Ann McCall

By Ann McCall

The missing 50%

I work in what has for many decades been a male dominated environment, being a mechanical engineer working in the nuclear industry. As an industry we have acknowledged that we could be missing out on 50% of a talented workforce.

I was recently invited to take part in a panel at a conference in the USA on ‘Women in Waste Management’. Very glamorous! Hence I found myself with 3 other women talking about leadership with a male-dominated audience on International Women’s Day. Among the topics discussed was mentoring: how it had helped us in our careers and which leaders had inspired us. One of the conclusions was that there were very few high-profile female leaders in our industry that we could refer to.

All very predictable, so I thought I would throw into the mix the idea that, yes, I want to see equality… let’s start with equality for men!

Let me explain. I worked for a Swedish company for over 6 years and was struck by how the company policy was for parental leave, not maternity leave. Subtle but think about it!

Suppose it were taken for granted by companies that when a couple has a family (birth or adoption) either parent can take the year of parental leave and has the right to ask for flexible working arrangements. This removes any bias, unconscious or otherwise, when recruiting or considering staff for promotion. It would be a real step towards true equality in the workplace.

Oxford has shown me that gender balance is so yesterday!  Equality for all is the only way to ensure diversity of the skills we need for successful business. As stated so eloquently by Barry Schwartz in his TED talk on Using our Practical Wisdom we need to find ‘canny outlaws’ to drive change in the systems and rules that condition behaviours. Maybe we can find such leaders in an increasingly diverse workforce?

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