Rayona Sharpnack calls gender partnership her life’s work and sees it as a means to lift women up and help them claim their power. Growing up in rural California with only three brothers to play with, Rayona learned to excel at sports so she could play with the boys. However, when she tried to get a scholarship for her athletic achievements, there was nothing available for girls. She worked to get Title IX passed throughout her college career, which it did in her senior year. But she didn’t stop there. She went on to fight for gender equality throughout her many devoted decades of commitment to creating breakthrough results, founding both the Institute for Women’s Leadership and the Institute for Gender Partnership. Rayona said that when she started the institute 20 years ago, she put a stake in the ground and said, “The future of civilization is completely dependent upon the full partnership of men and women.”
Cracking the Code on Gender Equality
30 years ago, Rayona’s vision was that we had to work on three fronts all at the same time to crack the code on gender equality.
- Empowering women with and for each other—working together to lift each other up.
- Engaging men as allies and advocates.
- Removing institutional barriers and blind spots.
Rayona says if you don’t do all three simultaneously, you won’t get enough traction to change the ecosystem. Today, with all the problems that threaten our way of life, we need gender balanced teams in government, commerce and education to solve them.
The Guys Who Get It Awards
Rayona founded The Guys Who Get It Awards to “amplify positive deviation.” The phrase was coined by a Jerry and Monique Sternin who worked to solve a hunger crisis for Save the Children. After watching the villages in Vietnam for some time, they realized that the villages that did not have starving children were fed bits of river crabs or snakes along with their river weed soup. The bit of protein helped these children thrive. Their solution was to have the mothers who were doing this train those who were not. In this way they redirected their ecosystem in a positive way.
Through The Guys Who Get It Awards, Rayona amplified and disseminated the best practices of men who were practicing gender partnership. Her goal was to keep other guys from going to sleep thinking, “I don’t know what to do.” The buzz created by the awards made the guys who received it proud. They wanted it on their wall and they amplified the effect by sharing their awards and reasons for getting it with others.
Every Guy Can Be A Male Ally
There is something everyone can do. For guys, Rayona says they need to understand the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Both are important, but sponsorship requires stepping out there and taking a stand. She also advises that guys can just pay attention. If they see a woman not taking a seat at the table, or one of her ideas being adopted by a man as his own, they can speak up and support her, or redirect and take it back to the point of origination. Finally, Rayona said that often guys think they’re helping, when they are actually practicing benevolent sexism. For example, when they don’t allow a woman to take that new job because she has young children at home, they hold her back. It’s important to let women choose if they can accept the promotion, rather than choosing for them.
There is much more wonderful advice in this conversation. Listen to Rayona’s insights and check out The Institute for Women’s Leadership, The Institute for Gender Partnership and The Guys Who Get It Awards for more information. Also, check out Rayona’s leadership book, Trade Up: 5 Steps for Redesigning Your Leadership & Life from the Inside Out.
Order Dr. Nancy’s new book or pick it up at your book store
Read more about Rayona’s Guys Who Get It Awards and how to engage male allies in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, inspiration, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life. Learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the binds of gender inequality. Then remember to get your copy – and gifts for your friends. After you’ve read it, please, leave us a 5-star review on Amazon. Your review will help us reach more women with proven techniques for achieving gender equality by working with other women and our male allies.