Christian Edelmann

HeForShe: Christian Edelmann | Co-Head EMEA Financial Services, Oliver Wyman; Executive Sponsor of Oliver Wyman’s Women’s Network; & Co-Founder of Men4Change

Christian Edelmann

Christian Edelmann is Co-Head EMEA Financial Services & Global Head Wealth & Asset Management practice at Oliver Wyman.

He is also the Executive Sponsor of Oliver Wyman’s Women’s Network and a co-founder of Men4Change, a network to create and support male allies and advocates for gender equality in the workplace. To find out more about Men4Change and get involved, contact ukevents@oliverwyman.com

Why I became an advocate for gender diversity

My wife first introduced me to the challenges women can face in the workplace when they are in the minority. She opened my eyes to the lack of gender diversity in most businesses.

I work in the financial services sector, where this is a particular problem. At Oliver Wyman, we’ve been examining the representation of women in senior roles in financial services since 2014. Back then, we found that on average 13 percent of executive committees were women, a number which grew to 20 percent in 2019.

While this is change in the right direction, the pace is too slow: at this rate, it would be 2035 before we achieve gender balance on executive committees at financial services companies. This is, quite simply, not good enough.

Men must support gender equality in the workplace

I’ve been serving as the executive sponsor of Oliver Wyman’s women’s network, WOW, for nearly four years. As a team we are clear about what needs to be done next to accelerate gender equalisation, and it’s not just more activities for women. It’s greater engagement from men.

This makes sense because men still make up most of the world’s biggest companies, especially at the executive level. We must get involved if the whole business is to benefit from inclusion and diversity.

In management consulting, we are addressing some of the toughest problems businesses face. From digitalisation to Brexit to climate change, solutions come from having creative teams. This creativity comes from having a diversity of ideas and perspectives, and an environment of inclusion where people feel able to share their ideas.

Engaging other men in conversations on gender equality

I’ve always felt very welcomed to conversations around gender equality at Oliver Wyman, in part because I am not afraid to raise the subject and ask questions. When I don’t understand something my network of female colleagues have always been willing to invest their time to educate me, for example by sharing their experiences.

Our women’s network has always been open to all genders, but to increase the engagement of men they’ve helped establish Men4Change. This is a forum where men can start to better understand the challenges facing women, get involved with the debate, have their questions answered, and find out tangible steps they can take to make a difference.

When engaging with men, we make it clear that we are not assigning blame. The purpose is to create empowered champions of inclusion, not to reprimand men for the problem. This approach is helping Men4Change expand its reach beyond those who are already interested in diversity. However, encouraging participation from disinterested or passive individuals remains a huge challenge.

The role I play in career development

For most of my time at Oliver Wyman, I have mentored equal numbers of men and women. Now, I actively mentor two female colleagues and am lightly involved advising another half dozen.

I’ve read in the media that some women are less likely than men to put themselves forward for jobs that are very senior or out of their comfort zones. I hope that my efforts in mentoring individuals and sponsoring our women’s network have helped create an environment where everyone feels heard, valued, and able to take up new challenges.

Additionally, we’re looking at supporting career development through sponsorship. Sponsors not only ensure that women are pushing themselves forward, but also use their seniority to actively help them advance.

The future of gender equality in the workplace

Looking ahead, we’re seeing gender-based targets within businesses become more granular: they are no longer looking at senior leadership alone, but increasingly every step of the career ladder. Nurturing the talent pipeline in this way will accelerate the journey towards equality, but, as men are most often at the top of businesses, they need to lead it.

Beyond counting the number of women at each level of the business, executive teams are starting to want to better measure firm culture, as this strongly determines women will stay within the firm in the long term. I expect we’ll see more efforts to track in real-time behaviours and attitudes and identify the drivers behind them. Armed with this information, companies can re-shape their workplace cultures to be more welcoming and inclusive of everyone.


Danny Brooks featured

HeForShe: Danny Brooks | Founder & CEO, VHR

Danny Brooks

Danny Brooks is the CEO and Founder of VHR, a technical recruitment firm specialising in compliant and ethical recruitment across 50 countries.

Danny was named Global Director of the Year by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in 2018.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?

