Agents of Change power list 2017

Revealed: the top 30 men tackling gender inequality in the workplace.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 09 May 2019

‘Gender inequality really hit home when I had kids,’ says Chris Stylianou, chief operating officer at Sky. The father of three started to notice that girls were treated differently to boys at school and in sports. ‘I’ve always championed women at work – but suddenly the issue of equality became personal: there’s absolutely no rhyme or reason why my two daughters shouldn’t have the same opportunities in life as my son.’

Stylianou is now the executive sponsor of Sky’s Women in Leadership programme, helping to supercharge female talent in the organisation and reach a 50/50 gender balance. ‘I’ve realised it’s not enough to just talk about gender equality. If you want to make a real difference, you have to get stuck in and set stretching targets.’

Stylianou is one of MT’s 30 Agents of Change. Together with the Women’s Business Council, we set out to find the army of male leaders who are tackling inequality at work by changing company cultures, shattering glass ceilings and challenging the status quo.

In the UK, women still earn 18% less than their male colleagues. Men are still 40% more likely than women to be promoted into senior management roles. And there are still only seven female CEOs in the FTSE 100. Globally, the gap is even wider. According to the World Economic Forum, it'll be another 168 years before men and women are equal.

This year’s Agents of Change power list was judged by MT; Cilla Snowball, chair of the Women’s Business Council; Helene Reardon-Bond of the Government Equalities Office; and Sir Philip Hampton, chairman of GlaxoSmithKline and co-author of the Hampton-Alexander Review on improving gender balance in FTSE leadership. It includes civil servants, chief executives and entrepreneurs from sectors ranging from teaching to telecoms, food to finance. And it shows that equality is everyone's business.

Read the full list below. 

@MT_Women  @WomenEqualities  #AgentsofChange

Ed Alford
VP business application services, BP

In the last year, Alford has led and driven a diversity and inclusion agenda at BP to help give disadvantaged girls greater access to inspirational role models in business. With a focus on encouraging girls and young women to take up of STEM subjects in schools, ensuring that every girl can find role models 'just like her' who have gone on to achieve success, BP's Modern Muse project is subsequently launching as a UK charity.

'I'm championing women in business because... better leadership balance leads to better decision making, which leads to better business outcomes'

Marc Allera

Allera has committed to achieving a 50:50 gender split across all levels of EE by 2020. Every EE board member has a gender plan and an appointed gender champion. EE also runs a Women's Network, providing mentoring and a bespoke six-month development programme for its women leaders. Over the next few months, EE will roll out unconscious bias training for all managers and launch a new maternity re-integration programme, buddying up women heading off on and returning from maternity leave, with others in a similar position.

'I'm championing women in business because... I want a diverse team that reflects our customer base, their needs and brings new perspectives to our business challenges.'

Nick Baughan
CEO, Maxus UK

The first CEO of the WPP-owned media agency to publish gender pay gap figures, Baughan started a new scheme offering both women and men 26 weeks paid parental leave, six emergency childcare days off and a buddy system for returners to work. Diversity panels meet monthly and an annual diversity report is published, to boot.

'I'm championing women in business because... it's not just the right thing to do, but also, for purely selfish reasons, a diverse and balanced workforce produces the best results for my clients'

Andrew Bester
Group director and CEO Commercial Banking, Lloyds Banking Group

It was on Bester’s watch that Lloyds Banking Group became the first FTSE 100 company to make a public commitment on gender equality: it vowed that 40% of its top jobs would be held by women by 2020. And it’s getting there. Since Bester took on the role of executive sponsor for inclusion and diversity in 2014, the proportion of female external hires into senior management roles has jumped 5%, senior female promotions have also upped 5%, and the bank has banned all-male shortlists for top jobs.

'I'm championing women in business because... gender equality shouldn't be regarded as a female-only issue – men have an equally important role to play'

Ben and Oliver Black
Founders, My Family Care

Brothers Ben (former City lawyer) and Oliver (ex-P&G exec) are revolutionising childcare. The pair bought failing childcare firm Tinies Childcare in 2000 and turned it into the biggest nanny agency in the UK. Five years later, they set up My Family Care, providing childcare services to big companies such as IBM, Google and LinkedIn, offering everything from back-up care (used by more than 300,000 working parents and carers) to maternity coaching. The company employs 500 people and seven of its 12 executive directors are female.

