By Katie Satornino (’17) and Katrina Kurnit (’17)
Last fall, UCLA Anderson’s Women’s Business Connection kicked off the academic year by hosting small dinners for WBC members and what have come to be known as MANbassadors — our male peers who are as committed as women to achieving equity and inclusion in the workplace. The goal of the dinners was to provide a safe, intimate environment for both genders to discuss a range of issues, including paternity leave and the gender pay gap.
The MANbassador program focuses on creating male allies for the Women’s Business Connection, similar to UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson’s “HeForShe” campaign. Anderson’s MANbassadors are a specific group of men who have committed to supporting women in b-school and in the workplace beyond. In October we invited Anderson men to sign a pledge of support of their female colleagues and we asked members of the Anderson community to share their experience with gender bias or discrimination. We raised awareness that gender issues are not just a woman’s problem, as they affect everyone and we must work to combat them together.
WBC recruited 156 MANbassadors. Other men can become MANbassadors anytime they want to!
WBC continued its MANbassador program with a series of Food for Thought lunches. The most recent event — attended by 14 men and 17 women — began with a viewing of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s TED talk, “Can we all ‘have it all’?” Slaughter discusses why changes in workplace and public policies as well as societal values and stereotypes need to occur in order for both men and women to “have it all.” She says, “Doubling work and family are not women’s problems; they are family problems,” and she challenges her audience to make “caregiving cool for the guys.”
Senior Associate Dean Margaret Shih led the post-screening discussion, during which the men and women in the audience discussed sharing responsibility between spouses, cultural differences in overlap between work and home, and flexibility in the workplace. Students challenged stereotypes like homemakers typically being considered female and talked about the need to get rid of judgment in order to move past such stereotypes.
Dean Shih closed out the discussion by challenging students to brainstorm potential solutions. Workplace flexibility was stressed as an important requirement in the road to “having it all.” Flexibility could be as simple as being able to “turn it off” when you get home, or even to leave early to pick up the kids and “turn back on” later in the evening. Workplace policies can help provide support systems as well as act intercept unconscious bias. For example, one student’s former company recently implemented a policy that puts women and men that take parental leave in a separate bucket for performance reviews so that no one unconsciously penalizes them for taking the time they need for their families. Students also discussed the need to provide better maternity and paternity leave to allow for changes in the “traditional” family roles. Overall, it was a great discussion — one that should definitely be continued at school and in our future workplaces!
MANbassador events have been pretty much equally attended by both genders. We consider this a fantastic signal that men are not only committed to honoring their pledge, but that they’re carving time out from their busy schedules to learn more and engage in this dialogue. We’ve been absolutely thrilled to see their dedication.
The Food for Thought series has challenged social norms over both lunch and dinner. The WBC will continue to provide opportunities to break bread and biases.