Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have you witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?
I grew up in a single parent household and in an area and estate where the majority of households where single parent (mostly single mum run household). This has created an inherent respect and appreciation for the contribution that women make in our society.
My upbringing, and being taught about the civil rights movement both in the UK (studied GCSE History as an extra GCSE after school evert Friday) and USA (studied American history at college), also made me colour and gender blind. Meaning that I go by the belief in life that we should be judged by the content of our character, rather than our gender, colour or religious belief (adapted from Martin Luther King). Having seen discrimination through my studies and hearing stories from my mum and elders the thought of any inequality/discrimination upsets me and it’s my belief that whilst the world has come a long way, there is still much that needs to be done.
This is why we started Generation Success, which is about creating equal access for all in their entrepreneurial and career aspirations.
Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?
It is important that everyone plays a part in creating a world that we want to see. We are all leaders and influencers in our own right and progress can only be done when everyone works towards a common goal.
The importance of men supporting equality in the workplace can be seen by ratio of male senior managers and CEO’s. The facts are that company culture, decision making and focus is steered from the top. Having people in leadership positions driving gender equality will push the campaign forward.
In addition, I believe there is a strong misconception by people who feel that things that happen to others do not affect them. It does!! It affects the bottom line of a business, as companies with diverse workforces have been shown to have many advantages/benefits including increased creativity and innovation and competitiveness in an ever-globalised world.
How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?
Men are very welcome in the conversation. It feels as if more men now today are willing to be involved in the conversation.
In a way it goes back to question 2, the importance of men supporting the campaign. Those who are fathers will have influence over how their children who will one day be our leaders and see the world. By supporting this campaign at work and at home, they will continue the work that is currently be done.
Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?
I would rather have a network with the word women/female which helps creates a great impact and moves the work forward. Than a network, whose name is more gender neutral, that appeals to men but does nothing.
We must recognise the importance of networks that have the name female / women in them. Having it in the title has enabled these networks to build a strong base to push forward with their vision of Gender equality. For me there is an argument that any company starting an employee network for the first time should look to have it with the word women / female in it, and then over time after it has built a stable base, if it decides rebrand the name to become more inclusive. It is easier to sell and get engagement amongst the workforce and gain momentum and quicks wins, which are essential for a network to grow and thrive.
The facts are we live in a very fast-paced world, where people make decisions in seconds. This can be based on a name, the first sentence or the first paragraph. Having the word female or women in the name of the network means that Men instantly think the network is not there for them. This can make it very difficult to get men to engage with gender equality but not impossible. Networks with women / female in them all over the country / world have been able to make men feel like gender equality is their problem. They have done this through educating the men around them.
What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?
Simple!! They should call in their marketing department (assuming that they already have a gender network in place) and create a strategic plan that is backed by the senior team within the organisation.
The best examples come from my time at Marks and Spencer. When they lunched “Plan A” because there was no “Plan B”.
Plan A was focused on recycling and minimising waste, it was a strategy that had buy in from the people at the top all the way to the retail staff.
For me it is because they made it a company philosophy, it had consistent messaging through all layers, company communication/marketing channels, it was reinforced at every opportunity and it gave everyone in the organisation a purpose.
The work, the actual how this was done was handled by other people, but the marketing strategy that was acted upon (important to have buy in and action) brought everything together in a way that had the whole company singing from the same hymn sheet.
I do not think I have seen a company do the same thing when it comes to Gender equality. I would love to find out from your readers of companies who have managed this and learn from them.
Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?
I do not have any more active mentoring relationships (in terms of structured meet every month or two months), but keep an open dialogue with all my past mentees who know they can call upon me any time
Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?
In my experience, it seems that women are more likely to seek a mentor or ask you to be a mentor than a guy.
It is interesting that both my last two mentees both women did not see their value when it came to the job market. It could have been the rejections that they had during their job search, which had knocked their confidence.
What really impressed me was their work ethic; they both took on the advice and pushed past their comfort zone to get to where they wanted.
One now has a job that she loves in Manchester (recently married and relocated up there) and the other is now in New York having got a six-month placement. I am equally proud of both of them and the strides they took to get there.