The Women’s Movement has not been very good at including men in the discussions and strategies to advance gender equality. We justly complain about being excluded from men’s tables, but I truly challenge us to ask ourselves if we are doing the same thing by not inviting them to ours? This has to, and is, slowly, changing.
I want to honor the history of women’s organizing and action. Women needed a safe place to share stories, be heard and create strategies for change. We certainly still need that, but broadening our movement to include men that share our values has, I believe, become mission critical.
I also want to honor the many incredible women leaders and activists, so many of which I had the good company of this past week in Denver, at the Women’s Funding Network Annual Conference including Gloria Steinem, Chris Grumm, Helen Lakelly Hunt, Barbara Dobkin, Katherine Acey and so many more. These women have been fighting for the rights of women and girls for decades. But for the movement, our movement to advance, I believe we need to do a much better job of including men and male leaders who share our mission and our values. We need more than a few good men, we need a lot of them, and one such man is Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director of Greenpeace International, who joined us in Denver.
Kumi travelled all the way from Amsterdam to speak on a panel at the conference called “United In Purpose: A Cross-Sector Stakeholder Exchange.” The other panel members were Saadia Zahidi ( World Economic Forum) , Anne Mosle (Kellogg Foundation), Ana Maria Enriquez (UNIFEM), Pamela Shifman (NOVO) , Cathy Woolard (CARE) , Kim Azzarelli (Goldman Sachs) and moderated by Nicky McIntyre ( Mama Cash) (link to all speakers bios). More and more organizations are investing in strategies that see women and girls as solution builders to the world’s problems, and the question is, how do we work together for maximum impact? How to we make sure that this is not a trend but sustainable? Organizations like CARE, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiatives, and the NOVO Foundation are BIG, yet relatively new players in this work, so how do they partner with Women’s Funds that have been doing this work for 30 years? How do they both absorb and leverage the knowledge that exists and not reinvent the wheel? And what can we as a network of women’s funds learn from these organizations and how they come to see investment opportunities and strategies? Rather than give you all my notes, I will link to the session when it becomes available next week.
My point in this blog entry is that a MAN, a self defined Feminist MAN, was there with us brilliantly adding to the conversation with insightful perspective and great tactical ideas. He did not need to be convinced that including women and girls in discussions around climate change, poverty, health issues was the right thing to do, but the absolutely necessary thing to do. He did not need to be coached about what to say and how to say it in a respectful and inclusive tone, be modeled it. He did not duck tough questions about inclusion and voice, he addressed it head on. He did not cushion his comments about what hold the women’s movement back, he gave targeted advice on how we could both gain access and influence. This man was a breath of fresh air and I for one sat there wishing for more of guys like him. I cannot wait for you all to watch the video of this session, I cannot wait!!
Now I know of course there are many feminist men, (my hubby, James B to name a couple) but my point is that there are not enough, and few that are in positions of power and influence like Kumi is. If you ask most men, and sadly some women, if they are feminist they are likely to say no. ( see definition below ) We need more, so many more feminist men, and it gives me great hope to know that Kumi is at Davos, is leading conversations about climate change around the world, is meeting with the top CEOs of the world at their request, and is one of us! He is someone who believes that gender inequality is the root cause of so much that ails the world and that reducing it offers the hope for what can heal it.
So here is the call to action Girlfriends. Increasingly see the recruitment and engagement of men, our men and men we do not know, as key to OUR success. Let’s help them understand that gender inequality is NOT a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue. Let’s help them understand that when women and girls are safe and secure, so are families, communities, and our nations. I must have said this 100 times on this blog, and I will say it 100 more. Reducing global gender inequalities – in leadership, education, political participation, wages, civic engagement, legal rights and more…. is what will help save and heal our planet. I know this with every ounce of my being and I will work, engage, fund, fight and march for this until the day I die. Join me and let me join you.
As for you men who might be reading this here is your call to action. I challenge you to ask yourselves do you believe that women and girls should have the same access, opportunity and security as men and boys have? If the answer is yes then think about why it is ok that women still earn in the country 77 % of what men earn? Why is it ok that women are largely absent from corporate boards and leadership positions? Why is it ok that 70% of the world’s poor women and children? Why is it ok that millions of girls go missing every year and so little is done about it? Why is it ok that you can buy the body of a teenage girl on Craig’s list? If none of this is ok, please ask yourself what are YOU going to do about it?
The great news is that it is not JUST about giving money to organizations that do this work, the work can begin in your home in terms of how you interact with and empower your wives, daughters, and yes, your sons too. Turning the TV off when you see women and girls objectified would be a great place to start. In the workplace, hire, mentor and encourage women, as well as men. We need so many more men understanding, caring about and acting like gender inequality matters TO THEM.
Thank you Women’s Funding Network Staff for an incredible few days at your annual conference, and I hope next year that if you are reading this and have not attended, you will. It is my goal as Vice-Chair of this organization to make this event the must attend gathering for those funding women and girls around the world.
• Feminism has this definition - "the policy, practice and/or advocacy of political, economic and social equality for women." (It does NOT mean anti-men) For those of you, especially women, who say you are NOT feminists, I urge you to think about and explore the definition. Many people think it to be a very left wing political movement, which is not it's true definition.
If you just cannot for whatever reason embrace the word feminist consider owning this ...
Humanist - "a person having a strong interest in or concern for human welfare, values and dignity." Men and women, boys and girls.