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Drive Progress: The Super Bowl ad that made me think about equity and sidelines

Equal Pay for Equal Work…never thought that would come up as a commercial during the Super Bowl. I wasn’t anticipating having to think during commercials. I expected the traditional, attention-getting ads from Coke or Budweiser or maybe a new Go Daddy ad. I wanted to see which one would make me laugh the most. Even when this Audi ad started playing I thought it would morph into the newest technology from Apple.

That didn’t happen. I watched intently as the girl in her box car racer made quick maneuvers, and advanced ahead of the boy drivers. I listened more closely to the voiceover from the dad who was on the sidelines cheering for her, but in his mind he questioned what he should tell her,: “Should I tell her Grandpa is worth more than Grandma? Or Dad is worth more than mom?” I thought to my self, wait this is a different kind of ad.

I reminisced about times with my own daughters, as the proud dad from the commercial saw his daughter succeed. I smiled as the dad and daughter walked off together, winning trophy in her hand. The story line is a great one that needs to be told, and for me spans beyond even pay equality. It is also about helping and being on the sidelines as the kids realize their dreams.

The dad isn’t there talking to his daughter about salaries. He drove her to (and from) the event, and he is watching his daughter succeed at something she obviously loves, and he doesn’t want anything to hold her back. It’s the passion that matters and dad is there as her champion despite projections society may or may not place on her in the future.

I have two sons at home and our two daughters are now grown (well kind of) and more than a day’s drive away at college. Much of their lives I have tried to do what that dad did in the commercial. Teach them that they could do anything, as well if not better than anyone else. As they put in the work in and achieved their goals, I cheered from the sidelines and maybe shed a tear -- maybe.

Over the years, I have come to really love the sidelines. Transitioning from coach to champion, being a part of my children’s successes brings me the greatest reward I could ever ask for as a father. Watching the kids live out their own dreams is a gift from God. Okay, I am not ashamed to say I cry as I watch them shine.

I could talk about how my wife has dealt with pay inequality and other gender-related issues throughout her working life. I could illustrate how she has had to take on a higher workload than some of her colleagues and not been compensated for that. I could talk about flaws the system, including pregnancy leave, at many companies, is the same as disability leave -- and only women are physically impacted by that. As a husband and dad, I agree that many organizations should be responsible about gender equity among other inclusive issues. These are all important issues and I am glad the ad re-sparked this conversation.

Today, though, as I reflect on the ad, I am reminded not to forget the joy of watching my children succeed -- whether singing on stage or improving test scores. There has been hard work, tears and “flags on the play” along the way, and believe me I have done many things wrong while parenting four kids. Despite all my mistakes, here they are still living their life to the fullest -- not limited by other’s visions of their abilities.

As I finished this blog and read the description of the Audi commercial on YouTube, it ends with “progress doesn’t belong to any one group. Progress is for everyone.” In that sprit, I say embrace the sidelines and cheer for your kids every step of the way. Progress will happen for all.

To hear more of Mike's perspective: Pre-order ZagZig parenting

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