Men, This Is How to Become True Advocates for Women




Originally published on LinkedIn Influencers on February 27, 2015

On the front page of yesterday’s New York Time’s Business Section was an article called “Vivek Wadhwa, Voice for Women in Silicon Valley, Is Foiled by His Tone” by Farhad Manjoo, and needless to say, the headline caught my attention. It also raised immediate concern. The fact that there was a male voice for women in Silicon Valley? Awesome. He was foiled? Decidedly less awesome. Particularly because I have been waiting for a headline like this for forever. Not the foiled part, of course, but the part about male voices standing up for gender bias. I’ve dreamed of the day when I open the newspaper and find headlines proclaiming that male CEOs are standing with women en masse as allies to fight the gender biases that are pervasive in nearly every sector of industry. If this voice was foiled, how much longer am I going to have to wait for those headlines? I read on.

The opening line states that, “Silicon Valley has lately come to the realization that it is not the meritocracy it has long pretended to be — at least not for women and most minorities.” So true. As a woman who was once a senior professional in the financial services industry, the “myth of the meritocracy” is something I have spoke about and written on a lot. You just have to look at the numbers in both sectors to know that this is fact. I continued to read.

The article immediately posits this question: “What should we make of the fact that one of the most out-spoken voices for women in tech has been — rather oddly – a man?” I think you should make two things out of it. One, isn’t it interesting that we live in a world where men’s views, even those on women, are generally held in higher regard than women’s views? Too often, credibility is simply assumed of men, while women not only have to earn credibility, but continuously justify it. This could explain how his voice is considered so important, when there are many outspoken women who continue to champion diversity in Silicon Valley. Secondly, why is it that in an industry where the overwhelming majority of the leaders are men, so few are willing to take a stand against gender bias? Most likely because of the issues brought up in this article, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The article goes on to identify the foiled man as Vivek Wadhwa, and although I have never heard of him, on the surface, it would appear that he has tried to be an advocate for women in tech. However, the article continues with this: “Men who would like to become allies in the fight for women’s equality in tech will find in this story a lesson on how to conduct themselves: Look at the way Mr. Wadhwa behaved when faced with criticism from female technologists. Then do the opposite.” Ouch. According to the article, Mr. Wadhwa’s reported transgressions include clumsily articulating women’s causes, calling women in tech “token floozies”, refusing to be held accountable for his stupid comments and blaming them on his poor English and lack of understanding of “web slang” instead, positioning himself as an expert on women in tech when he is not a woman in tech, and telling women that all they need to do to survive in tech is to act more confident, despite studies that show the detrimental effect this has on women’s careers. All of these items would definitely be on my list of what not to do as an advocate for women’s causes. Unfortunately, the article spends little time examining what he may have done right or what he could have done better, and without research on my part to read any of the dozens of articles and op-eds he has written or listen to the many interviews he has given, I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that his heart was in the right place.

Unfortunately, it would seem that Mr. Wadhwa has called it quits on his campaign for more diversity in Silicon Valley, in part because of the criticism he has received from feminists in the industry. Criticisms that if the above list is any indication, were well deserved. However, instead of listening to the criticism, learning from it, reaching out to women leaders in an effort to be better in his campaign, and adjusting his approach, he’s simply walking away, claiming that he’s “not needed anymore.” Apparently, when it comes to gender equality in Silicon Valley, Mr. Wadhwa adheres to the “my way or the highway” approach, which is certainly not conducive to achieving any form of long lasting change on any issue. We all have to be willing to listen to each other, to hear all of the unique voices at play, and be willing to learn from them. I don’t have all the answers for how to solve Silicon Valley’s diversity problem, nor does Mr. Wadhwa, but if we all work together, we just might have a chance.

Looking at the bigger picture, I deeply worry that by highlighting Mr. Wadhwa’s story in the way it was done, the message to any man waiting in the wings to help champion women is, “Don’t go there!” People, ladies, we need men to go there. We need to encourage and support males leaders to come forward to help uncover the inequities that exist not just in the tech world but everywhere, and we need everyone’s help to work to find solutions that will level the playing field. So while we absolutely have the right to respectfully criticize statements/voices that don’t help our cause, our efforts should be centered on helping men to be better as allies, and hopefully, unlike Mr. Wadhwa, they will be receptive to listen.

