These Cummins employees have each taken the UN’s #HeForShe pledge, joining over 1.3 million individuals who are taking action to create a gender-equal world. We’ll feature one profile a day starting Monday, March 6, 2017 through Friday, March 10, 2017.
The fifth Q&A in our #HeForShe profile series features Paul McAvoy, Director of HMLD Diagnostics, Cummins Inc.
Q. What is your motivation/reason to be an advocate for women and gender equality?
“My views have clearly been shaped by my family, most of them women. My grandmother taught in a one-room school house but only until she married at which time she was expected to focus on her role as a farm wife and quit teaching.
My mother was the stay at home mom until my father suddenly died and she found herself on her own raising three children under 10. My mother returned to work after my father’s death and took classes until she received a license as a lay minister. I grew to have tremendous respect for her; her dedication to family and raising us on her own, seeing we all made it through college, as well as her advocacy for others in some of her work through the church.
My sisters and I each went very different paths. My older sister Jane started as an elementary music teacher and later completed her PhD in Theology. Along the journey her advocacy for women in the ministry, what was viewed as feminist theology, and challenging gender based views of a higher power, were not always met with acceptance by some of her male colleagues even in the academic world. This is partially what triggered her move out of academic life into publishing, a move that was initiated when she was denied tenure having been blocked by some of the old guard.
My wife Cheryl also started as an engineer working on the shop floor doing assembly line time studies. She then completed her MBA, moved to a career in finance/business planning, and progressed to the level of plant manager. Her plant was sold to another company and after she led a very successful transition, she was told she was no longer needed and let go. This ultimately led her to pursue a role in a small personal financial business in which she became a part owner. That career choice was heavily influenced by how difficult she viewed it would be for her to start over from ground zero and needing to reestablishing herself as a female professional with a new employer.
I continue to grow and learn in my role as a father with three daughters, all with their own passions and interests. They all continue to challenge my thoughts about gender based roles in ways that I do not believe any of them fully realize.
I see the opportunities ahead of my daughters and am encouraged by how different those are than what my mother and grandmother had 50-90 years ago. At the same time, I’m reminded of just how much remains to be done for us to become a society where we are all seen for our talents and abilities and not judged by other factors such as our gender. If I can somehow help make this happen, even in a small way, then I feel an obligation to do so.”
Q. Do you have any words of advice/wisdom/encouragement for women in the workplace?
“Don’t underestimate your ability to be a role model. You may be the only professional female a young person may encounter. This could spark the career for a young girl somewhere, especially for those of you that may be in technical or STEM related roles.
You may be the only female professional in a non-traditional “female career” that helps a young boy grow up with a view that doesn’t place limits on his idea of what women should do. Be visible in some way so that the young adults in your community realize the possibilities.”
Q. What are some ways that men can be champions and advocate for gender equality?
“The first key step is to realize the importance and power for men to step up to be champions in this area. Without that first step, none of us opens up our minds to the potential to be a champion and advocate.
I first learned of HeForShe over two years ago via my daughter Katherine when she posted ago a link to Emma Watson’s September 2014 speech on gender equality. I’m still struck by the utter simplicity and profound depth of that speech and its simple message which is ultimately about freedom for all of us. How can any of us be free of gender stereotypes and barriers if we are not all free? How can we enact change in our society if half of our population (men) sit on the sideline and think that this is just a women’s issue?
Towards the end of her address, Emma Watson has these words:
“In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt I’ve told myself firmly – if not me, who? If not now, when? If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you, I hope those words might be helpful.”
That’s why I immediately reached out to those leading the HeForShe initiative with my simple offer of “how can I help.” If not me, who? If not now, when?”
Hear from the rest of Cummins’ gender equality champions in our ongoing #HeForShe profile series.
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