Michelle Travis: Dads of daughters as allies for gender equality

How do we invite more men into gender equity conversations at work? Michelle Travis suggests using parenthood as an entry point for engagement and allyship. Her research found that when men have daughters, particularly first-born daughters, they tend to become less supportive of traditional gender roles. And they tend to become more supportive of employment discrimination laws, equal pay policies and sexual harassment enforcement. She also found that CEOs who are ‘girl dads’ had real gender equity impacts on their organizations. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about speaking up and the impact of having a personal stake in an issue.

About Michelle Travis: https://michelletravis.net
Fathering Together: https://fatheringtogether.org

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Interview with Michelle Travis

Amanda Hammett: Well, good afternoon. Today we are talking to Michelle Travis about engaging male allies for gender equality, and why slash how dads daughters can be workplace gender equity advocates. So today, before we get into that, I am Amanda Hammett. And today I'm, I need to rehydrate a little bit, so I'm going to stick with water. Um, but Jeffrey, my favorite co-host in the world. What are you drinking?

Jeffery Tobias Halter: Thank you. Thank you. And you know, I tried this in April and I'm bringing it back. For repeat performance for our listeners. It's an amazing Rosé. It's called Black Girl Magic. It's by the McBride sisters who are two amazing African-American women working in Napa Valley and bringing forth the whole portfolio of wine. So why I raised this because are our guests is. Very near Napa Valley up in the bay area. And it's my honor and privilege to introduce my friend, Michelle Travis. Michelle is a professor at the University of San Francisco, School of Law where she co-directs USF work law and justice program. Michelle is an expert on employment, discrimination law, and work family integration policies. And she previously has advised many companies as an employment law practitioner. Michelle is the founding member of the work and family researchers network and a board member of the non-for-profit fathering together. Her book, her fairly new book "Dads for Daughters" is a guide for engaging male allies. For gender equity. I think you can see why we're so excited to have her here. She's also the author of award-winning children's book. "My Mom Has Two Jobs" which celebrates working moms.

Amanda Hammett: Well, Michelle, welcome to Win(e)d Down Wednesday. So we're going to dive into a lot today, but before we do, we have to know what are you drinking.

Michelle Travis: Thank you. It is so wonderful to be here. Jeffery and Amanda. Um, so I have recently kicked a diet soda habit and replaced it with flavored sparkling water. So today I am sipping my favorite flavor, which is Cran•Raspberry. Um, it feels very indulgent, but it is not, which is why I love it. Love it.

Jeffery Tobias Halter: Michelle. It's been a while since we've talked. Um, we spoke when you were writing your book "Dads for Daughters", please share your background with our listeners and share how you as an employment lawyer who studies women's workplace advancement came to research the connection between the father daughter, relationship and gender equity leadership.

Michelle Travis: Well, thank you, Jeffery. It does feel like returning full circle to be here, to talk with you again. Um, Jeffery was one of the very first dads of daughters, um, who I interviewed for the book, um, and Jeffery, our conversation way back then really did a lot to inspire me to continue down this research path. So thank you. I don't know if you remember, but when we first talked, um, it was at a time. In my legal advocacy career, when I was feeling really frustrated with recognizing the limitations of law and policy as tools for advancing gender equity. Um, I had spent of course, many years focused on advocating for things like paid family leave and flex time and workplace flexibility. Um, all of which I think are absolutely necessary for gender equity in the workplace, but I was Increasingly feeling like they would never be sufficient on their own to really create truly inclusive workplaces. So I would say I was also frankly, very tired of talking to rooms full of mostly women and mostly lawyers. Uh, so I was looking for ways. To invite more men into conversations about gender equity at work, particularly male workplace leaders. And, and of course we know that that's about meeting men where they're at and finding common commitments. And, um, I knew that parenthood is certainly something that connects many of us in very powerful ways. And, and that's when I discovered, um, research, finding that.

