In February Chris Paul a professional basketball player was quoted, saying: “She gave me a technical. That's ridiculous. If that's the case, this might not be for her.”
Paul explained the scenario of his team's quick in-bounding after the opposing team scores. Paul plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, ironically the same team that forced the sale by the owner who made racial comments, regarding current and past players.
He probably would have made similar comments about a new male referee who he found disagreement on a call. But this is not what most of us heard, especially me, a man with three daughters and three granddaughters.
Absent from much of the discourse were men talking about the irresponsibility of Paul's remarks and comments by incensed fathers — men who hope their daughters or granddaughters are never made to feel that they don't belong.
To be fair, the National Basketball Association is ahead of the other professional men's sports in adding women to coaching, management and officiating positions. But the culture is still one of tacit tolerance rather than unequivocal acceptance. A labor report on gender-based hiring found that of all the men's professional leagues, the NBA had the best record for hiring women.
The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) realizes that women make up at least 46 percent by some accounts of its viewing audience. You won’t see an episode of ESPN, where a female commentator is not present.
My experience in the military proves culture change to outright acceptance takes time and should be the focus going forward because inclusion makes the ranks strong. Several years ago, I recall a discussion over dinner with two of my female colleagues. These officers said, though competent or intelligent, women contend with self-doubt about their rise in the military. They face grim comments such as “You are only here because the organization was pressured to promote a woman.”
March is “Women's History Month,” where I am reminded of the utter terror and poverty many women around the world endure. Despite their harsh treatment in many corners on our globe, experience shows that integrating women into transitional governments, reconciliation and peace-building processes from the start helps promote long-term peace and stability by ensuring a focus on critical broader priorities and needs.
I recall a female student from Afghanistan at a Boston seminar. She lauded U.S. sacrifices in the name of freedom, especially for Afghan women and girls. She wanted the audience to know that a new generation of girls is being educated there, and that will be transformational.
Even though strides are being made globally, here in the U.S. women make up 57 percent of students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities and nearly half the workforce yet account for only 3.6 percent of chief executive officers at Fortune 500 companies. When women exercise their voice and power, the focus of the social debate changes.
They insert different perspectives and solutions into the dialogue. A culture change within our institutions must create an enabling environment for both men and women to thrive and feel they belong.
For the sake of the next generation of women, especially my granddaughters, men mustn't remain sidelined on any issue that gives the impression that women don't belong.
Glennie E. Burks is a colonel in the U.S. military and lives in Missouri. To reach him, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.