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?
Firstly, I have 55% female representation in my company. Green Park has been trying to increase workforce diversity from representative and cognitive viewpoints over the last 10 years. My own personal campaigning for equality started a long time before I completed my MBA in 1996. At University I studied Women Studies under the inspirational Sheila Coleman and the idea of systematically disfranchising 50% of the population resonated with me as did the different experiences within the campaigning female population based on sexuality and Race. I have been advocating real change over the years and have champions women in workplace too- creating gender parity
Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?
Its equally about leadership, common sense and self-interest. People understand that the diversity tap wont now be turned off given our need to compete in global (less in the EU) markets and the innovation and empathy required to do so without being seen as ‘salesmen with suitcases’. If we look at global procurement trends and buying patterns we can see very clearly that businesses and our institutions need to close the gap between what they say and what their staff, customers and opinion formers experience from their brand. Simply put, men support gender equality will help everyone view this issue as an issue for everyone to tackle together, rather than a single issue affecting women only.
How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?
Welcome, there’s less and less Andrea Firestones out there, its accepted that this is part of improving organisational culture, however the problem is rebuilding the trust lost through all the rhetoric and poor investments in actually moving each organisational dial thoughtfully instead of the current fashion of just copying what next door did – whether it works or not. In essence men can do more in getting involved in the gender equality conversation and they also have a valuable contributable input which can create better engagement and dialogue
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?
No, I don’t think it makes the slightest difference and the people who argue against networking groups or suggest men are oppressed aren’t worth talking about anymore. Let me put it this way- women face barriers in organisations just for being women. That is wrong and having network groups helps create a sense of network and inclusion, so if people can’t understand that then they are not wanted to engage into that conversation, not because they don’t get it.
What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?
Add it to leadership competence / compensation. Once its part of leadership compensation you will see it being taken seriously and actually being done. Also communicate the purpose of the investments in diversity, drive innovation not engagement through gender practices and changes that are a catalyst for more inclusive cultures not just benefiting white women for Russell group universities but creating more sustainable conditions for any person to enjoy doing their best work in the organisation and evening out the playing field for meritocracies. One, they can talk about women positively impacting the bottom line, two, discuss the practical solutions rather than just discussing the problem and lastly get the conversation track to lead to inclusion rather than making it a numbers game.
Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?
Yes, I do and it’s a privilege, largely because it keeps me grounded in how our diversity initiatives actually play out in the real world. I am however a pretty terrible coach so the more directive side of mentoring and option setting provides a better intervention. What has really changed in the last few years is the sophistication that now exists about being a good mentee and the much greater focus on learning to be accepted as a role model based on what a person does as opposed top being visible in the position. I am inclusive leader that role models a natural mentoring behaviour to my team.
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?
There is an element of impostor syndrome in many but that’s easy to address, I find the women I have had the privilege to mentor more thoughtful and clear on routes of action once something has been decided, they don’t tend to pontificate rather just get on with taking action. The stereotype about women being more empathetic and thoughtful around people is in my opinion true! However, we as individuals are unique so even in the ‘women’ category there is diversity and every single woman I have mentored has been different and unique. So I take an individualistic approach in mentoring women and understand them as individuals.