Friday, March 6, 2020

International Women's Day: What does #EachForEqual mean to you?

Now. More than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to build a gender equal world

2020 is an important year for gender equality. It marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most advanced blueprint for achieving gender equality in the world. It also marks 10 years since the establishment of UN Women, and the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

At Baker Tilly we are committed to #EachForEqual by motivating our colleagues and communities to collectively build diverse, engaging and inclusive cultures where every person is treated equally.

“At Cherry Bekaert, ‘Each for equal’ means every person in the Firm understands and appreciates the differences that each individual brings to the workplace. It means equal participation, equal access for growth and advancement and always feeling respected in our individual journeys. We are working hard through several initiatives to ensure that equity is a key part of how we do business.” Michelle Thompson, CEO and Firm Managing Partner, Cherry Bekeart LLP

Across our global network, our people are having powerful conversations and taking deliberate actions to drive change and challenge stereotypes, to encourage others they work with to act differently to make a difference and impact wider society. And to build a better future.

"#EachForEqual is an issue for all of us. For me it is the belief that we are all equal as human beings, but diverse in qualities”, explains Baker Tilly CEO Ted Verkade.

"At Baker Tilly, we celebrate, and harness, the diverse and complementary qualities that everyone brings. Equality supports diversity. It’s this diversity of thought and insight that lies at the heart of our success as a leading global network."

“We all share the responsibility for gender equality because an equal world is an enabled world”, says Alan Whitman, CEO of Baker Tilly in the US.

As a firm, Baker Tilly in the US has worked hard on this issue. Their Growth and Retention of Women (GROW) initiative, first created a decade ago, has been a successful example of how organisations can commit to and drive change and progress for women leaders.

“Every day, we work on being better. We commit to building a diverse, engaging and inclusive culture where every woman – and man – is respected and can reach their full potential", says Whitman.

In the Fortune 500 list published in May 2019, you’ll find a new record: as of 1 June 2019, 33 of the companies on the ranking of highest-grossing firms were led by female CEOs for the first time ever. And while there is growth in the number of women holding senior leadership roles, the fact remains that under 5% of CEOs at Europe’s top companies were women in 2019, according to a study published by European Women on Boards (EWOB).

“Over the past few decades, women in the US have managed to close the education gap and move into non-traditional jobs at remarkably high rates, all while simultaneously managing families and challenging careers. While there have been many advances, there are sadly still inequalities around the world." Marta Alfonso, Principal, MBAFAngela MacPhee, Partner, Global Forensics and Litigation Services Leader in the US and elected to the network’s International Board in 2019, believes embracing diverse perspectives helps guide corporate growth.

"Whether in a senior leadership position or serving on a board, there is immense value in surrounding yourself with diverse opinions and perspectives. True growth results from challenging assumptions and thinking differently on a topic", MacPhee explains - a sentiment echoed by Scott Dupuis, Managing Partner at Baker Tilly Windsor (Canada). 

“Championing a culture of diversity and inclusiveness is critical to not only fostering a more just and equal society, but actively encouraging varied perspectives drives smarter business decisions," Dupuis says. 

"Although we are proud to offer a culture of encouragement and opportunity for women and men alike, we know there is still significant work to be done to create a more gender-equal world.”

So why don't we see more women in senior leadership or serving on boards?

"Not everyone seeks out diverse perspectives with an emphasis on looking at gender. And no, women’s equality is not truly equal yet," says MacPhee.

"But another reason is also that women may not choose or desire to serve in those positions. Through the height of the women’s movement, it was about women "doing it all" – proving that women could do anything. In my generation, and I hope for future generations as well, it is not about women having to "do it all", but about our right to choose. For both men and women alike, the right to choose is still a newer concept, but one that I hope is gaining more acceptance. We live in a time where we get to pick who we want to be and what we want to do. Life and society requires many different things. You cannot have a functioning society and economy when every person and every role is exactly identical. We need diversity in our roles, responsibilities and perspectives." 

“What is International Women’s Day about for me? It’s about raising awareness against bias, all biases first and foremost; it’s about taking action for equality, but equality at all levels: male, female, young, old; and it’s about celebrating women’s achievements in a society where as recently as 100 hundred years ago, women were not allowed to vote.” Androulla Soteri, Global Tax Leader, Baker Tilly International

The power to effect change lies within all of us, says Jaimie Godden, Baker Tilly’s Global Director of Marketing and Communications.

"We are all responsible to make changes to the status quo. Sometimes that change won’t be comfortable, but it shouldn't stop us forging ahead for higher expectations of society. It is incumbent on each and every person to build an equal and safe world for girls and women that are still experiencing bias and inequality in all its forms.

"As a mother of two girls, for me #EachForEqual is about knowing and believing that they can be and do anything they want, without limitations based on their gender.

"It’s about celebration. Celebrating the power that can be enabled by the richness of diversity."

Cynthia Lo, Managing Director of Baker Tilly in Hong Kong, believes that there remains things to learn and adjust in order to live out an equal and enabled world.

"At Baker Tilly, let’s lead by example to demonstrate our appreciation and support to our young talent by providing them with opportunities to grow and learn, to build trust in our teams and make their success, our success."

"This International Women’s Day, it's important for women to recognise our accomplishments but also commit to continuing to find opportunities for women to succeed, because women truly do make the world go round,” says Alfonso. 

But equality is not a solely a women's issue, says Ben Lloyd, Baker Tilly COO.

"Regardless of gender, background, religion or orientation, we must all embrace the changes required to ensure equality becomes our reality, for now and future generations.

“As a father, husband, son, brother, uncle and friend of dynamic and strong females, the responsibility is ours to support those around us to stand up and be heard.

“As a leading network, Baker Tilly's collective ambition seeks to promote the power of diversity, ignoring borders and disrupting the status quo. How much richer would innovation, societal attitudes and commercial rewards be when we have a truly diverse pool of ideas, creativity and perspective?"


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