people have even said that women choose to opt out of moving up the career ladder by “leaning out” or “checking out,” but I’ll put it more bluntly: women are being “blocked out” by ill-informed men, and it needs to stop.
Women make up around 50% of the world’s population and 50.4% in the United States. It’s long overdue for women to make up of at least half of the workforce. Women have outpaced men in receiving undergraduate degrees, accounting for 57.4% of undergraduate degrees and 62.6% of graduate-level degrees. I’m surrounded by brilliant and talented women who cannot move forward because the system is broken, and there are too few men who will step in to help shoulder the burden that women have forever carried.
As I see it, I not only have a responsibility for my wife, my mother, and my two daughters, but an obligation to help boys and men understand and recognize the importance of equality in the workplace and the central role men play in the conversation.
And as I stated before, everything I do is for my girls. Being their father is one of the greatest blessings of my life. Before they were born I wondered how they would be, but I certainly had no idea what fatherhood might entail. And while I waited anxiously for their arrival, I knew what I envisioned for my daughters: kindness, good citizenship, college, successful careers, and any other thing they set their minds to.
Men, it doesn’t take much to be an advocate. Every man needs to do his part and play a vital role in ensuring progress is made. Too much is at stake for our country and our future generations. You can start out by just using the tips below:
- Call out inequities, seen, and unseen.
- Listen to women and educate yourself.
- Be a voice for the silenced.
- Be a mentor and sounding board.
- Lift up your female colleagues.
- And remember: it starts with you, man!
I will make sure I do my part, and I intend to continue to be an advocate for my girls and a champion for women and for girls’ initiatives. My hope is along the way, I convince, cajole, and convert more male advocates so that my daughters and your daughters can become CEOs, board chairs, or maybe even the second female President of the United States.
Bernard C. Coleman III is the Chief Diversity & Human Resources Officer at Hillary for America—the first person to ever hold such a position for a major presidential campaign. He leads the campaign’s diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts