Pt. 2 - 4 Important Key Themes To Inclusionary Leadership

Pt. 2 - 4 Important Key Themes To Inclusionary Leadership

Last week we began sharing 4 important key themes to inclusionary leadership as described by Ray Arata, the founder of the Better Man Conference , co-founder of the Gender Leadership Group, and the author of Wake Up, Man Up, Step Up. 

Theme 1 is, "We can choose possibility over pain" and Theme 2 is, "Partnership of the head and heart, in order to make what is possible, real."  This week he shares both Theme 3  and Theme 4.

A Safe Space For Every Man: Vulnerability, Masculinity, And Modeling Allyship

A Safe Space For Every Man: Vulnerability, Masculinity, And Modeling Allyship

200+ leaders and many great diverse speakers and panelists, both men and women came together to be a part of the movement to engage men as inclusionary leaders at the Better Man Conference 2017 recently.

The Better Man Conference is a safe place for male leaders to enter into the inclusion conversation.

One of our popular guest speakers was Jennifer Brown diversity and inclusion expert, speaker, and author of Diversity, The New Workplace and The Will To Change.  She says the following in her recent newsletter when reflecting on the conference:

Jennifer Brown:

To stand on that stage and look out at hundreds of men, willing to learn from one another—men who were challenged, during the course of the conference, to model the value they place on inclusion in public, and make it safe for others to do the same—was a powerful experience.

As a woman and keynote speaker, I realized I had a certain role to play, as teacher, supporter, witness, and mentor.

Vulnerability at Home, Work and More

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Vulnerability At Home, Work and More


Even at the top of our game, we men find ourselves wanting more from life. 

This week we are sharing a podcast that covers vulnerability at home, work and more. It's entitled,  "How Gender Equality Benefits You and Makes You Happier" and it features Ray Arata, Co-Founder of Gender Leadership Group & Founder of the Better Man Conference interviewed by Shana James, Founder of Man Alive. 

Here's a larger list of what the podcast covers:

  • How to grow and evolve into the man you want to be, without being driven by other's expectations or shame.
  • What you stand to gain from gender inclusion and supporting women in your life.
  • How to handle vulnerability, even in a corporate context.
  • The benefits of starting to live and lead with your heart open.
  • One surprising thing you can do that leads to other men trusting you more.

Contact to learn about GENDER PARTNERSHIP training, COACHING or CONSULTING for your organization.

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On behalf of Gender Leadership Group, the Better Man Conference, and all of our team members, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts to all of our attendees, speakers, sponsors, marketing partners, and supporters for being such an important part of the men's inclusionary leadership movement.

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Advancing Women Of Color, Should You Be Doing More?

Advancing Women Of Color, Should You Be Doing More?

This Tuesday we will do a live Better Man Chat on Twitter entitled, Allies To People Of Color.  Join us on Twitter at #BetterManChat   Meantime, In Walking The Talk Pt. 3, Advancing Women Of Color, Should You Be Doing More? Rayona Sharpnack, Founder of The Institute For Women's Leadership indicates that for women of color it is "10 x harder" to advance in the corporate world than it is for white women.  33% of the officers at Genentech are women. Julius Prior, Head of Innovation, Diversity & Inclusion at Genentech addresses a number of topics in relation to advancing women of color including what the benefits of advancing women of color are, plans for advancing women of color, and what challenges they or other companies might face in advancing women of color.  As you watch the video or read the transcript below, we invite you to consider if you or your company should be doing more to help advance women of color.

Gender Equality, Are You Asking The Right Questions?

Gender Equality, Are You Asking The Right Questions?

In this video, Bill Ingham, Vice President of Global Human Resources at Visa indicates that connecting to executive leadership and enrolling "lighthouses" in the organization is key to developing a successful ally program.

Julius Pryor III, Head of Innovation, Diversity & Inclusion at Genentech adds that often there are women or people of color that are ready to move in to  positions of responsibility yet barriers are put in their way.  He asks (paraphrase),  What is it about the organization 

The "Real" Scoop On Inclusivity; We All Want The Same Thing.






Gender Leadership Group Blog:

The "Real" Scoop On Inclusivity;

We All Want The Same Thing.

We are all human- and that is the invitation and reminder of this touching video on Inclusivity.  

While the pressure to be super human and not talk about how we feel lingers, my invitation is to let that go and to come from our hearts so we can create a true sense of belonging for ourselves and those around us.

We may look different on the outside yet inside we have one major thing in common; our hearts and the capacity to come from the heart.

Being human means we make mistakes and others may experience the impact of them.

Being human means we can forgive and take accountability.

Being human means we all want the SAME THING; to be seen, heard, valued, and respected for who we are.

At the Better Man Conference in September, we will be hearing from  a variety of people that represent marginalized groups and their stories . Th invitation is for anyone who seeks to be an ally, to listen from the heart and step into heart based allyship.










Visit to learn about GENDER PARTNERSHIP training, COACHING or CONSULTING for your organization.

Gender Over Race More Adverse Impact On My Life, Hall of Famer

Gender Over Race More Adverse Impact On My Life, Hall of Famer

The real opportunity is for these leaders to embrace the healthy masculinity which subscribes to  emotional literacy, accountability, and the heart centered leadership paradigm.

It's time for these men to throw away what it means to be a "real man" and step on the path of becoming a better man for themselves , their companies, their relationships and their communities.

It is these concepts and more that more than 200 men will step into at the Better Man Conference in San Francisco in September of 2017.  Women are invited as well as there are benefits for their attendance too.

The Connection Between Toxic Masculinity & Silicon Valley

The Connection Between Toxic Masculinity & Silicon Valley

The real opportunity is for these leaders to embrace the healthy masculinity which subscribes to  emotional literacy, accountability, and the heart centered leadership paradigm.

It's time for these men to throw away what it means to be a "real man" and step on the path of becoming a better man for themselves , their companies, their relationships and their communities.

It is these concepts and more that more than 200 men will step into at the Better Man Conference in San Francisco in September of 2017.  Women are invited as well as there are benefits for their attendance too.




