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2018 has been a big year for gender equality.

So much has happened that has shed light on the importance of the women’s movement: the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage; revelations about the BBC gender pay gap; the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the Time’s Up campaign.

It feels like a tipping point on the road to equality. So it’s a fantastic moment for us at Fujitsu to find out that our organisation has been named a Times Top 50 Employer for Women.

This is an outstanding achievement, which reflects all the hard work that’s been put in by Fujitsu colleagues to create change over the past few years.

And the cherry on the cake of all this success is that I have received the Gender Champion Award from Business in the Community.

It’s a great honour to receive this award. It means a huge amount to me to be recognised for improving things for women in the workplace, because it’s an incredibly complex challenge that we must solve.

I’m proud to be a Gender Champion – and in this blog post, I’ll tell you why.

Starting with a new perspective

I joined Fujitsu four years ago because it had a reputation for being an organisation with strong values. I knew that they believed in putting people first, and this is something that I saw from the moment I arrived.

But I also saw something that disappointed me. There was a culture of very male behaviour, with a lot of macho language and bravado, and not a lot of recognition of the importance of family life – flexible working wasn’t really a normal policy then.

I don’t like this kind of environment because it’s not good for business. It doesn’t get the best out of everybody. If we’re not tapping into the potential in every one of us, we’re missing out!

This was brought home for me in 2014 when I was getting ready for an account review with one of our customers. Most of our customers were male, and my male Fujitsu colleagues found it easy to connect with them. But they completely missed one of our female clients – who happened to be one of our main contacts.

I realised that we had failed to develop a proper relationship with this particular client, so I invited her to co-present the account review with me.

This was a first in Fujitsu history. An account review had never been presented jointly with a customer before – and, more importantly, never had two women collaborated to give the review to the all-male board.

At the time it felt like the natural thing for me to do. It made sense for me to bring our customer’s opinions on board, especially as we were in danger of missing them. It really spoke to our organisation’s values of co-creation and human-centric innovation.

In bringing a fresh perspective to the account review I think I sparked an idea in the CEO and the executive team. They asked me to start looking into gender equality projects at Fujitsu. This kick-started my journey to fight for inclusion in our business – and I’ve never looked back!

The Times Top 50 Awards

Building a movement with relatable role models

Even though we’ve only being going for a short while, we’ve achieved a lot.

I think this is because we’re trying as many different things as possible. The diversity challenge isn’t a one-sided problem, so we have to come at it from more than one direction.

I’m proud of every single initiative we’ve launched in the name of gender equality, but there are a few things that really stand out. They are:

  • Building a fairer recruitment system – We’ve made significant changes to the recruitment process, so now job descriptions are written to be gender neutral and recruiters have undertaken unconscious bias training. This has led to an increase in the number of women hired into the organisation: 18% of new employees in 2016 were women, which rose to 43% this year. Bringing more female talent into our organisation, and the tech industry more widely, is one of the biggest moves we can make to tackle gender inequality.
  • Re-shaping work/life balance – As a working mother, I know first-hand how important it is to support people who need to adapt their working practices to family commitments. We’ve driven an increase in flexible working so that it’s now the default for all roles, which has inspired three times as many women to apply to work at Fujitsu this year. And it’s benefitted our male colleagues too – we should remember that there are just as many men who balance work with taking care of children or other family members.
  • Calling out the pay gap – We commissioned a gender pay gap report, which we distributed to 500 stakeholders. It was difficult to confront the inequalities in our organisation, but transparency will help hold us accountable as we strive for a year-on-year reduction in the gap. I’m proud that Fujitsu was the first large tech company to publish this kind of report. It shows that we really are leading the field in making the tech industry a fairer place for women to work.

And there’s also my very favourite initiative: the role model programme. We created a list of 100 Fujitsu role models, at all stages of their careers and from all walks of life. We used these role models on our website and in all our D&I literature.

I love these role models so much because they’re authentic and accessible. I think this means they’ll really inspire people.

For a long time we’ve been given role models who are impossible figures. You can’t look up to superwoman; someone who’s a CEO before she’s 30 and has 4 children and runs marathons. You need to be able to feel like an example is achievable – if you do, you’re much more likely to take the lesson on board and be motivated by it!

This also reflects the way I am as a leader. I’m not a manager; I’m not directly in charge of anybody. And yet I’ve still been named Gender Champion, because I’ve used the power of persuasion and the momentum of the movement to drive change.

For me this gets to the essence of the equality movement at Fujitsu. It’s not about high-powered people making big changes; it’s about inspiring everybody to play their part at a grass roots level.

This is why we’ve seen so much real improvement in such a short space of time: everyone is buying into it, because it’s clear that everyone has a role to fill.

Laying the foundations for the future

I’m passionate about making the working world a better place for women due to my own background. As a working-class woman I know how important it is for everyone to have access to the right opportunities.

Another part of my inspiration comes from the women of the Suffragette movement. In 1919 Emmeline Pankhurst gave a famous speech where she announced ‘freedom or death’ for the movement – and I really relate to that, because being a gender champion has nearly killed me!

Going through the award process alone was tough. There were lots of stages to the application, but the last stage was the most terrifying, as I had to go for an interview in front of a panel of 7 diversity and inclusion experts.

I vividly remember the moment when I got the news that I had won the award. I was with my little girl at her school play. Ultimately my children are my greatest inspiration – I want to make things better for her daughter’s generation – so it was wonderful to be with her when I found out I was being made Gender Champion of the year!

And of course it meant a huge amount to all the people at Fujitsu that have worked so hard to build a fairer organisation, one that is deservedly among the Top 50 employers for women. This award is just as much about their achievement – they’re the real champions in my eyes.

Equality is good business sense

Finally, I’d like to point out that a more diverse workforce is better for business. Having a team with different perspectives empowers us to create more exciting and interesting things, and it means that we can all perform at our best.

This idea is at the core of everything Fujitsu do, and I think that our success this year is proof of the principle in action.

This year I was named Gender Champion – and I also won the Global President’s award too! I think this proves that it’s possible to create change and perform at the highest level in business. The two go hand-in-hand, because a fair business engages everyone’s full potential.

An organisation of gender champions

I’m incredibly proud of the change I have seen at Fujitsu in the past few years. The Times Top 50 recognition is proof of how far things have come – and how far we will go in future.

And the thing I am most proud of is that it is everybody’s movement. It would be impossible to be a gender champion in an organisation that was unsupportive – and I’m so grateful to everyone who rallied together to make it happen.

I believe that it’s all about the power of the people. This was true for the Suffragettes and it is true of women today. Without the people at Fujitsu, this great recognition wouldn’t have happened. We are an organisation of gender champions.

 

 

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