Champion of Change: Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien
Executive Director
Open Books


What does being a Champion of Change mean to you?

Being a Male Champion of Change is a critical opportunity to set an example for other organizations and leaders throughout our community to help clear the path to gender equity in Chicago and beyond. That said, I will do my part to make the need for this role obsolete as soon as possible.

How does Open Books support equity for women and girls, either/both within the bookstore or in the community?

Open Books has reflected on various ways in which we can best support gender equity in the communities that we serve. One of the best examples is a new effort to introduce second- and third-graders to books that feature strong female role models. For both girls and boys, it is vital for these young minds to be freed of stereotypes and be given a safe space for learning the importance of gender equity.

What can be done to encourage men and boys to become a key part of the movement toward gender equity?

Men and boys need to be taught that a truly strong man will know, appreciate, and respect the value of women in our lives and society; a tough feat when culture and media itself does not reflect this value. To me, this requires conversations at the family and community level as well as a redirection of media. Men must be strong role models to boys and encourage open discussion of the importance of equity.

What steps should men in leadership positions take to close the gender gap?

Walk the walk and be a good role model. Start by looking inward at yourselves and your organizations, then look to the communities you serve. Audit yourself and build internal structure. Set clear goals and publicly state them. Ensure women have leadership roles and other influential positions. Put in place the infrastructure to ensure equitable pay, benefits, career paths, and opportunities to be heard.

Learn more about the Male Champions of Change