Writing about International Women’s Day (IWD) can be a tricky one for me – as a white man holding the position of CEO, believe me, I know I’m privileged. I can try to understand and empathise, but this second-hand experience will only get me so far, I will never know what it is genuinely like to be disadvantaged because of my gender.
But I do know first-hand what it is to be a son to a remarkable mother, a brother to a brilliant sister, a husband to an incredible wife, and a father to three amazing girls. I am also lucky enough to have several outstanding women working with me at Tax Systems, who are willing to help steer us all in the right direction.
Every year, the IWD community ask us to imagine a gender equal world, encourage us to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe and challenge us to drive gender parity. The theme for this year is #EmbraceEquity. The word “equity” rather than “equality” has already made for some interesting discussions, but you don’t need me to tell you the difference between the two. I’m in absolute agreement that it is equity we need to strive for – I think we’d be naïve to assume everyone has the same starting point and needs the same support to get to the same goals.
This last year has been all about transformation for us, so on this IWD, I’d like to share just one of the ways we have changed to #EmbraceEquity at Tax Systems, through our flexible working policy. “Vibrant Ways of Working”, is not just about being flexible in terms of where you work, but also how and when you work, which in turn promotes equity. As a result of this we have had to shift to become outcome driven not time driven (the latter being a measure which is often detrimental to women given that they make up 76% of all part-time employees1 and considering the career breaks taken to care for family members). This has forced us to look at how to support our people individually to deliver to the best of their ability, which inevitably means we perform better as a business.
From my experience in previous companies, when flexible working was introduced as a “perk”, most employees who utilised it were women. And whilst this gave them the flexibility they needed as key care givers (the OECD reports that globally, over 75% of the world’s unpaid care work is done by women2), it meant they missed out on impromptu networking and discussions that took place in the workplace. The onus was on them to catch up on what they missed out on.
By making flexible working the standard, rather than the exception, we have had to establish clear and open lines of communication to everyone, but in doing so, we have also had to consider the best ways to do so without anyone missing out. The onus is now on us to keep everyone updated, wherever they are and however they work.
Flexible working also means that men can be more present for their families, which is certainly something I embrace – I can regularly take my girls to school and pick them up, I can be there at bath time and bedtime. This is something that just wasn’t possible a few years ago. And I’m pleased to say that many other men at Tax Systems also embrace this opportunity. This not only serves to relieve the burden of care mainly borne by women, helping to change traditional gender roles; but it also enables more women to pursue their careers. Where men are working flexibly, they’re creating gaps for women to make those meetings, do that training, and be less constrained. And it’s this point that I think is absolutely critical to ensuring we keep that valuable talent and diversity that can so easily be lost if women have to choose between caregiving and a career.
This approach has allowed us to cast our recruitment net further and wider than was possible before, without the previous limitations such as commutable distance to the office and the conventional 9 to 5 working hours. In doing so this removes barriers that otherwise might have prevented those in greater need of flexible working practices, predominantly women, to apply for roles with us. In 2022, 50% of our vacancies were filled by women, which serves to address equity by addressing the gender imbalance at Tax Systems. The more diverse the people in the room, the more varied the thinking, which will increase creativity and innovation, and better the results. In fact, a study by McKinsey3 found that for every 10% increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5%. Diversity matters. Workforces perform better in a more inclusive environment.
Currently, 31% of the people here at Tax Systems are women, a third of our extended leadership team are women, and just over 10% of our mid-level and senior positions are held by women. So, whilst we are improving, we know we still have a long way to go.
As a relatively new leadership team, we are all united and committed in our goal to create an environment where people can be the best version of themselves, and that means increasing the diversity of our workforce. We want our employees to be empowered and motivated – which comes from having a variety of different role models across all areas of the business. This in turn creates an environment where everyone can thrive. And if we want to give ourselves a fighting chance in achieving any of these ambitions, then we need to embrace equity.