We sat down with Andrew Stevens, former Managing Director of IBM Australia and New Zealand, and influential advocate from the Male Champions of Change, to learn more about the powerful group of men focused on increasing the representation of women in leadership. It’s a learning process for everyone involved, with some exciting results unfolding.
Andrew talks to Thread Publishing on the whys and wherefores of Male Champions of Change.
So, what is Male Champions of Change?
Male Champions of Change is a group conceived by Liz Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner for Australia. It is comprised of 25 members, including Chief Executives, Managing Directors, Board Chairs and Board Directors – who are all male.
The objective of this group is to work within our spheres of influence or control. For example, we can directly influence what happens in relation to the representation of women in leadership in our own companies and business affiliations.
Our focus is about making demonstrable progress within our own enterprises – not just contributing money or advertising our way to a reputation.
Before I left IBM, for example, our Executive Board was 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men – as a direct result of the discussions and goals set within Male Champions of Change. When I started at IBM, the female interns and graduate rate was around 20 per cent. By the time I left it was 46 per cent.
Achieving demonstrable progress is the same in any business: put metrics in place, establish stretch targets, and make people accountable. It makes a difference.
Why is Male Champions of Change made up of only men?
We always let Liz [Broderick] tell this story because it’s important that it’s not misunderstood. This is not about men thinking there is a role for us in ‘saving’ women.
The reality is that men largely control enterprises and companies, which means they hold the control and power. If solving gender inequality sits on the shoulders of women alone, we are not addressing that control issue – that manifestation of bias.
The Male Champions of Change organisation is all about men realising that increasing the representation of women in leadership is not solely a women’s issue. It’s an economic and societal issue that belongs to all of us. If we all want change, then men must step up beside the women who have for so long led the charge for greater gender equality. This means listening (mostly to women’s experiences), learning (based on our own experience) and leading (by taking action in our own spheres of influence).
You need men who hold power and control to commit to positive change too – to perceive that this is either a problem or an opportunity that they want to do something about, and to then get on and do it.
There seems to be a developing international reputation surrounding the initiative, the prominence of the work we’ve done, and our advocacy. All that seems to suggest there’s something in this. There is enormous momentum too. Countries and organisations all over the world are saying, “Liz, help us set up a Male Champions of Change group in our country.” It’s happening in Brazil, Turkey, US, Germany, Korea, Japan – you name it.
We now have CEOs of big banks, major retailers and technology companies; the head of the Australian Army; and the head of the Prime Minister’s Department all working together on the issue of gender inequality. They are not just talking about it – they are committing to demonstrable change.
These people are very busy but we meet up for regular discussions. We’re not going along because we could do with a few more meetings – we want to make a genuine difference. We believe this is something that needs to be done and we’re going to work together on it to make a difference.
How does each of you approach this high-profile undertaking?
When you go into this, you know there’s a risk that we won’t make any progress. We may even lose ground. If that happens, you have already put yourself out there as saying, “We’re going to make a difference.” So it’s important to realise there’s not much personal upside here, and substantial grounds for ridicule if it all goes backward.
In spite of this, the courage and resilience of people like Lieutenant General Morrison leaves no doubt that there is a major commitment from everyone involved. His stand on this issue in the Army is quite remarkable. That’s how you get over 1.5 million hits on YouTube.
As Liz is fond of saying, “You are not Champions because of your achievements, you are Champions because of your demonstrated commitment to change.”
So, Male Champions of Change is all about working with people and being able to leverage their inspiring stories and ideas to add fuel to your own tank. There is still opposition out there to what we do, which is why we ensure we’re always able to explain our actions – and the result. But even more importantly, we make the case for why others should see gender inequality as a problem and commit to do something about it too. Because if there’s a person at the top of the organisation and they don’t think this is an issue, then nothing will happen – no matter how good the diversity team has become.
Conversely, if that CEO says, “You know what? I think we have a huge opportunity here” or, “We have a problem we have to fix”, this is where very dramatic action and progress can be made.
What kinds of projects are you all working on?
