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.

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