The Gender Pay Gap

Guest blog by Jacqueline Heron

In the beginning

With one of the widest gender pay gaps in Europe, in 2015 David Cameron set out to end this ‘scandal’ within a generation. In 2018, Theresa May said she wanted her government to end the ‘burning injustice’ of the gender pay gap.  As a first step, organisations with over 250 employees  published the gap in hourly pay between men and women on April 4th 2018. This will be an annual exercise.

It’s somewhat of a blunt instrument.  A company might have a gender pay gap if a majority of men are in top jobs, despite paying male and female employees the same amount for similar roles  - and there’s no adjustment for employees’ different roles, so CEOs are compared directly with PAs. Gaps can be skewed by a few high-earners.

However, everybody’s talking about it - from Boardroom to shareholders to customers and employees.  And what’s clear is that most of the UK's medium and large organisations pay women significantly less than men, and that there aren’t enough women in top paying jobs.  No surprises there but it’s useful to have it in black and white. And what we’re seeing so far, is that many organisations are recognising that this isn’t good enough and are publishing the actions they plan to take start closing those gaps. Since this will be an annual exercise, we can monitor their progress.  It’s a case of ‘what gets measured, gets done.’

The results are in

Of the 10,019 firms that submitted gender pay gap data  only 2,255 (22.5%) have a median women's hourly wage that is equal to or higher than that of men. The remaining 7,764 (77.5%) pay women less than men. Across the UK, men earned 18.4% more than women in April 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It impacts all industries: The construction sector reported the worst average median gender pay gap at 25%. This was followed by finance and insurance at 22% and somewhat surprisingly, education, with a pay gap of 20%.

And the gender pay gap becomes the gender pension gap

Older women are disproportionately affected, with those in their 50s experiencing an 18.6% pay gap, compared to 5.5% for women in their 20s.  This worsens as they reach pension age.  HMRC data has shown the gap between the amount of pension income received by men and women is widening. Women received just 37% of the total amount of income drawn from pensions last year, down from 39% in 2012-2013. Last year, women received £46.5bn in pension income, while men received £79.3bn.

The reasons are complex

Most industries fail to promote enough women. This is a global issue. McKinsey’s found that, whereas half of graduate entrants in American law firms were women, only one in five equity partners was. A study by SKEMA Business School in France found that, although women made up 52% of banking employees globally, only 38% of middle managers and 16% of executive committee members were women.

Men’s and women’s salaries start diverging from the childbearing years. Women pay a significant financial penalty for being parents. They may also play a non-parental care role – unpaid work looking after relatives, partners or friends with illnesses or disabilities. As a result, they are more likely to work in part time roles which are often lower paid with fewer opportunities for progression.

Structural discrimination plays a part. One in nine new mothers is dismissed, made redundant or treated so poorly that she leaves, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Subtler biases favour men in hiring, performance reviews, pay and promotions. A study in 2016 by Warwick University found that, among workers who asked for pay rises, men were 25% more likely than women to be successful.

As does unconscious bias. Take academia, where studies have shown that unconscious bias comes into play when science faculty members receive applications from students with feminine names, judging women to be less competent and less hireable than a man with an identical CV.

 Working towards a solution

Companies should beware of kneejerk reactions and take time to diagnose what lies behind the numbers. They need to look at how they hire, how they pay, how they promote and ask the question: are our practices fair?

The case for diversity demonstrates a positive impact on the bottom line.  McKinsey found that companies in the bottom quartile for gender and ethnic diversity in leadership were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability. An analysis of the data shows that in companies where women are fairly or slightly overrepresented in the top pay band, the median gender pay gap shrinks relative to the composition of the company as a whole.

Professor Sucheta Nadkarni, Director of the Cambridge Judge Business School Women’s Leadership Centre says: "Whether it is because women are getting paid less for the work that they are doing or because women are not getting equal opportunities to get into positions where the pay level is high – it doesn’t matter what the reason is, but there is a gender pay gap and in most cases it’s an issue of equality and justice. In both cases it’s an issue of an imbalance of some sort."

