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London: new scheme takes on lack of women leaders


Mayor of London, Our Time, #BehindEveryCity, women leaders“Equality won’t happen on its own. That can only change if we take proactive steps to change it.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has launched a new scheme to tackle the lack of women leaders.

The initiative, called ‘Our Time: Supporting Future Leaders’, the first and largest-scale programme of its kind to be adopted in the public sector, will take action to address the gender imbalance in leadership roles and bridge the gender pay gap.

‘Our Time’ will work by pairing high-potential women with senior staff champions – men and women – who will help to open up the professional networks, opportunities and contacts often needed to progress within workplaces.

Research shows that positions of power in every sector of society are dominated by men.

And traditional approaches, such as mentoring schemes, although valuable and widely used, have not yet worked in removing the gender pay gap or help women into senior positions.

Currently women make up just 6 FTSE 100 CEOs – none of whom are BAME, only 32 per cent of council chief executive positions, 26 per cent of cabinet positions and 28 per cent of charity CEOs.

Women still face cultural and social barriers to career progression, including a lack of formal support or organisational policies to help them progress and to tackle harmful attitudes and gender stereotyping.

The ‘Our Time’ initiative aims to help break down these barriers by providing high-potential women a more structured way of accessing the networks, contacts and opportunities often needed to achieve leadership roles.

City Hall – the headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA), which comprises the Mayor of London and the London Assembly – has taken its inspiration for this project from successful schemes run in the private sector, by businesses such as Sky and Mastercard, which have had a proven impact supporting women into leadership positions.

This approach has also proved effective in supporting women from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, who can face additional barriers to their career progression.

’Our Time’ is part of the Mayor’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, which aims to drive gender equality across the capital.

The GLA, MOPAC, Transport for London (TfL), The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) have all committed to adopting the Mayor’s scheme, and supporting more women into leadership roles, making this the largest public sector workforce to be engaged in an initiative like this.

Following the Mayor’s call for other organisations in the capital to sign up to the initiative, Waltham Forest Council and Lambeth Council have, and Westfield is leading the way for the private sector.

In order to enable other public-sector organisations to adopt a similar scheme, a toolkit will be developed by City Hall to give guidance to other organisations, and support them to challenge the gender imbalance in leadership roles. This toolkit will be available from the GLA later in the year.

The Mayor has already published two gender pay audits at City Hall, sharing the data for 2016 and 2017. And since publishing gender pay gap data in 2016, City Hall has put in place a number of measures to promote training and promotional opportunities for women. These include ensuring all interview panels are gender diverse, promoting flexible working and offering access to external mentors for women at senior level.

TfL is also introducing measures, including a specific performance target to reduce the gender pay gap each year, anonymous job applications and a new development programme for groups under-represented in senior roles.

Sadiq Khan said: “It is shameful that in 2018 women remain under-represented at all levels of government and leadership roles.

“But today is about more than just the action we are taking here – all of us must tackle inequality wherever we see it. I want to encourage all industries across the capital to commit to addressing the shocking imbalance we still see in positions of power today through adopting ‘Our Time’.”

And Sam Smethers, the Fawcett Society’s chief executive, said: “We welcome this initiative. Fawcett’s Sex and Power report showed that in 2018 every sector of politics and public life, including the top of UK business, is dominated by men. Equality won’t happen on its own. That can only change if we take proactive steps to change it.”

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