Further, Together: White Male Leaders Helping Create Cultures of Belonging

Jennifer Brown | | , ,

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This episode features a conversation with Jennifer, Ray Arata, Founder and CEO of the Better Man Conference, and Mark Greene, Founder of Remaking Manhood as they discuss the patriarchy and outdated rules about what it means to be a man. Discover how the "Man Box" perpetuates an obsolete leadership model and how patriarchy relates to the larger DEI landscape. To learn more about the Better Man Conference, visit www.bettermanconference.com

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

MARK GREENE: As long as we see everything as a binary, white men against all other people, men against women, non-binary people against everybody else. As long as we're setting up these false binaries, every one of us is trapped in a box, in a definition, in a frame, in a binary. Men, white men who look like me, who sound like me, have a lot more influence in the world. And if we can't go ahead and just accept that fact, then we're going to have trouble doing this work, but we're all caught in isolation and roles. And when we break out of that and create acceptance for everyone, we get to be accepted too.


The Will to Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, bestselling author and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new, more inclusive workplace reality. She is a passionate inclusion and equity advocate, committed to helping leaders foster healthier and therefore more productive workplaces, ultimately driving innovation and business results informed by nearly two decades of consulting to Fortune 500 companies. She and her team advised top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty. And now onto the episode.


Hello and welcome back to The Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. This episode features a conversation between Jennifer and Ray Arata founder and CEO of the Better Man Conference and Mark Green founder of Remaking Manhood as they discuss unpacking patriarchy and how it relates to the larger DEI landscape. I also want to mention that you'll hear mention about the Better Man Conference in the episode, I encourage you to go to bettermanconference.com. That's bettermanconference.com. Scroll down to the bottom click on conferences. You can learn more and register for the Better Man Conference. And now onto the episode.

JENNIFER BROWN: Welcome to the conversation about the Better Man Conference and healthy masculinity, a topic that makes me smile, actually. Yes, I've had my struggles, but you Ray, and what you represent and the conversations that we have, and the group that we're going to be convening in November is so healing, so powerful, so important, it does make me smile. It warms my heart and I feel healed just by the fact that these are spaces for male leaders to come and explore their relationship to inclusion, to diversity, to equity, to patriarchy. And this is one of those few places where that honesty, that rawness, that courage is held in a safe container. And I commend you for what you've built because it's truly inspiring and too rare. So makes it extra special. Welcome.

RAY ARATA: Thank you, Jennifer. Right back at you. I want to honor you for the support that you've offered the Better Man team for all these years. So excited at our partnership this year and how you and I are going to be sharing the stage live you in New York, me in San Francisco. I'm just kind of bummed that I'm not going to be able to come up and give you a hug. And it is what it is. We'll figure that out. And hopefully instead of there being this, one of the few places organically, it'll grow to this is what can happen inside of other companies. And so today, there he is, our friend and colleague Mark Green who's going to be joining us at the conferences here right now and Mark, today is about you. We want those out there to get to know you and to understand why this work is so important to you and why I didn't even have to finish my sentence and you said yes, that you wanted to participate with us at the Better Man Conference, not your first time. So on behalf of Jennifer and I, welcome.


MARK GREENE: It's a pleasure to be here.

JENNIFER BROWN: So Mark, for everyone that doesn't know your work, you're an author, you're a speaker. You study this, you have studied this for years. Can you bring us into your world? Tell us about what you teach on and what you're so passionate about and why when it comes to this topic.

MARK GREENE: Well, let me begin by saying thank you for having me in this conversation. I am deeply and fundamentally interested in the question of connection for men, because I think that what I've discovered over the course of my own life and in the work that I have done around masculinity and man box culture, is that the fundamental challenge that we face as men is that we spend our time performing a version of masculinity that isn't actually fully authentic to us.

And in some cases not remotely authentic to us. And that creates a lot of disconnection, a lot of anxiety, a lot of isolation for men. So in my own life, and Ray can speak to this as well. I chose to do some men's work with the mankind project in order to find where connection existed for me with a circle of men, with the other people in my life and get out of this sort of trap of trying to prove I was a real man based on the sort of narrow rules of our culture of masculinity, our dominant space culture. And that's the work for me is to invite men into connect and create more connection in my own life.

