I was delighted to be invited to be on the speaker panel at the outstanding “Redefining MACHO” event in Leeds in April. Hosted by Business Desk and supported by EY, Thincats & Eversheds, the objective of the event was to take big steps forward in gender equity in the workplace, with the pace of that change not just led by female leaders. Male leaders have to take responsibility for influencing change.

Rebecca Rennison (EY) and Simon Dixon (Thincats) championed a successful event in Manchester. The success led to a follow-up up event in Leeds that was attended by over 100 business leaders including members of our team and with myself as one of the 10 speakers.

The event was full of inspiration and thought-provoking messages:

  • There are more CEOs on the FTSE250 called John than there are women
  • Male mentors can make a huge impact in levelling the playing field for women
  • The first two minutes of many business meetings are critical – sometimes filled with content that is not inclusive and can be male-orientated. This is the critical “warming up” stage for everyone in the meeting.
  • Men and women often look for different features and challenges in work, and they may seek different rewards and will approach situations differently. Men will often focus on their strengths and women will analyse weaknesses before looking at strengths. Achieving a balance in teams is the most important objective.
  • Recruitment is a key stage in orchestrating opportunities.  Embracing diversity at the planning stage of each recruitment broadens employer perspectives and deepens the potential pool of candidates.
  • The infrastructure of many businesses has been disproportionately influenced by males – job titles, job descriptions and strategies.
  • Phrases like “work/life balance” can generate some negative preconceptions. The phrase is better replaced with “Harmony with Home”
  • Unconscious bias and imposter syndrome are evident in far too many places. They affect everyone but disproportionately more females than males.
  • The middle years of women’s careers – the “endurance years” are where there are more obstacles and barriers than in the early years or in the “achieving years” at the end of the career.

I was asked to speak on the back of the message that our business has been delivering, as well as our own team structure, with women representing:

  • 70% of our team
  • 70% of our board
  • 70% of SLT
  • 70% of our top performers

10 of our women first started working together with me over 20 years ago.

Being asked to speak at such a high-profile event on such a pertinent topic is nerve-wracking, so I had to think carefully about my approach and what I thought was important to say.

My objective was not to look at building a team that had a target representation. I looked at our sector when we set up Pratap Partnership in 2019 and recognised that a lot of it was built on some stereotypical masculine qualities. Recruitment should be about listening, empathy, support, creativity, and team collaboration – building a team that valued these areas was the priority and it is therefore no surprise to look at our split of women and men to date.

There is so much that the recruitment sector can do to make a meaningful impact on gender equity. I talked about masculine & feminine coded words, treating candidates individually and setting a “why?” for EDI of “better productivity” rather than compliance. There is so much more that could be discussed. Let's all keep talking, listening and learning.

I would like to thank a few of our trusted network for contributing to our research in advance of the event:

Amy Grey, Sheffield Forgemasters

Martin Jenkins, Zenith

Kate Morris-Bates, Harworth Group

Olga Franczak, Recruitment & Employment Confederation

Louisa Harrison-Walker, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce

Michelle Williams, Red Thread Results Ltd

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