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Man Up and Lean In

By Kunal Modi • March 5, 2013

My Facebook News Feed was blowing up. Days earlier, The Atlantic  had published a controversial article entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” It touched a nerve and whether or not I – as a man – was an intended reader, I had several reactions to it.

While posts about the article streamed by at a rapid rate, they came from only half of my Facebook friends – my female friends. As an aspiring businessman, hopeful husband and future father, I wanted to join the conversation. However, I wasn’t sure if I would be entirely welcome.

Uncertain, I clicked on a link a friend had reposted, featuring a TED Talk Sheryl Sandberg delivered in December 2010. As I watched the video, several themes struck me.

 “How good are we as managers of our companies and corporations if we see men reaching for opportunities more than women?”

 “We need to make it as important a job to work inside the home for people of both genders.”

 “I want my son to have a choice to fully contribute in the workforce or at home and I want my daughter to have the choice to not just succeed, but to be liked for her accomplishments.”

Inspired by what I had just seen, I started researching reports, considering commentaries, debating with friends, and scribbling ideas in a notepad. What emerged was an article I wrote in the Huffington Post  this past July entitled, “Man Up on Family and Workplace Issues.”

My goal for the article was straightforward: I wanted to draw my male friends into the conversation about career equity, domestic responsibility and gender dynamics. I encouraged men to think about their futures as managers, husbands and fathers. I implored my male peers to “Man Up” and make these important gender issues our issues.

As men, we need to raise our consciousness about imbalances that exist in our workplaces and our homes. A recent McKinsey & Company study found that women are less likely to apply for open positions at work than men. Moreover, a White House report found that women typically shoulder 40 more minutes per day of household chores than men – even though over half of all homes rely on dual-incomes. The first step to creating more innovative workplaces and more supportive homes is acknowledging that problems persist and we have a role to play in solving them.

As men, we need to broaden the conversation with our male mentors and role models. When a well-known female executive recently spoke at my campus, she was asked about the challenges inherent in balancing a senior role and being a parent. When a well-known male counterpart spoke on campus, he was not asked the same question. I believe it is equally important for male role models to teach other men about shouldering domestic responsibility as it is for them to share lessons on career advancement.

As men, we need to create our own circles and community to encourage other men to talk about career equity, domestic responsibility and gender dynamics. We all have to work together to change the norm around how and where these issues are discussed. It is no longer enough for these topics to only make the agenda at women’s leadership conferences and diversity seminars. I want to be a good husband and father at home even more than I want to be an impactful leader at work – and I know I’m not the only one. The Pew Research Center found that millennial men and women care equally about successes at work and responsibilities at home.

After the article went live, once again, my News Feed was blowing up. My friends and classmates – men and women alike – were posting my article, clicking the “like” button, and beginning new comment threads about gender issues. I had become a contributor to the conversation that I was once hesitant to join. As the article spread, it reached the wall of the woman who encouraged me to lean in, Sheryl Sandberg.

Sheryl not only read my article but reacted to it by inviting me to chat and encouraging me to share my perspectives more broadly. We both agreed that a world in which half of our countries and companies are led by women and half of our homes are led by men is a better world for us all.

I’m leaning in to help create that world and I want more men to join me. My Facebook wall is open for discussion – let’s get to work.

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