Top male leaders lend voice to Women in Business economy campaign

WIB chief executive Roseann Kelly (seated) with John Healy. At back (from left) are David Gavaghan, Professor Patrick Johnston, Imelda McMillan, Sir Malcolm McKibbin and Ray Hutchinson

NETWORKING body Women in Business has recruited five key men in Northern Ireland's public and private sectors to accelerate a campaign for greater representation of women in the workplace.

The organisation - one of the biggest business groups in the north with more than 2,500 members, says its commitment to building a new economy in Northern Ireland is founded on a greater role for women in all areas of business.

“We are far past the point at which gender equality is viewed as a politically correct position to take by business leaders,” says WiB chairperson Imelda McMillan.

“Countless surveys conducted by respected US, European and British business organisations have provided concrete proof that businesses are more profitable and organisations more successful when they achieve a broad and diverse representation on their senior management teams.

“We have now enlisted the support of five top male business and organisational leaders to help us over the next 12 months deliver this crucial message to the policy community, investors and other leaders,” she says.

The five gender champions for 2017 include head of the NI Civil Service Sir Malcolm McKibben, Allstate NI managing director John Healy, CBI chairman David Gavaghan, Queen's University vice-chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, and Gilbert Ash managing director Ray Hutchinson.

The five have committed themselves to the task of championing the cause by addressing the issue whenever possible through their public engagements and via their business dealings. Ms McMillan says it was critical that men be enlisted to drive the message home.

“It may seem contradictory for a women's group to appoint a team of five men as gender champions, but if we accept that the barriers to greater gender equality lie traditionally with men, then the symbolism of the appointments reminds everyone of the need for us all to play our role in the pursuit for a stronger new economy,” she says.

“We are delighted that these men have joined us in this campaign and we look forward to reinforcing this team later this year with female champions.

“The key to this campaign for equality in business and the economy is for men and women to accept the need for change and to contribute towards that change by being active,” Ms McMillan added.

All five champions have stated their dedication to the cause and spoke at their inauguration in Belfast this week hosted by Allstate NI. This is what they said:

:: Malcolm McKibben - “The evidence from academics and practitioners is clear: greater diversity in organisations improves performance. The prize is worth pursuing relentlessly.”

:: John Healy - “It is widely acknowledged that organisations with a gender diverse workforce generate better ideas, better decision making and better business results. Northern Irish organisations need to be committed to the creation of an inclusive workplace at every level, this in turn will provide wider economic benefits for the whole region.”

:: David Gavaghan - “A happy society is one that seeks to be as inclusive as possible."

:: Prof Johnston - “We now live in a world where in Fortune's 2016 list of the 50 Greatest Leaders, 22 of them are women and four feature in the top 10. Women are excelling in leadership roles previously dominated by men and society is the better for it.”

:: Ray Hutchinson - “Research shows that a gender balanced workforce has a positive impact on productivity, innovation and creativity, all of which are vital to the success of any business. I am committed to playing my part when it comes to promoting equality across the Northern Ireland economy.”

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