On October 11, the International Day of the Girl Child, SAIS Global Women in Leadership hosted a panel event, Expanding the Conversation: Men as Advocates for Women’s Leadership and the Modern Workplace. The panel was moderated by Gwen K. Young, Director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Wilson Center, and featured
Brigid Schulte, Author of NYT bestseller Overwhelmed: Work, Love & Play When No One has the Time and founding director of The Good Life Initiative at New America
Mark McMillan, Partner at McKinsey and Company and head of McKinsey’s mid-Atlantic Women’s Initiative and global sponsorship initiative
Brian Glenn, Director for the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula, Middle East Policy, Department of Defense
The panel discussed their personal experience with and interest in women’s leadership. Some key takeaways include:
We all have unconscious bias, so building awareness for blind spots makes all the difference. Unconscious bias is simply how our brains work; women have just as much implicit bias as men. Thus, creating a gender-neutral system from the start is important to ensure equal opportunity for success. This makes it important for men to be part of the discussion about women’s leadership to ensure structural and cultural awareness to diversity-related blind spots.
Issues affecting women are not just women’s issues. Workplace policies such as parental leave, flexible schedules, and leadership opportunities are not issues that women experience alone and therefore must solve alone. Studies show that having more women in leadership positions leads to outperformance and higher collective intelligence within organizations, so everyone benefits from a more equitable work environment.
Partnership at home affects both men and women’s careers. You can’t ask what’s possible at work without discussing what happens at home. Housework is a significant issue and transparent communication is necessary for dual-career households balancing work and family. Both men and women are wired for nurturing, so for moms and dads taking time off their career for their family, finding a “sweet spot” of intellectual engagement can be key for both personal and professional fulfillment.
Women in the workplace are over-mentored and under-sponsored. Programs such as women’s leadership and sponsorship initiatives are key to reset the defaults and allow women to reach their full professional potential, as well as self-reflection as leaders to ensure we are providing equal opportunities for both genders.
“More women in leadership makes good business sense.” – Brigid Schulte
“Ruthless prioritization” is necessary between partners in dual-career families. – Brian Glenn
“We all want to get home to our families. We all have implicit bias. We all need sponsors and role models.” – Mark McMillan