Why I’m passionate about gender equality

Equality should be everyone’s goal.
Equality should be everyone’s goal.
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I have the type of personality where if I see a problem, even a loose door handle, I feel I have to try and fix it.

When I arrived at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2013 the number of women in senior roles, especially in technology, was lower than I expected. The culture also felt a little alpha male in places.

I was hired by the person running Risk Technology at the company, who happened to be a woman, and I quickly became a sponsor of the Women in Technology group, one of our networks that supports diversity at JPMorgan Chase.

The challenge with those types of programs is that they are often missing the most crucial members: the people who need to hear the message the most. My goal was to make a lack of diversity a problem that everyone cared about. To do that, I needed to start a conversation.  

A group of us across the UK got together, did some external research, and talked to women at the firm about their experiences. Immediately we heard about examples of unconscious bias. One example of this is how job specifications are drafted. Research shows that women typically expect to be able to do about 90% of the advertised role before they apply, while a man will submit an application if he can do 50%.

Bias is generally not visible to people who don’t suffer from it. As a white male in a business dominated by other white males, you don’t see it unless you actively look for it.

We came up with the idea of trying to help male managers at our company understand more about the challenges women face at work and do more to hire, promote, and retain women. Using the quotes and experiences we’d gathered in our research, we created a two-hour course highlighting common examples of bias in the workplace, how men can spot it, and what they can do to counteract it.

The progress of my career has never been hampered by this type of prejudice. So why am I so aggravated and energized by the issue of gender inequality?

The truth is that I’ve seen the impact closer to home. I’ve heard stories from female members of my family about how their lives have been affected by unconscious bias over the years. Unexpectedly, the experience of caring for my dad who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease has also made me more committed to this cause. Having a severely disabled relative makes you reflect much more about the daily challenges faced by others.

After a series of pilot runs we officially started the training sessions in early 2017 at our technology centers in Glasgow, London, and Bournemouth in the UK. I am proud to say that we are launching them in New Jersey and Bangalore as well.

The response has been very positive. Before the sessions, few men thought very deeply about bias. But once we shared some of the experiences of women, they grasped the scale of the problem and wanted to do something about it.

A big part of creating an open, inclusive culture is about making men more aware of the impact of gender stereotyping and its effect on confidence and productivity.

Ultimately, we will achieve success when inclusivity and gender diversity improve, and our courses are redundant.

We are still relatively early in our journey, however. The number of women coming into technology careers is low compared with the number of men entering the profession. We need help from schools and colleges to encourage more girls and young women to consider a career in technology. We currently do so through our Tech Connect program at JPMorgan Chase.

This is still a course of discovery for me and others involved with the group. The more I learn about gender bias, the more passionate I become in acting to redress the balance.

Stephen Koch is a London-based Managing Director in Corporate Technology at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

This article was produced by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and not by the Quartz Editorial staff.