Recruitment is often considered to have a ‘laddish’ culture dominated by white men. VHR constantly strives to improve diversity and in particular we drive diverse leadership: the two management levels below Board are 60% female, 50% BAME and 20% LGBT. Diversity has made our business stronger and more financially successful – in the past three years we have doubled our workforce and in the past four years almost doubled our turnover, which has coincided with efforts to recruit more women into the team and in management positions.

As a recruiter, I am passionate about spotting the potential in people, whatever it may be, and helping them to harness it and strive for excellence throughout any obstacles that may come in their way. From day one since I started the business in 2003, it’s been vital to me that VHR recognise the value of every employee and we are determined that age, gender, race or background are not barriers to success.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

Men make up half the population – if we don’t support gender equality, progress will take much longer. As we hold the majority of senior positions across industries, we have the power to effect change much more quickly and easily, and if we don’t, it’s a wasted opportunity.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

I believe men have increasingly been made welcome in the conversation, as society and businesses are understanding the benefits of gender equality – when women succeed, we all succeed, and it’s our collective responsibility to help each other.

I think a lot of men have historically felt that gender equality isn’t really their problem, regardless of how women’s rights have been positioned – many men I’ve worked with don’t or didn’t see a problem, because they aren’t negatively affected. Thankfully, however, this has changed significantly in the past few years. Younger male recruiters in particular now seem more supportive of gender equality and are more engaged with the importance of diversity in all forms.

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?

Personally, I feel that whilst anything titled ‘women in…’ is absolutely correct and does not exclude men from the conversation, men are probably more likely to remain on the peripheries of these groups than networks that are not specifically focused on gender, simply because they might not feel they have a right to be included.

I think men are often unaware of the benefits they too can receive from getting involved in gender equality. Small changes to groups or initiatives could help to reframe the issue and highlight the negative impacts of gender roles on both men and women, which could help raise awareness amongst men who are currently disengaged or who worry about their place in the conversation.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

Change in business comes from the top down: CEOs and Boards must publicly show their support for gender equality and communicate this consistently across the organisation. If male employees see male managers and leaders getting involved, they will feel more encouraged to get involved and more secure in their place in the debate. Promoting the success of both men and women who get involved in initiatives such as workshops and mentoring programmes will ensure all employees know their contribution is desired and valuable.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

I have acted as a mentor for several female Apprentices in the past. Rebecca Fagan joined VHR straight from school six years ago – since then she has consistently been the top performer in her entire department. We have promoted Rebecca four times so far and she now leads the VHR Academy, helping to train up other Apprentice-level recruiters.

In September 2019 VHR announced our new long-term partnership with Youth Employment UK. The not-for-profit organisation supports more than 70,000 young people per month with free careers and skills information, and practical help to start rewarding careers. I and my team of recruitment consultants are starting to share our own career experiences and give advice to young people looking for their first jobs.

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?

In many ways, women are often held to the same behavioural standards as men in recruitment – it’s quite a loud, competitive and traditionally masculine environment, and I have known many female recruiters who adapt to this way of being and working and have become very successful because of it.

Since running my own business and becoming a manager, I have noticed that women are far less likely to put themselves forward for promotions or ask for pay rises. Male employees have historically seemed more confident in pushing for more benefits or more responsibility, but I think that as we continue to invest in the development of female leaders at VHR this will change.


Tim Dinsdale

HeForShe: Tim Dinsdale | CTO Europe, OpenFin

Tim DinsdaleTim is European CTO of OpenFin. Prior to joining in 2019, he was a Managing Director in the Technology Division at Goldman Sachs, where he worked for fifteen years.

Tim has worked in a variety of languages and environments in his career, from assembly on the PS2, to scripting financial payoffs, to the internals of custom languages written in C++.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?

Several years ago, my wife returned to school for a medical degree, and I took on many of the household responsibilities that often fall to working mothers. It made me realize just how grueling and exhausting their experience can be. The women in our industry work just as hard as the men, yet they’re often the ones who shuttle the kids to school, shop for groceries and so on. That experience gave me a new perspective and made me passionate about the standing of women in the workplace.