One of the things we’ve done in our meetings is develop work groups that focus on certain areas within our organisations. For example, David Thodey from Telstra and Ian Narev of the CBA are involved in developing flexibility at work, and they’re putting in place some pilots in their organisations that we’re using to measure the impact on engagement retention and so forth. The difference is quite marked. Telstra’s All Roles Flexible initiative has attracted international attention. Elmer Funke Kupper has basically learned from David’s work and implemented the same at the ASX.
Mike Smith, from ANZ, and I also worked together, while other Male Champions also paired up. Mike and I had big, round-table discussions with up-and-coming women – women who are already at the top – and also met with men in equal numbers in many businesses. We asked them about the scope for a woman’s career advancement, and equality, in their company. We basically asked, “What are the issues that are on your mind?” And for the women, “What did you have to overcome to get to your role, and how did you do it?”
We also talked about progression to a CEO position and the ways parental leave can affect this. It became clear that if you want the CEO’s job then you generally have to do certain jobs before it is appointed to you, so you can demonstrate that you have the experience and capability. If you’re not offered those jobs early on, you don’t get into the right position to potentially escalate. The trouble is, research shows that men are far more likely to get offered the jobs that predict advancement than women.
We’ve got to put women who really want this role into the hot jobs that will lead them to the CEO’s job – not just in the familiar territory of HR, Marketing and Communications. Those are critical functions; it’s the profit-and-loss roles that are proven to lead to the most senior roles in the organisation. There were many other examples picked up during our interviews, but the main point was to make sure that parental leave isn’t a career killer.
What are some other initiatives with which Male Champions of Change is involved?
We’re implementing the Supplier Multiplier concept, which says: “Let’s change our buying decisions and purchasing practices to say that we will only buy from companies that are supporting gender equality.”
Another one is an initiative called 50/50: If Not Why Not? Whenever we get recruitment companies to work with us, we want there to be 50/50 split of men and women on any interviewee shortlist. But only 18 per cent of technology graduates are women, for example, so the initial feedback from the recruiters was, “How would you expect us to make 50 per cent?” The answer is, “Hey look, we could do 18 per cent ourselves without even trying. We’re encouraging you as the recruitment agent who is a specialist in this field to take us from 18 per cent to 50 per cent. And if you don’t do it, we’ll work with someone else.”
We have identified a 12-point plan. We’ve got various companies who are implementing them so we can monitor the impact and learn from their experiences at our meetings. That’s the important thing about this. Rather than attempting to simply advocate for change, we talk about things we have tried in our organisations, so others can learn what worked and what didn’t.
Our meetings are a matter of us saying, “Let’s monitor where we are on female board directors. What’s the sum of all advocacy work we’re doing? What requests have we got coming up and who’s done what? Any other progress?”
Then we break into groups to say, “Okay, how are we going with raising the bar on women’s careers and making sure parental leave is not a career killer?” We’ll look at our spheres of influence to see how we’re leading them around these issues and consider what the data tells us.
It’s also practical stuff, like, “How many have pledged Plus One? How many have achieved it by now? What’s the feedback? How does it impact people’s performance rating?” Our working groups review and learn as we go.
We analyse, we share information, we say, “Look this isn’t working, but this is working.” Or, “How are you going to implement that idea?” For a group of busy, high achievers to go around a table and say, “Where are we failing?”, it’s a big deal, but we’re all learning together. This is entirely new ground we’re covering.
We’re effectively dedicating our companies to say, “We’re going to find a way to make a big difference here.” And interestingly, most employees love it. Both males and females generally love the fact that their boss is a Male Champion of Change.
A look at childcare in Australia:
“Speaking of us having to face our shortcomings, let’s look at childcare as an example. If you add up everything we’ve done as Male Champions, childcare in Australia still doesn’t add up to a success story. That’s why our recommendation at the change of the [Australian] Government was for a productivity commission study into childcare.
“We think we’ve tried almost everything and we still don’t think we’ve made a positive impression in this area. Access to childcare – the cost of it – is largely prohibitive. Some women have to work three and four days a week to pay for the childcare, to then earn for one remaining day a week. Something is wrong with that picture.
“Go back to the 900,000 women who aren’t fully participating in the workforce. What is the solution on childcare? Could childcare have a big impact? The answer is yes. If we could make a big difference in childcare, I think the 900,000 figure would significantly reduce.