RAY ARATA: Mark refers to the men's work that both he and I have done. And in a nutshell, the way we hold sacrosanct men's work is this notion of becoming introspective and connecting the head and the heart, and basically doing this to the outdated man box of the rules of what it means to be a man. And so one of the topics that we're going to unpack and evolve from at the Better Man Conferences, this notion of patriarchy, the old school version of the male being dominant. And so when Mark and I go do these weekends, and he's written articles about this, a lot of us emulate what we saw and if we keep emulating unhealthy masculinity, that's not good. And if we think we're just doing it in the family, we're not, we're doing it at work. So that's why this work that's fueled by this men's work, this healthy masculinity, it's the underbelly. It's extremely important. So kudos to you, Mark, for that.

MARK GREENE: Thank you.

JENNIFER BROWN: Here, here. So Mark and Ray, the structure of the conference, yes, it's going to be happening simultaneously into two coasts and we're focusing on power, patriarchy and privilege. Really the three Ps that can be deadly, but also can be enablers if we can redefine them, if we can harness them, if we can make them more inclusive. So Mark's place in the agenda is sort of right in the middle after our colleague at JBC, Elfie Martinez tees up the conversation about power and you're going to be focusing on patriarchy, Mark. So I wondered, how are you envisioning this piece of the day as we layer on the learning, what are the connection points you're hoping to make with the concept of power redefined, which I know what Elfie's going to do. He's going to rock it. He's just an incredible person.

And by the way, everybody we're going to do a LinkedIn live with Elfie Martinez in the coming month or two. But Mark, tell us about your vision for your session. What do you hope people feel, learn, reflect on. What's going to be hard? Anything you'd like to share to whet our appetite and excite us for the topic?

MARK GREENE: Well, there's the whole construct of man box culture, which is the sort of rules of how to be a man, the very narrow set of rules, which were first conceptualized by a guy named Paul Kivel, he was a part of the Oakland men's project in the early 1980s. And he looked around at what the rules were for being a man. He asked boys in the local high schools and they all gave him the same set of answers. Don't show your emotions. Always be tough, never ask for help, be a breadwinner, never a caregiver. If you talk about anything, talk about sex or money or cars, don't talk about anything deep. And the darker side of the rules of the man box included be heterosexual, not homosexual and have power over women and girls.

This set of rules for being a man, we begin getting taught these things when we're still in babies. And it's constantly being reinforced for us by our parents, our brothers and sisters, the kids in the neighborhood, the local minister, the coach, the teachers, the mass media, everywhere. It's so ubiquitous that men take these sets of rules and they don't really see the larger culture that's been teaching them this all their lives. They just see it as their, it's my identity. So we take on this job of constantly proving that we can live up to those rules. And the end result is that boys are trained out of [inaudible 00:09:37] we're young [inaudible 00:09:38] has written a book called Deep Secrets. She's revealed a lot of her deep research. She had a simple question for boys. She said, "Is your best friend mean to you?" In early adolescence, boys say, "I love my best friend." They say, "Without my best friend, I'd go crazy."

By late adolescent, they're disengaging from these friendships because they're trying to prove they're not little kids, girly, or gay. And in that moment, their suicide rates become four times that of girls their age. And that speaks so eloquently to the loss that we suffer as boys and men, the loss of connection. We get instead get slotted into this hierarchical dominance based performance of masculinity where dominating those around us is how we validate our masculinity. And of course you can't have an inclusive or an equitable relationship with anyone in an organization if you're focused on dominating the people around you. So it's very bad for us as men in terms of the threat of constant isolation and loneliness, but it is also absolutely harmful to our careers and our professional lives.

RAY ARATA: So Mark, since I've been involved in curating your section of the conference, the first part, I believe you're going to be talking about how the variety of systems, whether it's government, work, family, faith perpetuate this model. So that's a big headwind that a lot of men face. So if you could speak to that, that would be great. And then we can move to the man box inside of me. The second section, we can talk about that as well.

