One of the benefits of working for a French company is that, every now and again, I get to work in Paris. Last week, I spent two days at a workshop deep within the mother-ship overlooking the Arc de Triomphe.
The workshop was the annual event organized by Isabelle Roux-Chenu, Group leader of Women@Capgemini - a strategic global program aimed at better leveraging talented women. In fact, it’s a considerably more purposeful group of (mainly) women with a passionate intent to ensure gender balance across the Capgemini Group. Gender imbalance is a big challenge throughout the IT industry (read this article in The Register by Mark Pesce)
No matter what way you cut the statistics, no matter what case you make, no matter what mitigating social and educational arguments you proffer, women are under-represented in our industry – and that’s depriving our business of a valuable, business-winning, profit-enabling resource.
That’s not just my opinion but a proven, demonstrable fact of life. Fortune 500 companies with high representation of women in board leadership demonstrate increased competitiveness by out-performing those with none1.
I attended Women@Capgemini as one of three male colleagues. Our homework was to read an excellent report by Catalyst called Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives. The report asserts the criticality of including men in the quest to resolve gender imbalance in the workplace. It also digs deep into the reasons why such imbalances exist and why change is resisted, citing three key barriers that undermine men’s support for gender initiatives. They are: apathy, fear and real and perceived ignorance.
My own view is that it is mostly the latter that precludes a gender-balanced workforce. Most men (sadly, not all men), fall into the ‘real and perceived ignorance’ category ... and mostly real ignorance: real ignorance and the unconscious biases that can be borne of ignorance.
As always, it comes down to communication. There’s so much information available, so many words written and so much supporting data calculated that any rational man can only be supportive of gender balance once exposed to this information.
I suggest reading Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives is a great starting point and if you are a man in a position to influence, there are many examples of citable companies getting it right (or, at least, starting to get it right – that any company has to have a gender balance program suggests there’s a long way to go). Sodexo is one company that’s getting it right. Jean-Michel Monnot, Group Diversity & Inclusion Officer Europe, from that company presented to our Women@Capgemini forum and outlined their strategy, approach and results. It includes vocal support from their CEO. Three executives from Capgemini, Daniel Chaffraix (CEO Southern Europe), Olivier Lepick (Sogeti Group General Secretary) and François Chevrier (Deputy Group General Secretary), who support the program as "men champions" and came to give their views on the subject to enhance gender balance within the Group.
And to finish: three men attended the Women@Capgemini forum. We discovered that all three of us have only daughters, no sons. Coincidence?
1. Catalyst, The Bottom Line: Corporate performance and Women’s Representation on Boards, 2004-2008, Nancy Carter Ph.D and Harvey Wagner, Ph.D, 2011