So much is broken in the world that at times I just want to ball up and cry. I mean really, in a time of financial and economic crisis, can you bear to read the story of Governor Blagojevich trying to auction off Obama's senate seat? At the same moment that our President-Elect has been inspiring us to be the change we want to see in the world, this foul mouthed egomaniac was thinking only about "what is in it for me?" Truly, honestly, it makes me sick to my stomach. Where is the hope?
I will tell you where hope is. The hope is in people who know that the world is broken, and feel called in to action to do something about it. Hope was in the faces of 200 women, and two very brave and smart men, at 57 West 48th Street in New York City at 8 AM yesterday morning where I had the honor to deliver a keynote address for the 85 Broads New York City Women's Power Breakfast. Janet Hanson, the organization's founder, calls it is a network of over 18,000 of the smartest women on the planet, and judging by who was in the room, she may well be right. They chose to gather that morning for one simple reason, because they want to change the world for the better. They chose to gather that morning because they saw the title of the talk "("Are YOU ready for a Revolution? "), they paid their money and showed up. The message I gave was at its heart a simple one, invest in women and invest in you.
It is not that men and boys don't matter. They do, of course, but we already know what men mattering looks like. Boys and men disproportionately mattering is what created the world in which we live. Last time I checked men still largely rule. They are the majority decision makers in government and business. Even in the family, where women are primary caregivers and often control the pocketbook, it is still often men who effectively rule the roost. The world we know right this minute is a world led by men, and it is broken. Challenging that view, I invite you to imagine what a more balanced world might look like. Please understand that I love, respect, and value good men, but I simply do not believe that men should be running the world without us. Men and women need to figure out how to run the world together.
Let's start with a local look. In my family there are two male and two females, two adults and two kids. We share responsibilities fairly equally. That is true for the adults and for the kids. We are extremely fortunate that in our work both my husband and I have a lot of flexibility in terms of scheduling which enables us to commit a fairly equal amount of time to our domestic life. We are a bit of a social experiment, you could say. When we did both work at Goldman Sachs for 5 years of our married life and with one child, the same was true; at home we shared responsibilities. In fact that sharing of responsibilities was the deal we struck up front, and has been true for our 13-years of marriage.
He does most of the following: laundry, fixing things, helping the kids with their homework, making breakfast, processing our investments, and managing things outside (yard, bugs, cars). I do most of the following: managing our schedules, bill paying, travel planning, processing all other mail, gifts, meal planning, health care, buying things we need. We complement each other. There are other things we do together, like our investment decisions, our giving, and life planning, as these we view as in need of both our thinking. We use our skills, natural intuitions, and abilities to make our family work. And that is exactly what our larger society needs to do now — to figure out how to leverage and develop the skills, abilities and passions of its population to maximum effect.
What seems to work in our family does not yet seem to work in most of corporate America, nor more broadly, and to that I ask, why not? I offer you three simply reasons as a starting point.
1. In my family, we fundamentally believe that we matter equally. This led us to attempt to share the workload, the influence, and the power. We try to value what each other does equally and when it feels out of balance, as it often does, we talk. That does not mean that everyone does the equal amount all the time or that we will be equally happy. It does mean, however, that that is the general goal.
2. We acknowledge that we have different talents, abilities and interests and we both value those differences and divide the workload based on that. We try to be aware of the 'cost' of that work, financial and emotional, and seek an equitable distribution. My husband finds it painful to sort through the mail, for me it is fixing computer problems. We have our responsibilities and we trade-off favors. This local economy of complementarities is how many families work.
3. We thank each other. Most of life seems to be transactional. Mutual thank yous make for a very satisfying transaction. In the home things need to get done so we can have time for the white space, the down time as my husband calls it, where life is truly lived. Sadly it seems at times that ninety-five percent of life is maintenance so it is easy to take one another for granted. We do things just to keep life moving leaving little time for it to be enjoyed. Gratitude is the key. White space, down time, cannot become recovery time or a space you shove your fun. A constant attitude of gratitude will make that time more joyful.
Now, think about these three concepts — equity, valuing differences, and gratitude — and apply them to our workplaces. Do companies fundamentally believe that it matters equally to have men and women employees fully participate and be represented at all levels of their companies? Second, do they acknowledge that employees have different talents, abilities, and capacities and that the company's job is to maximize a person's contributions based on that? Third, do companies base their reward system, pay and promotion, on how well people do given this framework and provide ongoing feedback?
Apply those same questions to our global economy. The new paradigms around sustainable economic development are about providing human and economic security to women and girls. It is a proven fact that when you invest in women and girls, providing them with education, a means to make a living, basic human rights, rights to own property and freedom from harm, communities thrive. By investing in and empowering a woman's life, you in turn enhance her families well being, her communities, her countries, the thus, the world.
So much has to change in order for ours to be a more just and equitable world, and that change must occur in all levels of society for it to be sustainable. This theory of change is well summarized in the work of the Women's Funding Network which argues that "a bottom up belief that the whole community cannot be improved or changed without the full participation of women and girls and the full participation of women and girls cannot be achieved without bringing women and girls from the margins in to the mainstream."
We can talk about new appointments and new administrations, but it is in valuing men and women, boys and girls equally and in enabling their full participation in society, that we will set the course for the positive change we need to see in our families and our public and private institutions.
In Washington, as we witness this changing of the guard and hope that better decisions will be made, let us drive change elsewhere, in all realms of our society, from where we each stand. Where leadership is not diverse, strive it make it so. Where the culture is toxic, commit to changing it. Where talent is being underutilized, develop programs to change that. The solutions are there but what is missing, often, is the will, the commitment, to see such change through. What is missing is the equitable participation of women as solutions are being enacted. This is the message I delivered yesterday to over 200 women and if you can pull together a group of 200 interested men, call me, and I will deliver the message to them too. This is a world view when good men and good men both win. Do you see a broken world? If yes, then begin to see the world differently and then move forward to make the world different. Invest in women and girls. The time for real change is now.
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