We should be using the gender pay gap as a means to an end, focusing not solely on the outcome, but rather the lack of equality in opportunities for women.

Your company’s Inclusion Score: Comparing Lyndales’ culture to our Inclusion Criteria

At Voice At The Table, we’ve been working on developing inclusive cultures for some time now: identifying the starting point, describing the look and feel of an inclusive workplace, and supporting our clients in designing and developing their own inclusive and diverse teams.

In this new series of posts, we will be scoring organisations on their attitude to diversity and inclusion.  Assessing companies’ culture relative to our own Inclusion Criteria, we give them an Inclusion Mark, gauging where they are on the journey towards a strong inclusive culture that nurtures diverse thinking and garners its many benefits.

Our 7 Inclusion Marks describe the various stages of that journey:

  • Don’t Get It! – organisation doesn’t see any benefit from Diversity & Inclusion
  • Window Dressing – organisation understands the need to be seen as valuing D&I
  • Let’s Fix It! – organisation sees lack of diversity as a problem.
  • Seeing The Opportunity – organisation understands the strategic importance of D&I
  • Building the Foundation – organisation is actively building a foundation for D&I
  • Growing & Nurturing – organisation is starting to reap the benefits of D&I and continues to embed them into the business
  • Immersed & Fully Benefiting - organisation has established a successful inclusive culture that benefits from the full value of its diverse workforce

This time we look at Lyndales Solicitors, a boutique firm.  With a practice that ranges from civil litigation to family law to commercial property to private clients to company commercial, this firm punches above its weight.

But how well does it fair in diversity and inclusion terms?

The first thing one notices when looking at the team of solicitors at Lyndales is how diverse it is.  The Lyndales team is small and perfectly formed, gender-balanced at 50-50, with representatives of different ethnic and racial backgrounds.  Granted, at partner level the firm is striving towards diversity (with only 1 of 5 partners being a woman), but if we judge by appearance only, it would seem the firm is keen to address this nuance. And, while the team of lawyers is relatively small, it also spans a number of generations (the youngest member being in their 20s whereas the oldest in his late 60s), adding to the mix of views, experiences and opinions of the group.

Having interviewed one of their senior solicitors, Noga Kogman, I quickly reached the conclusion that the firm is aware of the benefits of diversity and inclusion as a business proposition and is shaping its work environment to attract and retain a diverse mix of people.

How do Lyndales measure up to our Inclusion Criteria?

  1. Working Culture

Noga moved to London from Israel and, as a mother of a young child who is ambitious and career-minded, Noga wanted to work at a firm that can offer her an intellectually-stimulating role and also let her be a mother on her own terms.  Lyndales offered her just that.  Working a full 5-day week, Noga usually works from home once a week and on another day leaves the office at 4pm to pick up her son.  Noga is also free to make other arrangements needed to accommodate her role as a parent and a commercial transaction lawyer.   Noga doesn’t have to hide that she’s leaving to look after her son and doesn’t feel judged because of it.  She feels fully respected and valued by all her colleagues and is therefore able to be fully herself in the office.

In fact, one third of the lawyers work from home one day a week (including a male member of the team) and one of the solicitors also works a shorter week in addition to one of her work days being from home.  In other words, the firm accommodates agile working for everyone who wants it.

Noga describes the culture at Lyndales as healthy and open-minded.   The partners trust their colleagues to be professionals and don’t second-guess how or where they get the job done.  Performance is measured by output and everyone’s targets and progress is openly discussed at team meetings.  People are engaged, committed and happy to be at work – a testament to a tolerant, respecting culture.

Noga feels that there is a genuine interest in diversity at the firm, beyond it being a requirement imposed by the SRA.  The firm has an open-minded approach to candidates and views CVs without regard to a person’s background, name or gender.  The firm is genuinely interested in attracting people from various backgrounds (reflected in the composition of the legal team).