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       "In that moment where I could choose to show you my tears, speak to my fear, whatever the case may be, I’ve learned to just swan dive and show myself to you. Every single time I’ve done that, especially with men, I get comments like, “Ray, I’d follow you anywhere.”    The quote above was included in an email from Jennifer Brown, President and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting,  It was sent to her  The Will To Change:  Uncovering True Stories of Diversity and Inclusion  podcast audience.    She was announcing a podcast which included an interview with me discussing    the fears that male leaders struggle with in addressing inclusion and diversity.     This topic is covered at the 15:35 mark (scroll down to find podcast) yet there is much more covered in the podcast which I encourage you to explore as well.   Here's how Jennifer describes the interview:   Ray Arata, Founder of  The Better Man Conference  & Co-Founder of  The Gender Leadership Group  shares his experience of developing his own healthy masculinity and the work that he is doing to engage men and women in partnering to support gender equality. Ray shares what he sees as the biggest obstacles that prevent men from embracing their full self, and the fears that male leaders have about addressing inclusion and diversity. He also shares his perspective on the importance of women embracing men as allies for gender equality, and why gender equality is beneficial for everyone.  In this episode you’ll discover:    Ray’s wake up call that led him to discover healthy masculinity (2:58)  A “rite of passage” that helped Ray wake up to his true self (3:53)  A central theme that Ray heard from women in organizations (9:25)  Why Ray decided to create a conference for men (11:30)  A deep fear that many male leaders experience (15:35)  How men can bring their full self to work (16:25)  How to close the gap between the intention for equality and results (24:41)  The role that women can play in engaging men (27:40)     Some of the speakers and topics at the Better Man Conference (34:00)  A cutting edge topic in inclusionary leadership (36:46)  Gender lessons that Ray learned from his niece (39:17)  The unique challenges that transgender individuals experience in the workplace (41:01)  The role of femininity in men’s work (41:48)              Listen to the podcast here or read the full transcript below.       JENNIFER BROWN:  Ray, welcome to  The Will to Change .   RAY ARATA:  Thank you, Jennifer. It’s good to hear your voice.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Thank you. I’m glad you’re here with us today.  We are going to learn a lot from you today on a topic that fascinates me and moves me both in my head and my heart — men stepping forward as allies for equality.  There are very few of you who do this work full time. I can count them on maybe one or two hands. Your story goes way back. Your awakening has happened over multiple “ah-hah” moments. When we were preparing for this, we talked about it as “multiple hero’s journeys.” I loved that because normally we think of the hero’s journey as perhaps a one-time thing in our lives, it’s that one big crisis, it’s that challenge that we had to pivot out of, recover from, and somehow come back and make the world a better place as a result.  You’ve had multiple moments like that, and it sounds like the universe had a lot to teach you in order to bring you to the point now where you can hold the space for the conversations that you’re holding, which is so important to the world right now.  Would you take us back through those journeys? What happened in each, and how did they build on each other in order to bring you to where you are today?   RAY ARATA:  I’d be happy to do so. I might need you to remind me, but we’ll get there.  The big moment, my true wake-up call where pain was my teacher was in 1999 over the span of four months. After building a custom home, moving in with my then wife and three children, who were seven, five, and three, at 1:00 in the morning, I got the “I don’t think I can be married to you anymore” speech.  I just remember in that moment thinking, “What? This isn’t making sense to me.” That started my wake-up call spiral.  At that time, I had a financial services business providing retirement consulting to high-tech startups. Six weeks later, a male partner and friend left and went to another firm. In that millisecond, he went from friend to foe. So it was a double-whammy wake-up call that had me languishing for six months until one day my unlikely knight in shining armor — my manager in the financial service industry — called me out on some of my behavior.  I walked into his office and he said, “Ray, I want to invite you to consider going to a men’s weekend.” He handed me a brochure. I’ll save the guys’ talk spoken in that moment, but he smiled and said, “I can’t tell you what goes on there, but call my wife. It changed my life.”  I walked out of that office saying, “I want to do whatever I can to save my marriage and my family.” I got on a plane to Houston, and I went to what we now call in the ManKind Project an “initiation into healthy manhood” — a rite of passage, if you will.  Unbeknownst to me, this rite of passage was the journey from my head to my heart. It had me look at my behaviors. Some healing occurred on this weekend, and a tremendous amount of awareness that had me wake up to myself to see the impact I was having on myself, others, and all my relationships.  That started my journey, and I was still a financial services representative. That’s the big wake-up call number one.  In 2007, just before the great recession, I had my second wake-up call. I was coming to terms with the realities of not wanting to be in the toxic financial services industry any longer. For those eight years I had been leading men’s weekends, running men’s circles, and the big guy in the sky was starting to send men and women to me to sit down and have cups of coffee because a lot of men were struggling.  I began to realize I was living two separate lives. I was doing all this men’s work that was lighting me up, and I was still in the financial services industry. I made the very painful and necessary decision to leave the financial services industry, and with some struggle, I set out on my next hero’s journey as a coach. I was trying to figure out, “What is my expression? What is my purpose?” And even though it was right in front of me, it was difficult to fully embrace.  I languished. I started to get some clients, but things kept moving forward. In 2011, someone close to me said, “Ray, you need to write a book. You need to write a book. You need to get all the stuff that’s inside of you to the outside for others. You need to play a bigger game.” That’s what I remember being told.  I set out and I wrote this book called   Wake Up, Man Up, Step Up: Transforming Your Wake-Up Call into Emotional Health and Happiness ,  with the intention to meet what I imagined to be millions of men at a wake-up call moment.   JENNIFER BROWN:  What you “imagined” being the operative word.   RAY ARATA:  Exactly. Once I wrote the book, unbeknownst to me, I had no idea what was going to happen. Jennifer, as you know, a lot of people write books for a lot of different reasons. Some just need to get it out, some want to try to make money, some consider it a calling card or a business card. I didn’t know any of those things. I just knew I needed to write the book.  One day, I met a diversity and inclusion consultant who did a lot of women’s leadership work, and she wanted to meet with me. She said, “Ray, I really think you’ve got something here. I’m really curious about your “man” expertise. Let’s meet.”  I’ll never forget the question she asked me: “What would you do if you had a room full of women leaders, leaving them wanting more?” And I said, “Honestly, I don’t know.”  So I went back to the book that I wrote for men. In the book, there is one chapter called  Your Father  and another called  Your Mother . I wrote about influences of the mother onto the son, and influences of the father onto the son.  I looked at that and thought, “Oh my God, those influences apply to women.” So I put together a whole package of a workshop and I put it in front of her. Lesson number one: Ray, it’s not about you going in there telling the women or coaching the women. Your role is with the men. That was an important and valuable lesson, which kept me asking, “Where is my gold? What am I supposed to be doing? Who am I supposed to be working with?” Which is not to say I don’t have work to do with women.   JENNIFER BROWN:  No.   RAY ARATA:  My hero’s journey came when I formed a company called Gender Allies with dear friends Rayona Sharpnack and Robin Terrell — two women.  We were pretty early in the conversation around gender partnership, recognizing that many companies were putting a lot of time, money, and resources towards skilling up women, women’s leadership conferences, women’s ERGs. That’s one leg of the stool. A lot of companies were also addressing the institutional barriers and blind spots, and they started to do unconscious bias training, et cetera.  But I connected to the third leg of the stool when I started to speak at women’s conferences. When I started listening to the women, being the emotional man that I am, I heard the sadness, I heard the anger, I heard the frustration. But what really got my attention was the lack of progress.  