Podcasts

Interview with John Thompson: Gender Equality at the Epicentre of COVID-19

In this episode, The 100% Project host Hilary Lamb talks to John Thompson, who shares some of the strategies Oliver Wyman implement to achieve gender equality in their business. John also shares some insights into how other companies he’s worked for have made inroads into achieving a better gender balance.

John Thompson is a Partner at Oliver Wyman in the Finance and Digital, Technology, Operations and Analytics Practices based in the firm’s New York City office.

Before Oliver Wyman, John spent twenty-five years with Accenture where he developed and managed programs of change for clients across North America, Switzerland and France.   Serving as a strong business partner, John has an established record in implementing process improvements, operating model change, and has extensive knowledge on gender equality in the corporate world.  Tune in to hear how global companies handled COVID-19, their attitude towards gender equality and diversity, and how the new normal has changed their opinion of flexible working arrangements.

 

 

Transcript:

Interview with John Thompson: Gender Equality at the Epicentre of COVID-19

 

Hilary Lamb: My name is Hilary Lamb and I chair The 100% Project. We’re a not-for-profit organization, and our vision is to see 100% of leadership potential, female and male, equally contributing to our social and economic future. So where are we on the path to this vision, and in particular, what impact has the current pandemic had on gender equality in the workplace?

I’m speaking today with John Thompson, who is a partner in the finance and digital practices at Oliver Wyman in New York, and previously managing director at Accenture in New York for a number of years.

Welcome John and thank you for speaking with me today.

John Thompson: Thank you Hilary. Glad to join you.

Hilary Lamb: Can you begin by telling us a bit about your role, your organisation and your previous role?

John Thompson: I am a partner with Oliver Wyman, if you’re not familiar, is a strategy and management consulting firm, 5,000 employees, about 25 countries, a well-respected organisation and work with just about every industry on every continent.

We are seen as a niche provider and I think as part of that, we at Oliver Wyman spend a lot of energy very thoughtfully selecting talent to join our team, to partner with our clients in driving change and helping them.

At Oliver Wyman, as a partner, we’re all expected to play a role in defining what our future looks like, determining how we can bring new leaders in to drive toward what our clients need, and so this topic is highly relevant. We’ll get a little bit more into how I see that and how we see that at Oliver Wyman, but I think the criticality of building talent from the outside and inside is critical to any good company’s success.

Part of that, as we look on career paths, and even outside of the firm, is figuring out how do we move in a direction that moves toward the centre? Gender is top of the agenda for that.

 

Hilary Lamb: With Oliver Wyman, would you say that your leadership currently is fairly gender diverse, or is it more, being a management consultant, is it more male dominated?

 

John Thompson: It is regretfully much more male dominated and it’s an issue, it’s a topic that’s been on management’s agenda for a number of years. I joined about two years ago with Oliver Wyman, and even in my prior life at Accenture, it was something I would say for me that became aware of probably 10 or 12 years ago.

 

Our leadership at Oliver Wyman has made it a priority in a few ways. By raising up the level of our Chief Diversity Officer, so we actually have a new leader in London who is female.  She is helping, not only with refining the targets, but also in educating the likes of myself and others for how we make not just the big changes, but the smaller changes as well, so that these things start to come across.

But if I look at ourselves in the mirror, I would say at the lower ranks we definitely have a much more representative, diverse look. When we look at gender as representing what’s more of what we’re seeing out in the world obviously, but as we climb the ladder, we have a problem and when we get to the partner level it is a problem.  As we get to the top level itself of the senior leaders within the company, it’s even worse. I think we score ourselves with a long road ahead, but I would say we’re spending a lot of time and energy on it.

 

Hilary Lamb: That’s really interesting, and it’s good to hear that you’ve prioritised by putting in a female leader to focus on the gender issue within your organisation. We will get to ask you some of the tangible things that you want to implement, but because the world is a different place at the moment, there will be conflicting priorities across businesses, which is understandable.

The first question is, will leaders pay attention to gender equality as they rebuild their business after COVID-19?

 

John Thompson:  I’ve got a few thoughts…  I think, the first is on a positive side we were looking at, I believe, a lot of disruption, a lot of disruption to come. At least in North America, a lot of larger organisations made a commitment to employees to hold on either terminating or driving much change, and their commitment aligns with things returning to normal.

It’s hard to define what that will be in these worlds, but what it is translating to is, as people are returning to work, companies are preparing, or they have already started to launch, what they will change. And that does come in the way of divesting certain parts of the organisation, trimming the fat, moving jobs to lower cost centres.

