#ALLtogetherNI gender equality in workplace programme launched today at Allstate

“To me, gender equality is simply common sense. Each of us has the right to celebrate our individuality, and go to work feeling confident that our individuality is not discriminated against.”

Angela Byrne was talking today at the launch of the ALLtogetherNI partnership. She’s a senior manager at Allstate, Northern Ireland’s largest IT employer, and also chairs the company’s Women in Technology NI network. Allstate are partnering with Lean In Belfast to address the issue of gender imbalance in workplaces across Northern Ireland.

Nuala Murphy founded Lean In Belfast, the local volunteer-run chapter of the non-profit created by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The group grew from a “small network of peers from all walks of professional life” to over 100 members by the end of its first year.

The chartered marketer describes Lean In as being “about empowering women to achieve their ambitions” and helps run public awareness campaigns, education as well as supporting circles (small supportive peer groups).

“… we campaign for gender equality because we know that women are an untapped resource that every industry are missing out on.”

But breaking down gender stereotypes isn’t a female-only pursuit. The ALLtogetherNI programmes of mentoring and workplace allies seek to involve everyone.

“We want to engage men in the conversation because this is not a women’s issue. Gender equality is as much a men’s issue as a women’s issue.

“Research tells us that with more diverse teams, they are more productive and successful. Companies that have more females on their board outperform those that don’t. It’s not only good for business but it’s good for society as a whole.

“Lean In Belfast is open to everyone at all stages of their professional career who believe in equality of opportunity for both men and women and want to work towards a more equal world for everyone to enjoy.”

Angela commented that “the struggle to achieve [diversity] is both very current and very challenging”.

Her own technology industry is “still witnessing a huge imbalance in the male to female employee ratio whereby female representation decreases as the level of seniority increases”. Angela also highlighted the decline in females entering the technology field – something she’d like to reverse.

“Very recent statistics from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills state that just 27% of those employed in Britain’s digital industries are women. Coupled with a decline in females taking Computer Science degrees in the last ten years, we have to question why?

“Today’s investment in the local community is part of Allstate’s corporate social responsibility, building on existing work with primary schools to introduce coding, careers advice around IT for secondary schools and training to upskill teachers to modern digital practices and build their confidence.”

She finished saying:

“Men play such an important role in being champions for women who want to advance. Gender equality is not about making women behave more like corporate suited men, and neither is it about telling men to get in touch with their feminine side. It’s about enabling everyone to bring their true selves to the workplace including different perspectives, experiences and skills.”

Allstate’s NI managing director John Healy finished the event, recognising the buzz and energy amongst the sandwich eating internal and external audience before the formal part of the launch started.

He referred to graffiti on the Donegall Road: “If women’s ambition is for equality with men, they lack ambition!”

“It’s for us as men to play our active part in term of embracing this agenda … It’s for us as companies to play our part … looking around the room at the number of companies [attending] gives be great heart. We should not be waiting until we are mandated … we shouldn’t be waiting to be told what to do, we should be proactive and thinking how do we make the workplaces of the twenty first century be the kind of places that we want our daughters to build their careers in?”

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.

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