'We're championing women in business because... we'd like the world to be wealthier and fairer for our children. Equality is the easiest (and cheapest) way to achieve that'

Chris Brook-Carter
Managing director, Retail Week

Brook-Carter is banging the drum for women in Britain’s retail sector. Last year, he launched Retail Week’s Be Inspired programme to shine a light on the industry’s female high-fliers and to rally the next generation of women leaders. The programme includes a conference and masterclasses – all provided free by Retail Week.

'I'm championing women in business because... gender diversity is not only the right thing to do, but the only thing to do'

Sir Roger Carr
Chairman, BAE Systems

In his long and distinguished career, Carr has chaired the boards of several leading British companies - including Cadbury, Centrica and Thames Water, as well as his current employer, the nation’s largest defence company. He’s now a leading protagonist in the fight to get more women into the boardroom. In 2010 he was a founding member of the 30% Club, which is campaigning to increase the proportion of women on FTSE 100 boards to 30%.

'I'm championing women in business because... British boardrooms benefit from better gender balance'

Vittorio Colao
CEO, Vodafone Group

‘My intention is for Vodafone to become the best employer of women in the world by 2025,’ says the telecoms giant’s CEO. On his watch Vodafone started reporting gender data in its annual reports and has increased the proportion of women in top leadership roles from 14% to 24%. Colao ensured that 100% of the company's senior leaders participated in unconscious bias workshops and introduced a ‘plus one target’ compelling each of them to hire an additional female exec every year.

'I'm championing women in business because... companies face diversity in the world around them and should reflect this with diversity in their management, encouraging women to achieve their full potential'

Lord Mervyn Davies
Chair of Corsair and SID at Diageo

Davies is one of the godfather figures behind advancing women in British business. Despite receiving brickbats for championing the cause of getting more women onto UK boards, his Davies Review led to a profound shift in the composition of FTSE 100 boards. When his report was launched in 2011, the number of women on boards stood at just 12.5%; since then, this figure has more than doubled. He remains a willing sponsor and mentor for women in business and a role model for male bosses everywhere.

'I'm championing women in business because... it is the right thing to do and is just common sense'

Kevin Ellis
Chairman and senior partner, PwC

One of Ellis’s first actions after being elected as PwC's chairman last year was to publicly commit the firm to publish gender and ethnicity targets for roles at manager level and above for the first time. Making this data available in the firm's digital annual report has driven real collective accountability and action to tackle inequality in the workplace. This meant that PwC was able to be one of the first firms to sign up to HM Treasury's Women in Finance Charter. PwC was also one of the first five companies in the UK (and the first professional services firm) to voluntarily report its gender pay gap. 

'I'm championing women in business because... everyone should be given an equal chance to thrive and reach their full potential in the workplace'

Mike Haigh
Group managing director, Mott MacDonald

Responsible for the management of this $2bn employee-owned engineering consultancy, Haigh is a longstanding champion of women in business. He introduced unconscious bias training for all leaders, promoted Mott’s gender action plan and a led a review of how to attract more female staff.

'I'm championing women in business because... it makes total business sense and is simply the right thing to do'

Robert Hannigan
Director, GCHQ

Women have long played an important role in intelligence work, but the public image remains more James Bond than Bletchley Park. The former Board Diversity Champion at the Foreign Office, GCHQ boss Hannigan has made it his mission to ensure female staff reach their potential, supporting the intelligence agency’s Everyday Sexism Project and encouraging its Women in Technology (WiTTY) group.

'I'm championing women in business because... to do our job, solving some of the hardest problems the world faces, we need all talents and we need people who dare to think differently.'

Steve Hatch
Regional director, Northern Europe, Facebook

Tech is one of several industries that have faced criticism for its treatment of women, but Hatch says Facebook places a strong emphasis on equality. ‘I’m cognisant that men, myself included, can be afraid of getting it "wrong" in discussing equality,’ he says, ‘I’ve focused on being a positive advocate for change.’ Hatch participated in the ‘Token Man’ programme, sponsored training for 35 female industry leaders and co-funded his colleague Ian Crocombe’s work with a girls-only coding academy hosted by Facebook.

'I'm championing women in business because... diversity isn't only a strength, It’s a source of competitive advantage'

Andrew Hill

Management editor, Financial Times

This FT stalwart has been shining the spotlight on women in business for more than a decade. It was Hill who launched an annual FT feature focusing on European women in business, which developed into a listing of the world's top female chief executives that ran until 2011. And it was Hill who led the FT's first Women at the Top conference in London in 2010 (plus its follow-up event in Shanghai). Hill was also the first reporter to write about and analyse the 30 Per Cent Club at its launch back in 2010.