So what does that help look like? The leading researcher on the topic of engaging men is Catalyst, a leading nonprofit organization with the mission to expand opportunities for women and business. When I searched “engaging men”, there were 47 reports and tools that popped up. I have included a “list of actions men can take” below from their tool, First Steps to Engaging Men. I also invite you to check out the organization Men Advocating Real Change (MARC), a community created especially for men committed to making real change in the workplace.

So men. If you are genuinely interested in helping to create a more inclusive work environment for you, for your female friends and colleagues, for your mothers, and for your daughters, please engage. Below are some tips to get you started. And please tell us what we can do to be champions for you.

  1. Listen to women colleagues when they attribute certain work experiences to sexism without being defensive, offering alternative explanations, or otherwise invalidating what they say.
  2. Pay attention to the subtle ways in which some men may unconsciously cause women colleagues to feel diminished. Avoid these behaviors, and encourage male peers to do so as well.
  3. Be attentive to whether and how men and women colleagues are judged by different standards. Speak up if you observe gender bias.
  4. Use work-life flexibility benefits, if you have them (e.g., paternity leave, family leave, and telecommuting), to manage your work and personal responsibilities, and communicate your support for male colleagues who use these policies/benefits.
  5. Don’t interrupt women when they speak, control their space, or assume they need your protection. Focus on the effect of your actions, rather than on the intent.
  6. Be the kind of father you always wanted to have.
  7. Listen, believe, and be accountable to women and their stories. When confronted about your own sexism (or racism, homophobia, etc.), listen instead of getting defensive.
  8. Don’t condone, laugh at, or tell sexist, racist, or homophobic jokes or stories.

A few selected reports from Catalyst and other sources:

  1. Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: Stacking the Deck for Success (Catalyst)
  2. Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents Need to Know (Catalyst)
  3. Moving Mindsets on Gender Diversity: McKinsey Global Survey Results
  4. Bringing Men on Board with Gender Equality (Business Digest)

If you are looking for other organizations that convene male champions of women’s rights and gender issues, please visit the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, MenEngage, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Men Stopping Violence, Oxfam GB’s Gender Equality and Men Project, EuroPRO-Fem, Fostering Caring Masculinities (FOCUS), and Men For Change.

Finally, please consider attending a conference, coming soon in New York City, on men and masculinity, running March 5-8th. Details can be found here.

Jimmy Carter is ALL IN FOR HER

Jimmy Carter's "A Call to Action" Book Signing at Barnes & Noble in New York City on March 25, 2014

Originally published on LinkedIn Influencers on September 19, 2014

Last night marked the official launch of ALL IN FOR HER, a Call to Action and research report that is being released by Women Moving Millions (WMM) to kick off our annual summit in New York City. (I serve as the Chief Engagement Officer of WMM.) In it, we describe the current state of women’s wealth and the ways in which women are serving as leaders in philanthropy and as change agents in their communities. Our Call to Action is for everyone, but in particular women of means, to commit to going ALL IN FOR HER, by using every available resource at their disposal to help advance women and girls worldwide.

To open the launch event, we were honored to have former US President, Jimmy Carter, provide the opening remarks, the transcript of which is as follows:

“Hello and welcome. Thank you all for joining us this exciting evening as Women Moving Millions launches their Call to Action: ‘All In For Her’ inviting women (and men) to step into their donor leadership and catalyze unprecedented resources for women and girls around the world.

I am pleased to be addressing so many leading supporters of women and girls tonight. As you all know, there’s much work to be done when it comes to women’s rights. Too many women and girls face discrimination and extreme violence every day simply because of their gender. Many are still being forced into child marriages and sexual slavery. They suffer from domestic abuse, female genital cutting, and even in the most developed nations, are barred equal and vital access to the education, healthcare, political and social empowerment that allows them not only to survive, but to thrive.

Gender inequality is destructive to our global development, and as I’ve written in my latest book, A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power, unless we address the roles each of these issues play in perpetuating global gender injustice, women, girls, men, and boys the world over will remain barred from reaching their true potential. It is time we shift the frameworks in which we measure the value of women and girls, and reinterpret their roles across all cultures and all religions. In this process, we must also include women and girls in these conversations about change. There is an epidemic of violence and injustice against women that spans the globe, and until we urgently address all the factors that breed inequality, our global progress will remain at a standstill.

I sincerely hope that you will all embrace this Call to Action tonight with all your passion, purpose, and urgency. In my book, I wrote about the power of female leadership around the world to address issues of gender inequality in each of their countries. As leaders in women’s philanthropy, this is now your time to use your resources in order to change the future not only for half the world’s population but the world over. We’ve seen the evidence, and we’ve read the stories. We know that providing funding to women and girls works, and tonight we have the perfect opportunity with Women Moving Millions’ ‘All in For Her’ campaign to bridge the need of women and girls on the ground with our power and potential for impact.

