Men Hold Up Half The Initiative: #50Action50 Calls For Gender Equity

Erin Finlay (right) of Google addresses action steps during 50Action50. Kitty Vorisek, executive director of Lucas GC, Ltd., moderates.

Erin Finlay (right) of Google addresses action steps during 50Action50. Kitty Vorisek, executive director of Lucas GC, Ltd., moderates.

“Bring a man with you.”

WE Design Think Founder and Chief Design Facilitator Karen Gordon asked each participant in the Chicago event of #50Action50 to bring a male colleague, friend, student, son, father or partner to the day of workshops, panels and networking.

Because without men buying into the push for gender equity and doing whatever is necessary to make it happen, none of this will come to pass.

“Making change and taking action is about men and women together, about community, family and the workplace,” Gordon said at the recent 50Action50 Summit at Google Chicago offices intending to move “from conversation to action.”

Without men buying into the push for #genderequity, none of it will come to pass.

“Men are not involved in the conversation,” Gordon said. “So let’s put men and women in the room and come to the realization that true economic equity unburdens men. We’ve got to stop reading and listening and act.”

Speaking to what Gordon calls “a community of problem solvers, solutions creators and innovators who are a coalition of the willing,” it is possible to rethink the approach to economic equity. That is through data, metrics and beliefs, and putting the action in the realm of family, personal and community to be “ultimately responsible for the change.”

Rethinking structures and systems for girls and women to innovate and making wage equity a priority because “you have better returns with diverse teams,” are part of the solution, Gordon said.

This is not an American problem, but a global one. Shannon Skinner, Candian author and creator of, writes in Huffington Post, that different strategies work to enlist men in the fighting for the goal of gender equity.

#WageInequality is not an American problem, but a global one.

First, “Positive messages work better than negative. Be the guy who interrupts sexist jokes.” Next, she suggests, “Reach out to men with compassion and understanding, while challenging abuse.” She adds, “Co-operation and outreach to happen at the community level. Globalize men’s voices — encourage other men.”

On the day of the summit in Chicago, Alphabet, the parent company of Google, the host of the event, had just been named the #1 company in the U.S. to work for by Linked In.

Erin Finlay, head of people operations in human resources at Google, was pleased, but also transparent about what needs to happen at the tech leader. Yes, getting the top spot may be about the “free food and the nap room,” but it is also about efforts for gender equity.

While in non-tech operations at Google, the company employee ratio is 53 percent male, 47 percent female, in tech jobs, that shifts dramatically to 80 percent male, 20 percent female.

“People are the most important aspect of a company and it is a graveyard if great ideas fail to launch because some people were not on the team,” Finley says.

So in order to reach gender equity and close the wage gap at Google, Finely says, “We pay for the job or the role, we do not pay for the person. One of the most damning questions is, ‘What is your current salary?’”

Historically, women get a bigger salary jump when they start at Google, Finley says, and every position is “gender neutral.”

Maternity leave is also generous at 22 weeks, with a transition phase to ease back into work at half time, then increasing to full time. Emergency time off is granted by a donated pool of vacation time form all employees, Finlay said. All of this creates “new age HR,” that is more gender neutral, flexible and fair. It also has committees deciding on promotions by performance, “wiping the names off the files.”

Michele Wucker, author and CEO of, speaking at the summit, said, “I see a lot of things where we are moving the dial a bit at a time. On a global scale, board diversity is about 18 percent, so clearly this is a problem of opportunity.”

When board representation of women hits 30 percent, change happens #genderparity

When board representation of women hits 30 percent, change happens, Wucker said. But gender equity is a risk management problem and an innovation problem. “You need structured debates and perspectives otherwise you have groupthink and confirmation bias.”

It’s not new, inviting men to be a sponsor for gender fairness. “Over a million men have signed the UN’s HeforShe movement, pledging to do what they can to improve gender equality after Emma Watson gave a viral speech launching the campaign at the United Nations in 2014, “ writes Georgene Huang of Fairygodboss in Forbes.

In a recent study,  “Foresight Factory found that 77 percent of women feel there is gender inequality in the workplace (compared to 56 percent of men),” Huang writes.

“Similarly, in a very large, annual survey of men and women, McKinsey and LeanIn found that women question overall issues of general fairness in the workplace much more than men,” according to Huang.

Mel Flowers, North American legal team for Accenture agrees. Speaking at the 50Action50 Summit, he said, “The number of women in leadership is not where it should be. But diversity of thought moves beyond gender.” Addressing inequities of race is also important, he said.

“But it is important not to make a hierarchy of needs, wrongdoings and victimhood,” Wucker said. “White men and women of color need to focus on commonalities.”

Greg Morris, Change Leader, and Facilitator at MorrisHuml, added, “It’s an illusion to think change comes from on high. The land is covered in water one raindrop at a time. Go make the little changes and we will the see the effects of those changes.”

About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon