In response to the question, “Who or what influenced your early thoughts about gender?,” Jeff credited his mother, who he described as a strong woman, and his high school English teacher. He remembered his teacher as the first person who talked explicitly about gender. Through her teaching, she clearly communicated that women and men were equal partners. Becoming a Marine Corp Officer had a significant positive influence on Jeff’s thinking about equality. He shared that the Marines emphasized there were not white marines and black marines, only green marines.
Jeff was recruited to play sports at college and it was in the sports realm where he encountered the greatest difficulties with overt gender inequality. Jeff saw teammates who objectified women, with persistent comments about their appearance, while the coaches disparaged females using that old chestnut – “What are you a girl? – to disparage players.
Jeff described the problem of underutilizing women’s skills with a sports analogy:
“Organizations leave so much talent on the bench.”
He spent several years of his career in higher education where he experienced many female bosses. In addition, Jeff felt fortunate that throughout his career, he’d had the opportunity to mentor and sponsor many highly- talented women.
Jeff reporting seeing far too many women who were unbelievable talents leave their positions because they were looking for an alternative, a work culture where they could have greater control over their lives. He suggested men can help level the playing field by proactively reaching out to support talented women (knowing they are less likely to ask for help), making sure these women know that he is there for them, and ensuring the women understand their value to the organization. Jeff tells women, “Don’t ever be sorry for showing emotion; emotion shows you care.”
Having seen on television that a woman graduated 1st in her class at one of the top military colleges (also his alma mater), Jeff remarked, “The real news will be when a woman graduates first and it’s not on the news.”