Interviews are conducted by a wide group of people to ensure a lack of bias and a good personality fit with all.  It is therefore not uncommon that lateral hires come from bigger City firms to find a home that respects their varied backgrounds and values their technical skills.

When asked about the firm’s leadership style, Noga explained that the partners are inclusive and considerate.  Noga and her colleagues are routinely engaged in most decisions that affect them directly, from office moves to new hires.  Partners consult with their colleagues regularly and listen and act on feedback.   Partners can be described as balanced in their attitude, open-minded and professional and the tone for the firm’s culture and business is set by its managing partner.

  1. Retention, Development and Promotion

In terms of retention, Lyndales story is strong.  Most lawyers stay for a long time, with hardly any turn-over of legal staff.  The two longest serving partners are the founders, each with 40 years under his respective belt. The firm recently expanded with 3 lateral hires and a newly-qualified solicitor who trained with the firm.  The female partner at the firm returned from maternity leave to work flexibly, working 4 days per week, one of which is from home.

Lyndales do not offer special arrangements for parenting, such as maternity coaching or specific policies around maternity, although one might argue that, with an open attitude towards accommodating most flexible working requests and a friendly open-minded environment, such support services aren’t strictly necessary.  The firm’s maternity leave is comparable to that of any bigger firm and it encourages fathers to play their role in child care.

The firm encourages lawyers to maintain their personal development, supporting their individual training initiatives.  As a small firm, it doesn’t have a central training department yet encourages each person to think about their own growth.

As with most other law firms, the path to equity partnership isn’t entirely transparent, but according to Noga, the partners are aware of this and are keen to address it.  The managing partner has taken it upon himself to ensure the partnership track is transparent and is actively working on making it so.

  1. Diversity as a Market Force

The drive for a diverse and inclusive culture in this case is not coming from the outside world.  While it would be fair to say that clients do think about diversity and prefer to work with diverse and able teams (and, as a result, benefit from their more creative and insightful solutions), in the case of Lyndales the firm culture is naturally inclusive and is designed to give lawyers independence, responsibility and accountability.  As a result, the firm benefits from the diversity of its people by allowing them to bring their whole selves to work and tap into their diverse backgrounds and experiences.

  1. External Evidence of Commitment

In terms of the gender pay gap, the firm is too small to have to report on it, but internal sources suggest that there is a gender pay gap at the firm (currently not quantified), as a function of the fact that, at partnership level, there are more men than women.

The firm is not a signatory to any diversity charters (including the legal diversity and inclusion charter) and is too small to need Employee Resource Groups or networks.

This short overview of the firm’s culture against our criteria leads us to award Lyndales Solicitors an Inclusion Mark of Growing and Nurturing their existing inclusive and diverse culture.  This puts the firm in a prominent position in the legal industry, proving that D&I is not something that pertains only to bigger organisations.  As a diverse and inclusive culture is something that can be nurtured from the outset, the size of the business doesn’t matter. Small businesses like Lyndales stand to benefit from an inclusive environment as much as (if not more than) any bigger organisation that puts D&I front and centre to its growth strategy. Congratulations, Lyndales! You’ve accomplished a remarkable feat without trying too hard!

If you would like us to review your organisation’s diversity and Inclusion Mark, please email info@voiceatthetable.com

 

Do you feel out of it? by Joanna Gaudoin*

How are you feeling about your career? Do you feel you are progressing as you want to? Importantly, do you enjoy the environment you work in?

There can be lots of things that prevent the answers to those questions being positive but one core reason is rife in workplaces - office politics.

The simple fact is where you have people with different values, goals and assumptions, office politics will be there, so that will be everywhere then!

Research shows that at its worst negative office politics is one of the biggest causes of stress at work. As well as a negative impact on individuals, it can be highly detrimental to organisational performance. A lack of trust, high levels of conflict and lack of faith in top management lead to poor and inefficient decision making and ultimately lack of action and productivity. If you experience all of these in your organisation then the political climate is likely to be extremely negative. Some of these will be present in most organisations.

