During the past fifteen years, Robert Franken has been involved in a considerable amount of digital platforms. He is also an outspoken feminist, and co-founder of Male Feminists Europe. We had a chat with Franken about his interest for feminism, why men should engage in gender issues and the gender situation in the digital world.
One of the striking things about debates and panel discussions regarding gender issues, is the lack of men both on stage and in the audience. Why should men engage in gender issues?
– Men seem to be a bit anxious, indeed, when it comes down to talking about gender issues or even engaging in becoming change-agents. We still have a long way to go: from "There's no problem." to "It's a women's issue." to (finally) "It's my personal priority.". I strongly believe that we won't be able to change the ratio with only 50 percent of people involved. And: The sooner men realize that the feminist agenda is in their own interest, the better.
A lot of women feel like they have to behave ”more like men” in order to assert themselves in working situations. What are your thoughts on that matter?
– I believe that this kind of behavior is self-defeating. It manifests a system that is discriminating against women (and a lot of men) rather than trying to change it. But it's a widespread phenomenon which needs to be tackled.
How did you gain an interest for gender issues?
– Through a variety of perspectives. I've been a colleague, a partner, a boss, a friend, a CEO, a father - and probably much more. Every role provided me with a different look on gender issues. And every perspective motivated me to engage in the process of changing the ratio and of ending discrimination.
What are your experiences with gender in the digital world?
– On one hand, there's a certain awareness and transparency within some networks. But there's also the math: Only 13 percent of German startups are founded by women. The discrepancy between what people believe and their actions is striking. 81 percent of founders think that diversity is a driver for innovation and creativity, but only five percent have more than five employees with diverse backgrounds. And the "Big Four" are no role models: 84 percent of Facebooks developer teams are male, and so are 70 percent of all Google employees.
We are looking forward to having Robert Franken as one of our main speakers at Boost 2017, and hear him speak about how each and everyone can contribute in order to reduce the gender gap.