Lean In - why we need more David Beckhams

Who would have thought that the shy lovebirds who got engaged in black turtle necks in 1998 would have become the power couple they are today.  Not only did their penchant for matching outfits spark a trend, their attitudes to work and family have, I believe, influenced a whole generation, across the globe. 

Courtesy of Express.co.uk

Victoria, like many high profile business women, has clearly had a go at busting a few myths around having it all - large family plus an all-consuming career - and appears to be doing a brilliant job at both.  But she has also been very honest about the challenge that brings.  While David has undoubtedly set the bar that men aspire to in many departments.  Not only aesthetically pleasing and top of his game, being a hands-on family man has emerged as his self-acclaimed greatest achievement

Watching David and Victoria both juggle work and family in the media spotlight, with David winning dad of the year many times over has, in my mind, made a huge impact on the expectations of men.  I've worked with consultants most of my professional career. And in the last few years, particularly working recently with KPMG, I have noticed a massive shift in the number of men who are reluctant, flat out refusing(!), to stay away from home, particularly once they have children.

These changing attitudes are borne out in the latest research into women in the workplace by McKinsey and Leanin.org

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There are two ways of looking at the report.  Firstly, the bad news - if change progresses at the same rate it has up to now, then it will take more than 100 years to get gender equality in the C-suite because... wait for it... gender bias is alive and kicking... ouch, that's depressing.   Then the good news, in my mind anyway - that for those not wanting top jobs, 62% of Fathers said this was as a result of needing to balance family with work; almost up there with the 65% of Mothers who said the same thing.  And, perhaps surprisingly to some, 42% of men without children didn't want to clamber for the top spots due to a desire to balance work and (future) family, while for women without children, it was marginally lower, at 35%. 

Why do I refer to this as good news? Probably because I have an as yet unproven theory that a critical step to removing the long-held stereotypes that exist around the role of women in society - that we have been placed on God's earth only to look good, nurture others and care for children - is to change the acceptable role of men - from hunter gatherer to carer - enter David and Victoria.


Even though I am optimistic that increased awareness in organisations, and action to tackle unconscious bias, will mean we won't be waiting 100 years for real change, we can't sit back and wait for gender bias to be eradicated before we aspire to new heights - we need to equip ourselves with the tools to start climbing.  This is why we are launching our Leanin circle.