Article | The “Surprising” Importance of Women Supporting Men: A Personal Story

By Rachana Bhide

Back in the early 2000s, I was living in DC and was home one unremarkable evening, when I received a terribly alarming voice message.  It was from a guy who I was close to and had known for years; he was now back in town himself after graduating.  We had caught up in the previous days, but I was wholly unprepared for the message I picked up.

“Rach,” it said. The voice on the message was distraught, barely audible. “Rach, I’m having a really difficult time here again.  I don’t think it’s getting any better.  I really think — like, tonight — I think I’m going to kill myself.”

I don’t remember my immediate reaction, except frantically locating his number on my cell phone and hitting send.  “Come over,” I said — I know I said this, and the next words: “We’ll get you better.”  I honestly don’t even remember if I talked to him or if I left it as a voice message, but within 5 minutes he was already at my door.

When he arrived he didn’t appear broken; he had clearly been crying but I remember thinking he looked quite in control.  We stood two steps from my front door and talked in my foyer– either out of situational urgency, or because we tried to attempt a casual, breezy conversation, similar to how we always were with each other.  But it certainly wasn’t breezy; he talked about the things that had been happening in his life, how hard it was for him to be back in the same difficult environment, and how scared he was to face what was to come.

Two and a half hours later, we hadn’t left the foyer.  We’d both migrated directly onto the cold carpet, sitting across from each other with more eye contact than I’d ever made with him, talking through his pain, our tones beginning to alternate between serious and relaxed.

When he seemed to be OK, we started bantering a bit, and I made a gentle but perfectly timed joke that had him laughing so hard I was actually kind of proud of myself for making him “better” again.  He still remains a dear friend to this day.

Yet he and I never spoke of the incident again.

I would like to say that event changed me and my views on male mental health, but I was too numb at that point to understand (or accept) how someone — a guy — with whom I was so close might be fragile.  It also felt incredibly awkward to suggest he may need any kind of emotional support.  “Talk to me if you’re ever down, I’ll make you laugh” was kind of how I had dealt with all the men in my life.

Getting “Woke” To the Topic of Men and Mental Health

It wasn’t until 15 years later, when I began my master’s degree in psychology, that I remembered the incident. I only recalled it after I was on a date, and my date told me a guy who he had grown up with committed suicide.  I woke up at 2am that night, remembering vividly the entire episode: the foyer, the long talk, and the raw, broken voice message.

As part of my my master’s research I was speaking to a lot of men about topics like leadership and the workplace. And as I was doing so, I was naturally beginning to feel these men’s — often very high — levels of empathy.  The more I spent time with my two best buddies in grad school, the more I realized how wonderfully, traditionally “masculine” and simultaneously deeply emotional they were. So I wanted to explore how men tapping into their emotions could have a positive effect on the workplace and on themselves.

Men Supporting Women… and Women Supporting Men

One key piece of my research evolved specifically to the role of gender partnerships: how men use their natural empathy to positively champion and support women in their lives.  The Corner of the Court is a project and social platform I created that offers a simple, visible way for women to share a story about a guy who has inspired and supported her.  The message is to promote and further encourage such behaviors of our male allies by saying:  “Men… your mentorship to us makes an impact.” 

The woman is the hero of the story she shares on the site. Yet it says volumes, that she is making a conscious decision to publicly share how important her male champion is.

This is an added, deeper impact that the project is making… it offers both a present and powerful voice from women:  When a man matters to us, we take the time to let him know.

I strongly believe that what our men need to hear, and feel from the world, is love.  For me, outside of romantic relationships, I was far remiss in offering any such words to the other men in my life.  The stories we receive in The Corner of the Court cover diverse relationships women have with their mentors, coaches, brothers, fathers, bosses… Yet, read any story and you’ll find that each one is unquestionably filled with love: from the supportive actions the man has offered to the woman, and in turn, how the woman talks about his impact so publicly.

Why We Do What We Do:  My Confession

Here’s where I make my confession:  The Corner of the Court is the most important thing I’m involved with now, and it is absolutely because of the positive message it spreads for male allies and champions who support women (the powerful tennis metaphor of him being firmly “in her court”).  And that will continue.

But it’s no secret, there’s a reason we researchers are drawn to certain topics — they are those topics with which we have some “unfinished business” (whether consciously or not), or poignant experiences through which we have lived, survived, and are especially poised to navigate.

I was in such disbelief the evening I got that call, it took me 15 years to even begin to make sense of it.  I know this project won’t prevent the circumstances of what led to that night in this man’s life, nor can it change the rigid environmental pressures under which I believe men must mask emotional pain or their need for mental health support.

But I do know that my work provides me, and hopefully our readers, a profound and active reminder that we women should let our guys know, directly and often, how much they matter to us.

