Calling all White, Straight, Middle-Aged Men – How you can help!

04 Sep 11:00 by Clare Butler

At Laurence Simons, we champion the equality and diversity agenda. We care passionately about enabling positive change in lawyers’ career choices and ensuring our clients have the best talent in the market.  We want to help. So far, so clear.

However, a challenge we face is that the talent pool, particularly at the more senior end, can be homogeneous.  White.  Male.  (And most likely, because we do not ask or care, heterosexual).  Which got me thinking.  If we want to address the equality and diversity agenda, and setting aside the obvious requirement to look at educational and income blockers, then we need to engage men.  White, straight, middle-aged men.  So, this blog is aimed at you.  Yes, you, Mr. White-Straight-Middle-Aged Man. You who have as your birthright your white maleness, which gives an automatic privilege.  This is a call to action.  It will outline some facts and ask two questions.

In case you think that this blog is men-bashing, let me state my case:  I like men.  In fact, some I even love, excluding the obvious ones of The Fella and my blood relatives. I have male friends.  More than a handful. They are all good, honest, decent, caring, contributing members of society. They are good parents. Good husbands and partners. Good team players.  Undoubtedly excellent employees.  They are left- and right-leaning in their politics.  Some like football; some like rugby; some hate all sports.  Some are good cooks; others are not.  Some are dapper dressers; others take a more “dragged through a hedge backwards” approach.

Yet, in one aspect my (white, straight) male friends and family are all similar. They do not know how to help move the diversity and gender agenda forward.  It is not because they do not want to. [If they actively do not, that requires a different blog.] It is more insidious than that: they simply don’t think about it. It does not occur to most white, straight middle-aged men that they (you) are an essential component. In fact, it may just be that white, middle-aged men hold the keys to be the difference that makes the difference: to lead the diversity and gender agenda in their boardrooms.

Here are some facts and two questions:


1) FTSE 100 CEOs are almost all white and male.  All-white executive teams run 69 per cent of FTSE 100 companies.  (Forbes)

2) The typical age of a FTSE CEO is 55. (Forbes)

3) The more diverse the company, the better the profits.  (McKinsey & Co)

4) McKinsey examined over 1,000 companies across twelve countries and found that firms in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21 per cent more likely to enjoy above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.

5) Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity, meanwhile, are 33 per cent more likely to see higher-than-average profits than companies in the lowest quartile.

6) McKinsey’s research found that diversity has the most obvious impact on financial performance when it is found in executive teams and roles that are directly in charge of generating revenue.

7) The least diverse companies, in both gender and ethnic terms, are 29 per cent more likely to underperform in terms of profitability.

8) The definition of a feminist is: "An advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women". (OED)

9) Do you believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities?

10) If you answered yes – What are you doing about it?
Please think about this. Think about it. Think about it at home and at work.  At your children’s schools. When you are in a (board) room filled with (white, straight) men.  Who is asking the question? Are you asking the question? If no-one asks, there is no possibility for any answers.