I’ve also noticed the benefits that diversity can bring to the workplace. In my industry—engineering—there is often a lack of communication. Generally, the woman engineers I’ve worked with are better at communicating, multi-tasking and overall bridging complicated gaps. They bring a different perspective, and hearing more perspectives can only help a business.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

There are myriad reasons, not the least of which is that it’s the right thing to do. But aside from the moral imperative, I see two major pragmatic reasons. First, if a company is not diligent about fostering gender equality, then the selection bias for promotions, raises and the like will favor the sort of people who are already in power. This is incredibly damaging, because talented employees who do not fit into this box will conclude there is no room for advancement and look elsewhere. The company will bleed staff. The second reason is that diversity aids decision-making processes. The more opinions there are in a room, the more likely a group is to uncover the right solution to a given problem. This may be a cliché, but I’ve seen it play out in the boardroom time and time again—a firm whose employees have identical life experiences is doing itself no favors.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

Men have an important role to play in these conversations, but in my experience, they don’t always feel welcome. The key thing to remember is that there are constructive topics and solutions that everyone should be aware of. Everybody can talk about understanding unconscious biases; everybody can talk about the constraints different people are under when they enter a room to be interviewed, discuss a promotion, get a performance review, et cetera. Often when we talk about gender equality in the workplace, we’re talking about people’s decision-making processes and the logic behind them. Framed this way, it’s a lot easier for men to get involved, because they can clearly see their place in the discussion.

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?

These initiatives can represent something of a double-edged sword. At one of my former employers, a colleague was invited to an event for high-performing female associates. She appreciated the networking opportunity and enjoyed herself, but couldn’t help but feel that she should have been recognized as simply a high-performing associate without her gender attached. Some women feel that the very existence of these initiatives is proof that they are outsiders in their industry.

That said, at their best, these groups are about coaching and mentoring—exactly what people miss out on when they’re not part of the ruling clique, so to speak. They provide access and validation, and the roles that men can play on these issues is a popular topic of discussion. These groups cannot be all things to all people, but for those who are comfortable with them, there is often real value.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

The first step is to create an environment in which everyone is happy—set ground rules and enforce them. Next, firms must examine their own hiring practices and make a concerted effort to be impartial in every way and at every level. It’s important to know exactly why you want to bring on a particular candidate and be able to articulate it, lest any unconscious biases take over. This encourages thinking about issues of diversity, which are often overlooked, and creates a meritocratic culture where employees expect and have an interest in hiring fairly. Again, looking at it from this angle, men feel more welcome to make their voices heard.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

Yes, I have mentored a number of women in the past.

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?

I have noticed that, especially coming from a male-dominated industry. In these situations, it’s important to keep pushing. Women may be less likely to apply for a promotion just to “see what happens,” but if they don’t, there are men with the same qualifications who will. Don’t take their seeming reluctance as a lack of interest, but rather as an opportunity to validate. A mentor’s role is to help the mentee succeed, and to do this, men must strive to see things from a different perspective.


Moran Cerf

HeForShe: Professor Dr Morgan Cerf | Professor of Neuroscience & Business & the Alfred P. Sloan professor

Moran Cerf

Moran Cerf is a professor of neuroscience and business (Kellogg School of Management) and the Alfred P. Sloan professor (American Film Institute; ‘AFI’).

He is one of the speakers at the Fast Forward Forum 2019. Find out more at www.fastforwardforum.eu/

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the business?

A friend of mine, a gender research academic, was telling me about new research to show how gender equality in the workplace will financially benefit businesses.

Giving women more maternity leave makes them better workers, which boosts business and finances. Half of all customers are also women, so understanding them can boost business (even if you don’t care about equality). These are just a few of the many ways businesses can benefit financially from equality.

However, explaining equality to people in this way is a mistake. If you only discuss the business benefits, you are boiling equality down to finances. The main point is that it’s the right thing to do, and it would be the right thing to do, even if it was bad for business.

If you frame equality about finances, you’re missing the point. Equality isn’t about finances, it’s about doing the right thing.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

They are equally welcome.

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?

My field of academia is very outside the norm. It’s progressive and relatively equal. I don’t see inequality much in my workplace.