Another key indicator that office politics is in a negative state is rumblings of people "just wanting to do the day job and not wanting to get involved in other stuff". This state of mind frequently leads to people not progressing in their careers and in many cases the loss of valuable talent. Research also shows that women typically have less time for negative politics and are more likely to try to avoid it, which can affect career progression

However, politics can be positive, it can be turned around. Once people understand what politics is, why it happens, their current behavioural profile and the effect their own behaviour can have on the overall environment, progress can be made.

As a licensed practitioner with the Academy for Political Intelligence (http://www.tafpi.com/), and an associate of Voice at the Table, I run diagnostic profiling with groups and individuals, so they understand their current behaviour and understand that of others. This is looked at in the context of the organisation, it is not simply a personality test. This is supported by looking at the behaviours that need to be focused on going forwards at an individual, tailored level to influence the overall political environment and the progression of individuals in their careers.

Imagine the impact better decision making, increased action taking and a more trusting office environment could have on the performance of your organisation and the career progression of those in it?

What could it mean to your organisation to have improved morale, increased knowledge sharing and productivity, together with increased retention rates?

As an individual, imagine if you knew the key things to focus on to progress in your career and manage the challenges of how you work with others with less stress?

Testimonial from one of my recent one-day workshops on positive organisational politics:

“We were hoping for an off-site event at which our Business Services team leaders would pick up useful skills and insights to help them deal with the increasing pressures of a demanding ‘high touch’ professional services environment.  Joanna exceeded our expectations.  She won the confidence of the group from the outset and proved an open, insightful and action-oriented facilitator.  Our group came away energised by Joanna’s skills exercises and universally positive about Joanna’s impact on the group.”

Director of Business Services, Leading Global Law Firm

*Joanna is Founder of Inside Out Image - Personal Impact & Influence Consultancy

If you'd like to understand more about how this works at an individual or group level, contact us to find out more. This is not something that is taught in business schools and very rarely on training courses. Typically, progress can be made in this area in a day with a group or 4 short sessions with an individual.

It’s Not Fair! Guest Blog by Joella Bruckshaw*

It's not fair that women get paid less, are passed over for promotion, penalised for having children and criticised for being assertive. Our unhappiness with this state of affairs has been growing since well before women got the vote, 2 centuries ago. Now we are much more in touch with the social and economic cost of being a woman in our society. What we are less aware of is the cost to men.

Men suffer too. They are trained to hold back their emotions, to go out and be tough and never to show ambivalence or uncertainty. It isn't that they don't experience emotions it's more that they have less scope for their expression thereby becoming more comfortable with them. As a result, when they are faced with human tragedy, like a divorce or the death of a loved one, they are more at risk of depression, over using drugs, especially alcohol, of being violent or throwing themselves into work as a way of numbing the pain. Or dare, I say it, becoming sexually dangerous!

In the work place, everything to do with emotions is weak and is attributed to women who, by association, must also be weak! Because they have little experience of talking about their emotions, men may not develop the perceptiveness that comes from being familiar with a wider range of emotional response. The lack of emotional intelligence can play badly when faced with the need to influence people around them, to get buy-in and be downright disastrous if they are tasked with leading a senior management team.

This state of affairs makes it difficult to ask for help. Soldiers are trained to withstand all kinds of trauma, physical and mental and if they subsequently suffer from PTSD, it is very hard for them to seek help. If you aren’t supposed to have a problem why would you expose yourself to ridicule, as much from yourself as anyone else? Consequently, they may never know the regenerative benefits of falling apart and rethinking your game plan, a gift that is given to women every month!

Many men don’t realise how important they are to their children because traditionally, leaving the childcare to the woman has been a cultural norm. Consequently, they tend to lose out on the intimate parenting moments women experience that build a life time bond and embed valuable learning about how to be with others. Although this is changing, it will be hard for the younger generation to deliver on this change of heart as they are less likely to have had a good role model in their own father.

