Gender equality is not only a human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world as envisioned by the UN’s 2030 Agenda. The Gender Alliance is an initiative that pushes for a feminist agenda to foster gender equity in line with Sustainable Development Goal 5. Chris Fowler is one of its members.
Who are you?
Chris Fowler: I’m Chris Fowler, aka chrisF, aka Jürgen Klopp’s #1 fan in the USA.
The Gender Alliance is a network-driven initiative to bring feminists together to accelerate gender equality. Its members come from the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network, the Global Diplomacy Lab, and the Robert Bosch Foundation. Together, they strive to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals on gender equity and equality within their respective organizations, communities, and spheres of influence. This series is an effort to amplify amazing women who are pushing boundaries and breaking glass ceilings every day, personally and professionally.
Why did you join the Gender Alliance, and what is most important for you?
Chris Fowler: Simply put, it has been the women in my life that have made me the man I am. I’ve benefitted from strong female leadership since birth. Growing up, my mom both worked and served/volunteered in our community. Throughout my academic and professional career, I’ve had female teachers, bosses, and mentors that have helped shape the way I see the world. And the female leadership I’ve observed and benefitted from through my engagements with the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network (and other related communities like the Global Diplomacy Lab) have helped highlight for me gender issues hiding in plain sight, exposing aspects of gender equality that I hadn’t yet seen or considered. In particular among those networks, I’d be remiss if I failed to recognize the leadership of Sayu Bhojwani, Naki Osutei, and Chi Nguyen whose lived experiences and direct work are leading the diversity and inclusion of communities across the U.S. and Canada, respectively. Lastly, I get a front row seat to witness the inspiring and totally badass leadership my wife provides our two daughters and the hundreds of students she leads as their orchestra director. So, in consideration of all the above and as a lifelong learner who cares greatly about continual improvement, joining the Gender Alliance is a natural extension of my path to purpose.
What work do you do to promote gender equality?
Chris Fowler: In a professional capacity, I work for the USO, a large military service organization in the United States. Our primary mission is to strengthen military service members by keeping them connected to the things they love – family, home, and country. A growing part of that mission is to strengthen military spouses, 91% of whom are women. “Mil-spouses” (as they’re sometimes called) experience unemployment at 4–6 times the national average. And in a recent survey, 77% of mil-spouses reported experiencing underemployment. So through the USO’s military spouse programming and in the partnerships I lead, we work hard to help close those gaps by building communities of support, providing access to networking and training opportunities to get more mil-spouses employed and in higher-paying jobs that are better aligned with their academic training and professional experience. In my former capacity as a volunteer Network Driver in the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network, I worked with Chi Nguyen to convene an “International Working Retreat on Gender Equality.” Over three days, members of our community deepened their capacity and understanding of gender inequality: how everyday sexism, gender-based violence, toxic masculinities directly impact their work and their communities, and how the network can more intentionally address these. In a personal capacity, I coach my daughters’ youth soccer teams and encourage all of my players to embrace their physicality and to fully express themselves on the pitch. In doing so, I hope to empower them to play #LikeAGirl. (**Note of personal privilege: I also hope to inspire my players by being active myself, so I’m running the 2020 BMW Berlin Marathon for Girl Up because I believe in achieving gender equality for every girl, everywhere. Please join me in supporting that important campaign.**)
"I believe in achieving gender equality for every girl, everywhere."
What is your desired outcome of the BMW Foundation Gender Alliance?
Chris Fowler: That we engage each other with honesty and with constructive intent. I hope to avoid performative displays where it may appear that I am seeking affirmation or praise. I hope I am comfortable enough to share some experiences I had questions about, as a way to unpack potential failings and mistakes, so that I can fully benefit from the learnings and growth they provide. And I further hope that each member of the Alliance can both contribute to and receive value from their own participation. If we are each able to learn and grow, we can bring that improved version of ourselves back into the other communities we walk in and seek to contribute to and strengthen them.
SDG #5 Gender Equality
Through Sustainable Development Goal 5 of the UN 2030 Agenda, the international community aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls who represent half of the world’s population and therefore also half of its potential. However, gender inequality persists everywhere and stagnates social progress. Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.
What does an equal world look like?
Chris Fowler: I appreciate a strong vision as much as the next person, but it’s difficult to describe something you’ve never seen. So I’d rather take a sober view of the imperfect world we have and turn my keen eyes toward improving it.
Any advice to your 15-year-old self?
“Don’t be that guy.”
(Which is also the same advice I give myself today. I still fall short of being my best self from time to time, but I’m committed to putting in the work to become the person I’d like to be when I grow up.)