Taking the pledge for more diverse decision-making in Wales

Joy Kent calls for gender balance among Wales’ decision makers.

The more I think about it, the stranger it seems that so many people still believe that gathering a homogenous group of middle-aged white men around a table is the best way to make important decisions.

Such gatherings may not be as one-dimensional today as they used to be, but anyone who reads the recent report ‘Who runs Wales?’ will see that, when it comes to the deliberations that matter, the pinstripe perspective still predominates.

Published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for Wales, the document showed that only 2% of chief executives and managing directors of Wales’ top 100 companies are women.

Why is this dearth of female decision-makers such a problem? For starters, the majority of those they make decisions for and about are not forty or fifty-something, white, middle-class males. Women for example make more than 70% of household purchasing choices and minority ethnic communities are probably the fastest growing group of consumers and service users.

There’s ample research showing that the more perspectives there are in a decision-making team, the better the quality of its judgments. Edward de Bono, the father of lateral thinking, has outlined time and again the multi-dimensional nature of good decision making.

The make-up of a board will not only determine the issues brought to the table but will impact upon how those issues are analysed and discussed. The more diverse the board, the more insights will influence the outcome of the discussion.

Given that we all want our lives impacted by the best possible decisions – whether made by company boards, school governors, local councils, trustees, Assembly Members or others – then there’s a compelling logic to a campaign that pushes for real diversity.

The aim of the new 50:50 by 2020 campaign is to achieve a proper gender balance among Wales’ decision-makers within six years and, judging by the huge turnout for its launch in Cardiff Bay recently, there’s a genuine hunger to see this become a reality.

Is complete gender balance achievable? There are certainly enough capable women in the Welsh population to achieve it. At Chwarae Teg, we’ve been helping housing associations to find women for their boards and many excellent candidates are coming through. Moreover, when National Assembly Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler AM asked us to mentor 12 women for roles in public life we had nearly 200 women express an interest in accessing this support.

So the existence of female talent isn’t the problem; rather the challenge must be to send a powerful and consistent message to women that they are wanted, needed and welcomed in all senior decision-making fora.

At the risk of generalising, it’s an unfortunate reality that women are far less likely than men to put themselves forward for senior roles. Among other things, it’s a product of gender stereotyping, both in the media and in the retail world; you know the sort of thing; toy kitchens for girls and science sets for boys.

However all of us need to challenge our thinking. How many of us would respond in the same way to our sons playing dress up or our daughters climbing trees? Are men equally welcome at the school gate? Have you ever said to a new father, “congratulations – are you going to work part-time? Give up work? How are you going to juggle being a father with having a career?”

This is a big ship to turn around but the large roomful of people at the recent 50:50 by 2020 launch clearly believe it can be done.

The thrust of the initiative is that everyone – women and especially men – should pledge to change something in their own patch of the world that will make gender balance at the top level more likely in future.

A quick win can be made by employers if they pledge to instruct recruitment agencies to send them gender-balanced shortlists for senior jobs. Recruitment agencies themselves can pledge to be more explicit in advertising the fact that applications from capable women would be especially welcome.

Longer term we need to change the culture which type-casts women in secondary roles. Journalists for instance can make pledges not to refer to women’s age, appearance, marital or parental status unless it is specifically relevant to the story. Retailers can do a lot more to remove stereotypically labelled toys from their shelves and teachers can create more gender neutral classrooms.

To be frank: the pace of change has been painfully slow. For all our sakes, we don’t need any more debate about whether we should do something, we just need to get on and do it.

Joy Kent is chief executive of Chwarae Teg the charity which works to create a Wales in which women achieve and prosper. The body is a lead partner in the 50:50 by 2020 campaign along with the Welsh Government, the National Assembly for Wales, the Equality and Human Rights Commissioner for Wales, the Institute of Directors, Sport Wales, Business in Focus and the campaign groups, Women Making a Difference and Women Count.

10 thoughts on “Taking the pledge for more diverse decision-making in Wales

  1. The sad thing about this article is that it actually made some very good points before it destroyed its own credibility. It is indeed a plain statement of fact that research shows that there is a positive relationship between diversity of perspectives in the decision-making process and the quality of decisions. The business community has already grasped that more women on boards might be good for business. Most reasonable people would agree that it is regrettable that top calibre women are not putting themselves forward more in both business and public life, especially the latter.

    However those same reasonable people would have been put off by the left-wing social engineering that crept in towards the end of the piece – and by the fact that we taxpayers are apparently paying to have all this silliness forced on us.

    The way forward should be obvious: let boys be boys and girls be girls, but give them a level playing field on which to compete. Then those who win will have the satisfaction of knowing they really did win, fairly and beyond dispute.

    What this country needs is more role models like Margaret Thatcher, not subsidised lobbyists, tokenistic quotas, or blather about gender roles that misses the real point entirely.

  2. I totally agree with Joy Kent in regard to creating & having more gender benders in political & economic decision making. I state this from my own experience of human endeavour & achievements. In my 73 years of observations it is the decline of humanity & the concerns of 99 % of males to increase & expand the deaths & mutilation of other human beings.
    We could begin with a renaissance in Wales by having an elected female First Minister of Wales . However the male boars would never allow such a flower to bloom & grow. Though we might be able to have one of each of these male pigs stuck on a spit in every town & village in Wales every summer. It would need a banner or heading to be advertised , I leave the suggested wording for others to ponder & consider.

  3. Wow – you managed to write all those words without mentioning either pregnant or baby! The first things I look for when considering these taxpayer funded unelected lobbying NGOs is how much do they cost and do they practice what they preach?

    As “a lead partner in the 50:50 by 2020 campaign” I might expect their employee gender balance to be – errr – about 50:50. According to this “The Team” consists of 8 women and 2 blokes! No surprises there then…


    Now I’m completely stumped ‘cos I have no idea whether this is now classed as 20:80 or 80:20? I do know it’s not 50:50. Perhaps Ms Kent can enlighten me in exchange for my tiny contribution to her not inconsiderable salary?

    The staff salaries (2011 level) should be of considerable interest to people in the private sector and can be found in Annex 7 on p.51 of this tome:


    which also helps to reveal what a rabbit warren of inter-connected non-productive people we are paying to engage in mostly one-sided gender social engineering. And the real irony is – I can’t think of a single woman I know who regards them as anything other than a pretty major negative mostly using words I just can’t print here…

    Be nice if some of this 50:50 money could go towards fixing the gender imbalance in areas like primary school teaching where blokes now almost fear to tread and where boys often seriously lack suitable role models… Or don’t blokes count?

  4. I have no idea which part of Wales you are referring to, but here in North Wales, women occupy all the public sector and third sector roles (and so therefore decide what happens/what does not happen, on pretty much everything!). Personally, I think political correctness is ruining this country’s ability to develop, every time gender is mentioned, you are adding coal to the feminist fire, and I don’t think it will ever end, so long as pointless debates like this continue.

  5. The National Assembly achieved a gender balance in its early years, fifty per cent of women, as I recall. The Cabinet in Wales has become more male but still has a higher proportion of women than is true in Scotland, I think, and certainly than in Westminster. So the Welsh political class made an effort. Now has the quality of decision-making in the Welsh Assembly and government been obviously better than that elsewhere, in either public or private sector? I only ask.

  6. I have some sympathy with Mr.Richards’ comment however I doubt that many Welsh men and women would consider Margaret Thatcher a suitable ‘role’ model! What a ghastly idea!
    There is also the small difficulty that women may not want or relish a life as a top company executive although undoubtedly there are those with that ambition and drive. Those women I have known (not biblically!) with those attributes have usually got on pretty well. Rising to the top of any company requires skills, drive, personality, who you know, sacrifice of values and luck for all genders whatever their sex.
    These people often pay a horrible personal price for so-called ‘success’. Mind you there is always the soothing pay cheque!

  7. Margaret Thatcher really was a role model. For men and women. And for all the right reasons. She was always a woman, never tried to be a man, never tried to compete with a man, used all that she possessed as a woman and blended it with what so many men in her Cabinet could also offer.

    The mistake we make today is thinking that women should compete with men. Not at all. Let men compete with men and women with women. It’s the best of what a woman and the best of what a man can bring that makes life so acceptable for us all.

  8. Ah yes, but you are forgetting that ‘power corrupts’ both men and women. I suppose the problem is that public/business life is viewed in the West as a ‘competition’ rather than a ‘shared endeavour’. I still don’t agree that Thatcher is a good role model whatever sex she might have been. Someone who purportedly kept Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by her bedside and may have had certain fantasies about Howard Roark may still be a delight to American Fundamentalist Neocons but I’d be surprised if it has appeal to many Welsh men and women (except those perhaps with certain predilections!) even those on the 80:20 board of Chwarae Teg.

  9. Wow! Ummm. Incredibly nonconstructive comments.

    No one can deny Thatcher’s achievements in reaching the top of British politics. She made incredibly difficult decisions, and she – as a normal person with feelings and emotions, demonstrated great resilience in the face of incredible pressure and opposition. Her determination drove her to great academic achievement.

    But, can we please look at the present-day too? At those people from both genders who are making a difference. The people who are showing the same sort of strength, resilience and ambition as Thatcher.

    Aren’t these women worthy of recognition:

    Meet 35 young women making their mark in Wales –

    OR, closer to this article:

    Chwarae Teg Agile Nation Project, Success stories

    Any reasonably-minded person would admire fulfilled-ambition. I admire people who overcome obstacles in order to make a positive difference for others – they inspire me. Cliche – but it’s true!

    I admire entrepreneurs for their contribution to culture and the economy. I admire nurses, police officers, doctors, shop owners, and lone parent families for their strength and resilience. And there! – John Winterson Richards! You need not only look at the glory of great deeds past to find the most admirable characteristics.

    Each and everyone of us has a moral duty – each and everyone of us – to do what we can to help lift people out of poverty – to give hope to those who are hopeless, to share our skills and knowledge, to use our entrepreneurial spirit to create jobs and security for families.

    In defense of Chwarae Teg.

    I agree their Board could be more 50/50. And perhaps more men will join them soon. In time, perhaps, all in time. Actually they have a good video here featuring Ann Beynon, Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Commissioner for Wales: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmCLzvCWVig

    ( I’ll try not to Troll too much, or take either side of the political spectrum.)

    Many charities including Chwarae Teg work incredibly hard to support women and businesses. The former are considered particularity vulnerable when political decisions ignore the needs and rights of women.

    You see – inequality affects us all to varying degrees, it affects low income families, lone parents, new families, young unemployed people, people with disabilities….

    Politically-ambitious people, who want to make a positive impact on the lives of others, may find their efforts to become Local Councillors for example doubly-difficult due to lack of time to participate in local politics, or lack money to pay for further learning.

    We’re all busy with our day-to-day lives and responsibilities, certainly. And we’re all subject to the strains and demands of modern day life, family life.

    As a parent I want the best for my children, Obviously! My wife and I both work hard in order to improve ourselves & progress so that we can provide more opportunities and security for our children and ourselves.

    Now – my reply here is all of sudden overly concerned with the nonconstructive comments above, I’ve been dragged in by the trolls.

    I was hoping to just comment “great, seems like we need more balance”.

    But, I checked Chwarae Teg’s website, seems that Chwarae Teg was setup in 1992 with Jane Hutt leading, Chwarae Teg conducted research to inform policy decisions, and they developed projects to address any adverse impacts caused by inequality – essentially.

    Seems that Chwarae Teg carries on this work even to today. They say…

    QUOTE from website “Provided written and oral evidence to a wide range of public consultations such as the Equality Impact Assessment of the M4 Corridor, Youth Services Strategy and Lobbying Bill.”

    … And http://www.agilenation.co.uk. You know, this is obviously some amazing work here – they helped women and therefore families, and employers to gain new management qualifications and adopt modern working practices respectively.

    Britain (and the world in fact) is still recovering from the repression of old – it was only 100 hundred years ago that women were allowed full voting rights. We’re still recovering from the inequality which was most common during the industrial revolution.

    Just to lighten this up slightly, John R Walker, Chris Jones – I wonder if you both would have the guts to arrange a meeting with Chwarae Teg and read out your comments directly to their faces – like a presentation-style, if you do, please film it and upload it YouTube. Just remember to Title the video “Troll Fail”. I don’t think you’re deliberately trying to discredit a charity, actually – I think your trying to discredit the Welsh Government, specifically the Labour Party and trying to ‘cool’ at the same time.

    Chuckle – think: “Oh Deary me.”


    Great, 5050 by 2020, a great contribution to a worthwhile cause. I wonder why there is an imbalance. Do men and women lack self confidence to pursue political careers? Do they lack access to grants for further learning, role models, mentors?

  10. Edwin Roberts: “I admire entrepreneurs for their contribution to culture and the economy. I admire nurses, police officers, doctors, shop owners, and lone parent families for their strength and resilience. And there! – John Winterson Richards! You need not only look at the glory of great deeds past to find the most admirable characteristics” – No argument with that point here, Edwin – agreed 100%. The best way to encourage anything, including enterprise of all sorts, is to publicise and praise those currently excelling at it.

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