MARK GREENE: Sure. Well, what we need to come to understand as men is that there's a lot of research out there now about how organizations can thrive and they thrive, Deloitte's research shows that a fully inclusive leadership in an organization, a diverse, inclusive leadership in an organization means that that organization is likely to be six times more innovative and have eight times better business outcomes. So we're talking about a radical upgrade in terms of an organization's ability to compete and to do well. So we, as men are carrying these leftover ideas, these disconnected ideas about how to succeed in the world, that aren't going to help us anymore.

And one of the things that I really invite men to do is to check in with their bodies, check in with how they're feeling and say, "Are you carrying anxiety a lot of the time? Are you feeling this tension that you're being watched and judged and that you have to perform in certain ways all the time, and are you constantly trying to re-up on that dominance and that power and that control idea? When in fact you never come to any internal, personal peace with that? Does it feel like a treadmill? Do you feel exhausted all the time? Do you feel disconnected?" And in that moment, we're going to be inviting men into a new way of performing masculinity, of being leaders, of being connected. And that is to create power with others instead of trying to create power over them. And it's a wonderful transformation, but men are up against a really big challenge in the workplace. And that is that we've been trained all our lives to map the responses of the men around us. And often we're so busy trying to prove that we're doing it right to the men in our immediate cohorts that we don't take a risk and stand up as an ally for a woman in a meeting that's being talked over. We don't bring a set of ideas that maybe are outside the norm. We don't bring our innovation. We don't bring our creativity. Instead we bring this constant mapping of the man box priorities and dominance, and that leads us, as the future begins to unfold in terms of equity and inclusion in organizations and all of the upgrades that that creates in terms of innovation and better business outcomes, we're going to get left behind unless we try to break out of that box and learn some connection skills and learn some capacities. And that raised central to the work that you do at the Better Man Conference.

JENNIFER BROWN: That's good, Mark. Outdated. So we really have to upgrade and change the way we lead and the way we see ourselves in the system and participating in that system, enabling that system when we don't challenge it, and also having the bravery to discard what's familiar, what's rewarded. It gets down to this, what gets measured gets done. One of our most hated or whatever common phrases about the business world that we have not made space for leaders to show up in a different way, with more heart, with rejecting some of the harmful behaviors that we see. And we also risk ostracization. So being ostracized from in groups when we step outside of those systems and we challenge them and we become the insider/outsider. And I know both of you are inspiring in terms of how often you do that and how you talk about when you do that and what it feels like.

Because I think that's part of what we have to, and I don't love normalize, I'll say usualize, is the more examples we can hold up of, when I did this, this is what happened, this is how I coped with it, and this is how I stayed the course. And this is the community that enabled me to stay the course. Because by the way, we feel alone when we step outside of the system. But actually this is what I love about this conference. We are all making time to shore each other up with what really comes down to forsaking something that has benefited us and thinking about what's all that's possible on the other side of that and going there together, which just is breathtaking.

For me, watching this happen, it's just, well, it's so rare and I value it so deeply. I don't care how it turns out. I just love that people are jumping in. And I know I've seen you create a lot of safety in the room. I had a question about how do you anticipate creating safety for people to go to where we need them to go, where we all want to go, how do you do that without a bunch of people in the room? And by the way, there's going to be virtual. This is going to be happening in parallel, which is a really interesting challenge that Ray and I have taken on. I'm excited.

RAY ARATA: So the smart guy answer is I'm going to do what I always do in men's weekends, but outside of me being funny guy, I have to be willing to go first. I have to be willing to be vulnerable so that others can go. And so when I curate a conference and I have a sponsor or a leader, or when I do a training for a company, I'm like, "Okay, who is the senior male leader that could be human and tell on himself?" And they're like, "Why do you need to know that?" And I said, "Because if he goes, they'll go."

And I can't tell you how many times when I was on my learning curve of vulnerability how afraid I was. But every time I did it, someone come up to me and they'd say, "Ray, I'd follow you anywhere." And I'm like, "What? I cried or I said I was afraid or something like that, or I didn't have the answer." And every frigging time. It's how I've developed my superpower of vulnerability.

