Michael Kent: reflections of a Linklaters Gender Champion

Michael Kent, partner in Linklaters' Financial Regulation Group, spent four years leading the firm’s Finance and Projects Division and during that time acted as a Gender Champion within the firm, alongside Claudia Parzani. Now back to practicing full time, working for a broad range of financial institutions, he reflects on his time as a gender champion.

I’ve been reflecting on my role as Gender Champion of late and how the word “gender” is often associated with women. There are significantly more women talking about gender and often men don’t know how to support or respond. I must admit that I was a bit nervous taking on the role of Gender Champion, wondering how effective or credible I might be. I’ve always felt strongly about people being treated fairly, without regard for background, but I’ve become increasingly aware of the many factors that can act as a barrier to this. I’m delighted that I sit alongside Claudia in the role and have learned an enormous amount over the past couple of years as I’ve spent more time talking to others and seeing things from different points of view.

Gender equality and achieving greater gender balance in the workplace is in everyone’s interest and is all of our responsibility. More recently we’ve been talking about men - specifically men’s physical and mental health. We’ve put a spot light on this because, while men are advantaged in some respects, they are at greater risk of nearly all major illnesses and injuries, as well as suicide.

What’s fuelling these issues? Stereotypes and outdated cultural roles are certainly factors. The stereotypes that we put on men and women fuel inequalities. These stereotypes exist in our workforce, society and homes and we need to talk about them.

In addition to talking about mental and physical health, we need to talk about the role men play in care giving - let's not assume that they don't share responsibility at home, and let's enable them to do so. And let's not assume that men do not want to be part of the gender equality conversation, but find a way to make it work.

I propose that we start a dialogue - that we commit to reflecting on our thoughts and behaviours, be truly open to feedback and willing to admit mistakes, and be ready to speak up to include others.

It's a simple step - if we’re not actively including others, we're excluding people.