Written by: Carol Andrews | Managing Director , BNY Mellon Ireland
Over the summer whilst visiting the UK, I read about a well-known British retailer who released a new type of shoe for children. The girls' shoes carried a heart-patterned insole, and the boys' insoles were decorated with footballs.
The girl’s shoe was called 'Dolly Babe' and the boys’ equivalent called 'Leader.' The retailer came under huge criticism amid accusations of harmful gender stereotyping and has, I believe, withdrawn the shoes in question.
I was troubled to read this story as it made me think about all the subliminal messages our children are receiving in their everyday lives which are either actively, or accidentally, contributing to gender stereotyping and gender bias in society.
How can we achieve true gender parity in business (and in society) if gender bias is so prevalent in our childrens’ lives it even impacts the name of a shoe?
Gender bias not only disadvantages females, it can also disadvantage males. This is because gender stereotyping often evolves into stereotyping of our roles in life, our professions and careers. For example, firefighting is often thought of as a man’s job, whereas nursing is more generally thought of as women’s work.
My professional world of financial services or banking was traditionally seen as a man’s career. The good news is this is changing.
I want to live in a world where we can each perform the work that is best suited to our personal abilities; where an individual receives the same levels of success, respect and pay regardless of where they start in life.
True parity, diversity and inclusion. In such a world, we can fully develop and avail of the talent of all to the advantage of the individual and of society.
And as for financial services, I believe strongly that we need to strengthen the flow of female talent to leadership positions in our industry so that it properly reflects our society and indeed our own broader workforce.
Good work is being done with companies voluntarily making changes, signing charters committing to action, such as the Diversity Charter Ireland which BNY Mellon signed in 2015, and publicly disclosing how they are actively driving workplace transformation so that diversity and inclusion are considered absolutely central business.
It is important that we all work together to maintain the momentum and recognise the strong link between greater gender balance and improved productivity and performance.
Earlier this year BNY Mellon and United Nations Foundation launched a report at the World Economic Forum in Davos exploring the market potential of advancing gender equality. If you haven’t yet seen it, it’s worth a read (Return on Equality).
I recently became Country Lead of the 30% Club Ireland, having been actively involved in its establishment and leadership in Ireland over the last three years.
The 30% Club believes that collaborative, concerted business-led efforts are essential to achieve gender balance at all levels of an organisation. I'm looking forward to leading our activities in working with business leaders and in driving forward this important business issue in Ireland.