So in the conference, I've even, I think it was in 2019, a woman in the audience said something and I had a moment where I could choose to bring attention to what she said and I chose to do it and then I thanked her for it. But then I said, "Thank you for your vulnerability. Guys, I want you to see something here." And I said, "My question is to the women in the room." I said, "If I as a man admit to you I'm afraid, don't have the answer or I'm sad or any other vulnerable share, do you trust me more or less?"

And by a show of hands, all the hands went up in the room just to prove a point. When I go into a space like this, you used the word community earlier, Jen. And what we're really trying to do is to expand a community of men, of white men, of people that don't identify as men so we ultimately can do this together. Us guys have a little bit of catching up to do and that's fine. So long winded answer. Mark, you want to chime in on that?

MARK GREENE: Well, I will tell you this. We live in such a hyper-competitive space, men do. We trained ourselves into doing this one-upmanship all the time and it happens in the very smallest conversations among men at a bar, whose football team is better, so on and so forth. We're constantly ranking each other in terms of who has the status in the smallest groups we're in, in the largest groups we're part of, and this constant competition and judgment and one-upmanship is a deeply isolating experience for us.

It is in no way the sort of open, joyful, connected friendships we remember from childhood. And I spent 50 years doing the man box. I spent 50 years, and you go through phases in life. In your 20s start to learn how to make a little bit of money and maybe you get a mortgage and then you get married and then you start doing all these markers of success. And that's an interesting treadmill. And you start to feel like, "Oh yeah, maybe I'm getting this done right." And you're chasing your tail over and over again.

And then eventually you realize that all of the competitions you're in in order to succeed are not about who you are authentically. In fact, you really need to hide that part. And then you realize that I know a lot of men, I have friends I've known for a long time, but we never really talk, we never really connect. I feel like I'm carrying all of the stresses and anxieties on my own. So when you then go into a room where men are doing men's work and you sit down with a circle of men who are there not to compete, but to simply connect, it's like air comes into the room for the first time in your life. And I remember a deep upwelling of emotion when I had my moment on the carpet at my weekend and I had to tell my story and my story was so simple.

It was that based on everything that's happened in my life, I don't trust men, I don't like men. In fact, I hate men. I'm telling this to 40 men. And I'm sick to death of being alone. I'm sick of it. And they said, "Well, do you want to trust us?" And I said, "What the hell do I have to lose at this point?" And I did. And I found connection. I found a room full of men who wanted to connect and the judgment was gone. And the sense of every man's story was so rich and so beautiful. And I heard so many parts of myself reflected back in that, that I finally realized I was home and I was in a place of connection. And that's what the work is about at the Better Man Conference and in terms of any of us who are trying to break out of the man box.

RAY ARATA: I want to say one thing there, and then there's a question in the chat that I'd like Mark you to answer. And that is, I shared, and this is kind of paraphrasing what you just said. Men are in pain. A lot of men are in pain and many of them don't know. And I don't say this as an excuse, but what I've heard time and time again for people who attended Better Man Conferences, I had no idea.

So by virtue of the fact that guys like you Mark, and I, and see my friend, Tony from Cisco on chat, he's been vulnerable. He showed up at the conference. The more of us that can do this, the floodgates hopefully will open for these men to be human, to be the men that our communities, our companies, our families need them to be.

And so the second part of your piece at the conference is going to be around too often excluded voices of masculinity. And what we're going to do, I was invited by a white male cisgendered CEO, Mike Kaufmann of Cardinal Health, "Hey, are you talking to other men that don't look like you and me around what masculinity means to them?" And I'm like, "I was thinking about it." And then I went from thinking about it to doing something. And I actually interviewed, so the game plan everybody is that we're going to have what we're calling intersectional too often excluded voices of masculinity, some lightning shares for some different kind of men about masculinity, what it means to them, anything that they can share with us around being an ally.

So Mark, since you and I haven't had the meeting yet to really fine tune this, so I'm putting you on the spot just a little bit. If you could answer that and then take a look at the chat that Gia put a question up and I think we can tie it all together.

