In India, a billion people are ending the annual high festivals of Navratri and Diwali. Enthusiastic people there worship Devi in all her forms, Devi being the personification of the divine, feminine creative energy in Hinduism. The same celebration of the feminine halves of the human whole, the yin of the eternal yin-yang, however, does not seem to percolate from the arena of faith to reach the zeitgeist of today’s workforce.
Last night I had a conversation which convinced me that my first LinkedIn blog should be about my children, rather than startups, innovation, kababs or speculative fiction (all topics I get excited about). Our children remain a subject so primal that our deepest desires for their success often become invisible. The urge to want the best for our children is so deeply programmed by our selfish genes that we act every day from sheer instinct without pausing to reflect on what this means.
I have two children. My son, who is the older of the two, is a beautiful and sensitive child. This blog is not about him. I decided to write instead about what it means to me to be the father of a brave and brilliant daughter. At the heart of this dinner table discussion, organized by the ever-amazing Sharon Vosmek from Astia and hosted by the gracious John China from Silicon Valley Bank, was the subject of getting working people to realize that the subject of inclusiveness in employment and in investment was not Someone Else’s Problem.
I started to speak about why I support Astia and their terrific charter and found myself opening with
"I have a daughter…
That’s when it struck me. Not only is the support of women in entrepreneurship and corporations good business practice (seriously, what sense does it make to under-utilize 50% of the global talent pool?) but it is at its most compelling, a desire to make the world a fairer and more just place for ALL our children.
I want to make certain that when she asks me one day, what I did to help her achieve her dreams, I am able to answer honestly and not have to prevaricate and then admit I did nothing when I had the chance.
What are simple things I can do every day? How can I as an individual make any difference at all?
- I can keep in the forefront of my consciousness that it is NOT a level playing field today.
- I can work harder to ensure that there is healthy, balanced gender diversity in my team.
- I can do my part to keep a careful eye to make sure there is equal pay for equal work.
- I can do my best to make my organization one that welcomes women.
- I can make it known that comments hostile or clueless in their intent or content are simply unacceptable.
- I can be more diligent in ensuring that the right opportunities are going to the right people, based purely on competence and not influenced by unthinking bias.
- I can drive more qualified women to leadership positions so younger female colleagues have more role models.
These may sound trite but it is always surprising how often these go overlooked. All of us can do these and more. There are hundreds of things I am missing in the list above. We can support mentorship initiatives; we can invest in early stage firms with a policy of inclusion; we can teach our sons to understand the importance of this topic early in life. The one thing we simply cannot afford to do is allow inertia to define the status quo or inaction to be justified by excuses.
Though my daughter is the light of my life, you do not have to be the lucky parent of a girl to appreciate the value of this. If you are a woman, perhaps you had a parent who fought for your right to pursue happiness. If you are a man, perhaps you have a spouse who was someone’s beloved child. Perhaps you had mothers, sisters, friends or simply women who had a huge impact on who you are as a person today. On their behalf, we should not need to look for reasons to support this. There are so many wonderful organizations like Lean In, PSD Network or Girls Who Code in your own communities, and they need your sponsorship and support. There is change you can drive every day within your own organization. My own program at SAP, the SAP Startup Focus program, is honored to be a supporter of Astia.
My earnest prayer at this holy time is that when my daughter is an adult, we will no longer have to celebrate Nobel prizes being given to brave women who advocate education for girls. Not because the cause is not worthy but because it is no longer necessary.
If you have a daughter, are one yourself or expect to have one in the future, I would love to hear from you. Life is too short to not have purpose. Tell the world how you are making a difference today. Take a pledge at #IHaveADaughter and inspire others to share what they are doing, they have done and what they will do.
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