When men have a daughter, particularly a firstborn daughter, they tend to become less supportive of traditional gender roles. And they tend to become more supportive of employment discrimination, laws, and equal pay policies and sexual harassment enforcement. And I thought, well, that is. Um, and entry way, right? That's an entry way for engagement.

Um, and then I got even more excited when I started discovering that those shifts, those tendencies were actually having real world effects. So research has found, for example, that companies with CEOs who are dads of daughters have smaller gender pay gaps.
In their companies, then those run by other men, um, venture capital firms with senior partners who are dads of daughters, tend to be more likely to hire women into their partnership ranks than other venture capital firms. And those women tend to invest
More in women run companies, right? So these are real gender equity impacts.

Um, and so it was about the same time that I was discovering this research that, um, my personal life started converging with my professional life. And I started seeing the impact that my own two daughters. We're having on my husband and he is the chair of a national law firm. Um, and of course, right, me as a professor who researches gender equity, I had had his ear long before we had kids about the importance of women's leadership advancement and, um, gender balance in his leadership teams. And of course he had always, um, even before we had kids. Um, agreed with and cared about those goals. Right. But I don't think that he had really fully internalized kind of his personal responsibility, um, and his personal power to actually make a difference. In, in what he correctly realized was a very daunting challenge.

Um, but when we had two daughters, it was like his intellectual agreements with the goal of advancing gender equity at work, um, turned into this urgency to act. Um, it was like, he decided gender equity is tough, but it must be doable. It must be done now. Um, I personally can and should, um, make a difference about this as he was kind of envisioning the working world that he wanted his daughters to grow up and be able to enter into. So it was really that personal experience, um, together with my research, um, that got me really.

To become convinced that the father daughter relationship is, is one powerful entryway for engaging male allies in gender equity. And that's when I started interviewing dads with daughters. And when I met you Jeffery, um, and that's how the dads for daughters book really got launched. And the goal is really to share father's stories with other fathers to really get men engaging other men in gender equity work.

Amanda Hammett: Michelle, Of course, all men have a stake in a more gender equitable workplace, and frankly, anyone can become an ally, but what are some things that make dads and daughters particularly well-positioned become gender equity leaders in their work places?

Michelle Travis: Yeah, so Amanda, this is a really great question and you are absolutely correct. Right? All men, we all have a stake in a more gender equitable workplace.
And of course we all know that's in part because, um, gender equitable workplaces benefit us all. They are more successful financially. They are more innovative. They are more responsive to a diverse customer base. So yes, we all have a stake in it. And we also know that many men are powerful gender equity advocate. Without having a daughter and we know that some men with the daughter are not. Um, so, um, I really view the father daughter relationship as, um, one of many different effective ways to engage men as gender equity advocates. Um, that being said, though, um, there are some particular reasons why dads with daughters are often well positioned, um, motivated and skilled to become leaders in gender equity, advocacy at work. So one of the reasons is because the father daughter relationship, um, has been found to be a great way for dads to build empathy for other girls and women. Right. And we know. That empathy is a workplace leadership skill, right? Men report that they often learn a lot by seeing their own daughters experienced gender discrimination and bias experience, exclusion experience, feeling pressures around expectations of roles and activities and career paths. Um, and then also report learning a lot from seeing their older daughters, their adult daughters, um, struggling with their own work family integration challenges, right where their own daughters are finding child care, impacting their, um, career advancement. And, and that in particular gets a lot of men to start focusing more on institutional barriers to gender equity at work. Right. Because they can see from their own daughter's experience that. If there's challenging is advancing into leadership, it is not because of a lack of interest or lack of skill or lack of commitment, all of which their daughters have, right? Maybe it is due to a lack of robust family leave policies, for example. Um, so dads are bringing those insights back into their own workplaces, um, and becoming really powerful advocates for institutional change. Um, and I would say the second reason that dads of daughters. Can be particularly well positioned to become leaders for gender equity in the workplace is something that social scientists referred to as standing to speak. Um, so what researchers have found is that when someone advocates for a position that might appear to others, like it is at odds with the advocate's own self interest.