MARK GREENE: Absolutely. One of the things that I say all the time is that this is about our liberation and our connection in the world. And if we choose to make the word masculinity plural, masculinities, if we say we're not on a gender binary where there's only one right way to be a man and one right way to be a woman and everybody has to pick that version of themselves and try to do it the best they can. If we say instead there is many masculinities as there are men to perform it. And if we say it's a vast range of possibility and each one of us can find our place on that spectrum where we are comfortable, and we can even move back and forth on it throughout our working day, depending on the context we're in, where we can finally be comfortable with our version and know that every other man defends our right to pick our spot, then we've done the work to also allow every other intersectional identity to find their places in the spectrum of being human.

The question in the chat is, how can we support white men who say, "Why should I support DEI? I'm the enemy, aren't I?" As long as we see everything as a binary, white men against all other people, men against women, non-binary people against everybody else. As long as we're setting up these false binaries, every one of us is trapped in a box, in a definition, in a frame, in a binary, men, white men who look like me, who sound like me, have a lot more influence in the world. And if we can't go ahead and just accept that fact, then we're going to have trouble doing this work.

But once we understand that, the next thing we can understand is, and I spoke to a CEO earlier today in a meeting and he held his hands up like this and he said, it's going to sound like it's not real but he said the words "CEOs get very lonely." We're all caught in isolation and roles. And when we break out of that and create acceptance for everyone, we get to be accepted too. That's the benefit.

JENNIFER BROWN: Beautiful answer. Beautiful. Leadership is lonely. And I sometimes share that with younger generations to say, there's a lot of catching up that has to happen amongst older generations who happen to have these leadership roles with so much privilege, so much access to being able to change that very system that that generation built truly. And I say the workplace wasn't built by and for a lot of us, I would be inclusive of maybe white men built it, but it didn't work for white. It works in certain ways, but it has not changed with the times. It hasn't been good for the human, regardless of our identity. It's just that some of us may be more comfortable in the system because it's more familiar to us and it works for us, but it so does not work for so many other people and us at the same time, because this man box, I think it's like the leader box. Right. It's the very narrow concept of how we're allowed to show up. We can't show up in the plural masculinities, Mark. Like no leader will tell you that they can. And it's extremely constraining and unhealthy for us. We may not see it that way, but these are the kind of aha moments that happen in the room where people begin to realize that the system that feels comfortable is like the boiling water, slowly boiling water that the frog is in.

MARK GREENE: The frog pot. I have something that I will also share that I think most people listening if they give it a little bit of thought, it'll seem like, yeah that's probably true. It's the story of a man who was the publisher of a major newspaper. A friend of mine knew his family, knew him for years. This man wrote at the height of power. He then retired. And he was the old fellow walking alone around the lake at this beautiful resort. And he had no one with him because everything he had built had been around his status and power and nothing about the relationships in his life. We don't teach boys and men how to have warm, interesting, connected relationships. And that's where the gold is at the end of the rainbow. It's not any of the rest of that status and power because all of that stuff goes away at some point. And if you find yourself in an extremely powerful, extremely influential position, you're lucky, but only to the degree to which you decide to start connecting in relationship to the people around you.

JENNIFER BROWN: We have another question in chat. What would be the most careful way of telling a man get out of your box without raising a fence or defensiveness? I need the right words.

MARK GREENE: I recommend you share stories with someone, you share a story, and then you ask for their story. Because when we start telling our stories as human beings, when we start relating what happened to us when we were young, that's where questions can come up, small questions. What do you feel like you're missing? What do you feel like, is there some loss in that? Because in my experience, when men start to talk about the real stories that are going on for them, not the wins, not the aggression, not the victories, not the sports, but the real stories that are going on for us and they find out someone will hold space for that. You start to discover the human being and the arc of their experience. And it is in there that we can invite people to make some changes.


RAY ARATA: The only thing I would add is, and this is, there's a fine line between calling in and calling out. And what Mark exemplified was more of the calling in and the tactic of telling stories. The only thing I would add is invite him into a conversation and say, Hey, are you open to having a conversation with me around this? And one of the things that I find very effective is, and this is going to require some courage. And you have to discern if this individual is safe for you to share the impact.



