Patrick Ford knew that he wanted to be involved in advocacy efforts around gender and race even before he joined the illustrious UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. During his course, reflecting deeply upon his identity became an “increasingly important part of [his] life” that in turn led into a male allyship program within the school’s Women in Leadership Club.
With his co-founder his program achieved:
- 1/3rd of his male classmates as allies
- Had 95% male classmates signed up to a weekly male allyship newsletter
- Created a allyship guide that went out to 6,000+ graduating MBA students across the US in 2017
Since graduating, Ford has been working as a non-profit consultant and executive coach on top of developing male allyship programs with other top US and international business schools. He is also working with corporates, especially those in the tech arena, who are interested in male allyship programs through partnerships and speaking engagements.
We did a quick Q&A with him, and his answers are delightful. Have a read.
- What is your advice to other men? (either those hindering inequity and those wanting to redress it)
To those men who want to be a part of the solution I would say – great! Research shows that male engagement with gender equity in the workplace is vital. A recent study by BCG shows that among companies where men are actively involved in gender diversity, 96% report progress, whereas, among companies where men are not involved, only 30% show progress. Anecdotally, it’s also obvious that in companies and industries in which men hold the power, getting men involved in any policy or cultural change is essential – gender equity isn’t any different.
I would also say that before jumping into action, it’s really important to (1) partner with women in your workplace or community, and (2) get a solid foundation in understanding gender equity. If we’re not careful, it’s actually very easy – despite good intentions – to recreate a lot of the unhelpful gender dynamics we’re trying to mitigate in the first place.
2. Tell us about the business school you went to, and what prompted you to tackle this issue.
UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business is a wonderful business school – consistently ranked in the top 10 business schools worldwide – that I was extremely fortunate to attend. It’s among the smaller programs with roughly 250 people per class (most bschool programs have twice or four times the amount of students). The past few years, classes have hovered around 40% women (in-line with most top bschool programs in the US), which is a huge improvement over the recent past in which women only made up around 30% of each class.
I knew that I wanted to get involved with advocacy efforts around race and gender before starting at Haas – I knew I’d be around smart people who would go on to have a lot of influence, so it seemed like good ROI to work on education and awareness initiatives while there. This still seems true, even though I’m graduated, hence my aspirations to found allyship networks across bschools in addition to the workplace.
3. Tell us also about the culture of business schools – is it changing?
I’m not qualified to comment on how the culture has changed over time, since my knowledge and experience with bschool is limited to my two-year attendance from 2015-2017. I can say that I was very impressed with the mindset and generosity of my classmates based on my expectations. There are a lot of men who really care about gender equity (and of course, plenty who don’t too).
4. Who are your role models?
I look to many different folks for inspiration, most of whom are advocates of equality currently and historically – especially, in these difficult times, those working even when their goals seem hopeless. I’m really impressed with Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement – both in terms of her ability to get an important (and widely misunderstood) message out, as well as to distribute power in a grassroots way so that the movement is about Black Lives and less about her.
I’ve also been reading about feminist and African American civil rights movements in the US and find inspiration in women like Susan B. Anthony (I love this timeless quote of hers from 1894: “When we shall have our amendment to the Constitution of the United States [to allow women to vote], everybody will think it was always so… They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past” as well as revolutionaries and intellectuals such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, (the white) Thaddeus Stevens, WEB Dubois, James Baldwin, Malcom X, bell hooks…
5. What does business specifically need to change with regards to gender equity, and how do you envision the future?
Over the past few decades, business has evolved away from an overtly sexist paradigm. This has made revolutionary strides in terms of gender equity, but hasn’t fixed the problem. The 2017 McKinsey-Lean-In Women in the Workplace report opened by reminding readers that women are underrepresented in corporate America despite women having gotten more college degrees than men for the past thirty years and that the stagnation of progress is largely due to the fact that companies don’t really understand the underlying causes for the lack of female representation.
I would go one step further and say that a big part of why men (the folks who hold the most power in business) don’t understand what’s happening is that most men don’t truly appreciate (1) the magnitude that unconscious bias plays in the workforce, (2) how differently women experience the workplace than men, (3) how societal expectations for women with regards to raising children, homemaking, and nurturing affect a woman’s career, and (4) how huge an impact informal networks and friendships play in maintaining the status quo. Note that these four things are all foreign to most men’s direct experience. Men need to better understand these four dynamics and those of us who better understand the reality of the situation need to do a lot of that education (in partnership with women).
In my hopeful future, men and women are less conditioned to see men solely as leaders and women solely as nurturers. I think this lessening is bound to happen to some degree (not sure how much), given how differently women are leading their lives and portrayed in the media since, say, the 80s. In addition to more people recognizing the importance of the four factors i mentioned above, I think there will need to be a lot more emphasis on the intersection of different identities (race, sexual orientation, etc) and how that affects people’s lives. I appreciated in the Women in the Workplace report that they’ve begun breaking down statistics by race – the experience of a black woman in corporate America is very different than that of a white woman in corporate America. I expect to see a lot more of that.
5. What are your feelings about the sudden cataclysm of harassment allegations (Weinstein etc) and women speaking out?
While it’s upsetting to hear so many horrific stories, I’m really glad to see so many men actually paying a price for their behavior. It also feels like the cultural norm around listening to women’s stories and believing them is shifting in the correct direction. That being said, it’s also discouraging to see how much it really takes for behavior to have consequences. If the line at which we start believing women’s experiences of sexual harassment and assault is drawn only at the most obviously horrific and exploitative actions AND we need at least half a dozen women to come forward in order to believe their stories, we’re still missing 95% of perpetrators. Ultimately though, it is satisfying to see rich and powerful people held responsible for their actions (even those whose art and work I previously admired).
6. Do you have a message for women?
I think women have heard enough messages from men. I’m more into listening.