I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the ISM Jersey Women and Leadership Conference. I chose this question as my topic and opened by reviewing how far we had come, how hard many women had worked throughout history to help us achieve all we have today. From the suffragettes to the women fighting for equal pay the feminists of the 60s and 70s, women had laid a path for us but somehow we just didn’t seem to be keeping the momentum up or even recognising how much work had been done on our behalf. One of my favourite quotes:
‘I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door-mat or a prostitute’. This was written by Rebecca West in 1913. How women today deny that they are even feminists? The business case for women in business is unequivocal, replicated in repeated studies yet companies haemorrhage 50% of their women every five years. We looked at what women had to do to help themselves: map/plan career progression, build their confidence and self belief, understand and work organisational dynamics, find sponsors and the right coaches and above all – take a chance. I asked the audience how they would vote on Lord Davies’ 25% quotas for boards in the UK. Only a brave few voted for. Most cited the old concerns about this measure implying a lack of fundamental merit rather than being an invisible group.So they almost 100% all male quotas continue. Europe in general is working very hard to achieve balance: •Voluntary targets –Denmark, Germany, Holland •Government legislation –Norway: public boards 40% by 1981, Large private 40% by 2008 –France: 20% by 2015, 40% by 2018 –Spain: 40-60% either gender by 2015 –Netherlands: 30% either gender by 2016 –Italy: third each gender by 2015 –Belgium: third each gender 1-8 years to comply In contrast, the USA:- •No quotas •Governance rules: May be asked to disclose whether diversity ‘has been considered’ in choosing board candidates (!) Conclusions: We need to change the way we do business •Open up to wider talent pool •Actively invest in tailored development for women •Find effective sponsors, coaches and mentors •Become market leaders in fostering female talent •Make the numbers visible •Keep filling the pipeline •Value output higher than long hours I finished with some thoughts about the USA from Miss Representation especially ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ •At age 7, boys and girls both wanted to be President of USA. . .by age 15, huge disparity – girls have given up the dream •51% women in the country only 17% women in Congress •USA rates 90th in world for women in legislature – China, Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan have more women in government •Politicians come from 6% of the population –Male –White –Married heterosexuals –College degrees –Professional qualification They laughed when I explained that when Ed Milliband increased the number of women in his cabinet, they were branded ‘Millie’s Fillies’. Live on Sky, reviewing those papers I had chickened out of asking – if the numbers of men had been increased would we have called them Millie’s Willies. So I ended with the proposition that no, we’re definitely not there yet!