In the midst of this disruption, there’s going to be opportunity to place leaders.  Good leaders will fall aside, or be pushed out, or will retire. And we know that there’s an aspect of managed attrition and unmanaged attrition. Whenever there’s this degree of disruption, there’s a degree of unmanaged attrition.

We have good people that are leaving that no one wanted to leave. They must be replaced. And this is one opportunity, where I believe there is the “okay, because we need to fill this role, let’s go back to one of our priorities, which is gender diversity and look to make that happen”.

I think back to your question of are we seeing that it’s still a priority, or do they want this to happen as we recover? I think there’s another aspect too, of what’s in it for the corporate world? In other words, there are tangible benefits that companies realise for why they want to make this happen.

As we’re seeing companies being forced to make new strategic changes, I think they’re mixing in the “okay, if we’re going to do it, let’s rip off the band aid and we’re going to try to do it right”. Now again, I’m referencing, the companies that do have the wherewithal, and the ability to take a step back and recognise we may have a three to five-year period before we’re back to where we’d like, but we’re going to take the opportunity to rebuild.

There’s a subset of companies that fall into this category. And I think, again, they’re going to look at how do we rebuild for the future? And how do we do that with the spirit of longer-term economic growth?  From my limited knowledge, the gender aspect is key to this.  It may be an 8 to 10-year period for when you have gender actions and how long that might take to manifest for that new leader, who in this case is, we’re thinking about females at a leadership level, right?

How the trickle-down of the impact of that new leader, being a female, being in place to attract new talent or mentor, or bring other pieces along.  Again, I say 8 to 10 years, you may have better data, but making those bets now is very important.

And I think we’re seeing a number of companies taking this time as a moment to reset their strategic build. Now there is another set of organisations that I think are taking steps just to stay alive. And for those companies, I think they probably have a number of strategic initiatives that were on the docket, but they probably have come to a spirit of “how do we just keep food in people’s mouths as much as possible?”

And that’s going to come into the flavour of needing to balance how do we keep people employed and how do we continue to meet the objectives of our stakeholders, especially for a public company?  It’s not just about costs, but it’s going to manifest itself that way for companies that have a bad scenario.

I think for this other set of companies, I think we’re going to see where they have to drop the veil of many strategic initiatives and just go into the mode of self-perseverance. For those companies, I would imagine a world again, not until they can come back and strategically rebuild, will they have the opportunity to properly address gender issues.  Those companies are probably at greater risk. Will they even survive? Will they continue to go?

My last comment, I think in that scenario, we do see sometimes where leadership is distressed, where they are making decisions that are easier to criticise for the right reasons and are often made for maybe sometimes wrong reasons. It’s hard to predict how those will play, but I think we’ll see a number of casualties in that area.

 

Hilary Lamb: I think there are going to be a lot of organisations who are just going to try and retain the people that they have just to keep money flowing, keep their clients and their staff, as long as they possibly can.

But I guess the question for you is, what is the business case to strive for gender equality? And why do you think that’s a priority for some of the leaders?

 

John Thompson:  I have a simple rule that, or lens that I’ve used, and it’s one that our company uses as well. If I use the term, what’s in it for us, and I don’t mean to make it too pedantic, but I think there are a few things.  One, by having individuals with a different perspective, we get to a better 360-degree point of view, that especially in a world as a consulting firm, we’re trying to connect with our clients and help them determine where to go or what to do.

 

So, if we come forward without that full lens, then we’re not in the best position. Gender definitely plays a front row seat with that. That first dimension of how do we enable the best perspective, it is by having a balanced portfolio, or a balanced team, and that team needs to have leaders at all levels that can keep individuals engaged, motivated.

Again, I keep using the term ‘attract talent’. That’s a very big thing for us. In our sector specifically, and I think in many sectors.  Because there’s not a person in that company who looks like you or comes from a similar background, there’s a subconscious deterrent to go join that company.

The exact opposite applies when there is someone of that background, and you meet them and that “I came because you were here and I can associate with you”. So, we know that to be true and I’ve seen that firsthand many times, and we drink from that water cooler aggressively.

I think the second piece we see is, when we are working with our clients, and again in a consulting world we’re often connecting to help define our value, but we’re connecting with individuals.  By having the individual who is on our side, communicating with the buyer, and if that person again has similar characteristics or aspects that can connect, statistics tell us that human connection yields a better outcome. So again, if I say what’s in it for us, where there might be a woman leader who is a buyer, we find sometimes that they’re more comfortable to buy from another woman.

