At the end of September, after years of thinking and months of planning, Kerning the Gap was finally launched (#KTGDayOne). The breakfast event saw business owners, creatives, leaders and juniors – both agency and client side – come together to hear an inspiring (yet practical) speech from Cheryl Giovannoni, share their personal experiences, and to discuss ways in which they can encourage equality within their own companies.
Cheryl kicked off the session with the strong statement of “The future of our work is (more) feminine”. People are increasingly looking to their workplaces to be more collaborative, communicative, empathetic and flexible. This approach is backed up by the fact that within the UK’s FTSE 350 index, all-male boards do 0.53% worse than companies with at least one woman in the boardroom. In monetary terms, this translates to £48.5bn lost every year.
This was followed up with Kate Heddleston’s canary analogy relating to the tech industry, to paraphrase; “canaries will die in a toxic atmosphere, chucking more and more canaries at the problem doesn’t fix this, creating an atmosphere that is oxygenated does” i.e. adding in a woman here and there in order to have a female face on your website does not fix the problem, creating an environment where women not only want to work but will thrive, will fix the problem. This goes hand in hand with the figures above; it is clear that creating an environment that is more inclusive and allows women to grow and succeed, will simply benefit your business. It’s just a win win.
Women only networks are not going to solve the problem.
A prominent part of the speech was dedicated to the notion that women only networks are not going to solve the problem. Men need to be part of the conversation and, need to be instigating these conversations themselves, alongside women. Without support across the board, the dream of equality will fail. It’s also about understanding our differences and using them to our advantage – Cheryl touched on men’s (and often women’s) biases about women (too emotional, lack of aspiration, don’t take risks or make decisions – the list goes on) but also what, as women in general, we could learn from our male colleagues and, what they could learn from us. Men are great at religiously building networks, championing themselves and being upfront about what they professionally deserve. Women are incredible at thinking more holistically, trusting their gut and communicating effectively. This ultimately culminates the importance of mentors and, within that, having mentors that are diverse.
But, we all know this is an issue. We could get frustrated about the figures day in and day out; what it boils down to is – how do we actually make a difference?
Cheryl’s pearls of wisdom were simple, practical actions:
- Ensure gender balanced programmes are in place
- Measure and publicly report findings and progress regularly
- Set targets (and quotas if you have to)
- Publicly celebrate diversity and its positive benefits in your organisation
- Create unique work plans with built in recognition of career cycles, communication styles, attitudes to power, personal priorities, evolving circumstances
The UN has stated that the Pay Gap will not close for another 70 years which, quite simply, isn’t good enough.
Just ‘being for’ equality isn’t enough anymore – as Cheryl said, we need to ‘make the business case’ and instil diversity as a part of our company culture. Despite the current debates on whether quotas should be used, perhaps this is the best way to propel things forward. The UN has stated that the Pay Gap will not close for another 70 years which, quite simply, isn’t good enough.