Listening To Her Posted on | LinkedIn

I’ve been in the professional world for over 30 years and I’ve seen colleagues rise through the ranks, sometimes to my delight and a few others to my dismay. I’ve seen discrimination, sexism and unconscious bias derail a women’s career, but until now I didn’t have a plan as to how to support women’s efforts to make a real difference in favor of equality and female representation.

I want to thank the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and all the brave women who have shined a light on our collective complacency. During my first years of professional experience, I thought I was gender neutral, but in reality, I wasn’t aware that being neutralfor professional men, actually equates to being “machista”. I’ve grown and changed from this phase and have become very conscience. Today, more than ever, I empathize with women, I value the power of their intelligence and in depth thinking and I am more than willing to do the work to achieve equality. I’m very conscious that inaction is safe, but it doesn´t create change.

So here are some steps that I am taking within my organization to start to move the needle in favor of true equality.

Let’s start with closing the gap.

In a perfect world, each and every person is rewarded strictly on their performance, but the truth is that bias and discrimination affect our ability to evaluate performance objectively. For women to contribute and grow professionally, to compete and be treated fairly, we must recognize that there are barriers that need to be broken. This is the first step – acknowledgement.

Data from Eurostat shows that women’s gross hourly earnings in the European Union were, on average, 16.2 percent below those of men.* Does that sound like equality? Definitely not.

At MullenLowe Group, each individual is evaluated on a yearly basis by their manager, their peers, themselves and where applicable, by our clients. This provides us with a true picture of their performance geared at specific goals which are the measurement we stick to, independently of the sex of the person. Any bonuses, pay raises or promotions are based on the merit of the individual through the above evaluation process.

Secondly, we must acknowledge the past and how far women’s rights have come. It wasn’t until 1983, that Australia abolished the requirement that the husband must authorize the application of a married woman for a passport. In Spain, it wasn’t until 1981 that a law requiring that married women must have their husbands’ permission to initiate judicial proceedings was abolished. And in 1984, the Netherlands abolished a law stipulating that the husband’s opinion prevailed over the wife’s regarding issues such as decisions on children’s education and the domicile of the family. Incredible no? Sadly, the list goes on.

“We simply cannot not assume that sexist discrimination didn´t exist just because we weren´t a part of it or because we think things are different today.”

Let’s pay closer attention to our history, and to our unconscious bias, when, for example, we assume that a new mother would not want to take on more responsibility. And let’s speak up when we hear blatent sexist remarks like, she’s not pretty enough or young enough to be the face of our company.

Our solution is to designate ambassadors. Men and women in our offices who are comfortable with speaking up and have the interpersonal skills to identify, stop, inform and educate. We are calling them MullenLowe Champions and they will be trained by a personal coach and will be recognized throughout the agency.

And lastly, let’s listen. Let’s listen to what the women around us are saying. Let them be heard, both within our walls and out on the street. On March 8th, International Women’s Day, all of our employees were encouraged to go on strike, because we believe that the more people participate in these movements, the more societal impact they will have. One very talented team of planners took to the streets and found some common themes that women were communicating. I will share them with you here, so you too can start listening.

Miguel Simoes, CEO MullenLowe Western Europe

This article was originally published on LinkedIn