Our Time: The Mayor of London’s drive to beat gender inequality

Labour Party

Some forms of gender inequality are unambiguous, easy to define, easy to spot and, in theory at least, should be easy to rectify. However, not all forms of discrimination are obvious.

Women in the workplace can face discrimination in ways they may even find hard to define. It’s never justified but can happen because the behavior pattern is never challenged, for whatever reason.

A new initiative, Our Time, launched by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan seeks to address the problem of the lack of women leaders in the city. The programe will provide formal, structured coaching and support for future women leaders.

The scheme, which launched on Monday 14 May, will see women paired with workplace champions, senior male and female colleagues who will support them in their ambition to access and build professional networks. The mentors will help them to pursue leadership opportunities and provide them with invaluable contacts as well as ensuring the chosen women are provided with the necessary training they need to move into senior leadership positions.

To support the initiative the Mayor of London’s office produced a powerful and evocative film which really is required viewing if you are someone who wants to get a better understanding of the issue of gender inequality.

It depicts a busy tube station and a male TFL worker standing at the bottom of both a lengthy staircase and escalator. The male commuters are told they are free to use the escalator, but the women are only permitted to use the staircase. The scene cuts to hoards of men stepping on the escalator to complete their journey to the top in relative comfort. The women, meanwhile, trek up the enormous staircase some carrying bags others struggling with buggies.

Its message is clever and powerful. And the additional information throughout is worth noting:

-The gender pay gap in London is the largest for all parts of the country.
-A FTSE CEO is more likely to be called John than to be a woman.
-Maternal employment is 8% lower in London than for the rest of the country.
-Almost three-quarters of London council leaders are male.

The pace of equality in the workplace is too slow. In a city as diverse and in so many ways as progressive as London it’s poor to note that it also has a significant problem with equality.

A formal scheme such as Our Time is a pro active way to challenge this.

And its modelled-on research which shows women with a formal champion in the workplace are significantly more likely to negotiate for a pay rise and report feeling satisfied with their rate of professional advancement.

I am excited about this campaign which is a tangible effort to redress the imbalance on inequality and goes beyond merely paying lip service to the problem.