Claudia Gerdes

‘More men need to be involved in the fight for equality – it takes two to tango.’

Claudia Gerdes

Job title: Senior Consultant, EMEIA Wealth & Asset Management (London)

Time at EY: 2½ years

My association with EY began in 2011, when I first attended the Leadership Academy. I interned for EY before starting my career as EMEIA Financial Services Associate in 2013, and I’ve been in my current role as EMEIA Wealth & Asset Management Senior Consultant since September 2015. As someone who’s still fairly early in her career, I believe strongly that there should be equal opportunities for all, regardless of their gender or anything else.  

Claudia on… defining ‘equality in the workplace’

“Equal opportunity. That’s what I see it as being predominantly. Regardless of your gender or anything else, you have the same opportunities to things in the future.”

Claudia on… a study predicting it will be 117 years until gender equality is achieved

“It’s important to remember that progress is still being made. For complete equality, it might take a century, but things will still be better for the next generation than it was for our parents’ generation and ours. It’s still quite scary, though; that they feel that it’s going to take that long to achieve complete equality.”

Claudia on… whether she feels responsible for improving the situation

“You definitely have to have some sense of responsibility. But our firm and most of the firms that we’ll go on to work for, they have a responsibility as well, they have a duty to promote equality, to make it easier for us to take it upon ourselves to get involved because it’s an agenda.”

Claudia on… equality as an agenda at EY

“You’re made aware of this issue as soon as you get here. Even if you’ve never heard about inequality and gender imbalance, the subject is discussed as soon as you get to EY, and schemes are introduced to you to try and solve inequality.”

Claudia on… whether flexible working will negatively impact her career

 “You can be serious about your career while working flexibly to contribute to bringing up a family. I think there is a perception that people who work part-time or take Fridays off and work at home are less committed. That really needs to change, for both men and women.”

Claudia on… whether equality has been achieved

“No. I think it’s clearly still a fight, especially with that statistic you just told us about. Working in a big international firm also makes you more aware of other people’s home country situations as well, so it isn’t just about women in the UK – it’s global. I don’t know whether you’d be fully content knowing that equality is being achieved in the UK while your colleague overseas don’t share the same rights.”

Claudia on… women being the next generation of leaders

“Work would be a lot more flexible. No taboo about flexible working hours, working part-time. More tolerance when it comes to having children while progressing your career. Those would be the main differences, from my perspective.”

Claudia on… working with very masculine leaders

“It can be uncomfortable, especially if they start talking about women in certain ways. The right thing to do would be to speak up, but how are you meant to do that to someone who’s a billion levels above you and has more authority? That creates an awkward work dynamic with a person who you’re working for another six months, or a year.”

Claudia on… the fact that 1/3 of women still encounter sexist remarks at work

“I’m surprised it’s not slightly higher. I’ve encountered it. Most of the women I’ve worked with have. I don’t know what quantifies a sexist remark. Everyone has their own levels of sensitivity around this. Some women just dismiss it, and others get very offended. I do get offended, but I don’t know whether I would actually confront that person about it.”

Claudia on… who should be fixing inequality

“It’s everybody’s job to fix it, but full-on social change behind a government policy or an economic policy that promotes equality would help. The social change takes so long – there is stuff like unconscious bias where you don’t even realise that you’re acting in certain ways, so how do you eliminate that? That’s very hard.”

Claudia on… whether her views are representative of her age group

“I would say for the most part, yes. Most people who have had an education, met lots of different people at university, and then worked at corporations that promote gender equality, are quite optimistic. When you are actively taught about it and being shown routes that you can take to improve the situation, it leads to optimism and positive thinking.”

Claudia on… men’s involvement in the Women’s Network

“Inequality is a problem for men and women and it can only be solved by men and women. More men need to be involved for a change to actually happen, because it takes two to tango.”

Claudia was interviewed alongside Thomas Crewther for our Creating Better Together video.

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