Both sexes have challenges brought about by cultural expectations that undermine their sense of themselves and their freedom to contribute. That’s why I focus on the brand rather than the sex of a client. Understanding and taking ownership of who you are and being able to articulate the value it provides, creates a platform for working together and having the conversations that get things done to achieve the best results.  After all, isn’t that why we are in business?

 

* Joella Bruckshaw helps senior leaders make successful transitions drawing on the energy of their personal brand. With a thorough grounding in applied psychology, Joella has worked 1-1 and with groups to generate motivation and behaviour change across all sectors. Her book How to do it by women who’ve done it focuses on how women get to the top. She is a popular speaker and facilitator and since 2003 has worked full time as an executive coach in the corporate sector. www.joellabruckshaw.com

Your company’s Inclusion Score: How does your culture compare to our Inclusion Criteria?

At Voice At The Table, we’ve been working on developing inclusive cultures for some time now: identifying the starting point, describing the look and feel of an inclusive workplace, and supporting our clients in designing and developing their own inclusive and diverse teams.

In this new series of posts, we will be scoring organisations on their attitude to diversity and inclusion.  Assessing companies’ culture relative to our own Inclusion Criteria, we give them an Inclusion Mark, gauging where they are on the journey towards a strong inclusive culture that nurtures diverse thinking and garners its many benefits.

Our 7 Inclusion Marks describe the various stages of that journey:

  • Don’t Get It! – organisation doesn’t see any benefit from Diversity & Inclusion
  • Window Dressing – organisation understands the need to be seen as valuing D&I
  • Let’s Fix It! – organisation sees lack of diversity as a problem.
  • Seeing The Opportunity – organisation understands the strategic importance of D&I
  • Building the Foundation – organisation is actively building a foundation for D&I
  • Growing & Nurturing – organisation is starting to reap the benefits of D&I and continues to embed them into the business
  • Immersed & Fully Benefiting - organisation has established a successful inclusive culture that benefits from the full value of its diverse workforce

Our first participant is international law firm Withers LLP.  Withers caught our attention because of its impressively-gender-balanced global partnership. It prides itself – rightly so – on a partnership that is 42% female, a statistic that many law firms find, at present, unattainable.  This is a commendable statistic and a great starting point to our investigation into the type of culture that makes this number possible.

A quick glance at Withers home page gives you a clear idea of where this success might come from.  Front and centre on its website is a blog by a male associate talking about the recent Presidents Club debacle, voicing not only his view on the event but also providing guidance, seeking to mitigate clients’ potential exposure to similar outrage.  A law firm that isn’t afraid to openly address topics that others prefer to avoid.

Withers’ London office has been managed by a female partner since 2002, and is also the first City law firm to appoint a woman as chair in 1999.  And, while its management committee needs an uplift in terms of gender balance (evidencing only 2 women on a group of 13), within the EU, 5 of the 6 regional leaders are women while the global management board comprises 4 women and 4 men.

How does Withers measure up to our Inclusion Criteria?

  1. Working Culture

Suzanne Todd, a partner in the London’s family practice group, describes the culture of the firm as a ‘why not?’ culture, where it’s more common to ask ‘Why couldn’t a woman be the Prime Minister?’ or ‘Why couldn’t a woman be our chairperson?’ then to stick with convention.  Although traditional law firm etiquette and approach continue to dominate, the firm is open to change if it considers the change to be in the best interest of its clients and its workforce.

Suzanne describes the vast majority (upwards of 75%) of female partners as mothers, with a return from maternity rate that is second to none.  Virtually all 1st time mums return to their employment.  There is of course attrition at various levels, yet there are no noticeable discrepancies in attrition between the genders.

Many of the female lawyers work 4 days a week, serving as relatable role models to others, and there is a myriad of other flexible working arrangements across the firm.  In pockets, the firm continues to reflect our traditional views and expectations of private practice where men tend to work full time, yet this is starting to shift gradually, as well, with a few male lawyers routinely working condensed hours, i.e. 9 out of 10 days per fortnight.  The firm recognises that parenting is not the only reason that warrants the need to work flexibly and is fully supportive of agile working across the entire firm, both for lawyers as well as support staff.

