I woke up this morning thinking about women. As a homosexual male with a loving fiancé, I should clarify it was not the type of "thinking about women" you may assume.
Today is International Women's day. It's a day for honoring the women around us and the women who have come before us. It is also a day where we often hear of the inequalities that have effected women in the past and the struggles they face today -- not receiving equal pay for an equal days work, sexual harassment, lack of representation in government. As a man, I think I have a responsibility to be a part of a solution, and can think of three very easy ways any man can make a difference:
Make Room for a Pause
Last night, I was at a dinner with Ruthie Ackerman, a journalist and advocate for women around the globe, and asked her "What is something simple that men can do to support women?" She gave me a very simple answer: "Make room for a pause." I honestly wasn't sure what she meant at first, but she went on to explain the fact that women often take longer or are more hesitant to make a point or comment in a conversation because they are more methodical and cautious with their words. Because of this, when a conversation is dominated by men who often don't hesitate to speak, a woman is less likely to make a point or speak up. It is our responsibility as men to pause, allow for a lull in the conversation, and give women the opportunity to be a part of the dialogue, be it around the dinner table to boardroom table. But "making room for a pause" is more than being silent for a few seconds so someone else can speak. It is about being cognoscente and supportive of having a women's opinion heard and recognizing the value that she brings to any conversation, be it dinner table chatter or boardroom decisions.
Respect their value:
Women are responsible for over 80% of consumer spending in America, cast 53% of ballots in the last presidential election and hold 57% of bachelor degrees in our country. They have the money, voting power and education. They have value. That value deserves respect. As my friend Kunal Modi put, MAN UP. Man up by hiring women for top positions at your companies. Man up by asking women to be an advisor or investor in your enterprise. Man up by encouraging women to run for political office and when they do write them a check and vote for them.
The results of respecting the value of women and their potential can by plotted on any graph you want and you will find a direct correlation of their success to economic prosperity, happiness and peace. Respect their value.
Be more like them:
Women rock. They statistically live healthier lifestyles, are better multi-taskers and are better investors. Men have a lot to learn from women and should strive to be more like them. When I look back on the most important people of my life, a majority of them are women. I am who I am because of stellar women. If men looked to more women for advice and as examples, the world would be a better place. I want to be more like the women I admire.
I am proud we have to day where we honor women, but I do not think today is the only day it should happen nor should it be the only day we talk about these issues. I really love women and I think they deserve better.