In that moment, it all came rushing at me. All the stories that my mom told me about being second born in an Italian family where her older brother got all the rights and privileges. Culturally, in an Italian family, that meant she didn’t. I thought about my wife, who is the oldest of seven children in a San Francisco family where the youngest brother runs the real estate company. I thought about my daughter, who was graduating from Duke with a degree in computer science. Talk about a big wake-up call amidst my hero’s journey. In that moment I realized, “Ray, this men’s work that you’re doing, it’s great that you’re helping men, but what are you supposed to be doing with it?”  I realized in that moment that I was supposed to go forward to work with male leaders to help them understand and own their privilege, to make that conscious, heartfelt decision — and business decision — that it’s time for male leaders to step into being the modern-day inclusionary leader. That meant becoming a gender partner for women and becoming an ally to other minority groups.  That journey has been going on for about five years. I’ve had many moments, and a lot of it was lonely, questioning myself. I know that this is much bigger than me, so I was smart enough to fly in the face of the old, macho paradigm of not asking for help, so I’ve been asking for help and support all along the way.  Only recently have things begun to change. I’d say my last and current hero’s journey happened whilst I was going to these panels, talking to rooms full of women about why it’s important to engage men, not as the white knight, but as partners, and beginning to understand that there’s something in it for men as well. I realized I was going to these women’s conferences and I was one of very few men. Who is doing something to put the spotlight, attention, learning, and awareness for the men? Which helped me, through a mentor of mine, to see that I needed to do a conference.  That’s how the Better Man Conference was born last year. Let me tell you, creating something out of nothing is extremely difficult. Signing your name next to a $50-, $60-, $80,000 price tag with a line of credit?   JENNIFER BROWN:  Yes.   RAY ARATA:  Somehow, some way, the doors opened. I met Sheryl Sandberg, I met Jennifer Siebel Newsom, I met Michael Kimmel. A lot of these people have become friends and colleagues of mine. I just kept asking for help.  The conference was a success, and here we are. And you’re going to be one of our featured speakers come September in San Francisco. We’re already 60-percent sold out, the sponsors are there, and now companies want to address this topic of engaging male allies.  I’m in it right now, and I imagine another hero’s journey is coming, but I don’t know what it is, so I’ll stop there.   JENNIFER BROWN:  I love it. But you are going to welcome it when it comes.   RAY ARATA:  Yes, I am.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Now you have the muscle to get through it and figure out, “What is the message in this?” You’re incredibly open. You’re one of the most open-hearted people I’ve met, and you are truly listening to the need and you want to be in service. Obviously, we share that so much. If that means we change our business model 20 times in our career, so be it.   RAY ARATA:  I’ve done it about 20 times.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Exactly. Kudos to you for creating a space for all of us who are interested in this.  In my book,   Inclusion  , which came out two weeks after the election in November — I will always remember it that way, for better or worse — I did write a lot about the role of male leaders. I’ve been exposed to some really wonderful male leaders in the context of usually the executive sponsors of diversity efforts within corporate clients. They step forward. Sometimes they’re “volun-told” as you and I know. Often, they step forward and say, “I’d like to be the sponsor of this effort and lend my social capital, use my voice, my platform, my seniority, my connections, and my funding.” There are people who are quietly doing this, and I think they are the unheralded heroes. They’re important role models, actually, to pull out and show to the world.  I find that many men don’t know how to enter the conversation. Perhaps it’s because the penalties for making mistakes in the public eye, particularly for very senior men, are so swift and severe. I know you agree with me on this. Just look at  what happened with the man on the Uber board and the Arianna Huffington situation  where he made some quip such as, “More women might be good for representation, but bad for the amount of talking that’s going to happen in the meeting.” He was gone within 24 or 48 hours from his role.  You and I talked about that. We need some flexibility in this process where we’re all learning how to be with each other and supportive of each other. There are going to be mistakes made, but our greatest fear — yours and mine — is that people are going to become afraid of coming into the conversation, putting themselves out there, asking for help, or acknowledging their learning curve. That’s particularly hard for male leaders, who tend to dominate corporate America, because we envision a paradigm in which they have to be bullet proof and have all the answers. Unfortunately, when we envision a leader, usually they’re only male.  It takes a lot of work to keep that façade up for men, it’s exhausting. From all the data that I share in my keynotes, I know that men are not bringing their full selves to work.  We want to create accountability for decisions we don’t agree with, comments that are made, or in the case of that same company, inaction around harassment or bad behavior. How do we create enough flexibility for people to trust that this is a conversation that they can really have?   RAY ARATA:  In hearing your question around flexibility, Jennifer, whatever comes up for me is a multi-faceted answer. Contextually, what I want to say first is this is where healthy masculinity and what that means in the context of leadership comes in.  You mentioned a few of these leaders are quiet leaders. Part of me says, “We need them to not be quiet.” You’re correct, it’s exhausting to hold the façade up and be closed down, et cetera. For the modern-day, inclusionary leader, I think it’s a combination of humility, being humble, being in one’s heart, understanding the power of vulnerability, and recognizing where we are on the spectrum of being an ally. It’s that kind of leader that’s going to give permission to be human to other leaders, middle managers, all the way down, and to lend their hands, lend the support, be willing to make mistakes. But until those leaders are willing to model that, it’s going to be a very challenging situation.  I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s my first salvo.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Yes. I couldn’t agree more. I think leaders set an enormous tone. What I’ve noticed as a woman doing this work — a white woman as well — is the juxtaposition of what I can say and how I can influence around, say, men’s roles in inclusion and being inclusionary leaders. It’s just different than how men speak to other men.  That’s going to be a very important leverage point for all of us who care about creating change. It’s not always up to us to do the teaching. And when I say “us” I speak for the community of women, for example.  It’s very important for men to influence other men — perhaps most important for that dynamic to occur. Whether we agree with that or not, maybe it’s a status thing. I don’t know how you look at that, but maybe it’s the status that men ascribe to other men. It’s a powerful motivator. Whether we like it or not, that’s the way our world works.  How do you need men to influence other men by standing up and creating that momentum that none of us seem to be able to create?   RAY ARATA:  The words that come to mind are “courage” and “heartfelt.”  When we were talking earlier about covering, it occurred to me that my journey as a man has been to cover my heart less, my emotional side of things. I’m just realizing in this moment how many men are afraid to be authentic. Only through experience is there an understanding to lead more with your heart because there’s a sweetness to it, all of these benefits.  I’ve had numerous experiences leading men. In that moment where I could choose to show you my tears, speak to my fear, whatever the case may be, I’ve learned to just swan dive and show myself to you. Every single time I’ve done that, especially with men, I get comments like, “Ray, I’d follow you anywhere.”  What I’ve come to realize, from a vulnerability perspective, is that there is immense power. Why do I bring up courage? It takes courage to take that risk for all men despite what your brain is telling you.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Your brain is telling you to be afraid because of the peer pressure, the social penalty.   RAY ARATA:  Don’t do it. Yeah. You’re going to get annihilated. If you show them, you’re going to get taken out. Or there is the social pressure that guys are going to look at you weird and ostracize you. I’ve gone through all of that. Despite the fact that I’m a white, male, heterosexual man with economic privilege and I’m over six feet, go figure, I’ve still got all of this going on inside of me. Yeah. I’m not different.   JENNIFER BROWN:  And you still feel afraid. You shared with me that you felt alone for a long time doing this work.   RAY ARATA:  Yes. Yes.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Respectfully, you were ahead of the curve.   RAY ARATA:  Yes.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Some of us feel like we’ve been waiting for the inclusion conversation to really catch fire for a long time — a long time. It finally has in this really interesting way. Do you think something has really ignited and there’s an opening of the door to all of this that’s occurred?  