Beyond 30% – Women in Sport meet Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder of Token Man


Involving men and women in the shared goal of gender equality is key to our Beyond 30% campaign. So we jumped at the chance to chat to Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder of the Token Man initiative.

The purpose of Token Man is to get men involved in the gender equality conversation. What made you consider this as an initiative?

Two things led to me co-found Token Man. I organised a dinner for 12 senior creative leaders who all happened to be women and I experienced a loss of confidence and had no affinity to many of the conversations around me. I even found myself cut off mid speech. It was the first time in my career that I experienced what it was like to be in the minority and I hated it. It made me realise what it must be like to be a woman in the boardroom and really started to think about how I could be more inclusive going forward.

Soon after I was challenged on the lack of gender diversity within my business, Creative Social. It was an intimate event and I felt like I was being attacked which made me defensive. And rather than talk about all the positive things that we had been doing I tried to justify why Creative Social looked as it did (e.g. less than 10% of creative directors at the time were women).

At this point it made me realise that blaming men for the situation was not necessarily going to lead to change. There had to be a better way. By involving men in the conversation, you could actually make them part of the solution rather just being part of the problem.

The purpose of Token Man is to educate men on the challenges women face every day in the workplace, to create greater empathy and consequently to inspire behaviour change to enable gender equality.

Why do you think actually experiencing being in the minority is such a valuable tool?

Many of the issues that exist for minorities come from finding themselves part of the ‘outgroup’, which is defined as a social group with which an individual does not identify. As a middle-class white straight male, I have had the privilege of always finding myself in the ‘ingroup’, which means it has always been easy to identify with those around me. It was only in finding myself in the outgroup that I started to understand the real challenges minorities must face on a daily basis.

And in history no minority has affected change without the support of the majority. And while women are not in the minority in the workplace, sadly there are too few women at a senior level in quite a few industries. So in educating men about the challenges women face, they can start to make the changes that need to be made to deliver a more inclusive workplace for women. This will lead to more women in the boardroom, which, as McKinsey have proved, is simply good business.

It is also important to state that once you understand that many of the issues stem from outgroup vs ingroup, it stops becoming a man vs woman issue.

It’s important for us all to consider society from a different perspective. However, people aren’t always in the mindset to do so, particularly in busy working environments. Do you think the ‘business case’ for diversity is therefore often the driver for change?

100%. There is enough evidence now to show that diversity leads to better decision making and better business. But diversity is not enough.  A lot of businesses have looked to address diversity by bringing in different types of people without first ensuring that the culture is inclusive. While diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice at the table. A seat without a voice is pointless. It is why we now try and only talk about Inclusion and Diversity rather than diversity and inclusion. Inclusion needs to come first.

While diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice at the table. A seat without a voice is pointless.
Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder of the Token Man initiative.

Have you ever encountered the attitude that diversity and inclusivity are ‘women’s issues’?

Alas, all the time. As I have stated above it’s a business issue not a women’s issue. Not putting gender equality top of your agenda is simply bad business and those men are fundamentally not doing a good job.

Also when you start to consider the number of men who find themselves in a minority based on other factors such as LGBT, BAME or age, you start to realise that a lot of men have a lot to gain from a more inclusive workplace. If you then also throw in fathers as well as introverts, you will find that most men have something to gain from a more inclusive workplace.

You host workshops allowing attendees to brainstorm ideas around gender equality and inclusive workplaces – what are the best ideas you’ve heard so far?

There are so many! It is amazing what you can achieve if you get a group of people thinking about the issues and working out how they can make a difference. You can find a list of the best hacks on our blog.

Ultimately though, the things that are going to make the biggest difference on gender equality are the things that make it easier for parents. Increased paternity leave, better processes for returning parents and greater flexibility will have a significant impact. It’s why our next event is focused on fathers and exploring the challenges and benefits of an alternative co-parenting set-up.

Sport is an exciting sector to work in, with plenty of opportunities. However, we still see a ‘gendered’ trend in many roles – for example that Performance Directors of elite sport are more likely to be men. Often the reasons attached to this relate to traditional perceptions of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ skills. Do you think these perceptions are barriers in other sectors?

Completely. Historically the key leadership skills of confidence, resilience, focus, and dynamism have been associated with men. However, the key skills needed to be a great leader have changed and skills like empathy, vulnerability, generosity, patience and humbleness are becoming far more important – all skills that historically have been seen as ‘feminine’ skills. It is also worth noting that one of the key findings from the Great British Diversity Experiment we conducted last year, is that the best leaders of diverse teams were great facilitators. And from my experience, women are far better facilitators then men.

Has anything surprised you after two years of working on ‘Token Man’?

Not really. Generally people have been very welcoming of what we are trying to do and the feedback we have had is that it is refreshing to hear from men that look like them and have previously been part of the problem – but are now hoping to become part of the solution. Our biggest challenge continues to be to get in front of even more men who can help drive the change and help us deliver gender equality together.