By Ray Arata | Founder of Better Man Conference | August 26, 2022
What do men have to do with women’s equality?
Today, as we celebrate Women’s Equality, we recognize that most of the advancements that have been made in regard to that equality are disproportionately due to the hard work of women themselves. This needs to change. Given we make up about half of the population, men have a lot of ground to make up for in terms of our contributions to equality. We have traditionally benefited from more rights, better pay, and a slew of other privileges that have afforded us a higher degree of power than our counterparts. It is time we use those privileges and that power to share our platform with women. What does this mean in terms of everyday life? What can we as men do to drive women’s equality, to ensure women have equal opportunities, and that they have the equity necessary to achieve their potential?
When I began my journey into allyship and men’s work 22 years ago, one of my first stops was a women’s leadership conference where I was the only man. Instead of making me feel awkward or unwelcome, the women there encouraged me and inspired me to forge ahead. We men could really benefit from the kind of collaborative attitude that women often exude. Imagine if instead of talking over others (namely women) during meetings and calls, we instead shared space and allowed other voices to be heard. Imagine if we could take a moment to acknowledge the contributions women make and let them know they are appreciated. Imagine if we could use our spare time to mentor a young woman in the workplace. Imagine how much better off we would all be with these small actions.
Without the supportive women in my life, there is no telling where I might be today. For it has been women who have best modeled action-oriented allyship with me. It has been predominantly women who have encouraged and supported me to be the ally they needed me to be. Women have taught me; women have given me the feedback I needed to hear; women have encouraged me and they have loved me as I am. Women have been my key supporters in my journey to being a Better Man.
On this day that represents the victories women have fought to achieve, it is hard to ignore the wave of changes affecting our country in regard to women’s reproductive rights. The Journey to Allyship is a journey of the heart and it requires each of us to understand the lived experiences of others so that we can support individuals from historically marginalized groups. The topic of abortion can easily be categorized as a binary (right/wrong) issue. Depending on which side you find yourself on, the temptation to invalidate, make wrong, defend, justify, accuse, and more is very real. Allies listen from the heart, they seek to understand, they don’t attempt to make decisions on behalf of others and instead ask others how they can best be of service. I encourage you to reach out to the women in your life and ask how this is impacting THEM. Our role is to be allies and to support others in the way THEY ask us to support them.
As a white, cisgender man myself, I know the spotlight is on us and I understand that it might at times feel like we are being demonized in the workplace and in society. I understand the temptation to respond with defensiveness or to turn away from women because we are scared to say or do the wrong thing. But instead of retracting and detracting from the creation of a more inclusive world, let’s show that we care by showing up as allies and advocates for women so that we can see true equality in our lifetime. If you are interested in understanding the experiences of the women in our organization as it relates to allyship and men’s work check out our last blog post, Pass the Mic.