However, in my job, I do spend a lot of time talking to companies. I talk to them about the brain - an objective topic which doesn’t look at gender. I’ve noticed that at the end of each talk, there is almost 100% of the time a question about the difference between men and women.

People are yearning for an explanation of why the world is the way it is. They look at biology because it’s objective, and hope this can provide us with some explanation. Although my field is objective, people try to pull us into this conversation because they hope scientists will give them some answers.


Simon Hill FEATURED

HeForShe: Simon Hill | Founder & CEO, Wazoku

Simon Hill WazokuSimon Hill is CEO and founder at idea management firm, Wazoku, which works with organisations such as Waitrose, Ministry of Defence, HSBC and others, helping them unlock the ideas and innovation within the organisation.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?

I support it because it’s needed, but it shouldn’t be. Yes, I have a daughter and hope that she grows into a world where this isn’t even a topic. Yes, I have witnessed (and know implicitly) the value of diversity in the workplace. But this is only a topic we need to highlight, because despite endless good words, our actions are still not delivering true diversity. Any business wanting to succeed needs to get past this line of questioning and start just embracing diversity across every aspect of its business. Less talk. More action.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

It just is. And I would seriously question anyone that didn’t think it's important.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

In general I am really not sure, but my personal experience is that this is an open conversation and it’s up to men to be in the conversation, but also to get beyond ‘talking’ into ‘doing’. Too many empty words, too little actual change. Everyone, regardless of gender, needs to stand up for equality and fairness, to speak up when we do not live up to the standards we should, but to also recognise when we do, because it isn’t all bad.

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?

I think we are currently part of a change in attitude and mindset that means these labels are necessary, but in general I don’t think that anyone really finds them to be overly satisfactory. It’s not so much about whether this makes it feel like a problem that men don’t need to deal with, and more that we have had to set things up to start the movement and highlight the very real challenges that women face in many different aspects of the workplace and wider community.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

Be prepared to have the conversation openly and act on their words. It’s easy to say all the right things in your value statements and career literature. But actually acting on them and being a fair, ethical and equal employer in all areas, is another thing entirely. We also need to ensure that a fair and open conversation can be had on all sides and not stigmatise opinions. There is more education to be done here, but that only comes with bringing the topic and the real issues to the fore.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

I work very closely with a number of women. Half of my management team are women and I am working closely with them to give them all the career support and guidance they all need, individually.

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?

This is a complex question and I wouldn’t want to generalise. There are things that we have a tendency to label as behaviour that is more ‘female or male’, when it is actually much more contextual. What I would say is that the women I find it easiest to work with tend to be hard working, tenacious and smart. Where I find they can sometimes need support is in how and when to speak up and push for the things they deserve. This is a two-way thing though and should come from an implicit trust on all sides. As organisations we have broken that trust and it can only be properly rebuilt by action.


Marc Woodhead featured

HeForShe: Marc Woodhead | CEO & Founder, Holograph

Marc Woodhead

Marc Woodhead is founder and CEO of cutting-edge software development business Holograph.

With 25 years’ experience in graphic design, computer system design, human-computer interaction and psychology, he is recognised as one of the UK’s most inventive creatives.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?

I am blessed with two daughters; I am also lucky to have three women running my business. Operations Director, Finance Director and Platform Producer.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

To provide a balanced and normalised environment for everyone.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

I don’t feel most men feel comfortable in the conversation, which is creating something of an imbalance in my opinion. There appears to be what amounts to a fear/anxiety being generated for the revised generation of men, by the appropriate response by women, after the actions and previous hundreds of years of misogyny and abuse by men in power.

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?

Interesting, in a sense, I don’t feel men should be ‘helping’, I think they should be ‘not focussing’ on any concept of gender in making their decisions.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

I’m not sure I have the experience to comment on this as I have been lucky enough not to directly experience the kind of business that might make gender biased decisions. I suspect that a forum within which everyone is welcome to openly discuss things, including nurtured feelings of bias on both sides, may be a big ask!

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

Yes, I am developing my Operations Director, supporting my Finance Director and working closely with both the aforementioned to bring our Platform Producer to Director level. I am also working closely with both our senior designers (one man and one woman) to impart my background experience and ideas in developing our brand, design culture, and managing our close working relationship with our clients.

