On Tuesday 12th February, Aurora collaborated with leading global biopharmaceutical company MSD to host an event called ‘Making gender diversity matter: Five burning questions’. The event brought together senior people from a variety of industries for open-minded debate on key gender diversity topics.
The event was initially inspired by the Lancet’s announcement that it would be publishing a special edition on women in science and medicine, which was released just a few days before our event. With women under-represented across many sectors, not just in science and particularly at senior management level, we were keen to look beyond healthcare and consider how different industries can collaborate and learn from each other.
The event was a roaring success, with fantastic engagement from all attendees across sectors ranging from media and marketing to education and finance. Discussions were centred around our ‘five burning questions’, which explored key themes in the gender diversity space and garnered a number of insights:
1. Are diversity programmes worth the paper they’re written on?
Gender quotas and programmes need hard metrics – organisations need to be clear on what they want to change and then measure that change
2. Should men drive gender diversity?
Men have a key role to play in changing behaviour – giving women a chance to speak up and calling out inappropriate comments is important
3. Does the media care about their influence on gender diversity?
We all need to stop consuming and sharing media content that perpetuates gender stereotypes – click-bait is part of the system and culture that needs changing
4. Is real equality in healthcare a pipe dream?
Real equality is possible but ‘fixing women’ isn’t the answer – we need to focus time and resources on fixing and de-biasing cultures and systems rather than people
5. Where do we go from here?
Bottom-up only initiatives will fail – there needs to be a clear mandate from senior individuals for our efforts be successful
One thing that really stuck out for me was men’s role in changing behaviour and the need to involve men more in gender diversity. Many people would consider gender diversity to be a women’s issue, but there is only so far we can go with this attitude. In fact, it is easy to forget that there are also many industries in which men are under-represented, such as more ‘caring’ industries like teaching and nursing.
But how do we get men more involved? When we were doing our research ahead of the event, we found very few men who were actively campaigning for gender equality and, despite our best efforts, less than 15% of the people who attended the event were men.
Interestingly, many of the men who did attend the event said that they would be doing more to support gender diversity going forward. These men highlighted that they were much more aware of how women might feel in a male-dominated workplace, for example women are less likely to speak up if a man asks a question first. They plan to do more to make women’s voices heard and call out inappropriate behaviour. We should also be looking at how we can deliver gender diversity events that engage and benefit men.
To achieve true gender diversity, we need to move away from our current attitude and make it both a male and female issue. At the end of the day, it is about equal opportunities for all, no matter what your gender. In fact, this was something highlighted by the Lancet’s Editor-in-Chief Richard Horton at the launch of its special edition, who said that it might have been better if they had called the project ‘Lancet women and men’.
And how will we know once we have succeeded? To quote Catherine Williams, Executive Director at MSD UK, this will be when we “no longer need networks in an organisation, because diversity is so embedded, we no longer need to count”. So let’s work together to make this a reality and truly embed gender diversity in our culture.
This is just the start of our work in this area – watch this space for more.
If your organisation needs to examine itself or needs a culture change then get in touch with Chris Hall to collaborate with us.