Gender equality: It's not up to HR, it's up to you

The Agents of Change campaign, backed by the Women's Business Council and Sky, recognises business leaders who are driving real results in achieving a better gender balance across all sectors - and more broadly in our society.

by Chris Stylianou
Last Updated: 05 Jun 2019

It’s critical we continue to recognise those who are having a real impact and progressing gender equality in the workplace. There’s still so much we can learn from each other – and so much more we can do.

There’s plenty of evidence out there to suggest that gender balance in the workplace is beneficial.  We also know that levelling the playing field is simply the "right thing to do". For those of us with children, we cannot accept that our daughters would need to work any harder, or face tougher challenges, than our sons to achieve the same things.

It’s all well and good recognising the need to shift the dial and talking about it. But if you’re going to create real change in the workplace, it takes action.

Take Stephen Woodford, chief executive at The Advertising Association. He was the first male to back the #timeTo initiative, set up to tackle the problem of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour in the advertising and marketing industry. This is a great example of using a position of power to influence other leaders to help accelerate positive behaviour change industry-wide.

Or look at Andrew Geoghegan, global consumer planning director at Diageo, who’s driving a transformation in terms of how gender is portrayed in advertising across the firm’s 200 drinks brands. Geoghegan personally helped to develop a framework to train the company’s 1200 marketers and advertising agencies, aimed at eradicating harmful stereotypes.

And then there’s David Holmes, Sky’s director of retail operations. He’s helping to transform the outlook in retail, insisting on a 50/50 gender balanced team and facilitating positive change to support Sky’s people and encourage growth. He’s worked tirelessly to challenge recruitment, increase female talent attraction and retention and drive home a culture that allows everyone to have a voice.

We should never be afraid of using our authority to get more people engaged in this conversation. We all have the power to affect change.

Everyone, especially men, in senior positions – should sponsor or mentor at least one woman. Sponsorship is the key to retaining great female talent and building that pipeline. It is our collective responsibility to lead by example when it comes to driving gender parity.

This isn’t an easy journey. According to the World Economic Forum, it won’t achieve gender parity for another 200 years. That isn’t good enough.

There are no quick fixes. This is about changing the mindset and nurturing a culture so that equality becomes the norm. It’s not up to HR; it’s up to us all to take the lead.

The power of conversation should also never be underestimated: get out there and speak to others, including other men – future change agents – in your organisations and wider communities. We need to engage and inspire others to want to be part of the journey. But don’t rely on words alone: it’s the proof of action that counts.

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