RAY ARATA: And to maybe even say, listen, it may be that you didn't mean it, but if you and I are going to work together and be colleagues together, are you open to a truthful two way conversation? He may or may not. So you want to ask some of those questions ahead of time and then determine around your own safety, because I'm conscious right now, here I am a white cisgendered guy telling you to go ahead and tell a guy to get out this man box and share impact. So I want to make sure that it's coming across in such a way that you can screen.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, I would add, remember too, to encourage positive behavior. I think some potential allies in training, as we'll say, maybe exhibiting allyship, maybe who knows intuitively or something they do intentionally, but it doesn't, maybe it backfires. But I do think too encouraging, saying this really helped, or I loved where you were going with this or this made me feel seen or when you did this, this felt like allyship to me. I appreciate that. And I think a lot of potential allies don't even see themselves operating in the system and may not see the nuggets that they can build on. And also, it's so easy to be critical of ourselves and sort of feel that we're in shame of I got that wrong or I don't know what to do. We need to help by I think reflecting inclusive leadership back to people when they exhibit it, when they try it and remembering that don't make perfect the enemy of the good. I think making space for that and really making that overt in our relationships with each other to say, I don't expect perfection.

What I expect is effort. Simply put, effort matters to me. It will be imperfect by the way, it will always be imperfect. You cannot hope to have a skill that you haven't practiced and developed a muscle. It's not a weight that you can lift yet, but we can encourage the journey and create psychological safety for men to begin to deepen, to story tell, to get vulnerable, comfortable being uncomfortable.

Also, to see themselves in all the diversity dimensions too. I think too, a lot of people are like, well, I'm not diverse. That's kind of a classic I'm going to sit on the sidelines because I have nothing to contribute because as it has been defined, perhaps they're like, well, I'm not this and I'm not that and I'm not that. This is why I really endeavor to broaden the aperture and the number of I guess, characteristics, life experiences, not to invalidate the very painful experience of things like racism, homophobia, sexism, not to create an equivalence, but to broaden and deepen the ways that we can see human souls. And the stigma and the struggles that they've had to as a way to empathize, not create an equivalence, but a way to get into it, a way to talk about it.

I've had executives share with me as I define it then they step in and say, well, I want to get vulnerable here and practice this, Jennifer. I grew up in an alcoholic abusive family, or I lost a kid to suicide recently, or I struggle. Nobody knows that I have a disability. So creating space I think, for almost anyone in this world to walk through and into conversation is a beautiful way to enable people to feel seen in the work. And then from there we can get into the more sticky, tricky, uncomfortable topics that we need to get to. But I kind of think a lot about how do we engage with folks and get them into the conversation, come in the waters warm and then build the capacity in that muscle so that we can have the tougher conversation because they are tougher. They need to be tough, but you can't just throw humans into the deep end and say, okay, well, if you drown, it's not my business. I don't want to treat humans that way. I'm not interested in that.

RAY ARATA: So one of the things as I was listening to you, Jennifer have me want to emphasize is that the sooner that we can multiply guys like myself and Mark who have the privileges to open more of those doors and to use those privileges, the platform, the position to make it more safe for others, the faster we're going to affect change. And so that's why one of my main personal reasons for doing the Better Man Conferences, and I finally get to say this in front of a live crowd that I also have the tall guy privilege because no one knows because I'm just sitting down.

But to get more and more and more and more men to utilize those privileges, to open up the door. And for these guys, if they can understand the distinction between earned and unearned privilege to not vilify themselves for being white, to not feel, go down the path of white guilt or white male fragility as I call it and to step into white male ability and say, okay, what are all these things I have, these advantages that I have, how can I make it possible for everyone to have a seat around the table, everyone to have a voice, everybody to have a contribution?

