International Women’s Day: #BalanceforBetter

6 March 2019

International Women’s Day: #BalanceforBetter

#BalanceforBetter is the theme for International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March, a theme that I believe sums up the status quo well. It is unfathomable why, when 50% of the population is female, there is not balanced representation in every walk of life and at every level. It is a moral right and good business sense to have balance and equality.

Mind sets and behaviours

I recently read a Sunday Times interview with Laura Bates from the Everyday Sexism project, which discussed shocking behaviours that are still taking place in 2019; for example, girls being badmouthed for standing up for themselves and boys being mocked for supporting them. Where does this behaviour come from? Babies are not born with these thoughts, it is only from continual exposure to such views that this mind set is developed and now, of course, social media is a petri dish for the acculturation of misogynistic brainwashing. The undercurrent of this sort of behaviour seems prevalent in all levels of society, it is as observable on the school playground as it is in an investment bank.

How do we move away from this misogynistic mind set? Is it really going to take another 70 years for women to achieve parity in senior positions as a result of this deep-seated belief that women are inferior?

Thanks to movements such as the 30% Club, Women Ahead and An Inspirational Journey, women’s voices are now being heard around the boardroom table and the benefits that a balanced gender view can provide in organisational and public life is being realised. The UK is ahead of many countries in achieving a better balance in senior leadership teams, although there is a huge way to go, and the mind set issue is still getting in the way.

What is worrying, is that women’s grip on senior positions seems fragile. Instead of being able to demonstrate that having women in senior positions is highly advantageous, the situation is often that organisations feel that they have ‘done their bit’ by having a women in a senior position and when that position becomes vacant again, they can go back to business as usual. Indeed, we are hearing that the gender pay gap has actually worsened this year.

Small actions, big difference

What of the women that are blazing a trail for others coming up the ladder? There are now many positive role models, whether that is in politics, business, law, medicine, public sector or sport. Each of us may have our own role models and we may differ on who they are and our reasons for choosing them, but whatever their characteristics may be, they will have two aspects in common: determination to succeed and the resilience to weather the storms that they will inevitably encounter.

I believe that many small actions can make a big difference. If we all adopt the #BalanceforBetter motto, what can each of us do today to help another woman towards her goal? It’s not just about what famous women or women in power can do, it is also about how we can help the single mum who is completing training to get a job and be independent, or the young girl who wants to be a F1 engineer, or the senior woman who is sick of being mansplained.

As Madeleine Albright, the first female United States Secretary of State, famously said,

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”

Each of us can change something for someone and on this level, the first of many levels, bit-by-bit, balance will be achieved.