A men's guide to championing gender equality

Men have a vital role in pushing for progress in the workplace. Here's how they can do it.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 09 Apr 2018

Most men in business - at least those MT meets anyway - want to do more to address gender inbalance. But they don't always know how.

MT recently teamed up with the Women's Business Council and the Government Equalities Office to recognise the male Agents of Change 2018 - the men whose work to push for women's equality in the workplace has stood out the most over the last year. 

If they inspired you, there's now a 'Men as agents of change’ toolkit to give you some pointers to make a difference in your organisation.

The toolkit contains three ‘asks’ for CEOs in hope of quickening the process, asking leaders to: take personal responsibility for ensuring executive level business leaders are women, sponsor 1-3 women from within their organisation and to be an active and visible change agent by being part of the wider business conversation.

The crucial role of men as the key proponents of change has often been downplayed, but while men continue to hold an unfair grip on positions of power they are the ones who can do the most to rectify that.

Here are just some of the ways that you can make a difference to gender equality in your business.

Change workplace culture: The fact that over 1,500 companies failed to declare their gender pay gap by the April 5 deadline shows that the gender agenda is still not being taken seriously. Of course all organisations work differently, but evidence shows that if those at the top create a culture of diversity, this will filter throughout the company.

Hosting inclusion workshops for staff or programmes to make people think about gender bias can help eradicate the unconscious prejudices that exist within many workplaces. Introducing a scheme of flexible working - which measures people on their output rather than time at the desk - can help staff feel more appreciated and help talented mothers stay in work.

Identify and sponsor promising female talent: No, this does not mean setting up a JustGiving page or running a marathon; this requires no money, just a little bit of your time.

Bosses usually have a powerful address book of contacts that can be used to champion their sponsees for career advancing opportunities. Introduce your sponsee (preferably sponsees) to influential people, projects and opportunities in your network and ensure that their hard work is recognised and rewarded.

Create balanced shortlists: When recruiting for new positions, the toolkit recommends that women should represent 30% of any shortlist, but what’s wrong with 50:50? That’s what EE CEO (and Agent of Change)Marc Allera has ensured by contractually tying all recruitment agencies to provide equally balanced candidate lists.

Introduce an equal parental leave scheme: Don’t confuse this with the Shared Parental Leave policy that the government introduced in 2015, it is different. SPL has been relatively ineffective - having an uptake of just 2% among fathers - and still makes it more financially viable for the mother to take time off.

Companies instead should introduce their own, more equal policies. For example in November 2017, Aviva CEO Mark Wilson unrolled a scheme giving all employees one year of leave, 26 weeks of which is at full basic pay for every child. 

But why should you bother?

This is far more than just about doing the right thing. In fact reducing the gender gap makes genuine economic sense.

McKinsey estimates that bridging the gender gap could add £150 billion to the UK economy by 2025.

‘We have half the population with outstanding capabilities and education behind them and we just don’t get enough out of them,’ said Sir Philip Hampton, GSK boss and chair of the Hampton-Alexander review when speaking at an MT event celebrating the 2018 Agents of Change, 'and that is just straight up and down business waste.’

Women are equally as qualified as men, women are equally as driven as men, but women continue to get worse outcomes. While there has been major progress since the 2016 Hampton-Alexander Review set the target of achieving 33% female boards by 2020, it will still take until 2043 to achieve this goal at the current rate of appointments. Just 27.7% of all FTSE boardmembers are women, and there are only 15 female CEOs in the entire FTSE 350. 

Change isn't going to happen over night but with men and women pushing for progress, it can be done. 

Find the full toolkit here.

Image credits:  Oleksandr Berezko/Shutterstock

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