MARK GREENE: I'll say one other thing. We talk about everybody having stories that are hidden. But I think one of the great collective stories of men is that, and I say this often to women in the audience, I'll say it's important to understand how brutal man box culture is, how brutal domination based masculine culture is. It has to be brutal in order to take those joyful young boys. You see the friendships of young boys and they're so rich and so alive and so full of love and meaning and connection. How much bullying and trauma does it take to get boys by late adolescence to willingly give up those friendships? What is going on there? Right.

And the degree to which boys are trained out of connection, that takes a lot of violence, and a lot of bullying, and a lot of threats. So the culture itself is causing men to disengage from human connection. And the distance between a boy and his adult self, so many men have grief about loss that they can't even name because it's that sense of connection that's gone from their partners, from their kids, from their parents, from their friendships when they were young. That loss is what we're after. That's what Ray and I are hunting. And that's what Jennifer's hunting. We're hunting that loss because we want to take it out of the picture and replace it with connection.

JENNIFER BROWN: Well said. I think it's possible to be of a culture and step outside of it and look at it objectively. And I think that's where people get stuck. It's almost like you're betraying something and it feels like you're losing something. I mean, as dysfunctional as it is, it's what you know. It's like white culture. I mean, everything we've learned to be in it and yet be critical of it is so important to be able to do both of those things. And I think we are capable of this. We absolutely are every day. Every minute, every day, I'm trying to do that. I'm challenging from within and challenging myself to see the water I'm swimming in more objectively and to be critical of it and to then be a part of reshaping it.

So I just love, I mean a day is not enough time to have with folks at the Better Man Conference everybody. But it certainly is a beautiful start of a lot of things. And I know these communities and these conversations spin out of this too. I mean, they continue in this beautiful way and like Ray, you said earlier, wouldn't it be incredible to create environments like this within the workplace for these kinds of discussion, this kind of work, but it's pretty controversial to have what I would love to see as men as allies and training communities that are coming together that are having this discussion. And I wish it weren't so controversial because it needs so much healing. So maybe everybody can kind of think about what is the controversy of this. When we have such beautiful souls that need to be unlocked from this and to connect and to heal and to utilize power, privilege, platform, to shift the systems. To me, this is a priority and there's nothing controversial about it. And yet we're in these binaries, by the way, like you'd all just identified. That it makes it not okay even. The permission to have this exact conversation is what's so problematic, I suppose, but I think it's problematic not to have it and will continue to perpetuate these systems that have caused harm.

RAY ARATA: Well then thank you for that. Mark, you go ahead and then I'll go.

MARK GREENE: Well, I was just going to say, over the course of the last 15 years that I've been in this work I remember 15 years ago there was a lot of anger and frustration in the feminist community about where resources were being allocated for this work, for self-reflection, for change work and the idea at that time that a university would open up a masculinity studies program it was absolutely not possible at that time, 20 years ago, however long it was.

But I speak to a lot of women who self-identify as feminists, who are activists, who are coming quickly to understand that men need to do their work and sometimes they need to do that work within this masculinity conversation and that we need to help young boys and young men grow up in a different way and the only way we're going to do that is to give men a chance to have their own places of healing and connection and so I don't think there's as much resistance now as there was maybe two decades ago. And that's a very hopeful sign for me that everyone's coming together around this question of what do men need to be doing in terms of their own work.

RAY ARATA: I know there's a question in chat, because we're already darn near at time so I'm going to let go of what I was going to say in the interest of relevancy. So the question to all three of us and Mark, you're the man of the hour, what are your top three tips that you would offer to those listening to support men being DEI allies? And I'm going to ask you Jen, the same thing.


MARK GREENE: Well, I'm always reminded of your language Ray, open-hearted leadership and I don't know if we're speaking to men or how would I ask a man to be a DEI ally in a workplace, but I'm going to take that question from men, if you're asking yourself how to be a DEI leader. This is about creating a, instead of being stuck in the narrow set of relationships that you're allowed inside this sort of man box view of a masculine leadership in the workplace, you can open your doors wide up and connect with a huge number of people across all kinds of different identities and cultures. You get the rich full life you want if you just lean into this idea of being more open-hearted and in that process look around you to the people who clearly need your support, who are clearly taking some kind of microaggression or some kind of unfair bias based from someone around you.