Thank you for inviting me to share this important moment and celebration with you. Women Moving Millions is a truly special community who have stepped up to prioritize gender equality, and I am proud to support this urgent cause to advance global development.

It’s time to go ‘All In For Her.’”

Watch the video here!


President Jimmy Carter is no stranger to Calls to Action, as he has been a tireless advocate for the rights and advancement of women and girls for decades. Earlier this year, he released his own Call to Action, titled Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, in which he states that, “The most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls.” I could not agree more.

In the book, President Carter makes the case that the widespread discrimination that every nation in this world practices towards women and girls is one of the most critical human crises facing our world today, and that it is time for this discrimination to end. However you may feel about President Carter’s time as the US President, it is hard to deny that in the 33 years since he left office, he has been a steadfast promoter of peace, and a dedicated supporter of human rights, democracy, conflict resolution, and worldwide health. In 2002, President Carter was deservedly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and since its inception in 1982, President Carter and The Carter Center has tirelessly advocated against the growing worldwide wealth disparity, has been instrumental in negotiating peaceful resolutions to numerous international conflicts, and has implemented numerous world health initiatives, including the near eradication of the Guinea worm disease.

In addition to his philanthropic works, President Carter is a prolific author with over two dozen books in publication on topics ranging from his time as a US President to the peace process in the Middle East. Women, Religion, Violence, and Power is his most recent book, and while its contents are dire, its implications are incredible. How fantastic that this man, this influential and powerful white man, is standing up and unequivocally stating that the disempowerment of women and girls is the underlying problem to nearly all of the issues our world faces today. From violence against women, rape, prostitution, and sex trafficking, to honor killings, domestic abuse, female genital cutting, and religious discrimination, there is no topic that President Carter shies away from, and while the stories are hard to read, it is gratifying that someone so visible is standing up in defense of women and girls and the rights that are currently being denied to them in every country in the world.

I wholeheartedly support President Carter’s Call to Action, and it was truly incredible to have his support for the launch of ours, as we share the same overarching goal. The next two days of the summit are going to be jam-packed with sessions, panels, and discussion, all revolving around the concept of power, and how we can use our power in positive ways. Speakers include Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, Pat Mitchell, Abigail Disney, Michael Kimmel, Demi Moore, Lisa Witter, and Malala Yousafzai, among others, and I can’t wait to hear what they all have to say. Last year’s summit literally kept me up at night processing all that I had heard and learned, and I have no doubt that this year will be any different. Stay tuned for updates.

The report is available on the #ALLINFORHER web-site. Link to other resources including 100 Facts on Girls and Women, and 100 BEST Reports.

5 Non-Profit Leaders You Should Know

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(Photo credit: Global Fund for Women. Musimbi Kanyoro, Jacki Zehner, Hillary Rodham Clinton) Published on LinkedIn Influencers, May 23, 2014.

There are literally millions of non-profit organizations in the world, and over 1.5 million in the United States alone. Therefore, knowing which organizations to support with your giving dollars can be a daunting task. Most donor advisers will tell you to donate to organizations that support the causes that you are most passionate about as a first step, but even then, the number of organizations addressing the same issue can be overwhelming, and you ultimately find yourself back at square one: Who do I support with my giving dollars? For me, the decision always comes down to leadership, and more specifically, who is leading the organization? If I don’t feel confident in the person running the organization, I know I will never be confident in that organization’s ability to use my money to its fullest potential. At the end of the day it is people giving to people, so allow me to introduce you to five women non-profit leaders who are truly great people, and the organizations that they lead.

I hope to do more posts like this featuring people, both men and women, who work in a variety of issue areas, but given my passion around the advancement of girls and women, this is my starting place. Please know this is not a ranking and there are many more incredible profiles to come.

1) Julie Burton – President of the Women’s Media Center (WMC) (Photo from Left to Right: Julie Burton, Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan in New York City at a WMC event)

In 2005, Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan founded the Women’s Media Center. Today the organization acts as an advocacy and awareness institution for gender discrimination in the media, a monitoring system for sexism in the media, and as a platform for original content creation that promotes women’s voices in the media. Julie joined the Women’s Media Center in 2010, and since then has led the organization in its mission towards equality in the media landscape. She also serves as the Executive Producer of Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan, and I was honored to be on the show last year. Prior to joining the WMC, Julie was the CEO of Voters for Choice, the Founding Director of Choice USA, and has been an outspoken and vocal advocate for women’s rights for decades.

