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Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence dance during the Liberty ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)


A sincere thank you to the men in my career who don’t follow the ‘Graham-Pence rule’

April 13, 2017

Reading all that has been written lately about Mike Pence’s adoption of the Billy Graham rule (the practice advocated by the famed evangelical pastor in which married men refrain from spending time alone with women to whom they are not married), I have thought a lot about how lucky I have been to work with men who don’t follow this rule. 

I want to thank all of the men in my life who have never followed the Graham-Pence rule. Thinking back over my career as an attorney, I am able to pinpoint hundreds of important moments of networking, career advice, and opportunities to spend time (sometimes over a drink) one-on-one with male mentors and peers.

From my earliest mentor in private practice, who traveled with me to guide and introduce me to clients, to the managing partner I met with over a drink in an airport while I was being considered for partnership, many crucial moments and relationships in my career would not exist if these men had adhered to the Graham-Pence rule. I can assert with confidence that my career — and the careers of many women — would not have developed or advanced in the same way had these men subscribed to such an antiquated notion. As well, I am confident that these important female-male professional relationships have expanded the outlooks and perspectives of all involved.

In some bizarre way, I am also thankful for Pence’s confession that he refuses to network with women the same way he networks with men. It is often confusing and frustrating to think about delays in the advancement of women — why decades after women entering professions, corporations, and politics, we are still excluded from so many top positions and seats on boards. When we pull back the curtain to see that people like Pence refuse to network with women in an equal manner as they do with men, we at least start to see the situation clearly. It brings into sharper focus why Mike Pence’s home state (and mine) of Indiana has never had a woman governor or a woman U.S. senator

Within the story about the origin of Graham’s rule, there is an important element of self-preservation and self-promotion to his decision to limit interactions with women. The fear about a naked woman waiting in bed is offered as a cautionary tale about someone seeking to derail his ministry and his career. I find it particularly selfish for anyone in authority to close himself off intentionally and deliberately to important perspectives, relationships, connections, and networks based upon his concern that it could hurt his career, and, even more so, based upon lore from more than 65 years ago.

Instead of focusing on outdated ideas about gender segregation, I suggest that all of these “family men” try to think about being good fathers. In the early stages of my career, I noticed that the men who were most helpful in mentoring women were often also fathers of girls and women. My mentors and peers actively worked (and continue to work) to create a better world where their daughters can have equal opportunities and access, where all of the best and brightest people can advance. Is there a “rule” for achieving this? In fact, there is. There are many rules that can guide, but perhaps none is more powerful than the Golden Rule.   

Amy Judge-Prein has practiced law for almost 25 years. The opinions here are 100 percent her own and are not intended to represent the views of any others (including her law firm).


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