To those who follow, who share, who submit stories on behalf of our project, thank you. Thank you for supporting our guys, who invest so much of themselves in supporting us!


In this story, specially adapted from Lindsay Detwiler’s article on Huffington Post, Lindsay shares the importance of her father’s influence as a champion for gender equality.

“From the time I could speak, my dad taught me education equated to opportunity. He pushed me to be the best I could be and get good grades. Most of all, he told me to never believe in limitations others would put on me.

When the school told me taking all honors classes wasn’t wise, he encouraged me to rise to the challenge. When I was the only female trumpet player and the only student not taking private lessons, my dad encouraged me to practice on my own until I got to first chair. When math class got hard and I thought I couldn’t do it, he pushed me to keep working.

He taught me that, in many ways, failure was a mindset. I came to learn that no matter the obstacle or the critics in my way, If I set my mind to it, I could do it. Being a woman or being of a certain social class or being any classification at all was never deemed as a valid reason to back down from my goals. My dad taught me to ignore ceilings and strive for my personal version of accomplishment.

I am thankful my dad is the dad he is. We need fathers who are willing to teach their girls to ignore the limitations society tries to attach to genders. We need fathers willing to teach their girls to be tenacious and fearless in the pursuit of their dreams. We need fathers who teach girls that they can do anything and everything boys can do.

I am thankful that my dad taught me to achieve my dreams, not in spite of being a woman, and not even because I’m a woman.

He taught me to achieve my dreams simply because. Period.

Through that simple difference, I learned the strength of a woman.”

– Lindsay, Author
Hollidaysburg, PA

This featured story was adapted from Lindsay Detwiler’s article, My Dad Made Me A Strong Woman on Huffington Post.

For more women’s stories of male allies, visit The Corner of the Court Project.

Bloomberg Moderator: Intrapreneurship

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It was a real treat to recently serve as moderator for a Bloomberg panel on intrapreneurship.

Bloomberg is, in many respects, the original startup — founded by Michael Bloomberg and his three partners in 1981; together they built the first computer that would soon revolutionize the financial services industry — providing real-time financial analytics to Wall Street firms.

Intrapreneurship is all about bringing innovation and an entrepreneurial contribution to your own company or organization.  It was only fitting that, in a company like Bloomberg, where the culture is open and non-hierarchical; illuminated fish tanks on all floors embody the spirit of transparency, and everything employees do is with an agile mindset, that Bloomberg featured this topic on center stage at their 731 Lexington Avenue Headquarters.  (Check out the office here)

Some highlights shared by the panelists and “live tweeted” during the session include:

– MAPS<GO> recently featured on 60 Minutes

– How leaders set a culture of innovation to make intrapreneurs thrive

– How to handle setbacks

– What it takes to prove your idea via prototyping

– BEING in an intrapreneur — importance of collaboration, how to build influence, and “doing it on top of the day job”






“‘Would you like to go to Cornell?’

It is the question that helped shape my entire career. If you would have told me 16 years ago, when I was an undergraduate student with a 2.7 GPA, that someday I would have a Ph.D. and be a professor of sociology, I wouldn’t have believed you. No one would have. Yet, I have an incredibly fulfilling career largely because of the many formal and informal mentors who’ve helped me along the way.

This post is about one of my male mentors, a sociology professor named Dr. M. who was particularly influential early in my career, who asked the question I would never have asked myself.

My academic background as an undergraduate had been tenuous. I had majored in English Language and Literature, and my GPA made it difficult to land a job. I eventually got a job doing social work at a local domestic violence shelter; the position didn’t require a college degree, the hours were long, and the agency was underfunded. The work was exhausting and emotionally draining, and paid less than my waitressing job in college. It was a humbling and eye-opening experience.

It was a dear friend, Heather, who had suggested I go to grad school. Actually, she first suggested (with a perfectly straight face) I become a senator. I didn’t know anyone who had gotten a Ph.D. or run for public office. Yet, Heather encouraged me to think bigger. So, I took a graduate-level course in sociology at a nearby university. I loved it and it didn’t take long for me to know I wanted to become an academic sociologist. I applied to a Master of Science program in sociology and I worked hard to build my credentials and compensate for my undergraduate record. I took classes and worked on my thesis during the day and I continued doing social work full-time at night. I applied for scholarships and awards, attended conferences, and volunteered.

Everything I did during those two years was with one goal in mind. I wanted to have a competitive application when I applied to Ph.D. programs. I knew that the kind of academic job I wanted was increasingly difficult to secure and, consequently, it would be important for me to get into a top-ranked program. Dr. M. helped make that happen.

