Celebrating the Legacy of a Male Feminist: Dave Goldberg

Jeffery Tobias Halter on male feminists, male engagement, male champions and fathers of daughters

By now we have all heard the sad news this week of the passing of Dave Goldberg, the chief executive of SurveyMonkey and Sheryl Sandberg’s husband.

Goldberg, 47, died unexpectedly Friday, after sustaining severe head injuries after falling off a treadmill, while on vacation with his family in Mexico.

As tributes poured in from Silicon Valley for the accomplished executive, he was remembered fondly not just for his work and humility but also for his unstinting love and support for his wife, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Calling him a male feminist, The New York Times described how Goldberg fueled his wife’s ambitions, pushing Sandberg to negotiate hard for high compensation and rearranging his work schedule to help be home for their kids when she was traveling.

Goldberg’s unwavering belief in his wife’s intellect and abilities found voice in Sheryl Sandberg’s iconic book Lean In, where she exhorts young driven women to find equal partners who can help spur their careers upwards and not thwart their efforts midway. “We are never at 50-50 at any given moment perfect equality is hard to define or sustain – but we allow the pendulum to swing back and forth between us,” Sandberg wrote of her marriage in her book.

Sheryl Sandberg’s tragic loss this week turns the spotlight firmly back on what men can do to advance women’s leadership not just at home but also in the workplace.

As a Corporate Gender Strategist, I have always believed that you really don’t need to convince women that they need to drive change; you need to convince men. If you want to create the next generation of women leaders, the buy-in has to come from men.

As a husband, this is where you can take your cue from Dave Goldberg’s life – which is to support your wife and other women in the workplace.

If you are a father of a daughter, be cognizant of the fact that even if you raise strong and independent girls, these bright children will graduate to earn just 77 cents to every dollar a boy would earn performing the same job. It’s your job to do every little bit you can to enhance women’s equality in the workplace now so you can somewhat level the playing field for your daughter’s future.

And finally, as a businessman, be a male advocate for women’s issues.

We know that male business leaders are unwilling to engage in conversations regarding gender differences in the workplace because they are afraid of being seen as insensitive, patronizing, or sexist if they even engage in conversation. But we need a mindset change.

In order to win with women, every senior leadership team needs to embrace women as a business imperative. They need to be asking tough questions to their management, holding people accountable and demonstrating commitment and urgency on this issue.

The upsides of this commitment are two-fold:

  • There is a huge economic value to gender diversity and recognizing that different perspectives bring greater innovation, higher levels of employee engagement and productivity, and a closer relationship with the marketplace.
  • Women are the life-force in any economy, making purchasing decisions for the family and heavily influencing the buying of cars and other products. It’s a trillion-dollar opportunity that businesses can ill afford to overlook.

So, go forth and be a male feminist like Dave Goldberg.

The payoffs are huge!

Jeffery Tobias Halter is the country’s leading male expert on engaging men in women’s leadership issues. He is the author of two books, WHY WOMEN, The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men and Selling to Men, Selling to Women.