It’s certainly going to work with many others from our organisation, but sometimes that key relationship is better off to align where the comfort level would be. And in simplest of terms, it gives us a greater opportunity to increase our sales or client connect.

I think the third piece I would say, and again, this sounds a little simple, but it’s just the right thing to do. In other words, I think, we all do many things because it brings us some value, but I think when we take a step back, we know it’s right to have that full perspective.  We know its right to say “yes, you are just as capable as this person”.

We know when we look at certain statistics and we see them balance, we can take a step back and say, what are we doing wrong because we know this shouldn’t be the outcome?  But I don’t know that every other company looks at it in the same way.  I think in its simplest terms it just as equally applies to other dimensions of diversity. If my math is correct, we still have about a 50/50 gender split and I think this metric is more optical than others where somebody can enter the room and often survey, and it may be subconscious where they see an imbalance, or just by looking at a list of names on an email thread, and whether it’s a conscious or subconscious reaction, it is a reaction.

I guess to bring it back around. I do think that there’s a number of things of what’s in it for us. And I do think that, the leaders that I work with at my company, and at my prior company, and even with my clients, I truly believe based on the rhetoric and the dialogues that we’ve had they see it as important.

I’ll share another story. A lot of the work that we do is project based. We may have three, four or five individuals, or larger, that interact on maybe like a three-month term for a client. And as we are compiling individuals to serve on the team, we’re looking at a number of things; skill, background, perspective.  And as we’re going through what we call an ‘internal staffing process’, we are looking at do we have a gender balanced team? Do we have a diversity balance chain from other dimensions of diversity?  Now what we will do if we don’t have that, we will go back and say, why not?

One of the things that I love about this process is we may come back and say, we need bank engineers that understand credit modelling, and we can’t staff a gender balanced team right now, because everybody’s tied up.  We have just these three people here, and we need to support our client. Or we may come back and say, it actually turns out that the top three people right now are male and there are no other females that have that discipline.

Our outcome may be that we staff an all-male team, but the other outcome is we go to our recruiting team and say, we need to change this.  Like, action required, now!  So, it’s an observation point for us. If we can’t solve it in the near term for how we support our client to trigger a discussion with HR and recruiting to say, you should be looking at this, but we’re now seeing this problem manifest itself.  What are we doing to make that different? So, it opens up the opportunity for a new requisition or something else, which is also very powerful.

 

Hilary Lamb: You’ve either had a very clear lived experience or aware of the research, because your explanation of why you’re doing this is obviously very strong, very valid. One of the things that we’ve come across many times in the past, is that leaders tend to recruit in their own image.  I think you mentioned that to see diversity within a business, encourages talent to join your business.  But have you had a struggle within your business of your leaders and managers resisting the change that you’re trying to push through?

 

John Thompson:  Yes.  I’ll give you two examples and how we’ve looked at them. I would say I’m not sure we’ve solved it exactly.

The first example is on the external recruiting, and for example, a partner to come into Oliver Wyman would typically meet with eight to 10 other partners before we make a decision.  HR plays a very heavy role in coordinating that, reviewing messages, et cetera.  HR is helping with unconscious bias.  Just to make certain, that when we’re looking at a candidate, and let’s say it is a female candidate, and we’re going through things, if somebody comes back and says, we think they may be a little soft, it’s a red flag.  HR will have a discussion… “Are you saying that because the candidate is a female, or can you be more specific and why is that a problem? Is that maybe not an advantage?”

I use that one example, there are many, many others, right? We’ve gone through an intentional training exercise with all of those who recruit for the unconscious bias, and HR will review things to double click where there might be perceived that that’s occurring.

That’s one step we are taking, there are many others that we need to do. I think we’ve been upping our game as it relates to how do we attract leaders who are female and get them into the ranks.

As we’ve been looking at numbers, the number of candidates that apply on their own accord are much higher skewed to male. And so that’s an action we need to take differently. I’ll tell you, in my prior company at Accenture, they had, I think at one point they tripled the referral bonus for a diversity candidate.

It was maybe $10,000 for a partner, but $30,000 for a diversity partner. You’ve never seen so many people open their Rolodex, but it was so powerful.  Now, the company did not change their criteria for bringing it in, but what in that case was the problem was just simply identifying candidates with whom to speak.

So that was a fairly clever exercise that was very effective. The other example I’ll briefly share, when I was at Accenture, we were also looking at career progression. We were looking at that career point of moving into the partner rank, and by the way, Accenture, I think is actually very well ahead of many others.