SONY DSC2) Francoise GirardInternational Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) (Photo Credit: International Women’s Health Coalition)

The International Women’s Health Coalition is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls around the world. To date, the IWHC has given out over $19 million to 75 organizations in 20 different countries, and their advocacy efforts have helped persuade 179 governments to make reproductive rights a key component of family planning. Francoise became the President of IWHC in 2012 after previously serving the organization as a consultant and as the Senior Program Officer for International Policy. She has also previously worked for Open Society Foundations, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and DAWN. Francoise is a longtime advocate for women’s reproductive rights, and is recognized as a leading expert in the fields of women’s health, human rights, sexuality, and HIV and AIDS. I met Francoise for the first time last year when we were both speakers at UBS’s Global Philanthropy Forum entitled “It’s A Girl.” She rocked my world.

3) Musimbi KanyoroGlobal Fund for Women (Photo from left to right: Christine Switzer, Director of Development at the Global Fund for Women, Jacki Zehner, Musimbi Kanyoro in Salt Lake City, UT)

Founded in 1986, the Global Fund for Women was created to provide resources to the worldwide community of women’s organizations. The first grants were distributed in 1988 and totaled only $30,000, but since then, over $100 million in grants have been distributed to over 4,000 women’s organizations in 170 different countries. Musimbi joined the Global Fund for Women in 2011, and has since led the organization through strategic directives that have focused on women’s leadership and women-led solutions, as well as the recent merging of the Global Fund for Women with the International Museum of Women. Musimbi is the author of 7 books, as well as numerous articles, op-eds, and speeches, and she is a renowned public speaker and women’s rights leader. A passionate advocate for women and girls for over 30 years, Musimbi is the recipient of numerous awards, honors, and honorary doctorates. Did I mention she speaks 5 languages and is one of 10 children? I wanted everyone I know to meet Musimbi, so two years ago I invited her to visit Park City. She participated in a number of events, including speaking at my children’s school about women’s rights, as well as to a large group gathered for lunch where we also made the amazing jewelry from SAMESKY available. What a day!

201832f4) Rachel LloydGirls Educational & Mentoring Service (GEMS) (Photo Credit: GEMS)

Rachel Lloyd founded GEMS in 1998 when she was only 23 years old, and since then, GEMS has grown into a leading organization combating domestic trafficking and the sexual exploitation of young women and girls. Operating out of New York State, GEMS is the only organization in the state that specifically serves female trafficking victims ages 12-24 by helping them leave the sex industry, and not just survive their experience, but fully recover from the trauma these experiences inflict. GEMS is recognized as being instrumental in helping to pass New York’s Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Act, which specifically recognizes sex workers as victims to protect instead of criminals to punish, and since its adoption in 2008, 13 other states have passed similar legislation. In addition to her work at GEMS, Rachel is the author of Girls Like Us and many other articles for various publications, the co-producer of the Showtime documentary Very Young Girls, and is the recipient of dozens of awards and accolades. I have met Rachel, read her book, and watched her movie, and I can tell you this woman in the real deal. The sexual exploitation of children is such a huge issue and one that all of us, and I really mean all of us, should be doing something to end. Supporting Rachel is a great way.

2384e595) Ritu SharmaWomen Thrive Worldwide (Photo Credit: Women Thrive Worldwide)

Founded in 1998 by Ritu Sharma and Elise Fiber Smith, Women Thrive is an advocacy group that works in Washington DC to ensure that women’s rights and concerns are at the forefront of US International Aid policies. Although based in Washington DC, Women Thrive does not accept any government funds, and therefore operates independently of any political affiliations, and Women Thrive does not run any programs itself. Instead, the organization focuses its efforts on advocacy, activism, and awareness, and brings the “voice of women around the world directly to decision-makers in Washington, D.C.” In addition to her work as the President of Women Thrive, Ritu is a respected motivational speaker and political strategist, and she is recognized as one of the leading experts in the fields of international women’s rights and US foreign policy. To date, Ritu has been featured in numerous publications, is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and World Pulse, and is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. I am so grateful that we have such an exceptional person holding our government agencies accountable for where our money goes.

Again, there are so many incredible non-profit leaders doing amazing work. Who rocks your world? Please share.