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.