6 Surprising Takeaways From the MARC Summit
Catalyst’s first Men Advocating Real Change conference provided some stunning lessons—even for the organizer.
I’m Alix Pollack. I have been with Catalyst for nearly 10 years, where I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) and to lead this initiative. Some of you reading this may know me or have seen me speak at the MARC Summit, a virtual Catalyst conference that took place December 3-4, 2020.
Even though I helped conceptualize, build, and deliver the MARC Summit, the learnings surprised me. They set off light bulbs. The speakers jolted me with statistics and stories.
As the mother of a young son, I felt my buttons pushed in scary and deeply important ways. As a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) leader, I was connected to an incredibly powerful community of leading voices and aligned missions. And as an advocate, I was motivated to want to do better and more.
Here are some of the things I learned:
- Gender conditioning starts early and stays with us. It affects our brains, our relationships, and how we see the world.
- It’s never too late to change. Advocacy, partnership, and culture change are never-ending, ever-evolving, journeys of continuous learning. What we learn we can unlearn. What we have suppressed we can cultivate. What we resisted we can embrace. But no one can do this alone. We need to create, be part of, and invite others into honest dialogues and meaningful relationships. We all, no matter who we are, can be a part of creating real change.
- Man-box culture affects and challenges us all. The socialization of men affects men’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing and traps many within the walls of the “man box.” It affects how we construct our understanding of leadership and success. It affects our relationships. It affects our organizational cultures. And to break it down, we must first be able to see it. The work of acknowledging and understanding men’s socialization is critical.
- Gender partnership is a powerful and underutilized tool in driving real change. It’s time to redefine who does this work, why, how, and to what end. As individuals we have the power, opportunity, and responsibility to lead inclusively. Collectively, we have the power, opportunity, and responsibility to drive broad and lasting culture change.
- The different parts of us are connected. Work life/personal life. Who we were/who we are. What we were taught/what we know. The answer to the question “What does this have to do with [me, the workplace, leadership, etc.]?” is: “Everything.”
- Just do it. As Mike Wirth, CEO of Chevron, and David Taylor, CEO of P&G, said when asked the best way to create culture change, the only “right way” is simply to do it. You don’t have to be an expert. You will make mistakes. But do not let perfection be the enemy of good. Do not let fear win out over courage. Do not let comfort become complacency. Start with a question. Start with a conversation. Start with a small simple act of partnership. Just do the work—one step at a time. And know that you will not be doing it alone. MARC is here with you and for you.
After two incredible days of learning, the running track in my mind is the question “What if?” Here are some “What ifs?” for you to consider:
- What if everything I heard about and learned about at the MARC Summit were true? What would that mean for me, my relationships, my workplace? What might I want to change?
- What if gender equity and gender partnership meant something different, or more, than what I thought?
- What if men are neither “the problem” nor “the answer” but rather part of both, and therefore partners in addressing both?
- What if I had the power to redefine? What would I do with that power?
- What if this is just the beginning? What do I want to do next?
Let’s keep talking, let’s keep working, and let’s keep learning—today and every day.
Vice President, MARC
Alix is a Vice President in the Learning and Advisory Services department where she leads MARC (Men Advocating Real Change). Prior to her role leading MARC, Alix was a member of the Research department, where she focused on engaging men, intersections of gender, race, and ethnicity, and culture of inclusion.…