Men As Allies
When Denise and I first considered opening a coffee roastery, I will admit I wasn’t too focused on the mission of women’s empowerment. My goal was solely to roast high quality coffee. It was Denise who was the driving force behind building partnerships with organizations which assisted women and girls, as well as engaging with other woman-owned businesses. I was just along for the ride, content to roast and brew coffee.
But as we developed the business, I quickly realized that it was not enough for me to be passively supportive of my wife’s mission. If Empower Coffee Roasters’ core mission included women, then I needed to rise to her level of commitment. I soon developed relationships with our outstanding non-profit organizations, working with them on ways to bring attention and donations to them. In developing these relationships and looking into other organizations to support, I began learning more about the specific challenges faced by woman and girls in the Phoenix area.
Working with Demetra from Go with the Flow educated me on the significant issue many girls encounter when obtaining basic hygiene products and how that impacts other areas of their lives including school and work. Meeting Kristen, Erin, and Iris from Live and Learn Arizona opened my eyes to how difficult it can be for women and girls to escape from generational poverty.
Learning about how blind we all tend to be towards issues that do not impact us personally made me change my mindset. We are so consumed with our insular worlds, that we recognize other problems in the world beyond what directly affects us. But when it comes to the issue of men being strong supporters and champions for causes that impact women, the problem is larger than that.
Four decades ago, the idea of a company having a female executive was not considered, because the men held positions of power in the professional world, which excluded women from higher positions within an organization. As our society progressed, women started breaking glass ceilings and now exceed men in terms of college admissions and graduation rates. An increasing number of women serve as CEOs and board members. But obstacles still exist for full equality of opportunity. Women overall are still underrepresented in STEM education and corporate America, especially African American and Latina women. In 1990, women held no executive positions in Fortune 100 companies. By 2001, that number rose to 11% of all positions, but has since fallen to 7%. Women of color represent only 4.7% of executive and senior level roles at S & P 500 companies. Men still hold roughly 70% of elected offices across state legislatures. Clearly, more needs to be done. And I wonder if us men have simply graduated from being obstacles to now standing aside as women push the proverbial boulder up the mountain.
I have realized that being an ally to women’s empowerment means not simply standing aside while women continue the fight. We must stand alongside women and push that boulder up the mountain together. The struggles for equality and empowerment is not just one gender’s burden. Being an effective ally means actively supporting women’s equality by donating time and resources to women’s organizations, advocating for advancements for women in education, particularly STEM education, and supporting policies in government that promote equality and empowerment.
As our business continues to grow, we continue to partner with amazing women organizations. I will keep asking myself that question and listening to women on how I can best be of support. I will try to do better every day in ensuring Empower Coffee Roasters lives its values in empowering women and girls.