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Thursday, 17 July 2014

#Women in Leadership: What Needs to #Change? @StPaulsInst @LizBinghamEY @CeriGoddard @FrancesOGrady @libertyhq @c_of_e

Pic by Martin Wessely via Unsplash
Yesterday I went to this great event held at St. Paul's London and organised by the St. Paul's Institute

The format was a series of short speeches by the panel, followed by some questions and a closing address then networking. Bar the networking this all took place between 7 and 8.30pm. The Very Revd David Ison - Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral - chaired the panel.  

On the panel were:

Liz Bingham - Managing Partner for Talent at EY
Ceri Goddard - Director of Gender at the Young Foundation
The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin - Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons
Frances O'Grady - General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress

and the closing address was by Shami Chakrabarti CBE - Director of Liberty.

What follows is my summary of the key messages and thoughts I heard across all the speeches - which I thought were excellent.  Any additions or notes by myself are in red coloured font The audience was mainly women.

Some facts and figures
- little progress in the City - only 6% of Exec Directors are women
- some but not enough progress in politics - 1/5th of MPs are women
- on current progress rates equal pay (1st introduced by law in 1970 in the UK) will take another 33 years to achieve
- 1 survey of 7 yr olds in the USA found some 50% of boys or girls wanted to be either an astronaut or President.  Yet by age 14 the % was the same for boys but had sunk to 20% for girls
- Films exhibit gender bias (heard of the Bechdel test?)
- 1/3rd of TU leadersare  now women, membership is now 50/50
- 5m in UK are on less than thye working wage - most are women

There is a business case for equality - EY looked at their audit engagements.  Gender balanced teams' work was better quality and more profitable.  A Credit Suisse 2012 report found companies with female Executive Directors were more profitable.  So why are we still having to argue for equality?

We need pay transparency now.  Even now the expectation is that if faced with unequal pay women have to act to get this addressed using the law.  Instead there should be an expectation that all companies and organisations have to demonstrate the fairness of their pay by being transparent about it - and for there to be legal consequences if they cannot demonstrate such fairness.

We need to remove the motherhood and carer penalty.  At present our paid time off and tax arrangements discriminate against those who want to be mothers or need to care for others in their families.

This is not a meritocracy When the subject of quotas or positive discrimination are raised the cry goes up that women should only get positions at work based on merit. But we all know of men who have got to where there are not because of merit.  

And if people say - but the women aren't qualified  - then an obvious question is - after all these years of supposed equality why is education and career development still not producing qualified women? One reason is of course that this is not a level playing field.  Or to use another analogy this is the house that Jack built.  

Quotas and positive discrimination are needed until its a level playing field and an equal house.

The male biased leadership model is not the only one.  In the claimed meritocracy the merit looked for is based on a very male biased leadership model - so long work hours, aggressive, arrogant, me centred, self publicising, unemotional styles of leadership are presented as the only way to be to succeed.  

We need to look at how we parent and school our children and give them role models so they end up believing the male model is the right one.  We need to look at why girls change their minds so much between 7 and 14 about what they aspire to be (see facts and figures above). 

We need to stop teaching inequality to the next generation.  And we need to hold the media to account for the biased role models that they portray.

Equality - the lack of it is a failure to respect the humanity of others.  Human rights = dignity, fairness and equality. Equality is the key as it forces us to think of what life is like for others.

Some thoughts on actions needed
- relentless focus on metrics on equality, targets for them and real consequences if they are not achieved
- use disruptive innovation (definition = a change which provides a better alternative that more people benefit from).  Because those in power will not give it up easily.
- start in the small spaces close to home
- learn wisdom from women above you and pass it to women below you
- go round to schools so girls know somebody like them can make it
- at work be authentic, open, honest and practical
- let them know at work if you're seeking new challenges and try to exhaust the opportunities at your current workplace before moving to another

Interesting asides and quotes
- Man had nothing to do with Jesus - it was a women and God
- Some of us maybe at the table - but its not OK till all are OK
- They won't care what we know till they know what we care about
- We are not just human resources
- If you are not at the table then you are on the menu
- Do work that makes you happy
- Don't go out too long with somebody who doesn't make you happy
- We all believe in humans rights - but often ours and not others
- I am not a token - I am a beacon

The thought that struck me - if we used disruptive innovation (see thoughts on actions above) to create the expectation of a fairer share of the UK's wealth and of a less male biased leadership model 

then wouldn't this be something that many women (and men) would go for as a change which provides a better alternative (than the status quo) that more people would benefit from?

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