 

They have a 50/50 target by 2025 and have made it a priority across the board. One of the aspects was exactly to our discussion, we need to promote the right balance so that it is continuing to attract the right talent and keep the right talent. So, there was a heavy push on “we need to move along in the commercial channels in the way that we intentionally began”.

Every year there was “this is the target we want to hit”, but the rhetoric I thought was very cleverly done.  What was stated was “this is our expectation, we don’t have enough female candidates, but we do expect 30% of all individuals that are promoted this year are female, but do not promote anybody unless they have the right skills”.

As we went through the process, HR came back and said “if you cannot meet our target objective, then again, we need to sit down with recruiting, we need to sit down with HR, and we need to talk about the recovery plan, so that next year we don’t have this conversation again”.

It puts the ownership back to the leadership team to say “if you can’t find 30% to promote, that means you are not doing your job to attract the candidates who are of the right nature”. And it worked very well. Everybody pivoted toward, we need to do the right things. For example, there were certain moments where there might be a leader who was at the brink of leaving, for all the right reasons. And it was, maybe we need to give a little bit more of an incentive for that person to stay than we normally would, because it was a diversity candidate, and this really puts us back. If I have to go to HR and tell them I don’t have a candidate to promote, that’s painful, I don’t want that.

It created a personal objective, so that on a day-to-day basis, we were taking actions that kept our annual processes a little bit more aligned.

 

Hilary Lamb: There’s an awful lot there that you’re obviously focused on with regards to gender equality. The ‘what’s in it for me’, giving you a bigger bonus, is I think something that’s very clever and obviously people will take action. It’s really hard to get people to make recommendations for candidates within an organisation, but making sure that they’re going to benefit from doing that is very smart. And it’s obviously worked well with you.

I recall reading something that Atlassian did as well. They changed the wording in their job advertisements to attract women; there are certain words that women are attracted to within an organisation.

Is there anything else specifically that you’ve put in place that you’re doing or planning to do in the business to ensure that focus remains on gender equality?

 

John Thompson:  Many companies may have this, but I believe we’ve done it in a different way. We’ve created a group, we call it “Women at Oliver Wyman, WOW.” And it is a group of women and allies, male allies that are focused on this topic, but it is much broader than how do we get our numbers where they need to be.

It includes things like work life balance, what’s important to individuals, and it has also a heavy social aspect to it and let’s have fun together. It includes programming different topics that may be unique to the “WOW” group, so a lot of those pieces are coming around balancing families. Obviously in our world, and I think in your part of the world as well, there’s still a heavy predominance where females are carrying much more of the burden of family life and the household activities.

So, a lot of the dialogue has pivoted consciously away from ‘we just need to get more women here’ and it is pivoted toward ‘how do we make this a really awesome place to be a female?’  One of the things that they’ve done stylistically is brought the awareness of individual females who they themselves have a unique story, or something that’s interesting going on at a more internally publicised level.

For example, highlighting where someone may have done something very interesting outside of work.  We all read these stories every day of where someone has achieved something that’s just remarkable, and it’s somewhat inspiring. Maybe enough to invoke you to do something, but we’ve done a very aggressive job of focusing on female leaders.

And through that process, we brought awareness of female leaders in other offices that we may not normally interact with.  It’s gotten really almost to a fun point where there’ll be posters around our office of other leaders, and you start to feel like you get to know these individuals without ever really working with them.

And they’re not necessarily the leader. We’re also picking the new 23-year-old that just joined our Berlin office. And as you read about what’s interesting to her, or how she may have certain aspects of what she does in her day-to-day job that are superlative, it builds this sense of… I think there’s a subconscious sense of wow!

Women are doing great things here and it’s a great place for women to be. And to me, it’s inspiring. I believe if I were a younger female, who was questioning if it’s the right environment, I believe it’s highly inspiring.

I’ll share, if you ever want to go look, I think this is so much fun.  For the International Women’s Day last year, they developed a campaign of “What is My Super Power?” and it was a cute way to come back and just describe what aspect that individual valued.  But they took images of different women at all levels of career and dressed them up like superheroes and let them tell the story in that way.

https://www.oliverwyman.com/our-culture/inclusion-diversity/women-at-oliver-wyman.html

The reason I share this detail with you, is it feels so much less about we need to get to our numbers. It feels so much more about we’re celebrating individuals, who by the way are females of all levels, and isn’t it amazing what they’re doing!