I do want to bring up our president because you and I had an interesting conversation, and not an overly negative one. It’s more thinking about the impetus to action, and perhaps the real persona that he represents, and perhaps as an instigator or the role that his persona plays in creating change, in motivating change, in increasing a sense of urgency. It gives us more fodder to work with, more interest, more readiness, and more willingness to actually have these kinds of conversations.   RAY ARATA:  Yes. I see Donald Trump as an instigator. If I’m going to love everyone, I have to be able to also look at someone like Donald Trump and say, “He’s a man.” I could make up that he might be a pained man. I could make up that he takes things very seriously. But when I look at the effect that he’s had, it makes me think of Carl Jung and his talk about “shadow,” which was his word for the parts of us that we hide, repress, and deny.  All of us have beliefs about ourselves. Unless we’re paying attention, we can get triggered and our behavior sneaks up. What happens when you have a president like Donald Trump, you see that shadow part of him out there in public. The reason that’s a good thing is because it brings it out of the dark and into the light. Everyone can make a decision, even him, where do we go from here? There’s no hiding.  Unfortunately, for a lot of people, it’s bringing up a tremendous amount of fear and anger. For some people who may voted for him and wish they didn’t, shame.  We’re in a moment of time where I really believe that as an American, it’s time that we all step forward, and come together. We’re going to look back on this time, and Trump will have been part of this. Rather than render negative judgment on the guy, I’m just going to say that in a weird sort of way, he’s a spiritual teacher of the lesser-known variety.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Thank you for that. Somehow, that’s very healing to me. I think you have articulated that everyone has a purpose. You’re right, I am certain that this will serve a purpose, and our job is to discover what that is, to pay attention, to be present, and to choose proactively who we want to be as people.  What I’ve found since then is the allies have stepped forward. People are beginning to understand that being well intentioned is not enough. Before the election, what I struggled with most in creating organizational change was motivating people who call themselves allies. I’m not sure they would even call themselves allies, I’m not sure they even knew what that word meant, but they would describe themselves as progressive or believing in equality, or the classic that men might say about having a working female partner, wife, or daughters.  People would come to me and say, “I’m well meaning, this is something I really relate to.” And yet, it didn’t go far enough in terms of that showing of yourself that you were talking about earlier, that courageous, uncomfortable edge that we need more leaders to live on. If I’m well intended and it’s 2017, equality and diversity is a thing that’s baked into everything.  From where I sit, organizations are completely blind to unconscious bias and are not navigating this in an effective way. This is the reason that we still see problems such as lack of representation of diverse talent and nothing is changing. Year over year, the demographics have stayed the same in all of the companies. When you look through all the tech companies that disclosed their data three years ago, nothing has changed in spite of being transparent, doing training for everyone, et cetera. Merely saying, “I’m well intended, I voted this way, I have daughters, and I want a better world for them” just hasn’t proved to be enough.   RAY ARATA:  No.   JENNIFER BROWN:  What are we missing in the equation to really light the fire that many of us so desperately want in order to really create the sea change?   RAY ARATA:  Well, first of all, you and I have been at both ends of what it means to be an ally. One is not an ally until someone in a marginalized group so anoints you.  What we’re talking about here, and the stretch I would offer to all men, is that it’s about commitment. This is the phrase I’ve been using lately: Are you willing to call yourself an ally in training? It has a stretch feel to it, there’s a commitment because you’ve spoken it. Are you willing to walk the path to be an ally, not just at work, but to people in your community and in your family?  Having that conversation, I have yet to meet a guy who wouldn’t want to do that. There’s a role for women to ask the men around them what most guys love to be asked to do — to support somebody else. I always invite women by saying, “There has got to be one guy in your organization whom you like and connect with, ask for his support. Offer yours. Have a gendered partnership conversation.”  It’s going to take that commitment. It’s going to have to come from the heart. I keep coming back to the heart. It’s going to have to come back to the heart. That’s why I’m trying to get a movement going, and I’m trying to bring forward this redefinition of masculinity in the context of leadership. I hear, “Business case, business case, business case.” And I’m sitting here thinking, “What about the human case? What about these men who are fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, partners?” They already know. They’re in relationship, so all I’m trying to do is remind them, “All this stuff you’re doing over here in your personal life, it has application in your business life.” You have got two families, your business family and your personal family, and there’s dysfunction in both.  So I’m really trying to bring forward family ideals because everyone wants to belong and be at the table literally and metaphorically. One serves soul food; one serves real food.   JENNIFER BROWN:  I love that. Which is which might vary from person to person.   RAY ARATA:  Of course, yes.   JENNIFER BROWN:  I know you have also really paid attention to intersectionality in your latest iteration. You’ve walked your own path as an ally, either self-proclaimed or identified by someone else, hopefully both.  When you morphed from gender partner to ally, that was important. It’s not just semantics. I’m sure that was really intentional. How have you come to define intersectionality in your men’s work? I am so curious, when we talk about masculinity, are we picturing the white, straight guy? This is gender, white, straight guy. Or where is the role and the room for the LGBT man? The trans man? The man of color? What about different generations of men and boys who are looking at these things so differently? And yet, they continue to imprint on each other, generation after generation in some unhealthy ways.  How are you thinking about that intentional answer, baking it into your approaches these days?   RAY ARATA:  First of all, healthy masculinity is an inside job. It’s not how we look, it’s how we “be.” The one common throughput amongst all men is that we all have a heart and we all, in our own way, want to be in our truth.  To me, healthy masculinity is about being in your truth, in your heart, and understanding and appreciating sameness and differences.  On my path, especially in the  ManKind Project , we’ve put together multicultural men’s groups so that men can connect at the heart level, but also do their work around intersectionality.  I’ve sat in a group where I was the only white man. I was told by a biracial man, “Ray, I need you in this group so I can do my work around white men.” It’s the heart that drives us and connects us.  When I went from being a gender partner and looking at all the leadership work I was doing, I said, “You know what? There’s more work that I need to do.” As a member of the northern California leader body of the ManKind Project, I have blessed three gay men into our community. I have been asked to be a partner with several women of color who were in the VC community. The intersectionality is everywhere.  I went through a training one time in which they handed out a piece of paper. There were all these boxes to check like, “Have you ever been marginalized?” There were no boxes for me to check. I felt some shame around this.  Then one person said, “Hey, Ray, weren’t you just in the hospital getting your hip replaced? And didn’t you just have an experience where you were marginalized?” And when he said that, I started to cry. It was probably one of the first times that I really understood.  I’m still learning. I still call myself an “ally in training” because I don’t profess to know everything. The moment I do that, game over for me.   JENNIFER BROWN:  I love that humility. Absolutely. Give us some of the amazing names that you have attracted to your conference coming up in the fall. I’m so honored to be speaking at this conference. Tell us about individuals who are doing great work who have different perspectives on this. I know you partner so well and appreciate all of the viewpoints because it’s going to take a village to have this conversation.  Who is having the complementary conversations? Which organizations are into this, embracing it, and running with it, in your opinion? Who are pushing the boundaries and investing in men’s leadership in the way that you support or are involved with?   RAY ARATA:  A friend who’s near and dear to me, one of them is  Michael Kimmel  and the Center for Men and Masculinity. His message is that gender equality has something in it for men. Consider that.  