On the recruitment side of things, the legal field does not suffer from lack of female graduates, so at the intake level, Withers takes on more than 50% of female trainees – and with a 42% female partnership record, it seems that it also is able to retain many of them.

Recently, Withers have been working very hard to widen their candidate pool to make it more diverse.  From using ‘Rare’, a contextual recruitment tool to expand the diversity of the group of universities from which it recruits, to sourcing a wider range of talent through the legal apprenticeship scheme, which enables qualification without the need to go through law school, Withers have been actively addressing this point for the last five years.

  1. Retention, Development and Promotion

In terms of retention, there are no noticeable patterns of attrition that indicate gender inequality.

The firm is very keen to ensure the path to partnership is consistent and clear and has put in place programmes for trainees and new hires that explain the firm’s criteria to partnership.  Transparency of the process does tend to vary from department to department, but there doesn’t appear to be an innate preference for promoting men over women.  The gender balance of partnership promotions may swing one way or another from year to year, depending on the business case, but women at the firm would agree that the partnership opportunities are as accessible for them as they are for their male colleagues.

  1. Diversity as a Market Force

Suzanne explains that Withers understands the need for a diverse workforce on two levels: (1) the firm’s clients are very diverse and the firm needs a workforce equally as diverse to understand and relate to its client portfolio; and (2) legal transactions are becoming more and more complex, and the firm understands that the best way to tackle complex problems is to approach them from a very diverse range of knowledge and experience.  The need, therefore, not only for diversity but also for an environment that nurtures and values it, is seen as a strategic business requirement.

This is also echoed in the firm’s Global Chairman’s statementOur client base is diverse. It is an imperative that we have a diverse workforce to ensure we are effective at meeting those clients’ needs. It means we can build better relationships with them and innovate to find solutions that work better for them.

  1. External Evidence of Commitment

The law firm is subject to the new Pay Gap regulations which will require it to report on the discrepancies (if any) of their pay between women and men.  Moreover, the firm is also a signatory of the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter and is a member of the International Women's Forum, First 100 and One Loud Voice.

This short overview of the firm’s culture against our criteria leads us to award Withers an Inclusion Mark of Building the Foundation towards a strong inclusive and diverse culture.  This puts the firm in a prominent position in the legal industry, where female leadership and strong female representation among partners and senior staff is still the exception, rather than the rule.  Congratulations, Withers! You’re well ahead of the pack!

If you would like us to assess your organisation’s diversity and inclusion, please email info@voiceatthetable.com

The meaning of RESPECT!

By now, most of us will have seen Oprah Winfrey's rousing speech at the Golden Globes. What a way to start 2018, as she reminded us that our truth is the most powerful tool we all have. At Voice At The Table, where our focus in on all things Diversity and Inclusion, we've been talking about what this means to us in the workplace - and we think it's all about respectfor ourselves and for others. It means having the courage to stand up for ourselves, and what we believe in. Really living our values.

Carrie Gracie's decision to resign as BBC's China editor is a great example of this.  Despite being offered a £45,000 payrise, she just wasn't willing to collude with a policy of 'unlawful pay discrimination'.  Hats off to her.
When's the last time you spoke 'your truth'?

In our last Voice Circles of the year, Emma Codd, Managing Partner for Talent at Deloitte UK, talked about their Inclusion journey and the decision to focus on respect for others and on the value they can bring.  Deloitte produced this inspirational video, challenging us all to question our assumptions and look beyond our biases.  It's our personal responsibility to treat others with respect.

So our word for 2018 is RESPECT and we'll be working hard to help our individual and corporate clients challenge themselves and others to appreciate and celebrate the contribution we all make and to respect one another, no matter how different.

Are you comfortable calling out inappropriate behaviour?