And it's likely going to be someone who looks and sounds like you. Put your hand on that man's shoulder and say, hey, I want to talk to you about what I saw. Can you help me understand why you said what you said and do you understand the impact that had? And then finally, I would say, as men stop being afraid that we are the bad guys, stop being afraid to connect because we think, oh, that person's not going to want to talk to me. I represent the problem and instead have the courage to reach out and connect and deal with whatever happens initially in that process, but be open hearted and be present.

JENNIFER BROWN: How do I follow that? Don't be, actually talk about being imperfect. Talk about not having the answers, normalize, visualize that, start to role model that I think. I'm unsure, this is how I'm feeling. The other thing I think we speak so much from the head, I wish we could have learning organizations where we spoke about this is what I'm experiencing. This is how that hits me and naming that courageously when it makes us feel confused or ashamed. I think Ray, you do this so well, both of you do this, you know you say this is my head speaking and this is my heart, what this is feeling. And when we can begin to have that conversation heart to heart about the language of the heart, which this is we're getting to the, I get this cognitively, but I think we're never really going to go where we need to go if we don't embody this and really dig up.

So I'm studying my allyship behaviors. I'm checking my box. I've had the conversations, I've sought people out, but I'm not really kind of looking at myself and sharing what my journey feels like. And Ray, I think the example you used earlier to say how many people trust me more in this moment? And you saw all those hands go up. So we need to be speaking from head, heart, hands, kind of all the time and so let's check in and notice, where am I more comfortable speaking and operating from? Am I leaving a part of me out of this that would be actually this sort of, that thing got accelerant that would enable connection and that will become comfortable with practice.

That's my other piece of advice. This is going to feel awkward. It's going to feel strange. It's going to feel, I don't know. I can't predict the outcome and therefore I don't want to try it. This is unpredictable. And Mark, you just said, I don't need to know the outcome of this conversation in order to go into it and we may be really surprised. We may be, I mean, if not what you predict it almost never is actually and could end up with a deep connection that really lasts and that has, is transforms both sides. So too, I think let's not predict. It's like me being LGBTQ.

You know every person when they come out they think they know, they think they know it's going to be a really hard conversation and it's going to be bad and 90% of the time people say I was so blown away, I was blown away. And I underestimated, I miscalculated, I waited too long and I think there's a parallel here. There's a lesson in that. And that was true for me too. I waited too long and I completely underestimated what people are capable of. So let's have that space and grace and belief in each other, that we can go to where we need to go and that we don't know what's going to happen and there's so much available to us.


RAY ARATA: Thank you for that, Jen. Melanie was the one who asked the question so what I would say to you, Melanie is in the beginning of my book, Showing Up, I talk about how men care, most men care. So the first thing is assume positive intent that men care, they care about their families, their colleagues, their friends, respect, their livelihood, success. So ask them what they care about. Invite them in. And most guys just using myself as an example, if you ask them for some assistance and say I could use some support, they'll listen and let's have a conversation and then everything that Mark and Jennifer said, share your stories, do all the kind of stuff it can all kind of come together.

And last but not least, hey shameless self-promotion. Invite them to the better man conference. Have them come, have them buy Mark's book, Jen's book, my book. It's all there. And so I know we're at or near the end of time and so Mark, brother, thank you for being you and sharing who you are and your heart and your wisdom. Jennifer, we just got to keep doing this. This is great.


RAY ARATA: Thank you and I had my little monitor, my manopolising monitor going okay, am I talking too much? So everybody I was like behind scene, okay. Jen, help me shut up, you talk. It's a muscle. It's a muscle.

JENNIFER BROWN: It is a muscle. All right, everybody.

RAY ARATA: Thank you everybody.

JENNIFER BROWN: Hope we see you virtually or otherwise. San Francisco, New York, November. Please join us. We'd love to have you. Thanks to everybody.

RAY ARATA: All right. Bye-bye.


JENNIFER BROWN: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com. You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion and the future of work and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.

 You've been listening to the Will To Change, uncovering true stories of diversity and inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you've enjoyed the episode please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening and we'll be back next time with a new episode.