How to be a man in 2018? Apologize, invest and stop interrupting — for starters — say Milken Institute panelists

Michael Ian Black, from left, Joanne Lipman, Richard Sandler, Kevin O’Leary and Alex Rodriguez at the May 1 Milken Institute Global Conference session “How to Be a Man in 2018,” at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
(Phil McCarten)

At a session entitled “How to Be a Man in 2018” at the Milken Institute Global Conference, which took place April 29 through May 2 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, both men and women packed the pavilion to hear baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez, Kevin O’Leary of “Shark Tank,” former USA Today editor-in-chief Joanne Lipman and actor/writer/comedian Michael Ian Black share their views.

Video clips from classic movies and TV shows set the tone, starting with Katharine Hepburn complaining to Spencer Tracy that when men do things, “it’s all hunky dory,” but “a woman does the same thing – the same, mind you – and she’s an outcast.”

After noting that the clip came from a 70-year-old movie, the moderator of the May 1 session, Richard Sandler, asked, “Have we come as far as some would make us think we have come?”

Perhaps not, but here are five takeaways to help move the needle further in that direction …

1. It’s OK to admit mistakes and apologize.

Rodriguez said women have always been big influences in his life, naming his mother, who held 2 jobs, his two daughters, and “Jennifer (Lopez) … a pretty strong woman in my life as well.”

Then, in answer to a question about his steroid use, in reference to male reluctance to admit wrongdoing, the 14-time baseball all-star said the admission had been the most challenging time of his life, yet possibly the best thing that happened because of the lessons he learned. “I needed to turn the lens inward,” he said, to analyze the problem and that building the courage to call all those who stood by him was so uncomfortable that it took three months. Yet in doing so, he discovered, “When you own up to your mistakes and you say I’m sorry, it is amazing how forgiving the American people can be.”

Alex Rodriguez
At the event, Alex Rodriguez said admitting steroid use was the most challenging time of his life but also possibly the best thing that happened because of the lessons he learned. Phil McCarten

2. If you want to make money, invest in women.

O’Leary, a.k.a. TV’s “Mr. Wonderful,” said he prefers investing in women-run businesses, revealing as “the secret sauce,” women’s time-management skills and their ability to set and reach attainable goals. He said he found that in the male-run companieshe’d invested in, sales targets were only hit 65% of the time. “We call that the ‘testosterone target,’” he said, “because it was very high, and it wasn’t met very often.”

I’m kind of agnostic – I would give money to a goat if I could get a return.

Kevin O’Leary

He added, “In a company where goals are met consistently, quarter after quarter, the culture changes. … It’s almost like a baseball analogy — you want to be on a winning team all the time. There is no staff turnover — virtually zero.” It’s the money, he said, that drives his investing decisions and in summing up, he said, “I’m kind of agnostic — I would give money to a goat if I could get a return.”

3. Stop interrupting women and talk to them.

Lipman said women are interrupted three times more frequently than men — even if they are Supreme Court justices. She said women talk all the time about the issues they face, but she called that half a conversation, and at best, half a solution. “The only way to solve the gender gap,” she said, “is to bring men into the conversation.”

She later added, “The vast, vast, vast majority of women in this world are not looking at you as a potential sexual predator. It’s just not the case. I can say there’s actually never been a better time for men and women to be able to engage in this conversation because it is out there on the table. This no longer a girl thing. It’s not a girl issue. This is an all-of-us thing and we all need to solve this together.”

4. Talk to one another too.

Black said conversations among men “aren’t happening, they never happened, and they need to happen.” Women, he said, because of their frustrations, have been able and open to speak with one another, and yet, “That concurrent conversation has never happened with men.”

Because masculinity is defined by power, he continued, “The reason we can’t have that conversation is because to admit your vulnerability is to weaken your own place of power in the culture. We have to expand the definition of masculinity, so that it includes your full human self in the way that women have redefined themselves in the culture to their full humanity.”

5. Take it from ‘Mr. Wonderful’: Money will solve everything.

Kevin O'Leary
"Shark Tank" investor Kevin O'Leary. center, expressed faith in market forces to drive change in corporate culture. Phil McCarten

In response to a question about men backing away from becoming mentors to women, O’Leary acknowledged, “That is probably one of the downsides to the #MeToo movement. Certainly, executives are hypersensitive about being put in a situation where there’s no third party to adjudicate a situation that could develop.” He added that the corporate culture will probably adjust.

“It’s worth it to go through the pain to get to the other side of this to make the economy better, companies better, the country more competitive,” O’Leary said. “How do we do that? We get great managers running companies; we get great people starting companies; and 50% of the time that should be women. So, I’m not worried that this isn’t going to resolve itself in a beautiful way. Why? Because of money. That’s why.”