How Male Leaders Are Working To Improve Gender Inequality Through HeForShe

Photo Credit: Celeste Sloman
UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Three years ago, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson announced the launch of the HeForShe campaign for global gender solidarity.

On its website, the initiative says it has started 1.3 billion conversations around the world, launched more than 1,000 events, and led to 1.5 million commitments from people around their world to advance gender equality. Today, however, they presented less abstract findings in their inaugural IMPACT gender parity report.

As HeForShe "Champions," 30 men (who are heads of state, business executives, and university presidents) agreed to advance gender equity in their own settings, wherever they might be in the world. Many of those leaders presented the results of their work-to-date at an event in New York City this morning, explaining ongoing challenges as well as some triumphs.

On the corporate side, professional services company PwC stood out in particular. Bob Moritz, the company's global chairman, said that in 2006, only 13% of PwC's partners and 8% of PwC's global leadership team was female. In 2009, the company reported that "women were not leaving at a higher rate than men in most grades. [...] But, globally, departing male and female workers were being replaced with more male experienced hires."

PwC's approach to changing things included programs such as unconscious bias awareness training for the global leadership team (so that each country or region's individual problems could be addressed with specificity), creating an annual diversity plan with specific benchmarks and targets, and reconsidering the hiring and promotional "pipeline" to be more inclusive. Moritz said today that collecting data was key, and there really has been a measurable difference: The company's global leadership team is now 47% female.

Photo Credit: Celeste Sloman
UN Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stands with heads-of-state, university presidents, and executives at the 2017 HeForShe Impact report release.

In the realm of education, the presidents of Stony Brook University, University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, Sciences Po in France, Nagoya University in Japan, and the University of São Paolo in Brazil talked about working to end gender-based violence and sexual assault on campus. Their reforms included bolstering the research of institutions, like Stony Brook's Center for the Study of Men & Masculinities, or creating institutions like that where none existed. On a separate panel, but equally important, Feridun Hamdullahpur, the president and vice chancellor of the University of Waterloo in Canada, talked about his institution's work to promote more women into tenured roles, so that the faculty also represented the wider community.

UN Women's executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka concluded with an announcement that "six new male global leaders" have signed on this year to make their own pledges to "transform" their workplaces, communities, and organizations.

This shortlist included Lord Tony Hall, the director general of BBC. The broadcast company made headlines this summer when its vast disparities in pay were revealed. Now, in a HeForShe press release, Hall committed to equalization efforts so that "the BBC will reach parity across the workforce, in leadership roles, on screen and on-air, [and] close the gender pay gap across the institution by 2020."

Here's to hoping — and pushing — that all the organizations affiliated with HeForShe and beyond continue to move in the direction of reform to advance gender equality. The full 2017 HeForShe Impact report can be found here.