For several years now, Brendan Connolly has been running in Sydney's City2Surf race, which takes place every August. This year Brendan took a different course. Instead of running along with our Accenture team, which proudly finished 8th out of 872 teams who participated, he decided to cheer for his wife from the sidelines together with their four daughters. Brendan talks about why this decision was so important to him as a dad, husband and Male Champion of Change.
I brought my kids to Bondi on Sunday to experience the fun of the City2Surf (C2S) road race, and to hopefully get them sufficiently excited to participate themselves next year. I wanted them to be inspired by the elite athletes who compete in the event, both runners and wheelchair participants, the exciting costumes on display by those who run less competitively, the volunteers who selflessly dedicate their time to make the event happen. But most importantly, I wanted them to cheer on their mum (and step mum) as she ran the race she’s been training for over the past 8 weeks.
We also cheered on the C2S Legends, the group of runners who have participated in every C2S since it’s inception back in 1971. The group is now understandably getting on in age and growing smaller each year, but there are still 26 Legends going strong who competed in the event yesterday. There is, however something noticeable about the legends, in that they are all men. In fact, of the 1,500 participants in the first C2S road race, only 2% (yes only 30) were female.
It makes me think about diversity in general and my role as a Male Champion of Change more specifically. I sometimes struggle with what I should do to support women in this role, analysing actions and words, worried that I overstep the mark or say the wrong thing. But yesterday, brought some clarity to me as I stood on the sidelines with my four daughters who were excited about what they were witnessing but especially excited about the prospect of high-fiving their mum on her way to the finish line. You see, I am a fervent runner and I love participating in the C2S as well as the Sydney Morning Herald half marathon every year. In fact, having participated in 12 C2S events (and counting) in recent times, I somewhat immodestly consider myself a “mini-legend” as I seek to notch up a more impressive tally in the years to come!
Yesterday brought a different satisfaction though. While I didn’t run for a 13th time or earn a personal best record, I did step back and support my wife in something that was important to her. It was important to me too. And I understand now that sometimes the right thing to do is to simply provide space, encouragement and create the environment for other people to have a go, to experience things and to shine. I know Amanda appreciated the gesture, the support and the encouragement during her training and on the day of the race. I know that I will have her support in the future when I do things that are important to me.
Next year I hope we will run the C2S as a family, but today, I can genuinely say that I didn’t feel deprived by not running this year. I felt like a legend. Yesterday, I supported a strong female to do what she loved and also inspired the next generation of female participants and leaders – my four daughters. And for myself and others in our business, I want us to consider how we can do the same in the workplace and challenge ourselves and others to: