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International Women’s Day 2021

08 March 2021
Written by Colette Cohen OBE

Recently released data highlighting women on boards in the UK has been super encouraging with an increase of 50% in the number of women on FTSE 350 boards in the last five years. It’s still only 34.3% representation overall, but that’s a real step change over the last generation. We’re still not there on the executive teams, but again that is moving in the right direction with nearly 30% female executives on leadership teams now. Most recently, I notice at multiple events – all virtual – a marked increase in the number of women on the panels and in discussions.

So, it made me wonder… is the virtual world we are currently experiencing providing a levelling up effect? Is it just that more women are in senior ranks and being asked, or is it that the virtual world is accessing more people and that ‘spotlight’ is making organisers more conscious of their choices? And… perhaps how they will be perceived if their gender balance isn’t good?

Could this lockdown – while obviously creating many challenges and barriers to both mental health and work life balance – also be providing new opportunities to gender equality? Will this greater opportunity for exposure, engagement and participation of women result in a fundamental change in how women are perceived and received in the C-suite? Will this result in greater debate, thought leadership and overall diversity of thought?

This levelling up could further accelerate the gender balance we aspire to. And surely if we can get the balance in leadership, in visibility and in voice, that balance in gender pay will also materialise at a faster pace than current predictions. And then… the holy grail… true diversity in the work force. An increase in gender equality has been shown to increase the productivity and creativity of teams, it results in increased knowledge sharing and employee engagement, higher financial returns for the company and a broader positive impact on the community.

There is a huge prize there.

As we come out of lockdown, and we consider our new ‘work normal’, our blended schooling and our inevitable blended working environment, I would encourage all of us to think about how we can ensure that we maintain this focus on gender inclusion, deliver on this gender levelling up.

We need to seize this opportunity to create the environment to deliver gender balance across our organisations knowing it will also help us create the environment for true diversity in the workplace.

So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day today, let’s challenge ourselves to think what we can do in our team, office, event, workplace to ensure that as we create our new normal, we create a BETTER normal – one that enables gender diversity, maximises everyone’s potential and writes new rules for how we live and work. Let’s embrace the challenge to #BeBetterToday.


#InspiringWomen #WomeninEngineering #WomenLeaders #PowerfulWomen #APlacefforEveryone #Breakalltherules #ReWriteHowWeWork

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