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?

In my experience I have found the women on my team to be strong minded and focussed on success, driving change and defining their own futures within our business.


George Brasher

HeForShe: George Brasher | Managing Director, HP UK & Ireland

George BrasherAs Managing Director UK&I, George is responsible for all consumer and commercial printers and PCs, mobile devices, workstations, thin clients, services, solutions and go-to-market activities, for the UK and Ireland. 

Brasher has more than 25 years of experience working at HP in a variety of roles. Immediately prior to his relocation to the UK, he was Vice President & General Manager of the WW Laser Printer business and LES Marketing & Strategy based in California.  Prior to that, he held a variety of leadership roles within HP spanning multiple regions and functions including  Vice President and General Manager of the US Printing and Supplies Category, responsible for the product portfolios and go-to-market strategies for Inkjet and LaserJet Printers and Supplies across both commercial and consumer business segments in the US.

Brasher also served as Vice President of LaserJet Supplies in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, responsible for managing the portfolio profit and loss, category strategy, business development and channel management in the region.  Prior to that, he held leadership roles in the Americas region, including vice president of the LaserJet Supplies and Transactional LaserJet Printer Category and vice president of the Inkjet Supplies Category business.

Brasher began his career with HP in 1990 as a financial analyst and, in addition to Category roles, has also served as sales manager for the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club Sales Team in the US Consumer Business.

Brasher holds a Bachelor’s degree in business from Baylor University and Master’s degree in business administration from Pennsylvania State University.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign?

I’m a firm believer that the more points of view a business can draw on, the better its products and the company as a whole will be.

Currently, women comprise only 17 per cent of the UK tech workforce. Over one hundred years on from women gaining the vote in Britain, the shortfall of women in the UK tech workforce is unacceptable, and we have to work together as an industry, to attract and retain more women.

What’s more given the rapid growth in the sector, striving towards gender parity and bridging the country’s digital skills gaps can help fuel business and economic growth, and securing Britain’s place as global leader in digital innovation.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

I’m passionate about encouraging everyone to embrace gender equality in the workplace – and by extension, in all other areas of life. HP has the most diverse Board of Directors in Silicon Valley, and almost a third of our executives (director and above) are women.

However, we still struggle with a gender imbalance and addressing the under-representation of women is a priority for HP and me personally.

Here in the UK , we’ve recently made commitments to addressing this imbalance including: ensuring women account for at least 50 per cent of our intern intake; introducing a ‘Returners Programme’ to encourage women to re-enter the workforce after time away; and investing in unconscious bias training. We’re also a proud signatory of the Tech Talent Charter, and have recently redoubled our commitment by becoming a board member.

But there’s still a long way to go! And to get there, we need everyone on side.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

Speaking from my own experience as a man involved in the gender equality conversation, I feel not only welcome but inspired to involve others too.

I recently hosted a roundtable discussion on the barriers women face to joining the UK tech industry, and how together we can attract more women into the industry at every level. It was held in partnership with The Fawcett Society and Tech Talent Charter and brought together policymakers, business figures and, most importantly, young women.

For me personally, it was a proud moment to be able to share HP’s platform. All leaders, regardless of gender, have a responsibility to champion this cause and amplify the voices of the under-represented, who may otherwise go unheard.

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?

Groups and networks defined in gendered terms provide a safe space for women to be included. As women are an under-represented demographic – specifically in the UK tech workforce – I support this, even if it does deter some men.

Looking at the bigger picture, though, the language we use to talk about this issue has changed. Now, we talk about ‘gender equality’ rather than ‘women’s rights’ – this reflects the fact that it’s not an issue that’s isolated to one gender, as it impacts everyone.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

Leadership must keep gender equality elevated on the boardroom agenda. HP and all tech businesses have to remain accountable, continually setting ourselves goals and measurable targets to address the dire gender imbalance within UK tech. What gets measured, gets done.