'I'm championing women in business because... better balance in business will lead to better decisions'

Paul Kissack
Director general, The Civil Service

A champion of the work of the Government Equalities Office and keen advocate of closing the gender pay gap, Kissack has also sponsored the creation of the Department for Education’s successful and fast growing Women’s Network. He also worked part-time for a while to look after his three kids and enable his wife – a fellow senior civil servant – to pursue her career.

'I'm championing women in business because... we need the most talented people to shape a brilliant civil service'

Tom Knox
President of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and CEO of MullenLowe

Not all male ad execs think the diversity debate ‘is over’ as Saatchi & Saatchi chair Kevin Roberts so controversially declared last year. As IPA president, Knox persuaded the industry body’s top 40 member agencies to publish their gender pay levels in MT’s sister title Campaign last year. He often speaks on the topic of diversity in creative roles and last year took part in the Great British Diversity Experiment, which sought to provide concrete evidence of the benefits of diverse teams.

'I'm championing women in business because...  for far too long we've talked about the contribution women make but nothing much changes. As president of the IPA, I was determined to do something about it and focus on women's pay as an issue'

Andrew Lawson
UK and Ireland managing director and SVP North Europe, Middle East and Africa, Salesforce

Salesforce’s Lawson wants to create one of the most female-friendly cultures in tech. He’s behind the tech giant’s High-Potential Leadership Programme, which last year saw a 33% increase in the number of women promoted, and launched the company’s first Women in Leadership Summit (registrants: 13,000). Lawson is also championing equal pay: last year, Salesforce analysed the salaries of its 17,000 employees and spent roughly $3m adjusting female salaries to match their male colleagues.

'I'm championing women in business because... it’s the right thing to do; I’ve seen firsthand that diverse teams are more effective'

General Sir Gordon Messenger

Vice-chief of the Defence Staff

General Messenger is the military champion for the UK’s women, peace and security agenda, working to increase the number of women serving in the armed forces and in peacekeeping roles, where gender perspectives are essential in restoring peace and protecting vulnerable groups in conflict affected areas. Most recently General Messenger appeared alongside Baroness Anelay, the Prime Minister's Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, and Angelina Jolie-Pitt, the UN Special Envoy for Refugees, at the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial in London to further champion this cause and urge the international community to do more to eliminate the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

'I'm championing women in business because... the armed forces must better reflect the society we exist to protect'

Chris Murphy
Group managing director (Europe, the Middle East and South Asia), ThoughtWorks 

With Murphy at the helm, ThoughtWorks has become one of the top companies for women in tech. Thanks to initiatives such as unconscious bias training, blind CV reviewing and a development programme for female leaders, ThoughtWorks was named in the Anita Borg Institute’s Top Companies for Women Technologists Leadership Index (ahead of Google and Facebook), awarded the Australian government's 2016 Employer of Choice for Gender Equality and was a finalist in this year’s Information Age Women in IT Awards. 

'I'm championing women in business because... a diverse and inclusive workforce leads to a far more powerful and inventive organisation'

Chris Norwood
Head teacher, Northfleet School for Girls

Teaching in schools across Kent for the past decade, Norwood is helping to shape Britain’s future business leaders. He’s been heading up Northfleet School for Girls since 2013 and has developed bespoke teaching models to raise girls’ aspirations into STEM and enterprise, built confidence through mentoring and delivered a pilot study for ‘Your Daughter’s Future’ - a Women’s Business Council and Government Equalities Office toolkit designed to help girls and their parents consider different career options.

'I'm championing women in business because... all our students deserve the best opportunity to become exceptional leaders, and this journey starts at school'

Mike Putnam
President & CEO, Skanska UK

Putnam has put diversity at the heart of Skanska’s business plan, leading to killer stats such as 34% of new hires being female (11% industry average) and 70% of those involved in the firm’s ‘mixed-pair’ mentoring scheme enjoying promotion.

