Wharton Journal: Real Men Stand Up for Gender Equality

By Daniel Ingram

“A man and his son are in a terrible car crash, and the father is killed. The son is rushed to the emergency room, and the emergency room attending physician sees the boy and says I can’t treat him, that’s my son. How is this possible?”

We’ll get to the answer later.

WWIB Week is a celebration of women and gender equality. As one might expect, most articles in this paper are written by women. But, gender equality cannot and should not be a movement of just women. It must be a movement of us all.

Who I am is very much defined by the strong women in my life pushing both themselves and me to be better. Growing up with close family and as the middle child of two sisters, I was surrounded by smart and driven women.

My grandmother was a public school secretary for many years. When she saw how much more money the mostly-male teaching staff made, she went back to school in her 40s, and fought her way into the professional world.

My girlfriend of nearly five years and I are constantly pushing each other to be more ambitious and take risks. I often notice the subtle barriers she faces as a woman in the male-dominated financial services industry that I never encounter as a man. I am a member of the Wharton 22s because of these women.

The Wharton 22s’ mission is to engage men in the conversation on gender equality and gender identity by educating and empowering men to advocate for equality both in the workplace and in society. The 22s is not just a club, it’s a movement.

While many men will step up as leaders in our group, many more will simply begin to better understand how they can play an active part in gender equality. Even if membership in the 22s is someone’s third or fourth involvement on campus, our hope is that they bring the 22s perspective to other campus organizations and to their workplace.

The 22s and WWIB cannot and should not ‘own’ the cause of gender equality by ourselves. We are most effective if our members serve as advocates beyond the reaches of our organizations. Most of the 22s events this year will be in partnership with other clubs in order to demonstrate that gender equality is relevant and beneficial in all aspects of business and society.

The answer to the earlier riddle, which is from an amazing TED Talk by Michael Kimmel, is simple: the physician is the boy’s mother. If you did not get that right away, don’t worry – decades of broken societal norms and inequality have taught us that society’s leaders and intellectuals are typically men.

There is an incredible advertisement titled “Like a Girl” in which boys, men and women are asked to run, fight, and throw “like a girl.” As some would expect, they play into harmful stereotypes of weakness and inability. The tables turn when actual girls are asked to do the same things and, well, it’s anything but weak. The pivotal moment for me is when a young boy is asked “do you think you just insulted your sister?” To which he responds, “No, well yeah, I insulted girls, but not my sister.” He viewed a girl close to him as different from women as a whole.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal survey, the top qualities that fathers want in their adult daughters are intelligence (81%), independence (66%), and strength (48%). Now, let’s look at the top qualities that those same men want in their wives: intelligence (72%), attractiveness (45%), and sweetness (34%). Independence and strength drop to 34% and 28%, respectively.

How can men expect these qualities in their daughters when they don’t support the same ones in those daughters’ mothers? We as men, unfortunately, don’t recognize the discrimination we unintentionally diffuse. It could be in a classroom, a club, a boardroom, or one’s personal life.

Men, look around. Look at your family. Look at your classmates. Look at your friends. When we think about the women closest to us, of course we want equality. Of course we want them to succeed.

What we must realize together is that we have to stand up for the success of all women if we want it for those we know. Society has progressed immensely over the past few decades when it comes to gender equality, and that progress should motivate us to push harder, not ease up. So join us, because real men stand up for gender equality.