by Andrea Grossman
Originally published: June 2, 2017
In an interview Meryl Streep was asked why the story of the suffragettes hadn’t been made into a film before now. She said that in Hollywood the men with the power to make films didn’t see this subject as anything to do with them. ‘It wasn’t their fight,’ said Streep. In 2014 Emma Watson made the same case at the launch of the UN “HeForShe” campaign: ‘Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend you a formal invitation,’ she said. ‘Gender equality is your issue, too.’
The need to improve gender balance in the workplace has long been topical, with strong arguments showing the enormous benefits by achieving this. It’s not surprising that research shows over 75% of UK businesses believe that gender diversity should be a strategic imperative. But whose responsibility is it to translate this “imperative” into something sustainable and real?
What Watson was highlighting is the fact that many consider this to be an issue solely for women. All too often CEOs choose to delegate responsibility for this to their HR departments or to special committees. There are no shortage of organisations with initiatives geared towards women: women’s networks, mentoring programmes, development programmes... the list goes on. But the focus is often on ticking the diversity box rather than the more challenging issue of inclusion - do our female employees feel included and engaged? How many female leaders do we have? How many empowered decision-makers? How many women are serving as role models for the rest of the organisation?