“The second priority is for more companies to offer roles in a flexible way, so employees can work remotely, at variable times, and sometimes don’t need to come to work. By one estimate, the 900,000 women not working could reduce to 450,000 in the workforce at no additional cost. In terms of the GDP per capita equation, the numerator would go up but the denominator would stay the same.”[/aesop_content]
If you could wave a magic wand what would you like tomorrow’s workplace to look like on the issue of diversity?
I’d like it to be 50-50. I’d love to be past the tipping point when it becomes self-fulfilling because the levels of influence and balance are in place. The real outcome is that Australia becomes a national exemplar, in terms of prosperity and inclusion. It would then tell me that both men and women can make the choices they want around caring and work roles.
And if you could talk to a male CEO who doesn’t know how or where to start to create more gender equality in the workplace, what would you say to him?
In the first piece of work we did – and McKinsey & Company did a great job of writing this up – we said the first step was ‘getting in the game’ or taking personal responsibility.
The most important step is to realise there’s an opportunity for you as a CEO to change things. Just the mindset to say, “You know what? There’s enough in this for me to believe. I’m going to start this journey. We can get in the game.”
Once you get yourself to that point, I think you’ll find there are enough willing supporters to help you. Don’t worry about ‘splitting the atom’; just take the first step – because until that point nothing’s going to happen. And once you make that commitment to increase the representation of women, anything is possible.
This change needs to happen at all levels, but most importantly from the top down.
Look at how you’re recruiting people at manager and middle-manager level, and look at the representation of women at these levels. Then decide to do something about it. Because when you get enough women on all levels, I think you’ll get enough momentum. Then you’ll be bolder and this becomes self-perpetuating, and you’ll have less resistance from most people.
And how about the accountability around all of this?
It’s important. Having targets is one thing, but if you never follow up on the targets and objectives then there’s no accountability anyway. That’s why I say to stretch targets, make people accountable, influence their pay, and be bold. You can’t have targets if you’re just going to set them aside and never look at them again.
The Male Champions of Change (MCC) is a collaborative initiative of corporate and institutional leaders convened by Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission. Male Champions of Change, once awarded, are members of the organisation for life.
Andrew Stevens is a former IBM Managing Director. He is a member of the Business Council of Australia, the Council of Governors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia, and on the Business Advisory Council at the University of New South Wales.
Written by Thread Publishing (threadpublishing.com) in support of Male Champions of Change. Connecting the world one story at a time to bring humanity back into business. © 2014
Learn more about Male Champions of Change.
Male Champions of Change members include:
- Glen Boreham, Non-Executive Director
- Gordon Cairns, Non-Executive Director
- Stephen Fitzgerald, Non-Executive Director
- Alan Joyce, CEO and Managing Director, Qantas
- Elmer Funke Kupper, Managing Director and CEO, ASX Limited
- Harry Kenyon-Slayney, CEO Rio Tinto Energy
- John Lydon, Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company
- Kevin McCann, Chair & Non-Executive Director
- Hamish McLennan, CEO, Ten Network Holdings
- Lieutenant General David Morrison, Chief of Army, Australian Defence Force
- Ian Narev, CEO, Commonwealth Bank
- Grant O’Brien, Managing Director and CEO, Woolworths Ltd
- Martin Parkinson, Secretary, The Treasury
- Stephen Roberts, Chief Country Officer, Citi, Australia
- Simon Rothery, CEO, Goldman Sachs
- Stephen Sedgwick, Public Service Commissioner, Australian Public Service Commission
- Mike Smith, CEO, ANZ
- Andrew Stevens, Former Managing Director, IBM Australia and New Zealand
- Giam Swiegers, CEO, Deloitte Australia
- David Thodey, CEO, Telstra
- Ian Watt, Secretary, Prime Minister and Cabinet
- Gary Wingrove, CEO, KPMG Australia and New Zealand
- Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor, The University of Sydney
- Sir Ralph Norris, New Zealand
- Michael Rennie, McKinsey Dubai
- Geoff Wilson, KPMG Hong Kong
The Male Champions of Change and their Chair, Elizabeth Broderick, are advised pro bono by Angus Dawson and Natalie Davis, partners at McKinsey & Company.
Photos: Male Champions of Change; Unsplash