Um, so like a man advocating for women's advancement, right. That might appear to others, although not correctly, but appear to be at odds with their interests. Researchers have found that people often react to those kinds of advocates with surprise, but also with some anger and resentment, like, it's the sense of who are you to be speaking on this particular issue? Right. And so that of course causes them not to actually listened to.

And engage with the substantive message that the advocate is bringing. So what researchers have found, however, is that those reactions tend to, um, decrease, tend to go away.

If an advocates identifies. A personal stake in the, in the issue, right then listeners can say, oh, I see where you're coming from. Um, which importantly allows them to listen to the message right here, engage substantively. Right. So for men, what this means is that, um, if you invoke your dad of a daughter status, right? I'm the dad of a daughter. That's why I care about gender equity. Um, they are granted what research called standing to speak on issues of gender equity at work. Right. Other people can say, oh, I understand why you are interested in this. I will listen to your message. And so this makes dads of daughters often particularly effective at engaging others, particularly other men in conversations around gender equity. Now I will say Amanda, one really important caveat here is That this method is of course going to backfire if it is done just as part of a performative allyship.

Right. Um, we know, we all know I'm famous politicians, celebrities, others, right. Um, who have invoked their dad of a daughter status to, um, really mask a lack of commitment to gender equity or worst To cover their own sexist behavior. Right. And they've rightfully gotten called out for that. Right. So, um, I want to highlight that, but also know that those instances I do not think should, should deter other dads of daughters who, um, for whom their relationship with their daughter really is an authentic source of interest and learning and commitment to advancing gender equity. I mean, when I see a father coming to me saying, um, I am interested in learning about gender equity at work and what I can do, um, because I have a daughter, um, if that is authentic, you know, my response is never.

Um, why did it take you so long? Why did you need a daughter to figure out the gender equity is important? Right? My response is welcome to the conversation. Thank you for your allyship. Um, let's join forces, let's get to work. We found a connection.

Jeffery Tobias Halter: You know, it's so funny and I, and I love all of those data points. Cause I have to tell you, you know, in the work that I do, I'm often approached by women with this, you know, they hear dad's for daughter or the father of daughter initiative and their immediate reaction is. This is some paternalistic pat women on the head, you know, go along with it. And, and, you know, I have just found doing this work. You've gotta be kind of almost very sensitive to say, you know to speak in first person. This is why I'm doing it. Also being very inclusive from an intersectional standpoint, to say it, you don't have to have a daughter. To model these skills. there may be a female coworker. Maybe you had a working mother, um, or your significant other. So, um, so some great advice there and, and really building on that. Uh, and you've touched on some of these things, but as we wrap up, what are some specific actions that allies can take in their professional lives to create more gender equitable workplaces? And as we wrap, I want you to think about. One message you have for all the fathers. So we're going to be listening to this around father's day. And what would be your one call out action?

Michelle Travis: Absolutely. I think you're so right. Jeffery, there's this risk that when you are motivated by the fact that you're a parent. But you want to make sure that you're not playing your parent role in your workplace where, where you are actually becoming a gender equity advocate, right. One is a motivation, but another is, we have to think about what is effective allyship. How do we do that? Right. So transitioning into that, right.

Once we figured out why we want to be a gender equity advocate, how do we actually do that?

Well, I actually think, um, the very first step to really. Um, shift from being an ally to an advocate, right. Someone who wants to actually take action, um, is to, um, publicly commit to action. Right? And even if you're not quite sure what that action is going to be yet, um, but publicly commit to it in a way that's going to make you feel accountable, but also that's going to signal to others. Let others know that you are someone they can trust to be someone who will listen, who will learn. Um, and that relationship building will lead you to action, right? You will figure out what they need, what the people you're trying to be, allies for, need you to do what that action will be. So to take that very first step, that initial step kind of publicly committing to action. Um, I have two suggestions of ways to do that. Um, one is to join the, this working dad cares campaign. Um, this campaign was created by the non-profit. Fathering together, um, of which I sit on the board. If you go to fathering together's website, you can download a sign that says, #thisworkingdadcares You can print it out, put your name on it. Um, hold it out. Take a photo of yourself, posted on your social media accounts. Um, with a statement about why as a dad. As a dad, you are committed to advancing gender equity at work, right? To demonstrate you understand the connection between those two, right? And then the second way that you might take this first step, this initial kind of public commitment step is to take the father of a daughter pledge, Jeffery, your pledge. I come back to it again and again, it's on. Jeffery why women website, it's highlighted in my dads for daughters book. It's something that connected us.

