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.

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