London Mayor launches initiative to address the lack of women leaders

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today launched a bold new plan to tackle the lack of women leaders. 

The initiative, called ‘Our Time: Supporting Future Leaders’, is the first and largest-scale programme of its kind to be adopted in the public sector. The new scheme will take crucial action to address the gender imbalance in leadership roles, and bridge the gender pay gap.

‘Our Time’ will work through pairing high-potential women with senior staff champions (men and women) who will help to open up the professional networks, opportunities and contacts often needed to progress within workplaces.

Research shows that positions of power in every sector of society are dominated by men. Currently women make up just 7 FTSE 100 CEOs, none of whom are BAME, only 32 per cent of council chief executive positions, 26 per cent of cabinet positions, and 28 per cent of charity CEOs1.

Women still face cultural and social barriers to career progression, including a lack of formal support or organisational policies to help them progress and to tackle harmful attitudes and gender stereotyping.

Traditional approaches, such as mentoring schemes, whilst valuable and widely used, are not working to remove the gender pay gap or help women into senior positions.

The ‘Our Time’ initiative will help break down these barriers by providing high-potential women a more structured way of accessing the networks, contacts and opportunities often needed to achieve leadership roles. 

City Hall has taken inspiration from successful schemes run in the private sector, by businesses such as Sky and Mastercard, which have had a proven impact supporting women into leadership positions. In addition, this approach is effective in supporting women from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, who can face additional barriers in the way of career progression. 

’Our Time’ is part of the Mayor’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, which celebrates progress made by women over the past 100 years, since the introduction of the Representation of the People’s Act 1918, which gave some women the right to vote. His campaign aims to drive gender equality across the capital. The campaign included the recent unveiling of the first statue of a woman – Suffragist Millicent Fawcett – in Parliament Square.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It is shameful that in 2018 women remain under-represented at all levels of government and leadership roles. As a proud feminist, I want London to be a shining light in the fight for gender equality. This is why we are launching ‘Our Time’ to support more women into leadership positions in the capital. I am pleased that we are showing the way, launching the first and biggest initiative like this in the public sector. 

“But today is about more than just the action we are taking here –  all of us must tackle inequality wherever we see it. I want to encourage all industries across the capital to commit to addressing the shocking imbalance we still see in positions of power today through adopting ‘Our Time’. 

“This year marks 100 years since the first women secured the right to vote, and through our #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, we are celebrating the success of women in our great city, but also taking bold action to remove the barriers to women’s success, to unlock their full potential.”  

The GLA, MOPCAC, Transport for London (TfL), The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) have all committed to adopting the Mayor’s scheme, and supporting more women into leadership roles, making this the largest public sector workforce to be engaged in an initiative like this. Following the Mayor’s call for other organisations across the capital to sign up to the initiative, Waltham Forest Council and Lambeth Council are the first to sign up to ‘Our Time’ and Westfield is leading the way for the private sector in London, also pledging to introduce the ‘Our Time’ initiative.  

In order to enable other public-sector organisations to adopt a similar scheme, a toolkit will be developed by City Hall to give guidance to other organisations, and support them to challenge the gender imbalance in leadership roles. This toolkit will be available from the GLA later in the year.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: “I am committed to tackling barriers and encouraging women to become professional firefighters –  a role which offers fantastic career progression opportunities.  The Brigade is working hard to truly reflect the city that we serve and that means more women firefighters and more applicants from London’s diverse communities and cultures. ‘Our Time’ will work in a similar way, as increasing the diversity of leaders across all industries will inspire others to follow in their footsteps which will strengthen leadership teams and in turn London.  I want women in the workforce today to be confident that there are absolutely no real barriers to professional success and leadership based on gender.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive: “We welcome this initiative. Fawcett’s Sex and Power report showed that in 2018 every sector of politics and public life, including the top of UK business, is dominated by men.  Equality won’t happen on its own. That can only change if we take proactive steps to change it.”

Karen Blackett, OBE, UK Country Manager, WPP, said: “Greater diversity, inclusion and gender balance leads to more successful and rewarding workplaces. Creating a network of cheerleaders, and having work place sponsors, is central to achieving these aims.”

Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “We’re proud to be supporting the launch of ‘Our Time’. We aim to maximise the full potential and talent of our diverse workforce, seeing talented women progress within our industry. By working with a senior manager to help their success, I hope that more women will be able to progress their careers with us.  At TfL, we need to be representative of the city that we serve; research shows that having a diverse workforce brings innovation and creativity. Supporting ‘Our Time’ reinforces our aim that gender should never be a barrier to progress.”

Waltham Forest Council Leader, Clare Coghill, said: “Supporting more women into senior roles will not only make our institutions and businesses more representative of London but also improve the products and services they deliver. I am happy to pledge Waltham Forest Council’s support and hope that many more organisations will sign up to make this a catalyst to improve representation and eradicate the gender pay gap.”

Councillor Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth Council, said: “The Mayor’s Our Time is a great initiative to get women into more senior positions in public sector organisations across London. I am proud that Lambeth has a reduced its gender pay gap over the past year and has increased its representation of women in the senior management team. But there is more for us to do to improve gender equality in our organisation and we are happy to look at incorporating the Mayor’s initiative into our organisation.”

Una O’Reilly, Director Human Resources, Westfield Europe said: “Westfield is committed to help reduce the gender pay gap and improve diversity within our business, industry and community. A number of positive initiatives are in place including a grass roots STEM schools programme to help change mindsets and attitudes towards careers and attract more women into our industry. Congratulations to the Mayor of London for developing ‘Our Time’. Westfield is committed to introducing the programme to support our existing diversity and inclusion strategies to deliver long-term change and make this an issue of the past for future generations.”

Chris Stylianou, UK Chief Operating Officer and Executive sponsor of Women in Leadership, Sky, commented: “Fairness and equality are values that sit at the heart of Sky and that means making sure we’re creating as many opportunities as possible for our female talent. We’ve already seen great progress through our Women in Leadership programme, with the number of women in senior roles increasing to just under 40% and we have an ambitious target in place to increase that to 50% by 2020. This is about creating a business where women are fairly represented throughout and although there is some work to do, we are making great progress and we have some fantastic programmes in place to help us get there.”

The Mayor has published two gender pay audits now at City Hall, sharing the data for 2016 and 2017. Since publishing gender pay gap data in 2016, City Hall has put in place a number of measures to promote training and promotional opportunities for women. These include ensuring all interview panels are gender diverse, promoting flexible working and offering access to external mentors for women at senior level.

TfL is also introducing measures, including a specific performance target to reduce the gender pay gap each year, anonymous job applications and a new development programme for groups under-represented in senior roles.


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