HeForShe – Luis Filipe Sousa Barros, Associate Director, Research, Enterprise Risk Solutions at Moody’s: The reason why men need to be part of the solution

Luis Filipe Sousa Barros Moody'sWhy 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?

Because I care about gender equality. I was raised in a family that actively promoted gender equality, the main goal of the HeForShe campaign. My parents successfully balanced their careers and family life, sharing housework and the education of me and my brother. Given this inspiration, I truly believe the foundation of the changes towards gender equality and social justice happen at home. We shouldn’t ask women or men if they can chose between family and career; choosing “both” is also an option. Instead we should incentivise and embrace the compatibility of the different drivers that make us happier and fulfilled. This can be achieved mainly by exposing people to different gender roles and norms at home and through education, and reorganising the workplace accordingly.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

I started my career in a Portuguese bank which was created in the mid-80s. At the time, only men were invited to join this institution, unfortunate for a country with such a legacy of impactful social changes. The situation changed in the 90s but when I left the Bank three years ago there were still few women in senior management. This reflects one of the biggest hurdles to gender equality, entrenched norms; and the reason men need to be part of the solution, rather than the problem. We cannot blame only men for unbalanced gender equality.

When I joined Moody’s three years ago I got the opportunity to be involved in a consulting project for a Saudi bank, one which, exceptionally, had women in management roles. I am convinced that the increasing importance of women in business is a natural driver of social change. On the other hand, I was then confronted with the reality that other local banks were requiring that their consulting teams be male-only. Some of the western consulting companies accepted the stipulated conditions, ignoring the diversity and inclusion values they promote. Should we, as employers and stakeholders, accept it as well? We could justify it on the basis that we need to take into account the cultural differences and idiosyncrasies of some countries. Or we could instead choose to change internally first and then clearly say “no” to any exclusive contract­? This would play a major role in driving change globally. Because it is not just a woman’s fight; it is my responsibility as a man. Would this “no”, when pronounced jointly by major consulting firms, be sufficiently strong to promote gender equality? And would women welcome working in local environments where the masculinisation of wealth is still a reality and so playing a part in the transformation of these societies?

Corporations should be players of this change, as well as men and women. Companies can only benefit from their employees feeling their quality of life is a priority, and gender equality, within and outside of the workplace, is fundamental to this quality.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

Moody’s is a place that definitely encourages gender equality. In my team both men and women enjoy the benefits of flexibility by exploring the telecommuting in work at home. The experiences are shared and incentivised by senior management. In order to attract even more women, Moody’s should express very clearly in all sort of relevant external communications, website, careers initiatives, among others, that the company promotes flexibility including in consulting positions that require travel. It is my perception that in some departments we have more women in senior positions, where in others men. This is aligned with HeForshe values: individuals doing the same work should receive the same remuneration and have the same opportunities to grow. I would nevertheless incentivise Moody’s and similar institutions to disclose the stats regarding the distribution of the salaries by position per gender.

The environment in the company is sociable and we have different leisure activities where gender equality conversation is incentivised. There is a definitely a good work life balance. You do feel diversity in the company and people embrace it. The company promotes long term relationships and stability which are conditions for a healthy family life.

In Moody’s we have several internal networks which promote diversity and inclusion, one targeting gender equality. This is obviously the most noticeable arena in which the gender equality conversation takes place, and I believe men do not feel unwelcome to join this group, although I cannot say yet they feel very welcome. This can definitely be changed. It is possible that my impression of the current climate is limited because of its restriction to just one company, but compared to my previous working experience in the Bank, men are definitely more welcome in the gender debate, directly and indirectly.

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 believe that at a first glance, the use of these words can be considered as a barrier to the participation of men in the gender equality debate. It is the responsibility of the leaders of these groups to liaise with men and attract them to the conversation, and to show that their values are independent of the naming/labelling of these initiatives. The groups should promote discussions about issues like flexibility in the workplace – the response of the many companies to the corporate gender equality movement, and should be targeted to both men and women, as beneficiaries of these policies.

But I wonder are women also aware of the importance of involving men in these networks? Are the goals and purposes of these groups correctly conveyed? Men are notionally invited but are they willing, or do they feel comfortable, to further participate in initiatives whose titles range from “Celebrate Women’s day” to “Women in Banking and Finance? There are numerous reasons that some women would prefer men did not join or contribute to the conversation, but I think on balance this attitude is unhelpful and needs to change. The invitation to join the discussion is increasingly extended by some women, and I think it is an invitation more men should accept.

For some men, labelling gender equality problems as “women’s issues” lends to their perception as irrelevant. On that note, “HeForShe” is definitely more marketable. My impression is that the communication in these networks should be improved in order to attract more men.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

The solution to get more men in this discussion is the promotion of the policies that endorse gender equality. As emphasised before, flexibility in the workplace is the key to promoting workplace gender equality. All the actions targeted toward facilitating telecommuting seem to have been effective in increasing corporate gender equality, certainly in terms of retaining women at senior levels. Regarding parental leave, corporations could incentivise “use or lose” policies targeted to both men and women, and reduced working hours or career breaks to parents of both genders. Subsequently, men should be invited to share publicly their experiences regarding these topics, not just women.

The disclosure of the stats regarding the distribution of salaries by position per gender will definitely encourage male participation in the gender equality debate. More clever marketing around this can play a major role in ensuring that this is not a conversation dominated by female voices.

This should be considered in the means of performance evaluation incentives. Individuals should be rewarded and recognised by their actions to promote the gender equality, inside and outside the business.

Corporation should also liaise with universities and high schools and society in general to promote the debate, for instance by organizising mentoring programs. The mentors should be mixed – men and women – and they should work together.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

Yes.

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?

My career has been in banking and consulting, and I’ve never noticed that. Some men are less likely to put themselves forward for jobs out of their comfort zones. Other men are different. Women are the same.

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