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Analysis / Business

Women And Men Need To Work Together To Change Bias In The Workplace


It is hard to ignore the gender gap in many industries, especially in the STEM businesses (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). For example, in the UK only 21% of those working in Core STEM occupations are women and only 54% of STEM companies listed on the FTSE100 have at least 2 female board members. Understandably, the gender gap is a sensitive subject for many people and whilst men are not exempt, it is unlikely that as many male colleagues will have experienced the same level of exclusion as their female counterparts.

For years, we have spoken about the glass ceiling, and the importance of diversity and equal female representation in the workforce. Huge effort has been expended, led largely by women and usually championed by Human Resources, in setting up female networking groups, hosting meetings, mentoring and sharing role model stories. These efforts have made considerable headway and yet there is still a gender disparity in the workforce, both in the types of roles fulfilled by men and women and the pay that they receive.

MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) turns everything on its head. Rather than seeing diversity as a woman’s problem, it challenges the very system itself. Diversity is viewed as a business and social imperative that affects us all. Therefore, men need to be involved in any solution. MARC challenges individuals to question our own hard-wired prejudices that everybody carries around subconsciously. They are by-products of our culture, age, upbringing, and accumulated experiences as well as media and other influences. The idea is not to change an individual but make them aware of this conditioning and take it into account in their behaviour and decision-making.

Few people set out to deliberately hurt or offend others and it often comes from a place of unconscious bias. MARC training helps attendees acknowledge these innocent intentions to make it easier to move from confrontation to discussion. The reality is that most of the time, when you challenge assumptions, you hear reactions like “I didn’t realise” and “I never thought”.

MARC training has made me more aware. I have asked myself tough questions. I continue to ask them every day and challenge my leadership team to do likewise. Everybody has a responsibility to challenge the status quo and drive change.

For example, at Dell EMC, while we have happily succeeded in achieving a more evenly distributed sales team, I believe that there are still too few women in leadership roles. In response, we have introduced programmes that are making our workplace more inclusive not just for women but for all our employees. This includes flexibility such as part-time working, different start and finishing times as well as working from home.

So how has MARC changed me at a personal level? Instead of jumping in with my opinion, I now tend to hold back and ask myself honestly, is my view based on reality or is it just an impression? In terms of recruitment profiling, I am far more open in my thinking as to what constitutes a good candidate. Before I walk into the interview room, I stop and try to shed any unconscious biases that I may be carrying. I now actively seek diversity instead of sameness. I try to listen more and make a conscious effort to take on board different views.

Everyone brings something valuable to the table. Real diversity comes from creating an open environment where everybody feels included and valued, where you can express your views and are comfortable to do your best work.

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Dermot O’Connell is General Manager of Dell OEM in EMEA, a specialist division helping customers grow their businesses by leveraging Dell’s hardware, software and services as part of their own solutions. With over 25-years’ leadership experience in the IT industry, Dermot is responsible for the strategic implementation of the division’s business and go-to-market strategy across the region. Dell OEM’s expertise in infrastructure design, global logistics and world-class support allows customers to accelerate their time to market by focusing on their unique software or hardware IP.