Bonobos' Andy Dunn: "We should be putting women more and more in charge”

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on June 12, 2014

From The News Desk

The men who took to the stage at Southland this year proved themselves to be remarkably in touch with the values, rights, and sentiments of those less privileged. First we had Tristan Walker’s speech on how techies discriminate without even realizing it.

Then Andy Dunn from Bonobos shared a shocking story about his grandmother’s life and how it ties into the one thing he believes. He thinks the world is going to change — dramatically and for the better — as more women are empowered.

Before you click away, eye rolling at the idea of some tech tycoon spouting cliches about gender equality before returning to a mostly male startup industry to run his company without a female co-founder, hear Dunn out. He made his case in a powerful way: Through the eyes of his grandmother.

Dunn’s grandmother was born in rural Pakistan and was married off at twelve years old. She had her first miscarriage at 13, her next one at 14, and her first child at 15. But the child passed away, and then she lost her second child at 16, before having seven children who survived, the first five of whom were girls.

“[My grandfather] told his daughters, ‘You need to get educated so you’re not dependent on an asshole like me,’” Dunn relayed to the audience. “He told his daughters, ‘Do not end up like your mother.’ And they heard him.” Dunn’s mother ran an ultrasound department for twenty years, one of his aunts is an OB-GYN, another is a doctor, and a third runs a school. Looking to the family's next generation of children, Dunn’s sister is now building a company — Monica+Andy, which sells clothing for kids — while raising a child. That's a lot of upwards growth in a short period of time. Dunn marveled at the difference between his grandmother’s opportunities as a child and his niece’s:

“I’ve asked her through my mom who has had to translate for us, ‘If you could go back in time, when would you get married?’ Thinking maybe she’d say, ‘Oh I’d do it the same way.’ And she’s like '30.'”

Dunn then took a sharp segue, bringing the conversation back to the one thing he believes that many others in the tech industry don't.

“We have this brand called Bonobos, which is named after a matriarchal chimpanzee. It’s the only great ape that puts its women in charge. And they have no record of violent conflict. And incidentally they have a lot of sex,” Dunn says.

“You could have left that part out,” Lacy pointed out.

“Whatever. I gotta lighten this up, this is getting serious,” Dunn replies.

He argued that when you put women in charge, men behave better, and that countries where women are the most empowered are countries where it’s the safest to be of either gender.

“This is a human issue. We should be putting women more and more in charge,” Dunn says. He thinks that in companies, in governments, and in Silicon Valley, leadership should be split 50/50 between men and women.

“But I don’t ever hear anyone talk about this. Except for feminists. I never hear men talk about it. So I guess what I believe that no one else believes is that men should be talking about this.”