#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?”

, , , , , ,

  • Teddybear

    What about helping young men from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their goals or are men-in-need persona non grata?

    Not all men are executive hot shots. Most of us struggle so why all women this and women that

    Cue the spleen from the Facebook virtue-signalling brigade

    Help both genders. Not just one

  • Msiegnaro

    Is there a need for these gimmicks in the workplace? Does Allstate have a reputation of discrimination based on gender? Workplaces should be about work and treating people fairly and not using gender for exploitation.

  • Teddybear

    We live in a world of hashtags and PR. Real work takes a back seat

  • AntrimGael

    This maybe applies more to the private sector then the public sector where women are probably now a majority. I have worked in offices were women were as sexist, racist, bigoted, sectarian, homophobic and backstabbing as any man. Anyone who has sat in canteens or been at a Christmas, leaving, social gatherings etc would confirm this.

  • Brian O’Neill

    The issue is IT is very male dominated. There is a massive shortage of IT staff so it makes sense to try to make the industry more appealing to women.

  • Name a female permanent secretary? None heading up NI departments at the moment.

  • Msiegnaro

    We’ve a female First Minister as well as a deputy and a female prime minister. Thank goodness Donald returned one for the boys.

  • Msiegnaro

    Financial services are dominated by females, should these industries be made more appealing to men?

  • Msiegnaro

    Agreed, no doubt at all that females are in general a bad lot. I have met some nice ones in my time but too few to mention.

  • lizmcneill

    Yes, the IT industry has a reputation for discrimination based on gender.

  • Msiegnaro

    Including Allstate?

  • AntrimGael

    A rather unfortunate turn of phrase you used there.

  • Msiegnaro

    How so?

  • AntrimGael

    Read the second sentence again and you will realise….. but I do believe you are trolling and know exactly what you wrote.

  • Msiegnaro

    Not trolling, just giving an honest opinion.

  • AntrimGael

    A correction of the written narrative has occurred. Big Brother (Mick) is on the prowl.

  • Msiegnaro

    So I have to conform to populist, far left feminist beliefs to remain uncensored on Slugger?

  • Noting the comments, this not about making the workplace more appealing to women, it is simply about raising awareness, and then enabling employers and leaders to address and correct the REAL issues that exist for some women in some workplaces: sexism (directed to and by both men and women) and its results – inequality of opportunity, inequal pay, unfair treatment, illegal treatment. All workplaces should be free of such, but they are not. And, if you had attended the event (men were specifically made welcome too, as many feel these are women-only events), you would have heard that sexism in all its forms is being addressed – but this initiative has a focus on women, simply because so many women experience unfair treatment at work in a way that men do not in such great numbers. If you have never experienced this, please listen to those who have, then make up your mind, and consider whether you can assist to make the workplace welcoming and fair to all.

  • file

    Agreed. But also, have you been to a primary school recently? Male teachers in primary schools are as rare as hen’s teeth. This absence of male role models in formative years is very detrimental to society and may be a factor in the large number of young male suicides. There needs to be a campaign to get males back teaching in primary schools. Maybe a Patten 50-50 type recruitment plan?

  • Reader

    I hadn’t realised, but now that I look around the office – Manager (f), Business Analyst (f), Project manager (f), Grunts (7*m)
    It’s all clear now.

  • Cináed mac Artri

    I believe that most males don’t think too much about the issue of gender equality, and, if much of the commentary on this thread is anything to go by, when some males do think about gender equality they concentrate on an exclusively male perspective.

    In the same vein the majority of straight people don’t think too much about sexual orientation equality, or many white people don’t worry much about racism.

  • lizmcneill

    Looks like women are being pushed out of the more technical roles in your office. How about your senior devs or architects?

  • AntrimGael

    Wouldn’t disagree with any of that. I have worked for over 25 years and find the current workplace atmosphere just horrible and that goes for both sexes. People are in fear for their jobs and they are putting up with a lot of totally unacceptable behaviour from colleagues but especially management. The LEAN initiative is very positive and welcome but I also think that bullying, harassment and victimisation is as big a problem as gender inequality. I have seen men reduced to physical wrecks within the workplace because of the way they are treated by managers of both sexes.

  • correction?

  • AntrimGael, I totally agree. I run a communication consultancy, providing among other things learning content for the workplace. The number one request (very simply put) is communication training to enable people to get on better. The situation is so bad in some workplaces, we’ve had employees coming to us and paying for coaching out of their own pocket, to help them cope with shocking bullying of all varieties. Empowering people to: report to law enforcement (yes, it’s sometimes that bad), leave or report and stand up to it (not always the most mentally healthy option). The dreadful thing is that not everyone has the confidence or resources to do this.

  • Reader

    lizmcneill: Looks like women are being pushed out of the more technical roles in your office.
    Squeezed out into the higher paying roles? The Patriarchy is clearly as flexible and cunning as it is sluggish and stupid.
    (Senior devs are still grunts and not paid nearly as much as our PM)

  • lizmcneill

    If your company is too small to have a technical career track, it’s probably too small a sample size to draw any conclusions about the industry as a whole.