Another name would be  Don McPherson , a retired NFL football player, self-proclaimed feminist who has a tremendous amount of passion around this topic. He has been talking lately about his recognition as a man of color that before white men could be asked to step out and be courageous, they need to embrace their wholeness as a man. Imagine me, as a white man, hearing that from him. It’s very, very powerful.  I’m excited to have you at the conference, Jennifer. In addition, I’m also going to have a guy by the name of David Smith. He’s out of the Navy, and  he co-wrote a book with his partner, Brad, around mentoring . He will be there.  Others who will be speaking include the national diversity and inclusion officer at Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Ronald Copeland; Chris Crace, who is running the HeForShe campaign for Pricewaterhouse; and Noni Allwood from the Center for Talent Innovation. There’s a whole list of folks who are going to be talking.  My partners include: The Professional Businesswomen of California; The Good Men Project; The ManKind Project, who is a sponsor; The Representation Project, headed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom; Lean In, headed by Sheryl Sandberg; and Rachel Thomas, who spoke last year. I could go on and on, my mind is blanking a little bit, but that’s just to name a few.   JENNIFER BROWN:  That’s impressive. David Smith is going to be on   The Will to Change podcast   as well. I love his work.   RAY ARATA:  Beautiful.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Yes. His book is called   Athena Rising  , and it’s about why men should mentor women. A man writing on that topic is a super unique kind of book to have in the world, especially coming from a Naval officer. Am I correct in that?   RAY ARATA:  Yes. Yes, you are.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Yes. He does incredible work, too. Ray, what are you most excited about? Which edge are you most excited about pushing at the upcoming conference? An edge, where you may not know where this is going to lead, but you’re going to put it out there and trust that, somehow, this community will swarm around it and push forward.   RAY ARATA:  The very fact that we are springboarding from gender to the other areas, the other marginalized groups, that in and of itself is the edge.  Men aren’t totally in the conversation with women yet. So for me to bring in LGBTQ, to bring in race and ethnicity, talk about fear. I have some fear around that — healthy fear, not the shut-down kind of fear. I want it to be welcomed, embraced, and acted upon.  We made some decisions yesterday on the content flow, and I’m really excited about the experience and how it’s shaping up. Probably what I’m most excited about is the gender breakout session in the morning. We’re going to put all the men in one room and all the women in another. We’re playing around, demand dependent, with also having a non-binary breakout to create the safe space, to have some introspection, a little bit of unpacking of unhealthy masculinity for the men, and a repacking for the rest of the conference. And for the women, ideas on how they can engage with men and what they need to understand about this whole healthy masculinity piece. I’m really looking forward to that.   JENNIFER BROWN:  That’s fabulous. Where did the idea for the non-binary breakout come from? What were those discussions like with your planning committee?   RAY ARATA:  In the ManKind Project, while we’ve historically been a largely white organization, working really hard from a multicultural perspective, we continue to experience issues. We have a Gateway Weekend for gay men and questioning men and trans men to go have their men’s weekend. The spotlight is on this topic for us, and has been for a while.  To the credit of one of my partners, he said, “Ray, as the ManKind Project chair-elect, this issue is becoming more and more real. We need to up our game. As you look at the binary/non-binary scale, we need to at least bring attention to this and be cognizant of it and see if there’s something to be done.”  If that’s not enough, I have a niece who is gay who is teaching me. I didn’t know what “pan” meant a year ago, or going to a training and understanding cisgendered. Right now, everyone is very, very open.  I have a friend who is an executive at a top company who says he has a trans kid. The vocabulary is coming in, it’s real, it’s not going away, and I think it’s about time. I don’t want to be any different in that, and I want to create the opening if possible and educate.   JENNIFER BROWN:  I love that you are going to allow for that and enable that space. I’ve learned so many amazing things from my transgender colleagues and friends. Watching them navigate the relative status of being female or being male — visibly female, visibly male — and the differences they experience in the workplace as they show up. Now, they have experience as showing up as two different genders. All of those changes speak volumes to what you and I are talking about. There are norms that we need to unpack, question, challenge, and hopefully change. Our trans colleagues, friends, and loved ones live that up close and personal every day. There is so much that can be taught around that experience, led by those stories around gender norms that we haven’t questioned. And when I say “we,” it might be the cisgender community.  There is a lot of knowledge and inspiration that will come from the LGBT community around the gender conversation in general because that’s such a fundamental, core conversation for our entire community. Are you feminine enough? Are you masculine enough? Are you non-binary? And how do people respond to that? How do people learn to live in the gray around identity when we tend to be such a binary world? We need to learn that.   RAY ARATA:  Here’s the question and the answer: It has to do with being human. The highest context here is “human.” As much as I’m a masculinity guy, my 18 years of doing men’s work has been a journey towards my inner feminine on the way to being a whole person.  When I talk to men and women, I invite women by saying, “Listen, I understand that it may have been necessary for you to over masculinize yourself to compete and be successful, my invitation is to bring more of your feminine characteristics.” And to the guys, “It’s not so bad, these feminine qualities inside of us are pretty cool.” Hence, everybody, let’s be more human. That’s the invitation to navigate forward.  There is one other thing, Jennifer, that you asked earlier. What do we need going forward? What might leaders need? The word that came to mind is “resilience.”  At the conference, a gentleman named Victor Lee Lewis is going to lead a session in the afternoon which is designed to be totally experiential. It’s called  Building Resilience as Allies.  If you’re a white woman, what does that mean to you? He’s going to touch upon that. I’m thrilled that he’s going to be doing that session. He’s a master.   JENNIFER BROWN:  I cannot wait.   RAY ARATA:  There is stuff in there for all of us.   JENNIFER BROWN:  I’m so excited. I love what you said, “Masculinity and femininity are energies, and we possess them.” When we’re out of balance, like everything in the world, that’s when unhealthiness happens.  Unfortunately, the corporate world has skewed the balance differently than you and I know is healthy. It harms everyone in the equation. Those who are over balanced towards one side and under balanced towards another are not able to show their full selves. Women are not able to bring their full selves to work, or masquerading as something that’s not true for them. It is truly making us sick, both emotionally and physically. Add it to the list of things that we need to change in the world of work so that we can make work really work for us, all of us, and all parts of ourselves.  I really appreciate this. I want to leave folks with information on you and the conference and things that you’re involved in. Where would you point people to learn more about Better Man and anything else you want to share?   RAY ARATA:  Sure. For the conference, go to . There is plenty of information there, including an opportunity to sign up for a newsletter. The conference will be in September, that’s one place.  The other place you can go is , that is our consulting company. There’s a newsletter sign-up. We’re pushing out a lot of content for people to understand and learn from. We’ll be out on social media, I don’t know the Twitter tags (Update: #BetterMen #Better Leaders) but be that as it may, that’s all out there.  For the men who may be listening, if this masculinity talk has you curious, you can go to Amazon and look up   Wake Up, Man Up, Step Up  . Read the reviews. Decide for yourself. It’s a book I wrote for men to go on their own journey. While it’s non-corporate, it’s personal and heartfelt in nature. You’ll get it, trust me.   JENNIFER BROWN:  I believe you. We are following you, Ray. Thank you for your leadership, your voice, your courage, and for being willing to be a little lonely out there occasionally in order to shine the light for all of us to go forward. I deeply, deeply appreciate it. I can’t wait to see what happens at this conference and what I learn in my own journey. I know you’re looking forward to the same.  Here’s to launching a new wave of masculinity, an understanding of it, and creating real change in the near term if we do this right. Thank you for coming on the show.   RAY ARATA:  Thanks so much, Jennifer. It was a true pleasure.   JENNIFER BROWN:  Thank you.   BETTER MAN CONFERENCE 2017 IS COMING !   presented by  Gender Leadership Group      


















