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Men as Change Agents speech

Women and Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt: 'Men as Change Agents' speech at event hosted by The Duke of York at St James's Palace on Thursday 6 September.

Your Royal Highness, your Excellency, distinguished guests.

Thank you, Your Royal Highness, for hosting this terrific event.

And thank you, for that kind introduction Denis Woulfe, co-leader of Men as Change Agents Group.

I would also like to thank Emer Timmons, co-leader of Men as Change Agents Group.

We have heard much about the gender pay gap in recent months.

We’ve heard some things about the phenomena that sit behind it; career choices that young girls make, unconscious bias in selection and promotion, a lack of confidence or a lack of assertiveness, the practical challenges and sacrifices made to care for another and the propensity of women to assume that responsibility, good old-fashioned discrimination and more.

And we’ve heard a little bit about how to tackle those challenges.

But we’ve heard practically nothing in the media about why it matters.

Why should we be worried about a lack of diversity in our institutions and our organisations?

What harm is done if we fail to include different perspectives and ideas?

I am obviously preaching to the choir but when I speak to less enlightened audiences I like to conduct a little experiment to make a point.

I want you all to think back to when you last hired a car.

When you went to pick the car up from the lease company what did you do?

Ladies, did you check the location and function of the lights, find where they horn was, work out how to tune the radio, double check the fuel and find out which side the petrol cap was on?

This is ringing bells I can tell.

Did you adjust the seat, check any accompanying passengers were comfortable?

Fellas, you didn’t do any of that did you? Did you get in, seatbelt up and drive?


I am generalising, but we think differently.

And consequentially this is an issue which has real practical implications beyond the very evident issues of fairness and justice.

If we want our organisations or projects to succeed we had better include women.

If we do not then they won’t thrive.

When women are part of peace negotiations, the resulting treaties are a third more likely to last at least 15 years.

Once solely male organisations that have now opened up their ranks to women have become substantially more operationally effective.

Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have profits above their industry averages.

And the world benefits.

Work by McKinsey estimates that bridging gender gaps in employment could add £150 billion to the UK economy by 2025.

For every human endeavour depends upon inclusion.

The fortunes of mankind depend on the talents of womankind.

So it matters to us all that nearly eight out of ten big UK employers pay men more than they pay women, and only a quarter of FTSE 350 board positions are occupied by women.

Given the challenges facing us today I don’t think we can wait for gender equality in the boardroom until 2043 or as the World Economic Forum predicts, more than two centuries to close the global gender pay gap.

We need women’s ideas, voices, perspectives, empathy, communication skills, talents and leadership on those challenges now.

I’m very proud that Britain has led the world by being the first country to require all businesses with 250 or more employees to publish their gender pay gaps. People from all sectors are showing leadership to close that gap, many of them men.

I want to thank the Women’s Business Council for the Men As Change Agents initiative and all of you fellas for your personal commitment to this agenda.

I want to congratulate you for your seeing how critical it is for understanding why this agenda is about an environment in which their partner, daughter, sister, mother can reach their full potential and for understanding that it is also about every sector, community and our nation being strong, fit for purpose and the best it can be.

Thank you for knowing that it is both right and smart.

I hope you will grow in number.

We need to change workplace culture and promote shared parental leave, encouraging fathers to take their share, and so our businesses and services reflect our nation.

It is in all our interests that this is so.

So, ladies, and gentlemen, thanks very much.

More information about the speech can be found on the everyone will benefit if men include more women in top roles press release.

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