Change the story

I recently met up with 50 or so male business and community leaders at Main Street Landing down by the water front in Burlington. The event was facilitated by Colin Ryan - a comedic financial speaker, Joe Fusco - Vice President of Casella Waste Systems and Mark Redmond - Director of Spectrum Youth & Family Services. The reason this group of men had gathered was to talk about gender equality of all things.

The event was put on by Change the Story VT (http://changethestoryvt.org). The mission of this non-profit is to significantly improve the economic status of women in Vermont. The invitation we recieved was titled "Male Champions for Change" and it said: Change The Story is calling on male allies to share successes and challenges in supporting women’s advancement in the workplace and in your spheres of influence. This event will bring together male business and community leaders like you who know that gender equality means a stronger economy. You’ll get great tools and takeaways, relatable talking points, and simple next steps to start conversations and effective change.

The event started with a presentation talking about gender equality in Vermont from an economic perspective. I learned that households headed by women are 5 times more likely to be under the poverty line than those headed by men. I also learned that women owned business earn 19 cents for every 1 dollar earned by male owned businesses. 43% of Vermont working full-time do not earn enough to cover basic living expenses.

Then we split in to groups and discussed our perspectives on gender equality as males. One of the recurring themes in the discussions was that we had all had strong mothers and fathers who supported them. There was also a strong desire in the group to learn more about why there is such a big gap economically between males and females. (Hint: its complicated!)

We ended up with another presentation sharing some tools that we could use as males. Some of the ideas I picked up were:
  • Invite girls to help you with more traditionally male tasks like changing a tire.
  • Encourage women to apply for jobs you think they are qualified for.
  • Offer practical support to women interviewing for jobs.
  • Stand up when you see women being treated unfairly or not listened to in the workplace.
  • Use your unearned privilege to be an ambassador for inclusion and invite others in to the gender equality conversation.
  • Normalize the idea of a man being a "feminist."
I was really inspired by the Change the story initiative. It is data driven with a really practical approach to improving gender equality.