Christopher Hitchens once described “anima”, the ability to think like a woman, as one of the qualities he most admired in a man. It’s a quality few men would admit to admiring and one that even fewer men would admit to having. This is a mistake.
Last weekend I had the good fortune of attending the “Dynamic Women in Business” conference hosted by the Women’s Student Association at HBS. The conference was sold-out with over 1,000 people in attendance. Presenters and panelists included HBS grads in the beginning, middle and ends of their careers, who hold or held positions of influence in companies like Accenture, Bain, BCG, Pepsico, JP Morgan, PIMCO, Google, McKinsey, Discover, Citigroup, American Express, and other icons of industry.
Despite overt instructions on the invitations that the event was not limited to women, I was one of 5-10 men there. The conference was so devoid of men that one bold young woman ventured into one of the (cavernous) men’s rooms. I discovered this when, while I had just begun to disengage my zipper, she burst out of a stall in the back. She trotted across the bathroom, averting her eyes and apologizing profusely all the way, while her high heels clomped and clacked on the tile floor. I heard her make it to the door, then – to my confusion – pause and come back. She rushed to the sink and methodically washed her hands (30 seconds, plenty of soap) while still breathlessly exclaiming “sorry! I’m really sorry!” before trotting away. I admire her dedication to hygiene.
Three Major Takeaways: