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Business must move from discussing the ‘why’ to ‘how’ of diversity, leaders told

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Business needs to move from discussing the ‘why’ of diversity to talking seriously about how to achieve it in reality, diversity champion Helena Morrissey said last night.

Speaking at the Opportunity Now Excellence in Practice Awards 2014, Morrissey, who is CEO of Newton Investment Management and chair of Opportunity Now, said: “We don’t need to discuss why we need better gender balance, but the how has been alluding us. We need a revolution, not a evolution. We have to listen [to what women are saying] and take some really big steps.”

Morrissey added she is in favour of businesses setting aspirational targets for women at all levels of the organisation and making line managers more accountable. She said that while CEOs often back the issue wholeheartedly, this doesn't cascade down the business. 

“This is everybody’s issue,” she said. “You need to reach those men at middle management level. Set numerical targets and make them accountable for [gender diversity].”

Opportunity Now, which is Business in the Community’s gender diversity campaign, recognised 12 organisations for leading the way on gender diversity at the event in London venue The Brewery. 

Winners included Asda and McKinsey & McKinsey, winning the Advancing Women in the Workplace Award for large and small organisations respectively, Unilever, for creating an agile organisation that supports flexible working, and Royal Air Force, for inspiring the workforce of the future. Friends Life went home with the Transparency Award and was congratulated for its innovative work on reporting on the internal gender pay gap. 

Capita and Diageo were both awarded the Female FTSE 100 Award, recognising their progress on getting women on the board.

Kathryn Nawrockyi, director of Opportunity Now, said the winners “offer important examples of strong leadership; of how putting gender equality at the core of their business can create real, sustainable change for women, organisations and society as a whole”. 

Tony Prestedge, chief operating officer at awards sponsor Nationwide Building Society, said gender diversity is “fundamental to our economy’s future success”.

“Talented and ambitious women should be at the forefront of any company’s agenda and our experience shows that women bring substantial strength to business – there is unchallengeable evidence that diverse teams improve business performance,” he added.

Full list of winners

Advancing Women in the Workplace Award - large organisation: Asda

Advancing Women in the Workplace Award - small organisation: McKinsey & Company

Agile Organisation Award: Unilever

Champion Award: Natasha Clarke, director of strategic capability, SThree

Directing Diverse Talent Award: Karen Govier, group D&I manager, Mitie

Female FTSE 100 Award: Capita & Diageo

Female FTSE Pipeline Award: Admiral Group

Global Award: Sodexo

Inclusive Culture Award: Eversheds

Inspiring the Workforce of the Future Award: Royal Air Force

Transparency Award: Friends Life