Throughout my career, I have worked with many types of businesses and in many types of companies. From my waitressing job in college, to my position at a successful social media company, and on to being a partner at an agency, the one thing that has always stuck out to me is that we need more women in charge. At first, I just assumed that not as many women wanted the role, but as time went on I realized that it was much bigger than that. This lesson hit me when I started hiring people myself. I noticed that when I interviewed women, they were more skeptical of their capabilities than their male counterparts. In fact, men with less experience often seemed more confident in their ability to perform a job and were willing to ask for more perks.
Why? I believe that that this comes from having fewer people push you along the way. I was that same girl: the one who didn’t know if she was capable. The shift in my attitude and confidence came to me through a very a strong boss and mentor. My boss, business partner, mentor and sponsor, Abhilash Patel, pushed me to do exactly what I said I wanted to do. He never let me slide, never let me question my abilities, and held me to very high expectations. This relationship changed me forever and made me more successful. We need men and women to help change gender inequality in the workplace. We need more men and women like Abhilash who don’t allow people to quit, but instead push them forward. We need to bring men to the discussion of equality. This is not just about women: equality is about everyone, and we need everyone’s participation to succeed.
This past year, I had an opportunity to interview writer, director and producer Joss Whedon hours before he was honored at the L.A. Chapter’s Media Summit in support of #HeForShe, a movement for both men and women to promote gender equality within their communities. Women like Jennifer Lawrence and Robin Wright have fought these battles publicly, but it’s time that male colleagues joined women in equalizing their industry. Joss Whedon is a perfect example of a man stepping forward to fight the battle for equal pay. He has consistently pushed strong female roles to become an unremarkable standard. Whedon told us why we must pay more attention than ever to elevating women in media. For the purpose of this article, I asked him the following questions:
What does the word feminist mean to you?
“It’s someone who’s just trying to restore a balance that’s been missing from our culture for far too long. It means understanding the effect you have on the people around you, and what a certain amount of respect can accomplish in your daily life — as much as the more tangible things like, ‘People should get paid.’”
You’re known for writing strong female characters. Do you find it funny that you get pinpointed as “that guy,” and do you think it’s because not as many people are doing that?
“That was always weird to me. I was like, ‘There have to be other people, right? The clubhouse is really empty. I think the fact that it’s remarked upon is the very problem we’re here to deal with tonight: the fact that it’s remarkable. I think, now, if I started doing the work that I used to do, it would be less remarkable. Things have definitely come forward from when I started.’”
I read a statistic that it would take 44 years for the pay to be equal, male‑female, if we go at the pace we are at currently. What do you think both men and women can do to help speed up that timeline?
“We need to overcompensate a little bit for the fact that we’ve been under compensating forever. Things have to be pushed to be even. People have to make decisions that may seem counterintuitive to a businessman every now and then, because they’ll pay as little as they can to everyone.
The way in which men and women are raised, and the way in which they are taught to behave in the workplace, how to ask for a raise, is very different as well. To have the confidence that if you fight for something you are going to get it — we don’t have a system in place in our culture whereby people can go into the workplace expecting to get paid equally.
It’s hard to find a Robin Wright. She used their own math. That’s the best way to [bargain] with them.”
If you have one piece of advice for that girl who’s trying to ask for that raise, negotiate something, wants extra maternity leave, etc. what would that be?
“You have to know that you deserve this. You have to know. It’s hard for anybody to really know they deserve something. It took me a while. Sometimes, when there is no safety net, it’s very frightening.
That certainty is the real math: that you are making a difference and you are doing the work, that you are necessary and that you deserve the thing you are asking for. You really have to live that belief. That’s not easy to do. But that’s where the strength comes in.”
After my interview with Joss, he took the stage as one of two honorees for the evening with Patricia Arquette. He ended his speech with one of the most insightful and impactful moments of the night: “What I would like is to never again win an award just for being a decent person.”
For more information or to get involved with UN Women National Committee in your area, search for your local chapter at http://www.unwomen-usnc.org.