Gender Equality Awards 2017: Gender Champion Award - General Sir Nick Carter KCB, CBE, DSO, ADC

When General Carter started in his current role in 2014, he made it clear that he wanted an army that unlocks every soldier’s potential and lives by its values and standards. To turn the Army into an inclusive employer that values everybody, he created a strategy based around maximising talent.

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Achieving this aim required General Carter to focus on developing the Army’s underpinning culture. In doing so, he has driven board members and those throughout the management chain to deliver positive change. Under the umbrella portfolio of Maximising Talent, he has placed diversity and the role that women will play in the future organisation at the heart of the business. Crucially, he has publically stated that the successful integration of women into these new roles is one of his personal priorities.

A key decision was the removal of final barriers to women serving in roles previously denied them, overturning over 350 years of practice and precedent and affording women in the Army true equality of opportunity for the first time.

General Carter’s other actions have included:

  • A pan-organisation survey on sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. General Carter has driven the Army to confront the survey findings and address them. This has included developing new training approaches, holding management chain members to account when incidents occur and promoting the #NoBystanders campaign to encourage individuals to confront bad behaviour. There has been a 22% improvement in incidents relating to harassment of women, 15% improvement in areas of discrimination and 38% improvement in incidents of bullying, and the survey will be repeated this spring to identify further areas for improvement.
  • Introducing a new code of leadership in 2015, which is relevant to everyone in the organisation. The code includes behavioural values and standards common to all levels and aims to engender trust throughout the management structure. Individuals are encouraged to give their best, safe in the knowledge they will be treated fairly and given the opportunity to maximise their talents.
  • The development of new training initiatives that address employees’ unconscious bias. General Carter has personally led by example in this area, ensuring that he and his executive board members have completed senior level diversity and inclusion awareness courses.
  • Introducing 360-degree reporting for executive board members. General Carter has also welcomed external female executives to the board, ensuring decisions and strategies are challenged from a diverse and inclusive perspective.
  • Establishing a dedicated command support team to challenge traditional thinking and offer new ideas for modernisation on the basis of equality of opportunity for all.
  • Commissioning a flexible working review. An ongoing flexible working trial has been extended in recognition of positive feedback from participants, 66% of whom are women.
  • Modernising and redesigning existing career structures that traditionally favour men. This had led to an organisation-wide review of job descriptions to ensure individuals are selected on skills and talent rather than experience (which may discriminate against women). Evidence suggests that due to these changes women are choosing to stay with the Army for longer and an increasing number of women are progressing to higher positions.
  • Engaging the Army’s women’s network to provide feedback and to have speaking opportunities at its annual conference.

General Carter is also committed to recruiting 50% more women by 2020 and is confident that the opportunity and talent exist such that a female Major General could be appointed to the Executive Board within the next few years.

Although General Carter’s actions have introduced and driven necessary change that enables women to fulfil roles across the breadth and depth of the organisation, there is still more to be done. General Carter is clear that these initiatives will continue throughout his tenure and beyond. Significant quantitative improvement in the Army’s gender balance will take time due to the hierarchical career structure. Full implementation of women on the front line will be incremental to assure individuals’ safety and assess the physiological impact. However, 75 women have applied for the first tranche of new roles, which indicates that a pool of talent has been unlocked.