But the story isn’t about ‘as a woman I did this’, the story is about ‘as an individual at Oliver Wyman I did this’. It’s a neat way that they brought a lot of attention to how people can be successful, and they’re subconsciously bringing out how females are making a career at Oliver Wyman, a great place to work for themselves and for others.

 

Hilary Lamb: Yes, that’s a really interesting story, John, and I think it’s important to talk about the detail. They say it’s the micro behavioural changes that are sometimes the most significant. So, the off the cuff remark about, “token womanism” or some of the behaviours that in some places, men still have towards women, it’s those micro changes of behaviour that we need to focus on.

And I love the fact that you are promoting women, not as successful women, but as successful individuals, because there shouldn’t be any difference in the expectations of men or women when they’re in there to do a job. I guess some of the things that women need, women appreciate as being offered by organisations, things like flexibility that has been pushed on a lot of organisations during the COVID pandemic.

So, did you transition to homeworking during that period of time?  And if that’s something you think, because it’s something appreciated by women, that you’re going to retain as one of your future strategies.

 

John Thompson:  We pivoted very hard to work from home, and we proved it to ourselves that it was much more effective than we ever dreamed it could have been. If somebody came to us two years ago and said, “We want you to do an assessment, could it work?  How hard would it be to make it happen? What are all the risks?” The assessment would probably have come back fairly grim. By being forced to do it, we remarkably did it extremely well. I think a lot of companies did, and I think we all surprised ourselves.

I’ll tell you, as I’ve spoken with women colleagues, in many cases there’s still this default to where the woman has more household duty or family duty responsibilities. I would say, a number of females that I work with have mentioned this still exists.  “Because I’m now at home all the time that burden has exacerbated itself.” I would say, regretfully, many of the females that I work with, have shared even though they can do their job from home, they’re finding the demands of being mum, or wife, or cook, or cleaner, because everybody’s in the house more, and we’re all on top of each other, has added a new dimension of stress and challenge.  We’ve not solved that.  I think maybe a new frontier coming out of COVID, where even though companies may figure out a way to solve it, I do think as a society this has put a new stress for how people are going to need to balance that.

 

Hilary Lamb: That’s an interesting perspective. Normally you think of women wanting to have more flexibility, meaning remote working from home because of home responsibilities. We’re still seeing that women do probably twice as much work in the home as men do, but that’s an interesting perspective, “take me out of that environment and it’s actually better for me”.

With the family responsibilities, home responsibilities, aged care, we are hearing that a lot of women still appreciate that flexibility, whether it’s where you work, when you work, how you work, but also that puts pressure on line managers for managing deliverables.

Is that something that you’ve addressed? Is that something that your line managers are coping with well, or they’re struggling with?

 

John Thompson:  I’d say two things… We are addressing them as well as we can, we definitely have kept, I’d say, a very open dialogue around deliverables or things that need to be done. If there’s any problem now, or in the future, there’s flexibility to adjust.

So, our clients understand that we’ve set the tone across the board. I think one of the things we’ve observed, we’re seeing where the individuals may have a very operational role when they were in the office, they may have had access to a printer, maybe two oversized computer screens, maybe an assistant down the hallway, could physically do things in a much larger space, where that’s very hard to do at home without a printer, maybe one screen, not that same level of support.

What we have been finding is that people are having to do more transaction processing, and that has translated into approximately a 20% increase in the amount of time people are spending to get their job done. So, if somebody was typically doing an eight-hour day, they’re spending nine and a half hours a day to do the same work.

I think many of our clients are rapidly moving to figure out how do we improve processes? How do we digitise these items that before it was okay, was acceptable, now it’s not.  What our clients found was that their people were actually still getting the same throughput done, they were just working longer hours themselves, and it’s not sustainable.

Especially, in the case where one may be a caregiver and have many other obligations outside of a work day.  That’s an area that we have worked on ourselves. We’ve rolled out a lot of new tools, very rapidly, new support calls.  We have more people on the support line, so we can get these problems solved for you more quickly if they come up.

We’re going to continue to see this as a priority for companies, where they have a lot of people in operational roles that have been inconvenienced by the realities of working from home.

The last comment I’ll make here, I think Hilary, we did a survey and somewhere between 1.7 to 1.8 is the factor we see a woman being more likely impacted by COVID in their job, than a man. That could be lay off, or it could be in some cases driven by the fact of, ‘I was already at the brank and this is no longer sustainable.  I need to step away and prioritize the focus on my children, or I need to step away and focus on other family obligations’.

To me that’s sad, because I think it arose against the direction of what we’re doing. I have a few colleagues who, as a family sat down and said, our children are not going to go back to school this fall. And we need to provide more oversight. We need to be here for them.

