Three lessons in gender equality from Deloitte, Virgin Money and Harvey Nash

24 May 2018 -

Gender equalityTransparent gender pay gap reporting and work-life balance strategies are some of the ways to tackle gender inequality at work

Sexism still exists in the workplace. Companies still treat men and women differently and in many organisations, there remains a gap between rhetoric and reality, with female managers continuing to experience everyday bias.

The story was revealed by the Blueprint for Balance – a groundbreaking report from the CMI into the negative behaviours – or ‘broken windows’ that are contributing to discrimination. It also identified companies that are taking great strides towards gender equality.

Here, CMI Insights shares tactics from Deloitte, Virgin Money and Harvey Nash that you should employ now.



When an individual leaves a team at short notice, middle managers can face a problem: find a quick replacement versus taking the time to pursue balanced recruitment. According to Rachael Hanley-Browne, head of leadership consulting at executive search firm Harvey Nash, balanced recruitment can take up to two to four weeks longer than traditional recruitment.

Harvey Nash is the only recruitment business to have earned National Equality Standard accreditation based on its efforts at meeting client demands for more diverse shortlists and contractors, particularly in the STEM space. “Our recruitment consultants are asking themselves if they are challenging clients to push them for the ‘real’ criteria for the role, if they are using fair processes in selection versus just looking for the ‘typical’ candidate,” says Hanley-Browne.

When recruiting for its own organisation, Harvey Nash applies the same best practice for gender balance as it does with its clients, resulting in a diverse team, not only in terms of gender, but also age, race and ability. The firm follows a robust and fair recruitment process that relies on gender-neutral language in job descriptions, gender-balanced short-lists, and having candidates meet several team members to ensure there is a broad range of feedback on a candidate’s fit.

“We measure the gender balance on all of our internal searches,” says Hanley- Browne. “We look at how many women we’ve interviewed and appointed and discuss this internally at team meetings. We look for non-traditional evidence of competencies, such as experiences as a governor or finance committee member at a school.”


In June 2017 Virgin Money reported a mean pay gap of 32.5% – a gap that had come down from 36% the year before. It’s working to close the gap with an approach that includes helping managers across the business understand the impact of their pay decisions.

Virgin Money enhanced its management decision-making tools, so that when line managers are considering allocating pay rises and bonuses, they have “real time data” and can immediately see the impact of their decisions on their gender pay gap. This visibility is helping managers become aware of any unconscious bias in decisions on pay, and it’s backed by transparency with employees, all of whom receive individualised letters about their pay, including their position within the market benchmark for their role.

Not only do line managers benefit from this insight but the tool rolls up to the top executive levels. “I review the break down at the executive committee level with the CEO,” said Matt Elliott, people director at Virgin Money. “As a result of our approach we look at every grade level and person to ensure fairness, so there is a lot of transparency...”

Find out more: The gender pay gap statistics are revealed – and more companies could be forced to reveal all


Generating a better work-life balance for employees and fostering a more family- friendly culture are of course not only benefits for women – they can benefit men just as much. Yet for some organisations there is clear evidence that men seem more reluctant to ask for flexible working than their female counterparts.

“We found that if you mentioned flexible working to many male colleagues, they connected it with women on maternity leave and notions of rigid schedules with slow career progression,” says Emma Codd, Managing Partner for Talent at Deloitte UK. “So Deloitte repositioned it as ‘Agile Working’, emphasising the positives.”

Deloitte’s agile working approach is based on three principles: open and honest communication, trust and respect, and judging only on output. When rolling it out, Emma was convinced about the importance of finding male role models. The firm focused on being clear that success was an arrangement that worked for both the individual and the firm; they also worked hard to find options that were appealing to their people and also fitted with their business model.

They found that communication was key – “We ran a firmwide campaign where we filmed men leaving early or working from home with a sign that read #agileme... this is what I’m doing,” she says. This helped to reduce any flexibility stigma.

In addition, ‘Time Out’ is a four-week block of unpaid extra leave that can be requested by any eligible employee each financial year.

The policy was designed to recognise that people are balancing commitments and interests outside of work, alongside demanding careers. “Time Out can be used for any number of reasons,” says Clare Rowe, Deloitte’s culture and inclusion lead. These could include: to spend time with family and friends; settle children into school; travel; volunteering; learn something new; or simply catching up with life. Importantly though, no reason needs to be given when employees request a Time Out.

A Time Out request is easy to make via an online form, and can be taken by anyone with more than a year’s service – but key to its success is that it must be taken at a time that suits both the employee and the business.

Read more: flexible working could be the key to fixing the diversity gap

Find out more about the Blueprint for Balance and sign up to join CMI Women to be part of the campaign to help managers eliminate ‘broken windows’ behaviours and establish gender equality at work

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