“We can look at gender balance as a business problem, but we should also look at it as a business opportunity.” Those were the words that Mike Ethelston, Capco UK Managing Partner kicked off our International Women’s Day (IWD) evening event with, on Wednesday 6 March.
Our global CEO, Lance Levy followed: “One thing that has always been steadfast for me and the leadership team is the absolute commitment to diversity in our business. And diversity in all forms.”
The panel event at Capco London brought together inspirational leaders from across the UK business community, to discuss how we can achieve ‘balance for better’, this year’s IWD theme. In this blog, we share the candid highlights from the evening’s conversation.
Kim Sgarlata, Capco Partner and Global Business Sponsor for Diversity & Inclusion said: “At Capco we like people to be raw, open and honest, provocative if they need to be - and to have a discussion. If everyone in here does something this year relating to gender equality, that’s a big deal. I encourage you to think about what your contribution will be.”
The evening’s first guest speaker, Marta de Sousa, a property developer and entrepreneur emphasized the importance of representation in business: “I believe in a world built both by men and women… but only two percent of people on construction sites are women. Eleven percent if you count women working in those offices.”
She shared how this inequality has partly been a result of early gender stereotyping, from ‘boys’ toys’ to even ‘men at work’ road signs. Her solution to underrepresentation? More diverse role models: “I know I don’t look like your stereotypical person on a building site. When I walked onto my first one, I got wolf-whistled by one of my contractors… And I swiftly dealt with him.”
Stuart Manson, a Partner in our enterprise transactions team echoed Marta’s feelings on a lack of gender representation in workplaces. He shared how in the early years of his career work environment were predominantly male dominated, both from attending an all-boys school to his first career in engineering. However, he said, “I’ve been in Capco for four years, and the best consultants I’ve worked with have been female.” The father of two girls and a boy added, “I’m committed to making Capco better for gender equality.”
Jillian Kowalchuk, founder and CEO of Safe & the City, a street-smarts app spoke of how her sexual harassment experience had led her to create a solution to tackle the issue head-on, and others should follow suit:
“In order for humanity to survive, we need to build on the solutions that are as representative and diverse as the people, problems and perspectives we seek to change… For the current and future entrepreneurs in the room, I challenge you to look beyond just commercial gain, as changing the life of one person can never be seen as a failure.”
Dr Kamel Hothi, our fourth speaker of the evening, emphasized the importance of mentors in the workplace; three men who had given her the encouragement to exceed expectations and cultural norms – from being TSB’s first female bank manager in the South-east (and first Asian in this role) to becoming an advisory board member of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust Fund and receiving an OBE for her services to promoting diversity in banking:
“When I reflect back on my personal life and work career, I think I could have progressed faster. But I am proud of what I achieved, I was a woman who had no degree and no support except these three mentors.”
She then addressed the audience: “So the question is, how many ‘Kamel’s work for you?... What are you going to do for your gender and those who are struggling? Find your purpose and find your courage.”
At Capco we believe diversity powers innovation. Learn more about our Be Yourself At Work culture.