And one of the parents seems to step down, and that’s happening to be more of the mother than the father. I think there, for many right reasons or wrong reasons, people are rebalancing life in general, but I think a lot of the casualty may be on the female side. So, to that in general is probably going to be a pushback as a relates to what we see in the workforce.

 

Hilary Lamb: We’ve seen that in Australia, that most of the research shows that it’s women who are resigning from positions, taking over the childcare or the aged care.

Do you know if you’ve lost more women than men during the last six months?

 

John Thompson:  I know that within our company, we’ve not terminated anyone. We have guaranteed job protection. I do get notifications of who’s leaving. It feels balanced, but I see the notifications for our geography. I don’t see it for the broader group. I will share, a number of people are also taking the opportunity to just re-examine life.

I’m sure we’re going to see a number of adjustments.  I fear more of them would be negative than positive toward the objective of what many companies are moving toward in gender equality.

 

Hilary Lamb: I was reading an article; it was an interview with Melinda Gates. She was saying that at this point in time, we should be demanding more from our leaders and the way to build back is to put women straight in the centre.

So, should we go further than gender equality? Should we prioritise women’s issues? It’s harder to separate work from home, especially as a lot of organisations are continuing to allow remote working. Childcare comes into it, homeworking comes into it.  As we rebuild organisations, and life in general, should we be focusing even harder on women’s needs and push that priority further up?

 

John Thompson:  Hilary, I think we should. I’ve not thought about it from that dimension, but as you speak, and I think about the rhetoric that we have internally. We have been compiling and working to take action, to embrace further this reality of work from home for many people to be the new normal. And I would say within our organisation, we’re examining what that means.

All of the challenges you listed are on the list. And I think to your point, they impact women and men differently.  I would anticipate more times than not the mother, in a traditional family, was often the one who probably was staying behind to care. I think we need to look at the new lens of what does that list look like in a work from home environment?

Already some of my colleagues say, I really want to eat lunch with my children, and I need to help them wrap up their school day, but then I’ll be back online. Then after dinner, I’ll come back online for an hour or two.

Putting it to different slots of the day where it allows for that better work life balance. We’re already doing that where somebody requests it on a desired basis. I think we’re going to see more of that come along where there’s definitely the willingness to decompose a traditional nine to five day and allow flexibility.

I think the Melinda comment is very wise on many fronts. Why would we wait to solve that? Why would we not take this moment of disruption? We know that billions will be spent by many organisations individually to solve this. Let’s put this to the top of the list, because as it relates to the equation of gender equality, it will have a large impact.

 

Hilary Lamb:  Yes, absolutely.  We at The 100% Project, we’re just completing some research called Breaking Dad.  What that means is a lot of instances, men would like to have more flexibility. They’d like to have more time with their families. So, focusing on some of these issues, which may appear to be female oriented, may in fact benefit fathers, the male workforce in general.  So other things may come out of this.

John, you seem as though Oliver Wyman and Accenture, previously, are really at the forefront of creating an environment, which is female friendly, or at least very diverse. Do you see yourself as a leader in the American culture, or is this something that you’re finding a lot of businesses are tending to focus on?

 

John Thompson:  I think we are a leader in the American culture. I believe we rank in a top 100 places to work for women. We’re rated on how far we’ve achieved and the things that we’ve instantiated. I do believe, however, going to the CEO of any major company that’s public, this is one of the top agenda items.

The question is how far they’ve gotten in their progress, and how much they’ve been able to architect. I had the opportunity to facilitate, about two and a half years ago, across organisation dialogue.  It was a few different companies, spearheaded by Accenture and a Japanese bank, and I was the facilitator on the topic of gender diversity.

The Japanese bank was very quick to state it is very different in North America than Japan, culturally. I think culture and company will all be on different timelines, but the larger companies that I speak with all appear to appreciate what ‘good’ looks like and that they’re moving at their own pace toward what that is.

The companies that have started to appreciate what’s in it for them, and what’s in it for their teams, I think have stepped up the pace. They see the tangible, a value to the bottom line. I think in summary, people know the concept is right. I think people are at different levels of awareness and different levels of achievement. I’m hoping that COVID brings a new opportunity, as Melinda Gates references, to say why would we not make this part of the build back strategy? It’s important.  It’s an opportunity we didn’t have before.

So, let’s take it.

 

Hilary Lamb:  Thank you so much for your time today, John. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation.

 

John Thompson:  Thank you.