Jonathan Segal

Duane Morris Institute

Philadelphia, PA

The client kept asking me questions in response to my colleague’s presentation. I did not think the client believed I was a ventriloquist, so I suspected there may have been unconscious bias.

I have had people ask me: why is working to eliminate gender bias such a passion for you as a man? My response: how could it not be?

I grew up in a family where the partnership between my parents was one of true gender equality. My dad worked two jobs so my mom could go back to school and become a therapist. Then, my mom worked more hours so that my dad could make a job change that meant making less money but much more professional fulfillment: professor of dental medicine.

Through it all, the family always came first for both of them. We were very three lucky kids raised in a house full of love from two warm and nurturing parents. My sister, brother and I were raised without stereotypic suggestions on what we could be or do. I saw how gender equality made my very strong family even stronger.

When I entered the work world, I saw how much the business world differed from my family. Gender stereotyping was painfully common and I realized that the messages that we had received as children were even rarer than I had thought.

Of course, seeing and experiencing bias are worlds apart. I began to “feel” it when I was fortunate enough to mentor a number of very gifted women. I will never forget one client encounter that was a true learning experience for me.

A female colleague and I were meeting with a client. I asked her to join me because she had deep expertise in an area where mine was shallow.

The meeting began with issues on which I had been advising the client for quite some time. When we reached the issue were my colleague knew far more than I did, I asked her to take the lead.

She did a great job, but the client (mixed gender team) kept asking me questions in response to my colleague’s presentation. I did not think the client believed I was a ventriloquist, so I suspected there may have been unconscious bias.

I left the room, saying that I had an emergency. Truthfully, I did not.

When I returned half an hour later, no questions were asked of me on the issue where my colleague had the expertise. She was in firm control of the conversation, and candidly, I felt great inside.

I learned that I can be an ally to my female colleagues' success in moments big and small. We can consciously tackle unconscious bias.

I am glad I learned that lesson. I am also grateful beyond words to have been raised by parents who, by their words and actions, made me passionate about gender equality.

Get more from Lean In

Start a Circle

We make it easy to get started, and provide all of the materials you’ll need to run your Circle

Start your Circle

Join a Circle

Women around the world are meeting regularly in small groups to support each other and learn new skills–join one today

Find a Circle

Learn New Skills

Use our library of education resources to build new skills and support your career

Build your skills