Paul took up the CEO role in January 2015 and he’s also a member of the UK Country Board and Chair of UK Corporate Social Responsibility Board. Prior to that, he had held various sales and client delivery roles across the Capgemini business. Paul is married with 3 children; two girls and a boy.
Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?
Having a diverse workforce is a good business practice – it’s as simple as that. Gender is a big part of this and encouraging a better balance will help the organisation grow as it creates a strong culture and encourages creativity. As the CEO of one of Capgemini’s business units, this is one of my top priorities and that’s why I support diversity initiatives.
Our clients just expect it from us and that we’ve got some fantastic female role models at Capgemini – all this helps combat any reluctance to change and encourages others to get interested in diversity.
On a more personal level, I’ve become far more aware of diversity issues since having children as I now understand the pressures having a family can bring. I have three children, so am also aware of the importance for us all to do our bit to make sure the next generation has every opportunity open to them. We all want our kids do something that motivates them and makes them happy, and if that happens to be a STEM career for my two daughters then clearly I’ve got some work to do to make it easier for them in the future!
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? How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently? What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?
Women’s groups or networks have been a force for good in recent years, and we’ve had some great successes with our own Women’s Business Network. Hosted by Capgemini UK’s Chairman Christine Hodgson, it attracts inspirational female speakers who share their career and life stories. The event enables women at all levels to extend their networks and we also invite pupils from local schools we work with; a few were so inspired by what they heard that they applied for our apprenticeship programme and are on their way to become software engineers.
But everyone needs to be involved in diversity conversations. I was really pleased to see John Duncanson, Capgemini Scotland MD, named in the 2015 Power Part Time List – it shows that flexible working is not an issue pertinent only to one gender. The perception of middle-aged greying men in suits is a big prejudice in our sector and deserves a more open conversation. We have to do more to explain to young girls (and boys) what our industry does, what value we bring. At Capgemini, our Schools Programme focuses on introducing the world of work to school children and showcasing IT as a fundamental life skill as well as encouraging this as a career choice. Last year, 100 of our employees had over 5,800 interactions with students across 40 schools to support their employability skills and encourage them to opt for a career in IT. And that’s something we can all get involved in, irrespective of gender.
Overall, I don’t think men are excluded from this conversation, but perhaps it’s not articulated well enough why they should be talking about it. For me, it’s a leadership issue and it goes back to my earlier point about business growth – if it’s explained in this way, men will want to get involved.
Looking at Capgemini and my business unit specifically, just a couple of years ago the gender issue was relevant but it wasn’t on top of our agenda, as we had some other pressing priorities to deal with. But as we’ve grown and matured as a business, diversity has moved up on the agenda and it’s now one of the key issues we’re looking at. And it’s not an easy one to tackle, but our targets are bullish – for example, increasing the proportion of female graduate and apprentice hires to 40% by 2017.
Achieving a workforce that better reflects our society isn’t going to happen overnight; you should treat it as a change management programme. It’s a business problem and we first need to understand the reasons behind the gender imbalance in the IT sector, deliver an outcome and embed it in the culture of the organisation.
Exit interviews are great for identifying existing blockers. For example, one of the reasons we keep hearing about is the requirement to travel a lot and clients’ expectations – consultants are expected to be responsive and always available. So as the first step, as part of our flexible working policy, we’ve amended our T&Cs related to business travel. But it’s not enough to make changes – once implemented, you have to communicate them, monitor if they bring the benefits you hoped for, and change them again, if needed.
It’s obvious that achieving a gender balance is a journey. We’ve been named as one of the top 10 private sector organisations for gender diversity by Opportunity Now and have been included again in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women list, which are all pleasing signs that we’re going in the right direction, but we need to give ourselves time to make a real difference. In my business unit, we’re asking all VPs to set a personal performance objective for 2016 that will further our CR&S strategy. It could mean, for example, increasing the number of flexible working opportunities within the team or ensuring that 1 in 3 vacancies are advertised as flexible roles. I look forward to seeing what impact this will have over the years.
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?
Once we’ve got the best talent on board, a successful mentoring programme shouldn’t be built around gender – everyone is different depending on where they are at in their career and their personal situation, but everyone needs to know they’re getting a fair crack at the opportunities. As I said earlier, diversity is a leadership issue, and anyone working in a senior position must actively support gender equality – after all, a workforce will be far more motivated if there are opportunities for everyone to progress to the highest levels regardless of their background or gender.