Why this VC, beloved by Rihanna and Muhammad Ali, views manhood as malfunctioning software

Why this VC, beloved by Rihanna and Muhammad Ali, views manhood as malfunctioning software
Image: Marcus Glover
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Marcus Glover is known for developing some of the most memorable advertising campaigns of our time, including the McDonald’s slogan, “I’m lovin’ it.”

He has parlayed his brand work for Pepsi, Ford, and the NBA, among others, into a new career as a partner at Southbox Ventures and a consultant to business-minded celebrities. The former advertising agency executive has created successful ventures with Jay Z, Rihanna, and Muhammad Ali to name a few, including the S.Carter Footwear Company, a partnership between Jay-Z and Reebok, and TRUKFIT, a skate apparel venture with rapper Lil Wayne.

Glover has become a dedicated mentor to incarcerated men, women, and youth as a volunteer yoga and meditation instructor at the Rikers Island prison complex. He is also the board chair for Defy Ventures New York, which harnesses the talents of currently and formerly incarcerated men and women to redirect them into legal business ventures and careers.

In this interview with Quartz, Glover explains why he only mentors female founders and shares what a humanitarian taught him about conflict and reconciliation.

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 think Jay Z recently said that historically sexism outpaces racism globally, and I absolutely agree with him. A few years ago, I decided to stop mentoring men founders. Consistently I would meet male founders who are less in command of their enterprises than their female counterparts. Despite the fact that they came across less prepared, the men would have an easier time receiving seed funding for their businesses than their female contemporaries. I attributed this to patriarchal systems which keep the fraternity of men in positions of power. I also attributed it to the fact that the hands of women have been tied out of need to not appear threatening or too powerful to men. It was because of this inequality I had decided to only mentor women. It is no surprise to me that women are exercising a more powerful voice in the world through #MeToo.

2. Do you identify as a feminist? Why or why not? How do you define your feminism?

I absolutely am a proud feminist. I believe that the true empowerment of women will lead to the permanent dismantling of the patriarchal order, which I believe has led to many of the world’s greatest challenges.

3. What do you do on a day-to-day basis to advance gender equality?

Every day begins with a simple question I ask myself: “How can I advance the cause of people of color and women today?” Whether it’s mentoring, investing, or advising from an active board position of the foundations I serve on, I work to make a difference everyday.

4. What’s the biggest threat to men in America today? Why?

I think the biggest threat to men is the system of patriarchy. I think this system keeps power held in the hands of the very few, and makes the majority of men feel powerless and marginalized. I believe that it is these power dynamics which lead men to take unhealthy stances towards women, with the feeling that gender dynamics is the only place where the majority of men can feel powerful. Once we destroy male privilege, we will level the playing field for women and men.

5. Do you talk about sexism with your male peers? If so, what strategies prove most effective, and if not, what’s your biggest inhibition to doing so?

I absolutely discuss sexism with everyone I come in contact with. The reality is men by and large are wearing the masculine “mask,” which designates the need to appear powerful and strong and hide areas of vulnerability and brokenness. When you invite men to take off the mask, they tend to breathe a bit easier and are able have mindful dialogue around gender dynamics.

6. What is your biggest anxiety about being a man?

I view manhood as software. However, it is software which has never been debugged. I think there needs to be global software update for masculinity before more harm is done in the world.

7. What do you wish your female co-workers, and women at large, knew about you?

I am pretty much an open book with my life experiences, past failures, future hopes, and dreams. I think it’s impossible for any female collaborator to not know all of the chapters in my life. However, the message I would like to underscore to women and your readers is how much I deeply admire the essential qualities of women. At a time where the world needs to be nurtured, women are the key.

8. Some men feel like they can’t win: They’ll be criticized by men for speaking up, and by feminists for not speaking loud enough. What would you tell these men?

I have a dear family friend, the humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina. Paul’s life was immortalized in the movie Hotel Rwanda and he was portrayed in the award-winning film by the actor Don Cheadle. After the Rwandan genocide, they deployed a process of reconciliation where they declared that the whole system was at fault, and once declared a failure it was then incumbent upon everyone to testify as to what part they played in the failed system. In this sense, no one person or ethnic group was to blame; the blame belong to a failed system that didn’t protect anyone.

Our greatest challenge is to acknowledge the inherent failure in our present system of bias and then to invite all voices to testify as to everyone’s roles in the system. This will help to elevate the dialogue above the antagonism at times felt by men.

9. If you could take back one thing you’ve said or done that contributed to bias at work or at home, what would it be? Why?

Growing up in our system, which often times allows for the objectification of women, I was conditioned like most men to view women through the lens of physical appearances. I wish I could take back every time I ever engaged in these circles of conversation which led to the crude objectification of a woman.