The Evolution of Male-Female Relationships: An Interview with Leon Silver

by Gloria Feldt on October 13th, 2015
in Gender, Leadership, Women & Work and tagged , ,

I recently had a chance to speak with my friend and Take The Lead board member Leon Silver, co-managing partner of the Phoenix office of law firm Gordon & Rees. Leon is a lifelong supporter of women’s rights and co-founder of The Liberty Project nonprofit.

Gloria Feldt: You recently welcomed your first grandchild to the world, a baby boy named Greg. Looking forward to his future, can you tell me what you want the world to look like 25 years from now—in terms of gender roles and relationships both at work and at home?

Leon Silver: Simply put, I’d like for us to not to have to talk about gender roles. I would like to see an equality of judgment and an equality of merit. I don’t want Greg to live in a world where you are defined by your gender or by other people’s expectations for what you ought to be because of your gender. I’m not a fan of defined gender stereotypes or judgments or conclusions that get made based on gender differences.

G: In the legal field, women who choose to work and to be mothers often find themselves at a disadvantage. According to 2014 figures released by NALP earlier this year, only 17 percent of equity partners were women and only 5.6 percent were racial/ethnic minorities. What’s holding women back?

L: In my experience, women are often penalized because they are assumed to be too involved with their kids and to be responsible for maintaining the home—whether that is actually part of their life at home or not. For example, it is often assumed women are not able to travel across the country to take a deposition. Thus, men are sent on these assignments instead. Too often, these decisions are made without ever even asking the women, the perception being: “This is what the man is supposed to do and this is what the woman is supposed to do.” This needs to go away.

G: A recurring problem that seems to affect just about every industry is the belief that success in the workplace requires someone else to fail. It’s the “Apprentice” mentality: I have to do better than you, to step on you, and to beat you in order to advance my career, without regard to the benefits you truly bring to the team. Looking ahead, do you see this changing?

L: The idea of competition within the workplace to see who outperforms whom isn’t very efficient. There are philosophies of group dynamics that suggest that when you work together for the benefit of everyone, you are much more successful—and profitable. By the same token, when you talk about a diverse workplace, there are studies that suggest that when you bring together people of different backgrounds, different life experiences and different cultures, and you unite them in the pursuit of a mutual goal, you end up with a much better result—if you do it right. People from different backgrounds approach things differently, and this is a good thing.

G: What is your motivation for being an outspoken advocate of diversity in the workplace?

L: It’s simple. Hiring a demographically diverse workforce improves a company’s financial performance. A 2014 Gallup study suggested that gender-diverse teams perform better than single-gender teams for several reasons. One reason is that men and women have different viewpoints, ideas, and market insights, allowing for better problem-solving and ultimately, superior performance.

When my grandson enters the workforce, it is my hope that professional relationships will have shifted to a model where the group seeks collective success. Imagine the possibilities if we eliminate the win-lose model for teams that are truly working together to accomplish something.

G: So how do we begin the movement that will lead to the end of gender roles as we know them to create a better world for our kids and grandkids?

L: The first step is to walk the walk and lead by example. In order to achieve this change, we must ask people to open their eyes and to think ahead. We have to overcome the “This is how’s it’s always been done” mentality. I hope that by leading by example, I will be a part of the movement to disrupt antiquated gender roles and to create a world we want to leave behind for future generations.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Take The Lead Presented and Connected in 2014—and Wants Your Suggestions for 2015

IMG_6939-X3Understanding the Role Confidence Plays Would workplaces become more balanced and society more equitable if women exhibited more confidence? Katty Kay and Claire Shipman created a stir with their book The Confidence Code and their article, “The Confidence Gap” in The Atlantic. To continue this important conversation, we were honored to have Shipman speak to the Take The Lead community in July about how personal confidence relates to women advancing in the workplace and in society. Yes, women face very real barriers, no matter how confident we are, but leading with confidence expands our possibilities in ways that change our lives and the lives of other women. (Like this quote? Tweet it!) Did you attend this event with Shipman? What did you learn? This confidence question will surely be an ongoing conversation, so we’d love to hear your thoughts! TakeTheLead-80-X3The Solution to Feeling Stuck: Get a Coach! At Take The Lead we teach women to define their lives and careers on their own terms. But history has also told us how crucial it is to seek help when we need it. That’s why we were so excited to gather some of the best coaches we know for an event in NYC sponsored by the fabulous ALEX AND ANI. Alisa Cohn, Robyn Hatcher, Bonnie Marcus, Dana Balicki, Audrey S. Lee, Maggie Castro Stevens, and Leslie Grossman joined us to share their wisdom and generously donate hours of coaching time to attendees. See photos from the event and learn more here. 15777710358_506c524d16_o-X3Circling Up! One way we achieve leadership parity at Take The Lead is by working with women across all backgrounds, generations, and professional fields. And we’re proud to collaborate with a larger resurgent women’s movement. One way we create connections among women is through our online Take The Lead Community. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so to network and get honest, actionable advice from other accomplished women having valuable conversations. Soon we’ll be adding a mentoring component you won’t want to miss. Gearing Up for 2015 Stay in touch with Take The Lead by signing up for our newsletter, and following us Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Thanks again to everyone who joined us this year and stay tuned for exciting developments in 2015! Remember! Please take a moment in the comments section to tell us what’s bugging you, highlight learning topics you want to see in our webcasts, courses, or blog, and suggest experts you admire. You can also tweet us at @takeleadwomen using the hashtag #takeleadwomen2015. If you’re moved by the work Take The Lead does to give women and men true parity across all sectors, it’s not too late to donate to enable us to Teach, Connect, and Present to more people next year. Read more about our strategy for change, Take The Lead’s 4 keys to leadership parity, here.