Darren Walker on the Benefits for Men Who Live With Empathy

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Darren Walker on the Benefits for Men Who Live With Empathy

Darren Walker is in the business of hope. Raised in rural Texas with limited means, his career path cut across industries including law and investment banking, and has culminated in philanthropy. Walker is the president of the Ford Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the United States, with an endowment of upwards of $12 billion and about $600 million in annual grant making.

In 2015, two years into his tenure, he made an announcement that shook the philanthropy world. The Ford Foundation would change the way it gives, so that all grants would be geared toward dismantling inequality in its myriad forms.

From the get-go Walker has emphasized the importance of addressing global gender inequality, thus investing in girls and women across the globe. A recent example is the foundation’s role as a founding partner in the Girls First Fund, a donor collaborative to end child marriage. (Every year, 12 million girls are married before they reach their 18th birthdays).

In this interview with Quartz, Walker explains how the Me Too movement strengthened his commitment to creating a more just world, why you shouldn’t need to look to your personal connections with girls or women to be a feminist, and why the journey toward progress is not a comfortable one.

1. Did you actively think about workplace gender inequality prior to the Me Too movement? And what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from Me Too?

I’m a gay black man who grew up in the American south, so I’ve been acutely aware of discrimination since I was a child. That also means I’ve been intimately acquainted with the ways discriminations intersect—whether related to race, gender, class, sexuality, or some perceived clash between them. We’ve seen a lot of progress when it comes to...

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