For businesses, there’s both a moral imperative and a fundamental commercial imperative to address this issue. By incorporating action on gender equality into the day-to-day operations of a business (e.g. in hiring and buying policies) men will be automatically be involved.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

I firmly believe in the benefits of mentoring, through both formal and informal arrangements. We need to elevate rising stars, building and broadening their skills to support them in realising their potential to be leaders of tomorrow. This is particularly important among under-represented groups – including women. Personally, I have many mentees.

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?

Mentoring shouldn’t be isolated to the business context. Early intervention is essential for encouraging girls to study STEM, preparing them for the jobs of the future and hopefully, building their confidence to pursue careers in the field.

According to new research commissioned by HP, one in five women who didn’t choose to study STEM said it was because they ‘didn’t know anything about it’. What’s more, 32 per cent of women who aren’t in technical roles said it was because they felt underqualified, This suggests negative associations with, or an initial lack of interest in, STEM start early and persist into adulthood.

The advantage of tech is that it is everywhere in our day-to-day lives. We can all be mentors, by empowering girls to interact with tech – and importantly, making sure they feel supported to choose to study STEM subjects.

Our research showed that when it comes to women’s career influences, family came out on top (46 per cent). There’s also an important role for parents and guardians to play here in communicating to children – particularly girls –  that these career paths are open to them.


Rob Mukherjee featured

HeForShe: Rob Mukherjee | Director of Transformation, EveryCloud Security

Rob Mukherjee

Rob is Director of Transformation at EveryCloud Security – a leading cloud and cybersecurity consultancy.

A passionate believer in a people-led future fuelled by technology, he also leads EveryCloud’s partnership with Workplace by Facebook, focused on giving every employee a voice regardless of role or location.

A regular public speaker on the subjects of Cybersecurity, The Future Of Work and Diversity & Inclusion, Rob is also a Judge for the UK Business Tech Awards and the Northern Power Women Awards - and is a Trustee on the board of GreaterSport, a Manchester-based charity passionate about changing lives through sport and physical activity.

Rob is a past winner of the Northern Power Women ‘Agent of Change’ Award and the Women In Sales (Europe) ‘Best Male Mentor’ Award – and is currently listed in the Financial Times HERoes Top 50 Male Champions Of Women In Business and the Financial Times EMpower Top 100 Ethnic Minority Executives lists.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign?

It makes me smile - the number of people who assume I must have a daughter and assume that’s why I support HeForShe, Northern Power Women and the like.  I don’t have a daughter, nor a sister.  My passion for gender equality was ignited when I was at college – and was asked by the captain of the women’s football team if I would be their coach.  What I learned about this group of women was that - unlike many men's teams - not one of them seemed to think they were the next Messi or Ronaldo.  They had a selfless camaraderie, a hunger and drive to be the best they could be - and an absolute and unconditional trust in me as their coach.  I became more emotionally attached to the fortunes of this women’s football team than any men’s team I have ever played for.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

Most men know that gender inequality is wrong.  Most male leaders know that organisations perform better when they have greater gender diversity in the leadership pool.  But for me the “leadership” conversation goes far deeper – when you look at how different workplace culture is in today’s digital age.  For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, hierarchies are rapidly dissolving.  Not only does the digital workspace enable a flatter, looser and more open working style, it is also a response to changes in the people who make up today’s workforce – and their evolving expectations. “Command and control” leadership – traditionally a ‘masculine’ style - simply can’t cut it in the new world of work.  What’s needed is transformational, rather than transactional leadership, with a greater emphasis on softer skills such as empathy, consensus building, coaching and mentoring – traits traditionally seen as more “feminine”.  It would be crass to now claim the future of business depends on women alone – or to suggest that certain traits are exhibiting exclusively by men or exclusively by women – but there’s no doubt that for the good of the economy and society, for both men and women, we need a greater balance of female leadership than ever before.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

My experience is that it varies.  With some people – and in some arenas – I find men openly welcomed and encouraged to partake in the conversation.  I was delighted to be invited onto a discussion on Radio Manchester recently for International Women’s Day, where the host Stacey Copeland actively sought for a balance of men and women into the discussion.   On the other hand – I have also heard comments such as “Why is a man talking about that?  What’s it got to do with them?”

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?

