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Steve Varley's view on Gender Balance

Steve Varley

- Mar 12 2014

Steve Varley

Chairman and Managing Partner, EY UK&I

Gender balance is positive for everyone – both men and women. We know from our own internal research that when we create an inclusive environment our engagement levels are higher. We also know that gender balanced teams outperform teams made up of all men or all women.

Our ability to work effectively as a global organisation and deliver exceptional service to our clients is dependent on our ability to embed that diversity into the way we do business. We talk about this in terms of leading inclusively; by the way we encourage discussion, actively engage conflicting points of views and inspire our teams to think creatively.

I would agree that gender balanced teams perform better, but I try to steer clear of stereotyping, e.g. that a male’s style is more confrontational when there are no women around. That isn’t my experience of the men that I work with. How I think about this is that we want as many different perspectives around the table as possible. 

Success is then the way we make sure that everyone contributes, so that we benefit from the wealth of different perspectives. This is how we will meet the challenge of continually increasing our value to customers and communities that require creativity and innovative insights.

I currently lead the UK&I Region at EY which covers some 27 offices and 12,000 people. So with a remit this size it’s always a challenge to balance work and outside of work activities.  That said, I’ve always made sure that I surround myself with strong, committed leaders that I can delegate to. 

I am very open about outside commitments – whether they are to spend time with my family or time on sport and I make the most of technology available. I think it’s really important that everyone has down time to re-charge their batteries. I encourage my team to take all of their annual leave and I don’t expect e-mail to be responded to out of hours unless there is something urgent that comes up.

I think it’s really important that I set the tone from the top.

Twenty years ago I could not imagine there being such support, and acceptance, from my colleagues to my flexible lifestyle and appreciation for the difference I bring to work - we really are a very inclusive organisation and that inclusivity helps me perform and contribute more at work, as well as being a lot happier.

I do hope my children don't have to think about work-life balance at all as it becomes an out-of-date concept. I'm not a fan of the phrase myself, so I either hope something better comes along, or it just falls out of use as more and more find a balance and it does not become a topic of debate.

Steve Varley
Chairman and Managing Partner, EY UK&I


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