I still give it to all of my male friends and colleagues. Um, and I think it's a great first step because it's something that you can sign print put on your office wall and it invites others to invite you to action. Right? And, and the pledge is really simple, but very profound, right? It says as the father of a daughter, I will listen, learn lead and have the will to advocate for the recruitment, advancement, retention, and equitable treatment of women in the workplace. I am making this commitment and support of my daughters. Right. Um, so once you've done that, right, that public commitment, you've invited others. You've signaled. I am an ally then. Right. You can start taking action. Um, and others will help you along the way and invite you to partner towards action. So lots of things you can do, but given our time, I want to just highlight one really specific action item that I think dads can do in particular, if you're thinking about what can I do as father's day comes?
The one that I think is sort of top of priority list right now is to find ways to support work, family integration, policies, and practices at your workplace. Um, you know, since the pandemic began, we, um, have seen work family integration, challenges more visibly in ways than we ever have before surveys are now finding. That for the first time a majority of fathers are agreeing with the statement that remote work gives moms more professional opportunities, right? Which means that more fathers than ever are actually seeing the link between workplace flexibility. And workplace gender equity. Right. But what we've seen as dads often sit these conversations out conversations around workplace flexibility, even though an increasing number of dads won't work like this, whether they sit the conversations out, they can, if it's not their conversation to have. Um, and so I would say, know that stepping into conversations to encourage your workplace, to be become committed, remain committed to workplace flexibility in all of its forms, especially now as we're trying to.

So many of us are trying to imagine what is the post pandemic workplace? Going to look like, um, your voices as dads and workplace flexibility conversations are so powerful, so critical step in, lean into that discussion. Um, and that also includes dads using workplace flexibility, policies, and practices that are available in your workplace. Right. That modeling behavior. Um, we know how important this is when dads take family leave. For example, they have stronger bonds with their kids, stronger partnerships with their own partners. It decreases maternal depression, it increases co-equal caregiving and it levels the playing field for women at work. Right. We know this. It destigmatizes family leave, um, by supporting more places built by and for parents. Um, and it directly supports your own partner. If you have one, um, mother's income rises 7% for each month that a father takes family leave for a newborn child pay. Um, so supporting workplace flexibility, um, when others are using it and to use it yourself, I would say that is one of the top ways that you can, um, become. Not just an ally, but an action oriented advocate. So Jeffery, and answer to your last question. If I was going to leave fathers with one piece of advice, um, as we think about father's day and as a father, how you might, um, be motivated by your parenting roles to become a gender equity advocate. My one piece of advice would really be that small actions actually have the big impact when many dads are doing them. Right? So if each dad does one small thing to think about gender equity, the cumulative impact in advancing gender equity is going to be enormous.

Amanda Hammett: Well, Michelle, thank you so much. There was so much packed into there.
I hope that all of you who are listening, followed along with all of the data points, she had some phenomenal things that she shared, but Michelle, thank you. Thank you again for joining us today to talk about the important role of dads of daughters, um, and the role that they have in, in making their professional lives to create a more gender equitable workplace. So I would love to have you back again, because this is just the beginning of the conversation. Uh, so you guys that are listening can find more information about Michelle and her work on her website. michelletravis.net Her books are available at your favorite bookseller, and you can follow her on Twitter @michelleatravis Thank you again for joining us and we will see you in the very next episode.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.