A Male Ally’s Role In Promoting Gender Equality in the Workplace

In order to press forward it is important that male allies actively strive to take action for gender equality in the workplace, and Mark is playing an important role in driving these changes. He has been appointed as an Executive Sponsor for Gender Diversity in the UK, along with his colleague Deborah Threadgold.

In celebration of International Women’s Day in the month of March, we interviewed Mark Chegwidden, the Director of Cloud Learning and Skills Development. Mark has always felt very strongly about equality and equitability, and has actively driven initiatives to improve inclusion. In this interview, Mark tells us all about his new responsibilities as Executive Sponsor for Gender Diversity and shares his thoughts about women’s progress.

With Mark Chegwidden

mark chegwidden work photo Jan 2015

Tell us about your role of Executive Sponsor for Gender Diversity in IBM UK?
Before anything else, I’d like to say how proud I am to have been asked to take on this important responsibility for the company alongside Deborah Threadgold. It is the first time that IBM UK has had a woman and a man working side by side to further our progress around gender diversity.

Although this appointment is relatively new, I have been actively engaged in many aspects of diversity for several years now. Until recently, I was the Executive Sponsor for the UK Diversity Council and have run several gender related initiatives for the IBM UK & Ireland Technical Leadership Team. The most recent of these was the development of a two-day workshop focused on helping technical women further their careers within IBM.

I believe it is crucial to build on the great work that IBM already does in this area (as recognized by recent awards such as the Catalyst Award for Advancing Women in Business) and continue to promote actions and activities which create a fully inclusive working environment.

A key part of my role is encouraging men across the company to join the discussion and helping them understand the advantages of gender diversity and equality, and how they can be a part of the change.

In your opinion why is the involvement of all employees, not just our female, crucial to the advancement of gender diversity?
Well, firstly because it is the right thing to do! After all, it is 2018! I think anyone who has an innate sense of fairness and equitability would agree that it is something we should all see as important.

Secondly, if you stop and think about how to drive any form of change, it is much more effective if the majority is behind it. Right now, the majority of the employees in most tech organisations are men and if they actively engage with women in this topic, change will happen faster. Even relatively small actions can make a significant difference to creating and maintaining an inclusive working environment, such as being aware of your unconscious biases and acting on them, ensuring that you are including everyone in team discussions and events, speaking up where you see inequality in action and so on.

The United Nations Women’s Council has a campaign called #HeforShe. I would urge everyone to take a look at it and to sign their online pledge. I have a small workgroup in place who are looking at how we can best utilise the ideas and materials available through this initiative within IBM.

What does IBM do to support Gender Diversity and what are the focus areas for 2018?
The senior leadership within the company takes this topic very seriously and the commitment to drive change starts from the very top. The Council consists of leaders from each of the Lines of Business in addition to representatives from HR and the Executive Sponsors of the Business Resource Groups; Gender, LGBT+, BAME and PwD. The Council sets the overall strategy for Inclusion ensuring that it meets corporate goals, business priorities and the needs of each Line of Business.

There are a large number of programmes and initiatives that IBM runs in the UK to progress gender diversity – certainly too many to list them all here! Some key examples include:

  • Unleashing Your Leadership Potential
  • Elevate – a programme for Top Talent Women
  • Developing Your Technical Career course
  • Advanced Technical Eminence programme
  • Women in Technology Interconnects

There are also some very active communities within the UK organization such as Connecting Women, Women in Technology, Technical Consulting Group, and the Technical Managers Group which have subsections focused on this topic.

In 2018, our focus will continue to be on inclusivity – ensuring that everyone feels valued and respected and has access to the same opportunities regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation etc. My personal priority for now in this role is to connect with more men in the company and enlist their commitment.

What does progress mean for you?
In this context, I view progress as seeing more women working at IBM especially in senior and technical roles. I believe that this will drive a more inclusive environment for all of us – both women and men.

Mark Chegwidden is currently the Director of Cloud Learning and Skills Development with responsibility for producing internal enablement and external education content across the whole Cloud portfolio. He has been with IBM for just over 20 years now having joined at the time of the Tivoli acquisition. Throughout his tenure he has held a number of leadership positions primarily running professional services businesses.

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