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?
“Who wouldn’t support the campaign? It’s such a positive force, and now has a great following meaning the clear message of diversity is getting out there. I’ve managed marketing teams within several financial services firms and both are industries which benefit massively from a diverse workforce.
“I also have two young daughters, both of whom are already demonstrating that they are bright and have strong personalities. I would therefore hate for them to grow up into a world where they are not on an equal footing or able to achieve their full potential just because of their gender.”
Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?
“Diversity should be a priority no matter what the business or the industry. This applies to all aspects of diversity too. Different points of view, alternative ways of thinking and diverse life experiences can be incredibly powerful. I think all employers and managers need to be more proactive in encouraging a diverse workforce, from micro businesses to FTSE 100 firms. While I believe most men support gender equality in the workplace, I do believe that perhaps some are not as vocal in showing their support. It’s not the responsibility of one person or group either, which is where part of the challenge lies.
“Take the FTSE 100 as an example, it’s still mainly men whom dominate the top board positions. We need people to lead from the top. At The Start Up Loans Company we have helped almost 18,000 women launch their own business, but this shouldn’t be limited to start-up businesses – more women need to be round the board table.”
How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?
“I think men are welcome in the gender equality conversation but we need to make that conversation louder. We all lose out when diversity isn’t a priority. Both men and women need to speak about why gender equality is important and what can be done to improve it. It’s all about jointly contributing to the debate, having an inclusive approach and coming up with practical steps to improve the situation – that requires both men and women.”
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?
“One thing I really believe is that gender equality affects everyone within a business and is everyone’s opportunity to grasp. From the board table down, we need diversity to be a priority. Everyone should be supporting it, regardless of age, gender or race. I don’t think there’s any problem with having gender-specific groups as long as they are open to ideas and welcome input from others as well.”
What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?
“All those in management positions need to proactively voice their support for gender equality. And they need to do this on a regular basis. A piecemeal statement once in a blue moon isn’t going to get the message across. By setting an example, you’re likely to see gender diversity being discussed more often in the corridors, in the boardroom and around the office – which is a positive step in encouraging men to get involved in the debate.
“Another simple thing is to point out the positive contribution a diverse workforce brings and make an effort to celebrate both women’s and men’s achievements. Gender equality comes from respect and respect within a business is key. If you look at the gender debate from that business viewpoint, it’s easy to get everyone involved.”
Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?
“At The Start Up Loans Company, 39% of our loan recipients are women who are starting up their own business. We’re committed to increasing this proportion and in particular helping mothers who struggle to return to work and want more flexibility in their work/life balance.
“We want to help women across the UK have more control over their career and be confident enough to become business owners in their own right. Creating the female business leaders of tomorrow is an important project for us and one I’m really passionate about articulating through our marketing strategy.”
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?
“We offer support to new start-up owners and we’re encouraging women to grow their businesses and be confident they can achieve their ambitions. That’s why we offer mentoring, so those who lack that initial confidence can receive some extra help. We have helped some fantastic female entrepreneurs who I find inspiring and who have achieved fantastic success through hard work and determination. We do our best to promote the fantastic work they’ve achieved, which should help to inspire others. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be putting themselves forward for senior jobs, and we all need to be encouraging that to happen.”