This year, I went to a talk on Women on Boards. Great turnout, excellent speakers, even Theresa May ghosted in, with her Adams family shock of grey hair. I was one of four men in an audience of 50. Nothing exceptional about that, you might think – and I’m not asking for some fraternal sympathy or message of support from the sorority. I went because I’ve got a real interest in women succeeding in work.
I have a daughter.
My daughter is just nine years’ old (going on 15). She would, even now, be embarrassed about me writing about her. When she’s setting out on her career, she will probably be mortified that I wanted to find out more about the issues and do whatever I could to help understand the inequality. I fear for my daughter. I have had a privileged life in many ways – good school, university, half-decent job, great colleagues, now independent consultant, lovely wife and loving family. Very few set-backs. And to be honest, I’m too laid-back to worry too much about them.
Many successful women never want to bleat about the issues. Take Hilary Devey in The Times recently, who doesn’t believe in quotas on boards and was always of the opinion that women should do it for themselves (until she embarked on her documentary about women in business!). Plus there’s far too much focus on the Non Executive Director and FTSE Board community – what about the 99.9999999% of the working population?
What the whole debate misses is how the lack of workplace gender diversity is a problem for everyone. And at every level. It is a problem for men – because of the group-think thing. It is a problem for businesses – because there are smaller talent pools. It is a problem for decision-making – because diversity brings different perspectives. It is a problem for sales – because over 80% of household purchases are made by women.
Just hope it’s not a problem for my daughter in the future. (Maybe I can do a tiny bit to help.)