How do you know if your organization is truly upholding gender equality? For Daryn, an Oakland-based investor, a passage from the Baha’i Writings is the perfect litmus test.
In this episode of “Moments of Meaning,” Sean Hinton speaks to Daryn Dodson, an investor born in Washington, DC, but currently based in Oakland. From his mother, who co-founded a real estate insurance business with his father; to his aunt, an independent business owner and the first woman and first Black woman on multiple renowned boards; to his grandmother, who actively worked for racial justice, Daryn was surrounded by a family that placed great value in gender equality and justice.
As he grew up, he saw how female leaders in his community “were paid less for working to see and realise the change that would move our world forward… overlooked and underrated underestimated, and their humanity was diminished by a system of either laws or social rules that prevented them from being fully seen.”
Today, as an investor, Daryn works to right these wrongs through his firm and set a new standard for gender equality. He drew inspiration from the following quote, an excerpt from one of the talks given by Abdu’l-Baha, the son and designated successor of the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, during his travels through North America in 1912 and 1913:
“The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment. When the two wings or parts become equivalent in strength, enjoying the same prerogatives, the flight of man will be exceedingly lofty and extraordinary.”
In light of its central place in the Baha’i teachings, the principle of the equality of men and women was a theme on which Abdu’l‑Baha spoke frequently to audiences. In another one of these talks he said “until woman and man recognize and realize equality, social and political progress here or anywhere will not be possible.” The question of equality is not, according to Abdu’l-Baha, simply a matter of righting historical social injustices against women, but rather a key factor in wide-ranging societal changes that would give rise to a new civilization.
Looking at his own field within the context of his company, Daryn was struck by the state of this “bird” of gender equality. “When we look at the world in which we exist within corporations and in finance, which is our area, we see that the bird is very broken. 1.3%, of $69 trillion in capital is led by women and people of colour led funds. And that’s really, really small. So the bird in the broader ecosystem is really not not doing very well… We’re sort of limping along with a half wing and creating solutions and innovations in society. No matter whether we’re teaching children or whether we’re working on biotech, or working within innovation around clean energy, we’re sort of handicapping ourselves in a way by not including half of humanity.”
“The question became: How do we, as a company that’s thinking about getting started, really seek to change that?”
Daryn explains the practical steps his investment firm took to try to balance the power of men and women in organizations — by changing the construction of the firm itself, to investing equitably in organizations that uplift underrepresented populations, particularly women of color. Their tailored approach, Daryn says, addresses many of the urgent issues within the investment ecosystem.
While the achievement of full gender equality, along with the elimination of all forms of prejudice — whether racial, religious, or gender-related — remain the most pressing challenges in our world, organizations like Daryn’s are beginning to take considerable strides towards this envisioned equality, and showing us the potential we have for a truly united society.
“Moments of Meaning” is a podcast where Sean Hinton speaks to people from all walks of life whose lives have been profoundly affected by the writings of the Baha’i Faith. They share the quotes that inspired them and delve into the story of that moment of meaning and the powerful changes it caused.
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