Good question.  I’ve never really thought about this before – but possibly I guess, for some men.  That doesn’t necessarily mean those groups – with those names – shouldn’t exist though as it does generate a sense of belonging, commonality and community for those group members.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

I’ll try to avoid getting on my soap box here – as I could go on for hours about this!  I will pick out two areas I feel strongly about though.

Firstly – all businesses need to take gender balance seriously all year round and embed it in their culture.  Whilst there was some fantastic activity on International Women’s Day  – there were a few elements that I found rather galling, where it appeared some businesses were using it as a PR stunt – trying to persuade external and internal audiences of their inclusive values, whereas under the bonnet the reality is rather different.

Secondly, with regards encouraging men, I’d like to see businesses recognising working fathers as just an important parent to a child as working mothers.  I have evangelised for years the importance of working parents taking time off to spend with their children.  However, society still raises an eyebrow when fathers decide they’d like to take time off with their children – whereas mothers taking time off is seen as the norm.  That kind of attitude will just go to cement that caveman concept of men being the ones who go out and earn a living and women being the ones who stay at home.  I think that’s a debate that many men could relate to – and is one way of welcoming them into the gender debate.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

Absolutely – and the year before last I was honoured to receive the European Women In Sales “Male Mentor Of The Year” Award. I’m currently mentoring a lady who has recently been made redundant and is considering a change in career direction into the cybersecurity space – and I am soon to start some mentoring for a charity in Manchester called GreaterSport, where I am a trustee.  To be honest, as a mentor I find I get just as much value and enjoyment out of the relationship as the mentee.

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?

It’s certainly true that men are more likely to put their head above the parapet and bang at the door looking for a promotion – although I think the difference in this respect between men and women isn’t as stark as it used to be.  Slowly but surely, we are seeing more amazing women in senior leadership positions – and the more we shine a spotlight on those role models, the more confidence it gives women to go for those kinds of roles and the more confidence it will give men to support the campaign for gender balance.


Stephen Mercer featured

HeForShe: Stephen Mercer | Partner, Deloitte

Stephen Mercer

Stephen Mercer is a partner and leads Deloitte’s technology consulting practice.

Stephen advises clients on implementing technologies to support business change, increase business performance and improve governance. He is based in Manchester.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?

I am married to an Aerospace engineer who worked for 20 years in a male dominated environment and I saw first-hand how attitudes at the time impacted her both at work and sometimes at home. Whilst every industry and sector has moved on, in many cases considerably, my memories of her experiences still make me cringe.

In more recent years as the leader of Deloitte’s technology business I have an important ongoing responsibility for ensuring we promote and maintain a respectful and inclusive culture which allows everyone to flourish.

And yes, I do have a daughter who currently (despite my best promptings) refuses to code : (

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

Ultimately, we’re all striving to develop leadership teams which reflect society. The technology sector and other industries which rely more heavily on STEM based students, have on ongoing challenge to attract the right numbers of women into the workplace and then support women through their careers into leadership positions. Positively, attitudes and practices have changed and are changing much more quickly now thanks to exciting communities and bodies such as WeAreTechWomen, Women Who Code, CodeFirst:Girls, STEMettes Everywoman and others. However, many leadership teams are still predominantly male. Therefore, expecting women to be the sole proponents of supporting and driving gender equality simply doesn’t work. Men need to play a prominent role too. I do believe most male leaders also want to see change and are committed to making it happen.

At Deloitte my Technology leadership team have performance goals which relate to our firm-wide gender diversity aims. All leadership team members also mentor women in their teams, particularly at the manager and senior manager grades where we still see the greatest attrition.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

We are talking about gender balance and equality and you can’t achieve this or expect it to be solved by only engaging 50 per cent of the population.  In my own experience, I do believe that how welcome men feel in the conversation can range quite significantly. I’ve been to many events where I felt hugely welcomed and it’s enabled me to develop really importance insights, for example on topics such as unconscious bias, by listening to the experiences of women in the workplace. I still go to the odd event where being one of the few pale (but hopefully not too) stale, males in the room where it can be a little uncomfortable. However it’s inevitable as society goes through this important transition that there is a lot of pent up ambition, emotion, and occasionally even anger. Men and women are passionate about making change rapidly so I’m ok with this, it just demonstrates that it’s important.

