By Ian Howse
Ian Howse, senior partner for Deloitte in Wales, talks about a gender equal mindset and how it can enable people to reach their full potential.
When asked what I would #ChoosetoChallenge for International Women’s Day, my mind immediately jumped to a gender equal mindset as a transgressive and fairer society is important to me. When I pledge to champion diversity and inspire colleagues and future generations, there is also a need for me to not only maintain a gender equal mindset but also challenge others’ thinking on gender equality.
From the outset, our mindsets are influenced by our early influences, traditions and attitudes that we encounter in our lives. It’s only when we branch out, learn and experience more of the world do we understand that society is far more diverse. It’s important to challenge our thinking and ourselves to embrace that diversity and be able to champion equality in all things, discarding stereotypes that aren’t a true reflection of the world we live in today.
I grew up in the Welsh Valleys of the 1970s where there really wasn’t a lot of racial diversity. It wasn’t until I went to university that I started to see and enjoy the richness of a diverse environment and what that brought to my own ideas of the world I wanted to live in.
After I graduated, I started working at the Audit Commission and I was fortunate to work for an inspirational female leader, Janet Jones. Janet had been successful in a male dominated world by being herself, maintaining high standards and demanding them of those around her and, most importantly, by nurturing talent. Her care for the wellbeing of her staff was truly ahead of its time.
Since then I work, and have worked with, some other inspirational females who are also driving change such as our Commissioners past and present: Sally Holland; Ruth Marks; Sarah Rochira, and Helena Herklots. These female leaders have driven a rights-based approach to legislation protecting our children and our older people.
I think role models are very important, not just for me when I started my career, but for life in general. Whatever age you are, anyone can find traits in others they aspire to emulate. But does everyone have access to role models? The encouragement to aspire? Or the self-belief that you’ll reach your goals?
There are some communities where gender stereotypes still exist, especially when it comes to youngsters exploring potential careers or professions. Such young people sometimes find it challenging to find role models or the self-belief that they won’t be limited by gender-bias or so-called male or female dominated professions, or bias in other forms. I’d like to encourage them to believe that gender equality exists in all things and that any young person has the potential to become the individual in their family that breaks out of the mould and carves out their own pathway.
A gender equal mindset is freeing. An individual won’t self-limit their ambitions which in turn means there is no limit to what they can achieve. Ideally, this will result in balancing the scales for future generations where currently we sometimes still see fewer women or BAME individuals in senior positions, which shouldn’t be the case even in 2021.
I’ve always been a firm believer in diversity, that bringing all sorts of people together with different perspectives, skills and strengths will lead to new ideas and innovations. With diversity and inclusion so important for society to progress, no one should have a need to ‘prove’ in 2021 they are right for a role in terms of gender, only that they have the right skills to be the right person for the job, or the potential to be.
When speaking at an International Men’s Day event for our people in November, this is something I iterated then, and something I will say again for International Women’s Day: when it comes to gender, race, sexuality, gender identity, religious beliefs or socio-economic background – individuality matters, but does not signify or influence in any shape or form who is the right person for the job.
For many years I have guided and mentored young talent to help them achieve their true aspirations. My role as a leader is to encourage a gender equal mindset, facilitate an open-mindedness in all and advocate the celebration of difference. I will challenge inequality at every turn, whether this be gender or race or culture. I also want to make people aware of unconscious bias and, when needed, educate others on the benefits of embracing diversity as the world should be a fair place.
Wales is on a journey to protect future generations, and this has been enacted in law through the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act of 2015, which is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. One of the goals is a more equal Wales, and I fully support a society that enables people to fulfil their potential no matter what their background or circumstances.
The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, has been named one of the UK’s leading changemakers. In my view, she is not only safeguarding the interests of future generations in Wales and their well-being, but inspiring young people to have the self-belief and confidence to challenge what is right.
I #ChoosetoChallenge a gender equal mindset, and within that, challenge self-limiting beliefs because if those beliefs are not discarded, then how can future generations learn to realise their true potential?