Brian Sullivan: "True equality [...] is a human issue."

By: Sara Lowe, Communications Intern

Brian J. Sullivan--Headshot.JPG

Should men play a role in advocating for gender equality? According to Brian Sullivan, “True equality is still not the reality of our society, and that is not a women's issue; it is a human issue. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard than expecting women who have been subject to injustice to be the sole party active in fixing it.” 

Brian Sullivan is a father and invaluable partner to Girls Empowerment Network. This past year, he led the Men4GEN fundraising campaign in raising more than $5,000 for our Girl Connect program! Girl Connect is an opportunity for girls to connect with each other in their school through discussions surrounding self-efficacy, leadership skills, healthy dating, communication skills, healthy self-esteem, body image, and more. The program impacts over 1,000 girls annually from all over Texas. We’re so thankful for the work Brian has done and for the immeasurable impact it will have on girls all over the state. We were lucky enough to ask Brian some questions about why he decided to get involved with Girls Empowerment Network and his hopes for what the experiences of girlhood can be! 

- The work that you've done for Girls Empowerment Network has made a remarkable impact on the organization and on the girls we serve. What drew you to Girls Empowerment Network and made you want to get involved?

From the day I discovered Girls Empowerment Network, it has been my honor to support the organization. GIRLS' mission is vital and life-changing for so many young girls, each and every one of which deserves boundless self-confidence toward a fulfilling life.

Especially after becoming a father to a newborn daughter, I decided to really focus both my career and volunteer services toward actively promoting equality in professional and personal life. The status quo related to women's rights, social pressures that impose double standards, and actual mistreatment or harassment as highlighted by the #MeToo movement all compelled me to become an active voice for change already long overdue.

- What do you hope will change about the experience of navigating girlhood? What kind of world do you want your daughter Garner to grow up in?

My hope is that girls in our community, nation, and across the globe increasingly get to experience a world where equality is the norm. For example, it was crushing for me to hear the descriptions even by GIRLS' staff of the realities they lived through adolescence, so many stigmas, imposing standards, and expectations of which I never faced as a young male. I want Garner to grow up free from these rigid, unfair constructs that subjugate women as opposed to honoring their inherent dignity and equality.


- Why do you think it's important that men are actively involved in advocating for gender equity?

True equality is still not the reality of our society, and that is not a women's issue; it is a human issue. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard than expecting women who have been subject to injustice to be the sole party active in fixing it.

The reality is that men occupy a significant portion of leadership positions in government, business, education, and other important areas of society. We therefore have incredible potential to mold a new status quo and honorable example for humanity to follow into the future. After all, real leadership is about creating a brighter tomorrow, not permitting repeated mistakes of the past.

- Why do you think Girl Connect is such an impactful program?

Girl Connect is phenomenal in its breadth of programming. It is amazing that Girl Connect groups get to meet every week on school campuses across our region to participate in up to 20 empowering curriculum modules. With topics like personal power, failure and resilience, boundaries, media literacy, goal setting, healthy dating and more, Girl Connect exists in a league of its own. The program has been transformative for girls throughout Texas.

- At Girls Empowerment Network, we help to grow girls’ self-efficacy (the belief in one’s innate ability to achieve goals). What about that mission most resonates with you?

Every girl deserves limitless confidence to fulfill their dreams and shape the world. Through my volunteer service over the past year, I have learned so much about the dynamics of a young girl's experience compared to the world I navigated as a boy and young man. Growing up, my prospects for self-efficacy were not impeded or made more difficult. Rather, my confidence and ambitions were supported and enabled by positive influences and surrounding social structures. GIRLS works everyday to create that reality for so many girls who deserve empowering foundations.

- Why would you recommend folks get involved with Girls Empowerment Network?

It is incredibly rewarding to be part of the impactful work Girls Empowerment Network accomplishes in our community. There are so many different ways to become involved, such as monthly volunteer nights, We Are Girls conferences, "Power Chats," board of directors service, or even sponsorship and other event opportunities. I am so happy to be connected with Girls Empowerment Network. Service alongside their extraordinary staff has been a joy and one of the highlights of my life.

Brittany Yelverton