Who wants to join us in changing the dialogue and mindset? I’m in.
Tonight kicked off this year’s Women Entrepreneurs Festival in New York City with a keynote address by Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of the New America Foundation. Slaughter, who has enjoyed an illustrious career wearing a multitude of hats and who gained national recognition with her essay in The Atlantic, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, made an observation tonight in her address to 250 women entrepreneurs that has inspired me to begin thinking differently about the way I raise my sons and the environment I create for the men who work for our company, APPCityLife.
“I have three sons,” Slaughter said, “and I know that things would be very different if they were daughters. If they were daughters, I would tell them that they could be anything they want to be, that they can arrange their life however they choose. If they want to have kids, not have kids, take time out to be a full time caregiver, a part-time caregiver, or not – that they would all be valid choices and I would still be proud of them no matter what they chose. Not so with our sons. We don’t present the same opportunities to our sons as if they are valid choices; we don’t tell them that they can choose to stay at home full time to care for their children and make sure they know we’re still proud of them and support that choice.”
I have spent the past five years swimming upstream in a very male-dominated industry. I’ve attended conferences as a presenter where I was the only woman on the stage. I’ve worked tirelessly to raise investment, all the while knowing that much less than 10% of investment capital is funneled to women-founded companies. I have lived, breathed, and spoken openly about the disadvantages facing women entrepreneurs, especially those in tech.
And in the midst of it all, it never occurred to me that I could be creating barriers and challenges for my own sons. Slaughter is right. I cannot count the number of times I’ve made the comment to my sons, “If you like doing that, you should think about a career in (fill in the blank), because salaries are high and would allow your future wife to stay home with your kids if she wants to.” I have been indoctrinating them from the get-go that they will be the breadwinner and that their wife will have the choice of whether she wants to stay home full time or work. Never in those conversations did I suggest – or even think – that my sons would want or should have the option to be the one to stay home, that it was just as reasonable to think that one of my son’s wives might be the one who wanted to work and build a career while my son might want to raise the kids.
It has inspired me to begin a journey of introspection to where else my biases towards men may be causing me to make assumptions that are limiting the options open to the men in our company.
I agree with Slaughter – the only way to achieve true equality and balance is to begin a Men’s Movement – to speak up and change our own thinking to make sure we are being just as supportive, just as open, just as vocal about creating a positive, supportive environment where men are accepted and supported for their choices just as we’ve fought so hard to make possible for women.