Pure was delighted to join forces with inspirational businesses to host an International Women’s Day 2018 Conference.
The event, held at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford on 8th March, was organised as a partnership between Pure, Birketts, Grant Thornton and Lloyds Bank. It brought together inspiring leaders from across the East of England to share best practice on retaining and nurturing female talent and on pressing for progress by embracing and encouraging inclusion and diversity.
Pure’s Executive Director Lynn Walters led a panel discussion with the conference’s guest speakers which included; Dr Scarlett Brown, Senior Governance Analyst at Grant Thornton, Fiona Roche, Client Services Director at Lloyds Banking Group, Dr Marie Orr, from the IMED Biotech Unit at AstraZeneca and Martina King, CEO of Featurespace.
The need to press for progress in our region
The business case for gender diversity at all levels in the workplace is clear and it was fantastic to be able to use this conference as a chance to share inspirational stories on how progressive organisations in our region are seeking diversity of experience, behaviour and thinking.
There is a need to continue these positive discussions. Research from Grant Thornton, alongside desk research by Pure Executive, shows that our region falls behind the national average when it comes to diversity at senior leadership and boardroom levels.
Grant Thornton’s 2017 Norfolk Limited report, which looks at the county’s largest privately-owned companies, revealed that only 16% of directors were women and that over half of the companies had no female directors at all. An equivalent review of Suffolk Limited indicated that 20% of the directors were women. Further analysis carried out by Pure Executive estimates that across Cambridgeshire and Essex approximately only 14% of directorships are held by women. According to Egon Zehnder’s Global Board Diversity Analysis in 2016, these findings put our region behind the national statistic of 26.3%.
Addressing leadership stereotypes, not just gender inequality
While International Women’s Day is a positive opportunity to focus on gender parity, this is only one element of creating more diverse leadership teams. As the Norfolk Limited report states: ‘for a long time the stereotypical director has been a white, middle-class man in his 50s’. We believe this is the core issue to be tackled, with the aim of bringing together different genders, ages and backgrounds to achieve a diversity of thinking at boardroom level.
The types of businesses in our region are diverse, with many start-ups and SMEs working alongside large organisations, and sectors ranging from technology and business support services through to energy, agriculture and manufacturing. They will all benefit from diversity within their leadership teams. It’s not just an issue for the large listed organisations that have faced government target quotas and enforced gender pay gap reporting.
The discussions shared at the International Women’s Day Conference will have a wide-ranging impact, as addressing gender equality helps to break down potential barriers for everyone. Our Women’s Leadership Programme, developed with People & Performance, has also been designed to support organisations to develop more inclusive cultures, as well as helping women to strengthen their leadership skills. Through the role of the delegate’s sponsor, the programme helps businesses to build succession plans which engage talent and supports them to overcome any obstacles which could be preventing aspiring employees from achieving their potential.
Bringing those committed to creating inclusive work environments together
The programme has been developed specifically for women because of the need to continue pressing for progress. With few women currently in senior management and board roles across our region, we believe there is a need for aspiring female talent to be able to come together with other like-minded professionals.
Pressing on with progress
As the International Women’s Day 2018 conference highlighted, there is still more work to be done. But as progressive organisations act, the leadership stereotype is being broken down and more inspiring role models are being developed.
The Women’s Leadership programme has already supported 70 aspiring female leaders in our region and over 60% of programme alumni are now in a broader role or have been promoted. Just as importantly, it has developed a strong alumni network of regional business leaders committed to pressing for progress. This network provides the opportunity for both men and women to join in the conversations around inclusion and equality in the workplace. It’s not just a subject for women, we want to provide the opportunity for more men to speak out too. Having an engaged and diverse workforce benefits everyone, and therefore everyone should be involved in making it happen.
Together, those within the Women’s Leadership Programme alumni network are developing great places to work, creating positive changes for both men and women, and are becoming some of our region’s strongest advocates for the business benefits of inclusive leadership and talent pipelines.