'I'm championing women in business because... I'm passionate about creating a more inclusive construction industry. We have a lot of work to do to re-dress gender inequality'

Richard Robinson
Managing Partner, Oystercatchers

Marketing consultant Robinson likes to get stuck in. The first male ‘SuperMomma’ for the global women’s creative network SheSays, he’s introduced diversity to the agency profiles in Oystercatchers’ pitches and supported the Great British Diversity Project 2016. He also mentors Year 11 students at the Evelyn Grace Academy, Brixton.

'I'm championing women in business because... business needs better ideas, innovation, and answers'

Russ Shaw
Founder, Tech London Advocates (TLA)

A vocal champion for diversity in his sector, Shaw helped develop TLA’s Women in Tech group to become the largest in the organisation, with nearly 1,000 members. He’s masterminded a series of events focusing on getting more females in the technology sector and was a judge at Computer Weekly’s ‘Women in Tech’ awards 2016.

'I'm championing women in business because... in the tech sector, a diverse workforce encourages the creation of new ideas and helps the bottom line'

David Sproul
Senior partner and CEO, Deloitte

Sproul has put gender equality at the top of Deloitte’s boardroom agenda. Keen to promote more women into the upper echelons, he’s announced that, by 2020, 25% of the company’s partners will be women. He’s published data on Deloitte’s pay gap, set up an industry-first return-to-work programme and established the WorkAgility initiative, where Deloitte staff can choose how, when and where they work. Sproul was awarded the United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles award last year.

'I'm championing women in business because... equality of opportunity is vital to our firm’s success and is the foundation of a fair and inclusive society'

Aki Stamatis
Chairman, Fourfront Group

Gender diversity in the construction industry is shockingly poor. Stamatis, chairman of workplace specialists Fourfront Group, is trying to change that. Alongside the company’s HR director Pippa Savory, Stamatis launched the Women in Fourfront initiative three years ago to develop and support the firm’s female employees. Two women who took part in the programme have since been promoted to Fourfront’s board and the company was named an ‘Enlightened Employer’ at the Thames Valley Women in Business Awards.

'I'm championing women in business because... it makes sense!'

Chris Stylianou
COO, Sky UK and Ireland

Stylianou is Sky’s action man. On top of his COO role, he’s the executive sponsor of Sky’s Women in Leadership (WiL) programme, helping to supercharge female talent, push gender-balanced shortlists for all job vacancies and support working parents by offering all employees six free days of emergency childcare. The aim? To reach a 50/50 gender balance at Sky. Stylianou also sits on the Women's Business Council and spoke at MT’s Inspiring Women event last year.

'I'm championing women in business because...  it's simply the right thing to do. Working in a media business at Sky, it's important that we play a role in making things better for women in the UK. I also want my daughters to have the same opportunities as my son'

Philip Thomas
CEO Ascential Events and its subsidiary Cannes Lions

Advertising has come a long way since the Mad Men days, but it remains heavily male-dominated. At the sector’s prestigious Cannes Lions event, CEO Thomas has increased female jury participation from 30% to nearly half in five years. He also introduced the Glass Lion, an award celebrating the positive portrayal of women in the advertising itself.

'I'm championing women in business because... .we still need that sentence to be finished? That’s the damn problem right there’

Steve Varley
Chairman and managing partner UK&I, EY

Varley is a champion of flexible working, something many think is key to helping level the gender playing field in business. He promoted EY’s deputy COO to COO while allowing her to remain on four days a week and supporting the creation of Timewise and MT’s Power Part Time list. Since 2012 EY has featured in each of the Sunday Times’ annual lists of the Top 50 Employers for Women in the UK.

'I'm championing women in business because... growth and innovation in our economy requires the contribution of all talent, and diversity of perspective and voices'

Roger Whiteside
CEO, Greggs
Flexible working can be hugely helpful for working mothers, fathers and people with disabilities. On-the-go bakery CEO Greggs was so keen to encourage it, he started doing it himself, staying at home on a weekly basis. Who said you can’t have your steak bake and eat it? He’s also brought in 50:50 recruitment shortlists and increased the number of women NEDs from one to three.

'I'm championing women in business because... it just makes sense for business to reflect the diversity of society in its leadership and maximise all of the talent in the team'

Neil Williamson
CEO, Jardine Motors Group

Determined to promote gender diversity in an industry still dogged by its male-dominated image, Williamson has spoken at everything from the 30% Club to local primary schools on the subject. He is committed to having women filling a third of Jardine’s management positions within five years.

'I'm championing women in business because... the automotive industry is innovative and could be a shining light of UK industry. But to do this, it needs a greater gender balance'