‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’ – let’s collectively collaborate to change organisational culture

Last week I went to the launch of Tomorrow Company’s research paper: Tomorrow’s Global Leaders: How to Build a Culture that Ensures Women Reach the Top.
Chaired by Tony Manwaring, chief executive of Tomorrow’s Company and attended by The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equalities; and Fiona Woolf CBE, The Rt Hon Lord Mayor of the City of London, this time it was a ‘women in business’ discussion with a difference.
When it comes to gender equality, we’ve been having the same ‘what is the business case for putting women at the top?’ conversation for far too long. We all know what the business case is. So Tomorrow’s Company scrapped that conversation. This was about how, by holding talented women back, we are limiting the success of our businesses – impacting not just us, but the global economy too.

There are three main reasons this research is of interest to me:

  • I work on global change programmes that impact one or two organisations at a time – to hear, learn, listen, be a part of, a culture change that could and should impact all businesses globally – yes please
  • Although I don’t consider gender bias in the way I approach my personal career – you can’t hide the fact that in our PR/Comms industry, it is men that dominate the top
  • And the obvious one… I am a woman, I am ambitious and I have a voice… and as Madeleine Albright quite rightly said: ‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’

If we are talking inequalities, then you may say I tick a few boxes – I am a woman and I am mixed race. But I am from a generation that is borderline fearless and focused on making sure businesses recognise rightful talent – meritocracy. And it has taken a few hard working generations before me to enable me, and others like me, to have that confidence.
In our industry women are not the minority. 63% of PR/Comms professionals are women. Yet that’s not reflected in the ratio of leaders at the top. The latest PR Census 2013 reported that only 13% of women are Board Director/Partner level compared to 29% men. But we are getting better.
And across business overall, Cranfield recently reported that they are seeing considerable improvements in FTSE 250 companies. Around three quarters of these companies now have women on their board. 27.6% of these companies now have over 20% of women on the board, up from 19.6% last year. And within the FTSE 100, there are now only seven all male boards, down from 21 in only two years.

Industry is improving. But there is still much more that needs to be done.
I mentioned earlier about the impact gender inequality is having on business and the overall economy. If you have a read of the report or take a look at the case studies on the website, you can see the positive business impact culture change is having on companies such as BAE Systems, Sainsbury’s and Prudential. However, Steve Varley, MD Ernst & Young UK captured it perfectly at the report launch. He told us how in his own research of EY’s professional services practices, he found that having more diverse account teams, led to increased client satisfaction, which led to a higher profit level of up to 3%. 3% – that is quite a healthy figure for many companies. So for EY, cutting out the gender imbalance has been great for its people, great for EY and great for the economy too.

Change takes time. Especially when it involves organisational culture. And for us to create a global economic culture that is conducive to women – men, women, senior leaders, middle managers, employees – we all have to work collaboratively together now and be part of the change. We can’t just wait for it to happen.
Take the time to read the report, follow the Tomorrow’s Global Leaders Forum and be confident in your ability to help collectively change a global culture.

Change communications specialist working with some of the world's best brands to build them from the inside out. Passionate about people, data and results. CIPR International committee member.

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