“I Am Not Unique”: On Being the Only Man at a Women’s Leadership Conference

My work-life panel at Mom-mentum
My work-life panel at Mom-mentum. I was honored to be the only man on the program that day

About two weeks ago, I was honored to appear as a panelist at Mom-Mentum’s annual Women’s Leadership Conference. It was a wonderful event filled with excellent speakers (especially the inspirational Debra Sandler), panels, workshops and networking opportunities.

I was the only man on the program, and I joked I was “there to represent the Y chromosome.” I served on a panel that discussed balancing family concerns with leadership ambitions. The discussion was great, in part due to the really interesting and revelatory questions asked by the moderator. The women on the panel and in the audience were very welcoming to me and to the work-family challenges faced by dads.

About half way through the panel, the moderator directed a question to me. She began by saying, “Scott, you are obviously unique in this, but how do you balance all you do with supporting your wife’s career and finding time to be an involved dad?”

Before I answered, I remembered a recent blog post, and had to take a moment to gently push back. I said something along these lines:

Thank you, and I know you mean this as a compliment, but I am not unique. Virtually every dad I know cares about his career and is putting in lots of time and work to be a highly involved father. Please don’t look at me as unique. I’m actually really representative of most working dads in dual-career couples today.

The moderator was about to respond when she was interrupted by a good amount of applause from the women in the audience. That was music to my ears.

To me, that applause was the sound of women standing up to recognize that so many dads were also stepping up at work and at home.

About a half-hour later, the panel discussion ended with a few minutes for questions from the audience. All of the questions were directed to me, and most were not questions at all. They were statements like:

Thank you for saying that. I would have never gotten as far in my career if my husband hadn’t been such a great equal partner at home.

I see my son and my son-in-law right in their in the trenches with their wives- feedings, diapers, child-care, the whole works.

While it seems a bit counter-intuitive, this women’s leadership conference was as heartening as my experiences at Dad 2.0, the National At-Home Dad Network Convention, or any of my various book readings (pictures from my Barnes & Noble Union Square reading coming soon), paid speaking engagements or corporate conversations.

Working women are our allies in garnering support for working dads. We need to keep up this momentum.

But, even more importantly, this experience taught me a valuable lesson. So many dads are working hard to succeed both at work and at home. This has been true for a long time, but we haven’t talked enough about it. The more we and our spouses talk about this- at home, at work, with our kids, in our schools, in our neighborhoods- the more this becomes recognized as normal. I’m not the only man. Involved fatherhood is normal. It is not unique.

This Christmas, buy yourself the gift of balance with my book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide.

But also, give this gift to the other dads in your life- a brother, friend, neighbor, in-law, cousin or anyone else who may be becoming a new dad.

Finally, to the ladies in the audience- one of the keys to your work-family challenges is a spouse who is working with you. My book can really help.

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