Women in development: Melissa Leach on how to create a supportive workplace for all

Melissa Leach, director at the Institute of Development Studies. Photo by: Ryan Brown / UN Women / CC BY-NC-ND

LONDON — Melissa Leach, head of one of the United Kingdom’s leading development research institutes, has worked hard to create a workplace that is supportive of women.

But, a social anthropologist and mother of four, she stresses that a supportive environment should work for all employees, and that women’s empowerment initiatives must be “part of a broader movement to out discrimination of all kinds,” avoiding a narrow focus on women alone.

“I would absolutely encourage women to be ambitious and go for it, but it’s not possible unless we as a society … argue for the policies and the practices and the cultures within workplaces that enable and appreciate flexibility, encourage equal sharing, and that recognize that these are issues that are really important for men as well as women,” she said.

“We urgently need to encourage that culture shift that makes it as acceptable for men as [for] women to leave work early to go to the school play, or [to] work flexible hours … This isn’t something just for women.”

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About the author

  • Edwards sopie

    Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.