Ben Way, CEO, Macquarie Group Asia
By Jennifer Khoo
For Ben Way, the issue of gender equality is of both personal and professional significance.
Growing up in a single parent household with a mother and a sister – both of whom he says were strong role models in his life – Way realized early on the importance of gender equality. Today, as “the proud father of two strong independent women,” he feels even more passionately about providing the opportunities women need to succeed in society.
Joining Australian-listed global financial services firm, Macquarie Group, in 2006 and appointed as its Chief Executive Officer for Asia in 2014, Way oversees the activities of 3,474 employees across 14 offices in 11 markets around the region.
From a professional standpoint, he believes gender diversity is fundamental to the success of organizations. “At Macquarie, we see our people as our greatest asset. Having a broad range of experiences, skills and views among our team is a key strength for us,” he says.
To stay competitive in today’s global market, businesses must evolve to accommodate the ever-diversifying communities they serve. “We aim to promote a workforce that is reflective of the communities in which we live and operate, and the diversity of our team is important to the services we deliver to our clients,” Way continues.
“While gender diversity is just one aspect of a much broader diversity opportunity, it is a very important one. Increasing the number of women in senior management positions enables better decision making and ensures we are always drawing from the broadest range of experiences and perspectives,” he stresses.
Way says he feels fortunate to be able to play a role in not only raising gender discrepancies in the workplace, but also being able to address them with proposed solutions. “We have a successful mentoring program at Macquarie in Asia to help build our pipeline of future female leaders,” he says. “This is an important initiative, and I’m pleased to note that since its inception it has expanded considerably to cover a number of locations across the region,” he adds.
Further to this, there is a focus on enhancing recruitment practices to help develop a female talent pipeline and conscious decision-making training has been implemented to help leaders improve the quality of their decision-making and become more inclusive leaders. This is achieved by recognizing how unconscious bias can affect perceptions, judgements and interactions in the workplace.
Men too play an important role in the fight for gender equality, and they can do more to help than they perhaps think. “Gender equality is in everyone’s interests and we all have a role to play. It should not be viewed as a female-only issue. We need empowered people of principle to create change, and that means both men and women,” he emphasizes.
Way believes there are a number of practical ways for men to demonstrate support for gender equality in the workplace. “Recognize the important role we [men] play in keeping the discussion alive – raise it in the workplace, share ideas and solutions,” he suggests.
“We need to be mentors and sponsors of females as they progress through their careers, and we also need to keep talking to our male colleagues about why we are passionate about this and why they should be too,” he continues.
Although optimistic about the future, Way acknowledges that we still have a long way to go. “The biggest issue is that people somehow think there is a dichotomy between meritocracy and diversity. This is simply false. The best teams are diverse in every walk of life,” he says.
Way is also extremely passionate about global gender equality beyond the workplace. “The ongoing unfair treatment of women around the world remains one of the most significant issues in terms of justice,” he laments. “My hope is to see true diversity in the workplace, and I also want to be part of a world where discrimination against women, especially in terms of human rights, is far less prevalent. We all have a role to play in that,” he concludes.
Outside of the office, Way is an active participant in several non-profit organizations which advocate for women’s rights and empowerment, both in the workplace and the wider society. He is a board member of human and women’s rights charity group HAGAR International; a member of The Women’s Foundation ‘Male Allies’ in Hong Kong; the 30% Club; and the UN Women’s #HeForShe campaign.