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"In that moment where I could choose to show you my tears, speak to my fear, whatever the case may be, I’ve learned to just swan dive and show myself to you. Every single time I’ve done that, especially with men, I get comments like, “Ray, I’d follow you anywhere.”

Men, think about the women you care about

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Men, think about the women you care about.

Not only is advancing equality the "right" thing to do but I have a daughter and wife that I want to see continue to flourish in the world....this only flames the passion of advancing gender equality even more. In Part 5 of this series entitled, Gender Equality Has Something In It For Everyone-Including Men, Dr. Kimmel shares that it is through personal relationships with the women in our lives that we care about that we as men become stakeholders and gender equality allies in the gender equality movement.


So I believe that I think I've made the case right now that gender equality is in our interests as men. That it enables us to live the lives with our children, our partners, our families, ourselves, that we say we want to live.  But I want to add one more piece to it because I think it's a very important piece for our meeting here today.

And that is I want to talk a little bit about what we think it means, for what ways we enter this conversation.  Because here's what I heard in that exercise earlier that I found so profound.  I think we very often don't get as far when we talk as men, but rather when we talk in our relationships that we already have, to women and to children.

I'm going to tell you one more story.  I was recently at an Ivy League college, which is for those of you who know your Ivy League colleges, this is probably the most unreconstructed frat boy guy land Ivy League school.  So you probably know where I'm talking about, and I was talking with with eight guys from a fraternity.  Now the president of the University had asked me to go talk to this fraternity because he believed they were at elevated risk for sexual assault.  

So I was sitting there talking to about eight guys and I was just asking them questions, as I typically do in my interviews, things like you know like , “Tell me what it's like to be a student here.” and they replied, “Oh my god, it’s so fantastic!  And the parties, they are so awesome! Everybody gets so completely drunk and then we all hook up!  It's fantastic!”  Now there's a part of me, I have to say, the parent part of me, that is saying, “So you get so drunk that you can barely stand up and then you like hook up? Like how good could the sex be?”  I mean I don't want my kid to just have sex, I want him to have good sex.  This is not a good recipe for that. But the other part, so they're all talking about this and then in a moment of silence one guy utterly unsolicited by me said, “You know, I wouldn't let my daughter go here.”  And I thought what an interesting thing, you know..we heard that in the exercise, “I wouldn't let my daughter go here.”  So I said “Basically what you're saying is you wouldn't let your daughter date you...”  But what he was doing at that moment was he wasn't thinking like a guy, he was thinking like a dad. And I think we need to do that more publicly.




Every man in this room knows what it's like to love a woman and want her to thrive.  Every one of us does because we are not only men, but we're sons, we're husband's, we're lovers, we're partners, we're fathers, were grandfather's, we're friends, we're aunts, and uncles.  It is in our personal relationships that we know already what that feels like.  You want to meet an instant feminist?  Talk to a man whose daughter just hit puberty and he will tell you, “Oh my god! There are boys out there who are looking at my daughter the way I was taught to look at women….This has gotta stop!  Actually, it's gotta stop now.”  You want to meet an instant feminist talk to an older man who's grown daughter is experiencing harassment or discrimination in the workplace.  (He’ll say,) “We've got to change these workplaces.”  It is in our personal relationships that we become stakeholders first.  


Right?  I don't know if any of you read, The Onion, but there was a fantastic headline there not long ago that illustrates this it said, Eminem Furious That His Daughter Is Dating Someone Raised On Eminem's Music right?  It's like, “Oh now he's decided to read his own lyrics,” right?  

It's a change of perspective.  I think we as men must not only be thinking as men, but I invite us to think in terms of our personal relationship because we already know the answer.  See this is the thing that I constantly get, the resistance that you sometimes get, when you're trying to begin this conversation with guys is they fear, their defensive fear is, “you're going to tell me that I'm doing it all wrong, that I'm the problem and that I have to change.”  And I think that that's entirely wrong that is not what we're saying at all.  

I want men to be more authentically themselves, not different, but we already know this.  We already know the answer.  And so part of what I do and what when I work with organizations, is I basically pose the following and I'm just going to leave you with this as a last thought.  So I pose this dilemma because I think this is what we're wrestling with.  Typically I ask men, “What does it mean to be a good man?”  I like the “better man”(referring to the Better Man Conference) but,  “What does it mean to be a good man?”  And here's what men will say, “You know, you look up, you look at yourself in the morning and you say you're a good man.”  You think about what will be said of you at your funeral and you want people to say, “He was a good man!”  What does that mean?  And I'll tell you what men say, they say, “Being responsible, being reliable, being ethical, doing the right thing, having integrity.”   If I ask it in the south, they'll use the word honor.  They will use all kinds of (adjectives) “being a provider, a protector” right?  “Sacrificing for others.”  I think pretty much, that pretty much sums it up right?  That's what being a good man means.  And I asked them, “Where did you learn that?”  And they say, “It's everywhere, it's our you know, it's Homeric, it's Shakespearian, it's the judeo-christian heritage.”  I mean really seriously what's the Bible but a really big fat book that says this is how you be a good man?  The Old Testament says, “You do this you, don't do that.” and the New Testament says, “and will forgive you” that's basically it!  