Recent high profile events in the US entertainment industry and closer to home in the UK's political world have raised an uncomfortable awareness that inappropriate behaviour towards women is still prevalent in our culture and is tolerated in many organisations, yet most of us think it's less widespread than it used to be.

In fact, in a survey carried out by Opinium Research, 20% of women and 7% of men say they have been subjected to sexual harassment in their workplace. We also know that over half of all inappropriate advances aren't reported. The main reasons are that people feel intimidated, they often don't see any action being taken by management - or that the complaint isn't even acknowledged.

How do you think your organisation would respond if you raised an issue around inappropriate behaviour? Would you have the confidence to call it out if it happened to you or you witnessed it?  What would you do if a colleague told you they had been subjected to harassment?

None of this is easy, or comfortable - but we owe it to ourselves, our colleagues and our organisations to do something about it. Changing the perception of what's appropriate is a step in the right direction.  That starts with developing empathy, checking our assumptions about others and changing cultural norms.  It takes time and - with the right help and guidance - your organisation too can start the journey to an inclusive, respecting culture.

And the more we become aware of inappropriate behaviour, the more we see it around us.  Custom may dictate an acceptance of practices that, when we think about it, can make us feel uncomfortable. Here's an example: the famous statue of Juliet in Verona.  The custom is if you rub Juliet's breast, you'll be lucky in love. Tourists flock to have their photo taken with a hand on Juliet's breast.

Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

Is that fun, an age old tradition, or a practice that's had its day?   What's your view?

 

50/50 by 2020? Not without a new approach

The latest figures on female membership of FTSE 100 Boards show a slip back from 26.1% in 2016 to 26% now, and a worrying reduction in female appointments to Boards, with women making up 29% of appointments to UK Boards in 2016, down from 32.1% in 2014.

So…with this paltry rate of success is it realistic to think we can achieve parity in any company or even 33% by 2020? After 40 years of focus on achieving gender balance is it time to think about taking a different approach?

I have recently been having very interesting and refreshing discussions with David A Evans, MD of The Diversity & Innovation Company, a social enterprise which has been established to send business leaders on real life immersion experiences with UK charities and Indian schools to change the way they think.

David set up the company after he had an epiphany when attending an International Women’s Day event aged 48, and found himself feeling uncomfortable and like a fish out of water as only one of three men in an audience of 600, and with an agenda and focus that was all about women and not men.

Up to that point David had always considered himself to be more than sensitive to the needs of advancing women in the workplace – his wife ran a very successful business and he had two teenage daughters whom he had always advised not to accept any constraint on  their career ambitions.  David explained “I immediately thought we need to provide this experience to male graduates on day one, so they gain some awareness of what it is like for women in the workplace, and hopefully carry that memory with them at pivotal points throughout their career”.

At that point David decided to set up a company to provide actual immersion experiences to business leaders to challenge existing norms and broaden leaders’ thinking.

We are now of the view that something in our existing business psyche is holding us back from making breakthrough progress – leaders understand the value of diversity, but experience it through their own life filters.  What we need is an approach that allows us to experience diversity in its purest sense and to understand – one person at a time – how we can benefit from that experience When leaders can develop greater self-awareness and empathy for others, many benefits flow.

To achieve this, David and I decided to collaborate and bring a fresh new approach which will lead to the breakthrough in diversity we all desire.

So if you have any qualms about the existing conventional approaches to improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, or any concerns about not achieving your company’s stated targets of female representation at certain levels, or any unease about whether the existing corporate structures and governance processes are the most conducive environment to encourage women (and, in fact, the future workforce more generally) to operate with the same long hours and stressful conditions which the predominantly male leadership operate….then join our debate about how we really can change the thinking.

David and I are looking for courageous influencers who want to consider taking a different approach, and who want to try alternative approaches to driving diversity of thought and inclusion in the workplace.  Drop me a line if you would like to attend some round table events we will holding in the near future and some new interventions we are planning.