Dr. M. was influential in many ways, but two things in particular stand out. First, he agreed to chair my thesis committee, at a time when I was frustrated to find professors to take on the role. I had excelled in my graduate classes, yet I feared professors didn’t want to work with me because of my previous academic record. (I now know that faculty know little about their students’ beyond the work they do in class. Rather, the job is voluntary and time-consuming.) I had come into the program to demonstrate I could do graduate-level work and to build a network of sponsors who could write letters of recommendation for me. I needed someone to take a chance on me and Dr. M. did.

Second, when it was time to apply to Ph.D. programs, Dr. M. changed my life with a single question. I had narrowed my list down to 9 schools, all of which were reasonable places to pursue graduate work, but Cornell was not on the list. Truth be told, I thought such a place was beyond reach. Yet, Dr. M. suggested I apply to Cornell. I remember the moment clearly. He was sitting at his desk and nonchalantly asked, ‘Would you like to go to Cornell?’

I remember thinking the question was silly. Of course I’d like it, but it didn’t seem possible. Yet, he suggested that I apply in such an offhanded way, as if getting in was not the problem, but rather which school I preferred to attend.

This question set in motion a career trajectory beyond my wildest dreams. Had he not suggested Cornell, I wouldn’t have applied and I certainly wouldn’t have been accepted or graduated. I am keenly aware that academia is not a meritocratic system. Opportunities beget opportunities. Because of where I did my graduate work, I was able to learn from some of the most renowned sociologists in the world. I got to stay in graduate school—and was fully funded—for 8 years. I took on an ambitious dissertation project, which helped me land a prestigious postdoc at Stanford. The postdoc eventually led to my first academic appointment and now my current position which is, in every way, my dream job.

In retrospect, Heather and my male mentor, Dr. M., both did something similar. They were confident in my abilities and introduced me to possibilities I couldn’t imagine for myself.”

– Christin, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT


“I worked for my uncle Scott the summer after my freshman year of college, as his home renovation ‘apprentice’ :  a medieval word, but really there’s no better descriptor. A retired architect, Scott bought a sprawling house on the side of a ravine in Bayside, Wisconsin and committed the rest of his life to making it absolutely, painstakingly to his taste. He was — and is still — a perfectionist of the most maddening order.

My job was to do the kinds of character-building tasks you read about in fables.

One morning I showed up to his house to find six square yards of manure and a wheelbarrow in the driveway. (Imagine a four-foot tall mountain of poop filling a small bedroom.) “I’m leaving for the day,” he said, “When I return at 4pm, I want to see all that crap carefully placed into the flowerbeds down the side of the ravine. If you spill any of it along the way, I’ll know.” After precisely eight hours, he was back to criticize the twenty-five yard trail I’d inadvertently carved into his lawn. Much yard-tending ensued in my days ahead.

He had me sharpen all the pencils in the house so that when we measured and cut wood for his handcrafted window frames and baseboards, our incisions would have surgical accuracy. If he ever caught me using a blunt pencil, he’d either stuff a new one into my hand or threaten to make me clean the basement — which, despite my many efforts, never sparkled quite to his liking.

As the summer progressed, I realized that in allowing me to work on his projects, he was trusting me with his most beloved possession. His house represented his life’s work. He let me select the matting and framing for all of his artwork. He consulted my opinion on wall paint and hardware. He encouraged me to care about a project by embracing its minutia, and demanded that I raise the standards for my own work to meet his. “God is in the details,” he liked to say, though I’m pretty sure he was an atheist in everything other than home renovation. That he expected me to even come close to his level of artisan care was a high compliment — and a huge vote of confidence in me.

The most important thing he did was choose me to be his apprentice. It sounds simple. As a professional woman I can tell you it’s not. I knew that the job he expected me to do is primarily done by men. The fact that my gender never came up — not once, not even hinted at as the reason for my many, many shortcomings during my renovation learning curve — is so significant to me.

I’ve had countless bosses in the thirteen years since I worked for Scott — most of them older males, all of them a cake walk following that summer apprenticeship. Few have had such a lasting impact on my professional character. The voice of Scott’s exacting manner rings in my ears on a damn near daily basis — it motivates me to push things a little further, and to demand a little more of myself and those around me. His standards for me have since become my standards for myself. Sometimes people struggle not to judge my work through the lens of my gender. But I never question my drive or my pride in a job well done, because that’s what he taught me:  to judge my work only as a professional.

Men: you should never underestimate the influence you can have on the women you invest in,  and the positive impact of treating them as you would anyone else in the workplace. We carry your empowerment with us throughout our careers, throughout our lives. With that kind of foundation, women can just focus on doing good work. That’s as simple as it sounds.”

– Chelsea, Marketing Director
San Francisco, CA

This story was adapted from Chelsea’s article “My uncle, the unconscious feminist” on Medium

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