By Carola Hoyos and Rhymer Rigby
Trying to compile a list of great male feminists is a bit like to trying to come up with a list of the 10 best songs ever. You draw up a longlist, send it to well-informed people, take their suggestions on board, draw up another longlist and fillet it down.
Inevitably, it is subjective and will not please everyone. Some will be shocked by omissions, others by inclusions. Rather than taking this as a definitive 10 Best list, think of it as a non-exhaustive starting point to which you can add by writing your suggestions in the comment box below.
Some feel it is wrong to focus on the work that men — rather than women — do to help women fulfil their potential at work. (Vivek Wadhwa on our list has been on the sharp end of such criticism). We disagree, and hope that recognising this varied group will engage and embolden other champions.
One of the best known male feminists on the list is Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. He has long been an active supporter of equality in the workplace and has championed initiatives such as the company’s recent paternity leave programme, as well as working on external campaigns. His celebrity might make some people cringe, but it gives him a bigger audience.
While Sir Richard is well-known, others have become famous for doing the right thing. Josh Levs, a journalist with CNN, has put family-unfriendly policies in corporate America in the spotlight. When he was denied equitable parental leave in 2013, he filed a complaint of gender discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and went on to write a book, All In, about it.
Others fight for equality more conventionally, but still make an impact. The chair of the Financial Reporting Council, Sir Win Bischoff, lobbied hard for women on boards. Similarly, the former chief executive of Barclays, Antony Jenkins, and the former chief executive of EY, James Turley, have both worked tirelessly to advance equality inside and outside their organisations, regardless of how successful their overall tenure was.
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The former chief executive of Barclays set the bank a 26 per cent target for female senior leadership by 2018. Barclays currently employs more than 3,000 members of the LGBT community, and was the headline sponsor for London Pride 2014. Under Mr Jenkins, Barclays introduced financial inclusion programs, which pledge to increase access to credit, banking, and business ownership for women.
Author of Innovating Women: the Changing Face of Technology, Wadhwa has been outspoken in his support of female tech entrepreneurship and has called for venture capitalists to release their gender data, exposing bias in the financing of technology start ups. Mr Wadhwa made news when he criticised Twitter for its all-male board of directors. The social media group has since employed Marjorie Scardino. In 2014, Mr Wadhwa came under fire from several critics, who argued that he had become so ubiquitous in his commentary about sexism in technology that he was drowning out female critics.
Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard is a longtime champion of women in business. Almost 40 per cent of upper management positions at Virgin hotels are held by women, and Virgin now gives male employees the option to take up to a year of paid paternity leave. He has also publicly backed Ring the Bell, a campaign to end male violence against women.
Sir Win Bischoff
The chairman of the Financial Reporting Council is also a member of the 30% Club, which aims to increase the number of women on FTSE 100 boards to 30 per cent by the end of 2017. He is credited with helping get the initiative off the ground and, together with BAE chairman Sir Roger Carr, working to engage the leaders of Britain’s biggest companies.
The chief executive of Schneider Electric and a public backer of the HeForShe initiative, has pushed for more women in senior roles and implemented a salary equity programme — aiming to expand this process around the world by 2017. This year, Mr Tricoire received the Women’s Empowerment Principles’ leadership award for advancing women’s equality.
Joseph Keefe is president and chief executive of Pax World Management, as well as chairman of Women Thrive Worldwide — a campaign to end violence against women. Mr Keefe is an outspoken critic of gender inequality, describing it as “the greatest economic issue of our time, because there is so much value locked up inside these outdated, dim-witted patriarchal systems we allow to continue.” Pax also manages a fund that prioritises investment in female-led businesses.
James Turley, a former chairman and chief executive of EY, the accounting and consulting company, chairs of the board at Catalyst, an organisation that works to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business.
Josh Levs is a broadcaster and journalist who made headlines when he sued CNN, his employer, for not giving him enough paternity leave. Since then, he has writtenAll In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, And Businesses — And How We Can Fix It Together.
Creator of The Simpsons, the longest running animated show in the US. Mr Groening is responsible for the birth of such feminist icons as Lisa Simpson and Leela (Futurama). Spanning more than 400 episodes, The Simpsons continues to challenge issues of racism and sexism — even referencing Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in one episode — while maintaining mainstream appeal.
Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson
Iceland’s prime minister is a champion of the UN’s HeForShe campaign. He plans to achieve gender parity in Iceland’s media by 2020 and close the country’s gender pay gap by 2022.