So we know what it means to be a good man, it's in the air, it's in the water, except in Flint.  So we know what it means to be a good man. Now I say, “Okay you know what it means to be a good man, you tell me if those qualities, if those traits show up when I say, “Man the F up, be a real man.” completely different right? (Those are) completely different things.  Now it's about being hard, and tough, and strong, and powerful.  You know.. getting rich, getting laid, all of those sorts of things…..never showing your feelings, never showing weakness….and then I say, “Where did you learn that?”  And here's what men say in order; dad, coach, my guy friends, my older brother, women….way down that list.  So what I hear then is, it is other men who are policing your performance of being a “real man”.   

And so here's what I want to say, this is the message I want to give my own 17 year old.  I would love to tell him how awesome I am but what I really feel is the more honest thing is, I want him to know that there will be times in his life, as there have been times in every one of the men in this room's lives, when we have been asked to betray our own ethics, our own idea about what it means to be a good man, in order to prove that we are real men in the eyes of other men.  And what I want my son to know, it will cost you.  


I still remember when I was in eighth grade and the boy next to me in the locker room was being bullied and I knew I was supposed to do something.  What are you supposed to do when a guys next to you is being bullied?  Stand up for them.  Suddenly my shoes got so interesting. I didn't. I did the wrong thing. I did not stand up for him. I looked away, I was scared.  I thought that if I did stand up for him they'd come after me.  In other words I did the wrong thing.  This is 40 something years ago, I'm still ashamed of myself.   It will cost you when you betray your own ideas.  



So we are not proposing, and this is the important thing about the kind of work that Ray and I are doing together.  We are not proposing that men change into something else, we are asking men to be more authentically themselves.  To be able to look in the mirror more often to say, “You did the right thing.  You know you stood up for the little guy.”  So for me, our support of gender equality is not only because it is right and fair and just, which it is, and which should be enough but also because it's in our interest as men because we are stakeholders in this conversation and it will enable us to have the kind of relationships with our partners, our friends, or lovers, our wives, our children, and ultimately with ourselves. Thank you very much.



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This is uncomfortable....and that's ok....

We are happy to say there is a diversity and inclusion revolution going on and we are proud the Better Man Conference and Gender Leadership Group are a part of it yet for many men, including many organizational leaders and managers, gender partnership and/or gender equality is still uncomfortable for them....and that's ok.  Often times becoming a modern day inclusionary leader poses difficult introspective challenges... and that's ok too, that's part of the work neccessary.

In Part 3 of this series entitled, Gender Equality Has Something In It For Everyone-Including Men, Dr. Kimmel discusses why so many men resist gender equality.  Later in the series he'll share how men benefit from it.  We invite you to be a part of the solution whether that means you facing uncomfortable introspection yourself and/or sharing this information with others.  We invite you to read Dr. Kimmel's transcript below or watch the video above.

Dr. Kimmel:

So part of my argument so far is that our first task in bringing men into the conversation about gender equality is bringing men into a conversation about gender….making us aware that gender is as important to us, as women understand it is to them, and that this is political.  

Now the second obstacle I want to talk about is men's resistance to gender equality because there is a notion out there that gender equality is a zero-sum game.  That if women win, men are going to lose.  

So I want to tell you a little bit about that.  I was on a TV talk show (a) few years ago, a very well-known black female host came out of Chicago, and just let me say,  I'm a university professor right and so you know we academics we do not make good talk show guests because the act of the talk show format is so polarized, so heated “yes”, “no”, “us”, “them”, “black” “white.”  And what academics do is we come up and go, “Well it's a little more complicated than that” which is, come on let's face it, bad TV.  But I was on this show opposite four white men whom I came to call “angry white men.”  Now I have to say that the book that I published in 2013 called Angry White Men,  the name Trump does not appear in this book, but it's very interesting to me, I keep thinking like,  “Wow! I'm so lucky I got that title then because I would never get it now.”  But I basically, these were my first angry white men, the first ones I ever encountered that made me start thinking.  And these guys all believed, and you have heard this in every one of your workplaces, they believed that they,  white men were the victims of reverse discrimination in the workplace.  That affirmative of action was actually now discrimination against white men.  And so these guys all had stories to tell about how they were qualified for promotion, qualified for a job, and they didn't get it, they were really angry.

The reason I'm telling you this story is I want you to hear the title of this show.  It was a quote from one of the men and the quote was, “A black woman stole my job.”  They all told their stories, qualified for jobs, qualified for promotion, didn't get it, really angry and then it was my turn to speak and I said,  “I have just one question for you guys and it's actually a question about the title of the show A Black Woman Stole My Job.  Actually it's a question about one word in the title.  I want to know about the word “My.”  Where did you get the idea it was your job?  Why isn’t it that the title of the show is A Black Woman Got A Good Job?  Or why isn’t  it A Black Woman Got A Job?  Because without confronting men's sense of entitlement, we will never understand why so many men resist gender equality.  We think this is a level playing field, so any policy that tilts it even a little bit like we think, “Oh my God, water is rushing uphill, it's reverse discrimination against us.”  Look, white men in America are the beneficiaries of the single greatest affirmative action program in the history of the world - it's called the history of the world.  So now I have suggested to you the two obstacles to engaging men.  One, we don't see gender and two,  that sense of entitlement keeps us from resisting gender equality.


Now I think we make two different cases (for gender equality and partnership).  One,  the case that you are all familiar with that you heard, for example, from Lean In, that you hear from Catalyst or McKinsey reports, which is the business case.  

It turns out that what we know, and you were even saying this before in some of your questions and answers, you know why is gender equality a good thing?  Because labor costs go down, people are happier, more productive, far less turnover, higher rates of profitability, higher return on investment.  All of these things suggest to us, all of the data are all there, the business case is easy to make.  And what it shows us is that gender equality is not only right, and just, and fair, but it's smart, it's good business.  And it is particularly good business with young entry-level workers because if we were ever, and I don't think we were, but if we were ever Martians and Venusians, we are no longer.

Entry-level workers, millennials, gen Y workers who are coming into our workplaces today have the exact same profile.  They want to be awesome dads, and they want to be really good with their jobs, and they want to share housework, and childcare.  They're much more egalitarian in their interpersonal relationships than any generation that has ever been on the planet, so I think we make the business case but I also want to make the views that to pivot and also make a personal case to men I'm going to do this in two different ways.  

