How to Engage Men to Advance Change

“Finally, we can all be ourselves”

Peter Piot, the Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, echoes these words to a Stanford University conference room consisting of 390 women and 20 men, all eager to absorb this simple, yet powerful, statement.

At the Women’s Leadership in Global Health Conference, the How to Engage Men to Advance Change panel addresses what many of us, as women, have grown to understand so well: an imbalance in power dynamics does not solely alienate women and minorities, but a lack of equity truly ostracizes and limits society as a whole. Creating equal opportunities for all genders sets the stage for a world of freedom, empowerment, gender fluidity, and empathy. It provides a world where men can express emotions as humans, rather than adhering to stringent and limiting stereotypes.

Equity presents a world where a woman can confidently write her name on a grant proposal for research funding. Currently, a woman’s name on a research grant decreases her chances of obtaining the grant by a striking 50 percent.

Contrastingly, Dr. Piot’s university ranks best in the UK for women obtaining research grants. At the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, women are actually succeeding their male colleagues in receiving grants.

What makes this university different?

Dr. Piot posits that the UK recently appointed its first female Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally, also the founder of the National Institute of Health Research. Sally advised that all universities that wish to benefit from research funding need to show that they fully embody gender equity by 2020.

While this created panic in the country, it also enacted prompt change, which serves as an effective example of top down approaches benefiting gender equity within a short time frame.

Gary Darmstadt, Associate Dean for Maternal and Child Health at Stanford University School of Medicine, echoes Piot’s words, reflecting that men are already “giving up a lot” in a world without gender equity. By leveling opportunities for women, it provides avenues for healthy relationships, wholesome family dynamics, and more women leaders. Dr. Darmstadt reiterates that, rather than a “zero sum game,” imbalance in power itself is a loss. We have a lot to gain through women’s leadership.

How do we get there?

Steve Davis, President and CEO of PATH, believes that we need to stop taking the “easy way out” by letting comments, actions, or marginalizing words slide without correction.

Among what we read, the media, what we are exposed to, music, and the realities of day to day life, the fundamental issue is that men and women alike, don’t “call it soon enough when people cross the line.”

Taking action on a day to day basis, without underestimating transgenerational impact, will lead to a society that is mindful, intentional, and empathetic. It will create a world where all genders are valued based on the same principles.

Most importantly, it will give all people, men and women alike, the freedom to finally be their true, authentic selves.

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