— Lean In Canada (@LeanInCanada) December 6, 2014
I was recently invited to join a panel of men speaking on gender equality at Lean In Toronto, a networking group for professional women with its origins in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In!
Taken from their website,
Lean In Toronto is a group of professional women seeking to grow their careers by networking, learning and sharing experiences in a positive, enriching environment.
With a dominantly female audience of nearly 200 strong, being the first representatives of our gender of panelists in this forum shouldered responsibility for showing that we could bring value to the discussion, but the evening ahead would determine whether we were the right men for the job.
And the night went better than I could’ve ever expected.
Lean In Canada Chapter — December (Holiday Event & Panel): Men Give Their Take on ‘Lean In’ and Gender Equality
— M Ashpole (@MzAshpole) December 9, 2014
If you weren’t there, you missed quite a night, with diverse speakers, challenging questions, and the vibe of a crowd that was open to learning from one another, sharing their experiences so we could all finish our nights a little better off than we’d started.
My fellow panelists included:
- Jesse Jones, CIO and President of TEN81 Lifestyle, Inc. whose insights as a single man wanting to see more of his gender helped frame the discussion for a hopeful future;
- Mark Shekter, Co-founder of Think8 Systems Inc., whose experiences in a long-standing relationship and running businesses with prominent female roles helped him lead discussions on respect in and evolution of the workplace;
- Subash Sen, Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of BMO Asset Management Canada, whose experiences at the executive level helped showcase a world where women are starting to get a foothold on opportunities previously prohibited to them, noting that there’s yet much room to grow;
- and Scott Schieman, Professor of Sociology & Canadian Research Chair at University of Toronto, whose data-driven insights showed that our world is still broken with how we treat women in the workplace, providing a looming sense of reality to the night.
What my words can’t do justice is just how much I enjoyed myself that night, sharing my experiences in a way that mattered to others! I’ve always enjoyed public speaking, but sequestered away in a desk job by day and behind my computer screen by night while I try carving out the life I aim to lead, I rarely find myself with opportunities to share stories live before a crowd.
Though I didn’t know whether I’d be heard on a panel with a C-level executive, a professor and two business owners, the positive reaffirmation I got from those who felt empowered by my views warmed my heart. It reflects what I’ve wanted to do all along — create content that changes people’s lives, showing them there’s more to life than the lives they’re currently living!
To get a flavour for the types of questions we fielded that night, here’s a few below, with snippets of answers I gave when I got my hands on the mic:
Q: Harvard recently published the results of a multi-generational study that examined the expectations of male and female Harvard graduates, and how those expectations have played out in their lives. It found that the majority of men expected that their career would take precedence over their partners and that their partners would carry out the lion’s share of child care (a traditional model), and yet the majority of women expected to have equal importance in career and half of women expected equal responsibility in home life. Not surprisingly, the women in the study are less satisfied with their careers than the men. How does the career satisfaction of you and your partner measure up, and why? How have you and your partner determined and decided on the division of labour in the home?
— Tara Hunt (@missrogue) December 9, 2014
Q: Sheryl (Sandberg) devotes an entire chapter of her book to relationships and the idea of being a “real partner”. How does your partner support your success, not just in work but also in other aspects of life? What advice do you have for people to gain and maintain satisfaction and appreciation in their relationships?
— Christina (@crupsingh) December 9, 2014
And when a question came up in the audience Q&A session about men generally taking more risks than women with job applications, studies showing that women generally wanted to have every qualification before trying their hand at an opportunity, my impassioned reply sums up to three simple words:
— Melissa Karis (@melissatoronto) December 9, 2014
A Night I Won’t Soon Forget
View this post on Instagram
Awesome shot of our panelists and leadership team, at the December 8th #MenLeanIn event! Photo by @drutwo. From left to right, the guys: Mark Shekter, Jesse Jones, Scott Schieman, Casey Palmer, Subhas Sen. Our team: Sarah Kwan, Pam Sethi, Despina Zanganas, Christina Rupsingh
With such a positive response, I’m admittedly hooked, wanting to fill 2015 with public speaking engagements, telling stories that offer advice a little different for everyone, but ultimately helping improve not only ourselves, but the people around us as we strive to pour positivity into the world around us. It’s nights like these that fill me with hope, pushing me to reach for new experiences and opportunities to see just how far I can grow.
But don’t just take my word for it – you can see the panel through the eyes of TEN81 Lifestyle, Inc. and their President and fellow panelist Jesse Jones through their blog post here.
You can take a look at some of the tweets and Instagram posts for the event below and at the Storify that Lean In Canada put up:
— Miss Kwan (@misskwan) December 9, 2014
— Sarah Kwan (@mssarahkwan) December 9, 2014
So here’s to future stages and conversations of all shapes and sizes – if another opportunity pops up where I can get up and share with the crowd around me, I hope to see your face among the audience and that we get to know each other a little better than we do already.
See you when I look at you,
If you meet any of these criteria…
- Are you interested in networking with like-minded women?
- Are you looking for inspiration and empowerment in your career?
- Are you goal oriented and interested in building on your strengths?
- Are you excited to share your knowledge, experiences and perspective with peers?
…you should consider joining Lean In Toronto! Membership is free for 2014!