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?

It’s an interesting question. I think great awareness and progress has been driven through grass roots initiatives and organisations and networks which are gender based. And I think there will continue to be a need for these groups to exist for a little while yet. I believe they have greatly shifted the dial and been instrumental in increasing the number of girls and women choosing technology as a career.

They have also helped men to understand the need for dedicated communities focussing on this important issue that there is a problem that needs solving and its scale. I don’t think they make men think that gender equality isn’t their problem but sometimes may feel they can’t join the network or community or contribute to its success because they aren’t of that gender. This means they sometimes aren’t sure how best they can help.

What has been helpful for us at Deloitte is also focusing on respect and inclusion and creating an environment and culture that works for all. This means that everyone is part of and responsible for creating and driving change that benefits everyone.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

I think a lot of it is around education. When I first took on my current role, I felt a little nervous about saying the wrong thing. There are so many different perspectives for example on whether targets are a good thing or not (I strongly believe they are and back this up by the difference they have made to improving gender diversity in my own business), that you can spend too much time worrying about upsetting a community and not getting on and dealing with the issues.

I’m fortunate to be supported by a great Respect and Inclusion team including Shilpa Shah who also leads our Women in Tech Network and Programme which now has over a 1000 members. She took me on a roadshow of women in tech meetings and events which educated me on the nature of the problems we’re facing in the industry and this helped me find my own voice and purpose. This enables me to speak much more authentically than I would have otherwise done.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

Yes we have a formal mentoring programme and all of my leadership team provide mentoring, but really most of the partners in Deloitte now do this on an informal basis. As I mentioned earlier my main objective is to reach down into the manager and senior manager grades in our structure where we still see too many women leave the industry.

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?

I don’t want to generalise or stereotype but there is a tendency for women to want to be 100 per cent ‘ready’ before they consider putting themselves forward for role. This is clearly a key point in a consulting business where new roles on different client engagements open up daily. However the thing which I notice most frequently when mentoring women is how they react to my questions:

1) what would you like to be doing in two-three year’s time?

2) how will you get there?

3) who can support you achieving this?

In my experience men typically have much greater clarity on the third point. Meaning they’ve thought about who their stakeholders are and how they will find a way to interact and if necessary influence these people. Clearly there a huge number of things which go around this, including the fact work socials have frequently been developed by men for men and funnily enough more men got to know more men…however there are many practical ways you can meet, support, and work with your stakeholders in a way which can help your goals. This is one area I encourage all my mentees to develop their thinking.


Andy-Maguire-featured

HeForShe: Andy Maguire | Group Managing Director & Group Chief Operating Officer, HSBC

Andy MaguireAndy Maguire is HSBC’s Group Chief Operating Officer leading operations, technology and corporate services for the bank.  Andy also leads HSBC’s chief operating officers who are responsible for the effectiveness and efficiency of the bank’s operations.

Andy began his career with Lloyd’s Bank, where he worked in retail, corporate and private banking. He then worked for 20 years as a consultant specialising in large transformation programmes in Europe, the Americas and Asia, latterly with Boston Consulting Group. At BCG, he was the head of the Banking and Customer Services practice, managing partner of the UK and Ireland, a member of the firm’s global executive committee, and from 2010-14 he led BCG’s relationship with HSBC.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?

Doh! It’s the boys (men) who need to change/be changed :-))…plus a much smarter, more successful wife and two punchy daughters…oh and it’s half the world – we need to.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

If men don’t change then things won’t change…or at least very slowly.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

Perfectly welcome but often trepidatious…afraid of saying the wrong thing/using wrong language.

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?

Tough…men have/have had networks for years, decades…ever, so it’s just a minor re-balance.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

Create ‘safe place’ to have conversations – it’s not (supposed to be) a test.  Take pressure off saying right/wrong thing.  Simple prompts…”think about your sister/daughters” etc.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

Yes – currently eight of my 12 mentees.

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?

Women are more self-aware/realistic i.e. focus on what they aren’t perfect on/at versus their strengths – as a result, less qualified/capable men apply/think they can do a given job.  Typically, in my experience, women are perfectly able to identify/target senior roles.