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It’s time men stood up for women’s rights

Sasha Wiggins
By Sasha Wiggins | August 12, 2015

The idea that Barclays is an active supporter of the global UN campaign #HeForShe ­might give many people pause for thought. Why would such a seemingly conservative – and let’s face it, male dominated – organisation lend its weight to a campaign that aims to engage one billion men and boys as advocates and agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights?  As far as I’m aware, #HeForShe is the first campaign that encourages men to break the silence, raise their voices and take action themselves.

The reasons we’re getting involved unambiguously make both cultural and commercial sense. Quite simply, diverse businesses are more successful, the environment is healthier and the workforce is more fulfilled. So our senior leadership team is committed to making sure there’s a gender balance at all levels in the organisation. For this commitment to take hold, all employees need to understand the benefits of gender diversity – from senior leaders to middle managers, to our younger, more junior colleagues. #HeForShe identifies tangible actions our male colleagues can take personally to make a difference.

Barclays is committed to employing more women at senior leadership level. We need to build a working environment that encourages our brightest talent to succeed, regardless of gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability. One abiding obstacle is that women in the main are less comfortable with self-promotion than men (we’d rather be recognised for our good work than for going on about it!). This needs to be openly acknowledged, and men in the workplace themselves need practical support in helping their high-performing female colleagues to develop. This will build the confidence of women and help them achieve their aspirations and goals, which will in turn help to drive Barclays’ own commercial performance.

From my own experience, I think there are three key pieces of advice that any ambitious, career-minded woman would do well to take to heart. Firstly, be really clear about what you want to achieve in your career. Advancing through the corporate structure doesn’t appeal to every woman. We should support those with different priorities and goals, wherever they sit in the organisation.

Secondly, consider whether it’s the right time for you to advance your career.  In 2009, I was trying to balance a large team in Wealth with being a mum to my 18 month-old daughter. I found it extremely hard to combine both roles and it put huge pressure on my home life. Eventually I decided that my family had to come first, so I stepped away from the leadership role. It was extremely difficult, but it was absolutely the right decision. There are times when you can’t do everything and it’s important to recognise this. The choice I made hasn’t hindered my career – if anything, it’s made me more self-aware.

Thirdly, enlist the support of someone senior in the organisation – as a mentor, a sponsor, or both.  The ability to bounce ideas off someone, practice for interviews and generally seek their counsel is invaluable.

In my new role as CEO for Barclays Bank Ireland plc, I’m making sure all positions I recruit for have a diverse slate of candidates.  As an organisation we must recruit the very best talent, irrespective of diversity. So across the business, we’re looking closely at a number of new initiatives, such as improving our job share register, making sure all interview and promotion processes are open to the widest available talent pool, and training line managers to develop high performing women. It’s not the last word, but its all progress in the right direction. And if #HeForShe takes off in the way we intend, it really will put the whole gender balance issue permanently centre-stage.

If you want to work in an environment that is actively committed to creating change from within, we’d be happy to talk to you about fulfilling your own career goals. Take a look through our current list of opportunities.

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