My parents grew up in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, PA, during the 40s and 50s. While my mother was from a more traditionally sized family of three, my dad had 10 brothers and sisters. For his immigrant parents, this made life a lot of things: busy, tiring, loving, challenging and most of all, equal…let me explain.
Growing up poor, at least for my family, simply meant that there wasn’t time to hate or to consider one’s race or gender. The focus was on putting food on the table, making sure everyone was clean and well mannered and figuring out how to advance in life while following the golden rule. For my dad and his siblings, as they grew up and began having their own children, nothing changed.
In the tradition of my grandparents and my parents, this is how I’ve lived my life. However, having a lifetime of diversity amongst my family, friends, and co-workers has taught me that for many of my fellow global citizens, demographics matter deeply.
Over the past few years, as racial tensions in our country have grown and as more and more women rise in power in our world, I find myself not simply entering into rooms and taking a seat, but paying careful attention to the make-up of the room hoping to see fewer people that look like me.
These thoughts are even more prevalent given the two latest roles that I’ve assumed: start-up co-founder and father of a 15-month-old boy. The relevance of these new experiences is the lens they each bring along with them.
As a start-up co-founder, I will be in a position to influence the make-up of the team and culture. I will hire and I will fire, and while previously I would have only considered the experience of the candidate weighted against the role we were asking him or her to fill, I believe I’ll now need to consider demographics as well.
As a father, I now look at the world through the eyes of my son Grayson, wanting to make certain that whether he grows up in the suburban world I did or in the urban one he was born into, the view is the same: one of diversity and equality.
I find myself hoping that this is so due to two of his new friends, Millie & Molly. These women are the stars of GE’s latest television spots that support the company’s goals of having 20,000 women fill STEM roles by 2020. Mildred Dresselhaus was the first woman to win the National Medal of Science and Engineering while Molly is a fictional girl who invents brilliant engineering solutions to the problems around her.
I LOVE these commercials, and as it turns out so does my son. When they appear on TV (please, obsessed parents and those who are MDs, try to calm yourself at the thought of a 15m old watching TV), he is mesmerized. Just look at these photos:
Admittedly, on the Molly spot, he digs the jingle, but that doesn’t start until eight seconds in and there’s no (what he considers) dance music playing behind the Millie ad. We actually don’t yet allow my son to sit and watch TV, but it’s on in the background and there’s not one other piece of content that when it hits the screen, outside of a Steelers’ game, pulls his attention away from whatever he is doing.
Studies show that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day and ones such as these are the ones I hope will permeate my son’s subconscious. Most importantly, my hope for my son and his generation is that companies like GE aren’t simply talking the talk, but are also walking the walk and that the enrichment, both personally and professionally, that comes from diversity will no longer be something that has to be measured to prove its efficacy.