Wade is a UN Women Global Champion for Innovation, part of the 50th Anniversary Advisory Council for the National Fair Housing Alliance, and is a founding member of VICE’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory board with Gloria Steinem, Roberta Kaplan and others. He has partnered with Planned Parenthood, the Ms. Foundation and Huffington Post Women, separately launching unique initiatives and PSA’s to define, establish, and achieve the political, social and economic equality for women and men. Learn More about Wade Davis.
Agnes Wielgosz: Hi Wade, thank you for joining the #CEIproject talk. We are here together, to shine a light on the strategic advantages of gender intelligence using stories to discover both striking similarities and powerful differences in some of the most unexpected places.
Wade Davis: Thank you so much for having me. These types of conversations are important for us all to have to figure how we shift the culture around issues of manhood, masculinity, femininity, womanhood and the like.
AW: I recently saw a short film called “A Man Like You.” It’s a story of a young boy who explores the true meaning of manhood. This short film absolutely captured my attention because it explores and asks what it means to be a man today. This short film conveys the strong message that “there is no one way to be a man.” Wade, what does it really mean to be a man? How can we educate others about healthy masculinity?
WD: I don’t think there can be ONE definition of what it means to be a man; it is and should be highly individual and not defined by the world at large. If there’s one singular definition of manhood then that’ll exclude someone, and exclusion of anyone renders them vulnerable. And masculinity itself isn’t the problem, the narrow ways masculinity is defined is often where we go wrong.
I don’t believe parents, adults, or educators even talk to kids about what it means to be a man or woman — or even human. So we grow up mimicking the most visible and archaic ideas of masculinity without ever interrogating our actions. I think we must start to give our kids books to read that show boys (men) and girls (women) showing up in lots of different ways, and then TALK to them about what they learned without putting our own judgments and opinions on their thoughts, so they can define themselves for themselves, as Audre Lorde so brilliantly taught us.
AW: The more we know about gender intelligence the faster we grow as educators and the further we are able to go as leaders. As a self-identified feminist advocate, thought leader on orientation equality, can you please share with us: how do you help men become better advocates for women and girls?
WD: The first way I help men become better advocates is to help them educate themselves on the real lived experiences of women and girls, because truthfully we don’t know. We know this because women and girls aren’t footnotes in history, so we are under-educating them, and how can you advocate for anyone without knowing their true history?
Second, we have to intentionally put ourselves in spaces where we are just there to listen and ask questions. Third, I educate men on how to interrogate our own history with patriarchal practices, and how we (me including) still benefit from these systems now, and then once we know, how we work to educate other men to transform these systems using our power and privilege. Also, how do we become disinterested in critiquing women around women’s issues? This list isn’t exhaustive but it’s a start.
AW: Wade, you said in one of your interviews, “Women don’t need to make a business case for diversity and inclusion — men didn’t have to do that.” I couldn’t agree more; so, where do we start? How can we change the collective patterns of behavior that support persistent gender inequality?
WD: I think we start by interrogating what the business case is really asking and why is it asking women to prove something, in order to have an honest conversation about all the work that has been done historically around gender diversity and inclusion.
Secondly, we change “the ask of women” to “the ask of men.” What is the role of men around these issues? If we are able to face ourselves, we know that men are the gatekeepers and have the power, so what do men need to do to change a system that we created — one that is primarily benefiting men and protecting men.
We must flip the current paradigm so men are doing the work after we have been educated on the issues and the experiences, and then women and men work in solidarity to solve the problem. But men must do the work — women have gone above and beyond on their end. There must be visible and vocalized measures of accountability by all senior men in organizations with deadlines. Without this nothing we change. Men must make this issue personal and not because they have a daughter.
AW: The concept of gender equality has been part of your projects. If you could COMMUNICATE one thing to the listeners what would it be?
WD: I would say that this issue is historical and common. If we can understand that and educate ourselves we can start the fix, but we must know our history on this issue.
AW: What is one area where we can EDUCATE people to improve gender equality?
WD: Wow, that’s tough. Hmm. I would say: our country, our corporate world is not sustainable with the level of bias and discrimination that currently exists within it, and if we want to grow and finally become a nation we must get this right.
AW: Tell me one thing that has INSPIRED you?
WD: What is inspires me — knowing that people want to grow and become better than we are. I see it. I embody it. And knowing that keeps me going.
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