To be continued in an upcoming blog soon or you can watch the next video now on Youtube.


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A Call To Men For Inclusionary Leadership !!

This message is especially for you if you are a man who wants to be a better leader, husband, partner and/or father. There’s a diversity revolution occurring as we speak and men can play a very important role as allies.

I’d like to invite you to join me and my team in our mission to engage more men!

Much intention has gone into the Better Man Conference experience to make it a safe environment.  It’s ok if you don’t understand or don’t know what to do.  If you’re looking for a place to start and grow into becoming a modern inclusionary leader, I’d like to invite you to attend the Better Man Conference on September 12th at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco.

I’ve amassed over 10,000 hours working with men on how to live and lead from the heart over 18 years and with an emphasis on corporate leaders over the last 10 years.  

So invite you to gather your colleagues, professional peers, or your team or come on your own.

For your tickets visit  I encourage you to take action now as we are already 60% full.  

I'll see you at the conference!

Ray Arata and the Better Man Conference Team

Privilege Is Invisible To Those Who Have It

In Part 2 of this series entitled, Gender Equality Has Something In It For Everyone-Including Men, Dr. Kimmel makes the point that privilege is invisible to those who have it while discussing obstacles to men's engagement for gender equality. Later in the series he'll share how men benefit from it.  We invite you to read Dr. Kimmel's transcript below or watch the video above.

Dr. Kimmel:

So what I want to do is I want to take the phrase, "gender equality" and I want to use that phrase to talk about two obstacles to men's engagement for gender equality.  And then I want to make the case about why we should support it, after I talk a little bit about those obstacles.  

Now the first obstacle has to do with the word "gender" in gender equality.  And that is those responses have nothing to do with men because we men most often don't think that gender has anything to do with us.  We think it has to do with women.  For most men gender is relatively invisible.  I mean if you hear the word gender or we have a discussion about gender, most men think we are going to have a discussion about women, right?  

I mean, if you teach a course in my university, if you were to teach a course called like Psychology of Women, you get 95% women in the class.  Teach a course called Psychology of Gender, you get 90% women in the class.


One of my students once said, “Well real men don't study gender.” 

The idea of making gender visible is our first task because gender remains largely invisible to men.  Most men don't know that gender is as important to us, as women understand it is to them, and this is political.  

So I'm going to tell you my own story about how I first started thinking about this.  30 years ago when I was in graduate school just across the bay at Berkeley.  

(A) bunch of us got together, and you know how those of you who have ever enjoyed graduate school, you know like, graduate students are like a very strange group of people. They will read an article in a scholarly journal that seven other human beings on the face of the planet will have actually read but they will think it is of momentous importance.  So anyway, a bunch of us were sitting around one day and we were talking and somebody said, now this is 30 years ago and somebody said, “You know, there's an explosion of writing and thinking in feminist theory but there's no courses yet.”  So, we did what graduate students would typically do in a situation like that, we said, “Okay, let's have a study group.  We'll get together once a week, we'll read a text, we'll talk about it, we'll have a potluck dinner.”  So every week 11 women and me got together.  We would read some text and feminist theory and talk about it.

And during one of our meetings, I witnessed the conversation between two women that changed everything for me.  One of the women was white and one was black.  

The white woman said, this is the part that's going to sound really anachronistic now, the white woman said, “All women face the same oppression as women.  All women have a similar experience as women, and therefore all women have a kind of intuitive solidarity or sisterhood.”  And the black woman said, “I'm not so sure.  Let me ask you a question.”  


So, the black woman says to the white woman, “When you wake up in the morning and you look in the mirror what do you see?”  And the white woman said, “I see a woman.”  And the black woman said, “You see, that's the problem for me, because when I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror..” She said “I see a black woman.  To me race is visible but to you race is invisible, you don't see it.”  And then, she said something really startling, she said,  “That's how privileged works.”  “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.  It is a luxury  I will say to the white people sitting in this room that do not to have to think about race every split second of our lives.  Privilege is invisible to those who have it.”

So remember I was the only man in this group.  So, when I witnessed this I kind of groaned and I went, “Oh no...” and someone said, “Well what was that reaction?”  And I said, “Well, when I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror, I see a human being. I'm kind of the generic person.  You know, I'm a middle-class white man.  I have no race, no class, no gender.  I'm universally generalizable.”  So I like to think that was the moment I became a middle-class white man…..that class, and race, and gender weren't about other people, but they were about me and I had to start thinking about them and it had been privileged that kept it invisible to me for so long.

Now I wish I could tell you this story ends 30 years ago in that little discussion group, but I was reminded of it quite recently. I have a female colleague at Stony Brook, where I teach, and she and I both teach the Sociology of Gender course on alternate semesters. So whenever it's my turn to teach, she'll always come to give a guest lecture for me and when it's her turn, I'll go give a guest lecture for her.  So I walk into her class of about 350 students to give a guest lecture and one of the students looks up as I walk in and says, “Oh finally, an objective opinion!”


All that semester, whenever my colleague opened her mouth, what my students saw was a woman. Rayona, if you were to stand up in front of my students and say, “There is structural inequality based on gender in the United States.” they would say, “Well of course you'd say that, you're a woman, you're biased.”  When I say it they go, “Wow!  That's interesting. Is that going to be on the test?  How do you spell structural?”

One of the world's leading experts on men and masculinities, Dr. Michael Kimmel.

One of the world's leading experts on men and masculinities, Dr. Michael Kimmel.

So I want you to all see, I hope everybody even in the back can see, this (points to self) is what objectivity looks like.  You know, disembodied Western rationality.  

And, you know, women in the room know what I'm talking about because you've had a conversation, argument, disagreement,  discussion with a man who will say to you, “Now wait, let's look at this objectively.” The translation from Martian into Venusian is, “Let's look at this from my point of view.” This is objectivity.  So, this I believe is why men wear ties.  Because if you are going to embody, disembodied Western rationality, you need a signifier and what could be a better signifier of disembodied Western rationality, than a garment that at one end is a noose and the other end points to the genitals. That is mind-body dualism my friend.  Right there, very nice.


So part of my argument so far is that our first task in bringing men into the conversation about gender equality, is bringing men into a conversation about gender.  Making us aware that gender is as important to us, as women understand it is, to them.  And that this is political.

Now the second obstacle I want to talk about is men's resistance to gender equality. Because there is a notion and not as shared in this room I'm happy to hear,  but there is a notion out there that gender equality is a zero-sum game that if women win, men are going to lose.  So I'm going to tell you a little bit about that.  

I was on a TV talk show few years ago very well-known black female host came out of Chicago and just let me state….(see Part 3 on this blog soon or you can watch it here now).


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