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Executive Women in Business Event – March 2016
Page Executive held their annual Executive Women in Business event in the Midlands on Thursday 17th March 2016 at Marco Pierre White’s Champagne Bar in Birmingham. The 50 attendees spanned a range of sectors from automotive to higher education and included senior female executives from Deloitte, John Lewis and Rolls Royce to name just a few. The keynote speaker was Kirsty Bashforth, founder and CEO of QuayFive Ltd. Kirsty has an Economics degree from Cambridge University, is a non-exec director of Kier Group plc, an independent governor at Leeds Beckett University and spent 24 years in a global career at BP plc. Kirsty specialises in coaching senior leaders to improve business performance through aligning, motivating and innovating across their organisations applying a philosophy of behavioural economics to troubleshoot issues.
On the night, Kirsty’s discussion included the current landscape for executive women in business, the opportunities available, the impact of social media and networking and the importance of making choices. The talk also focused on the role and responsibility of senior leaders paving the way for the future generations’ of female executives and the opportunity to build a bigger talent pool in the Midlands region.
Attendees enjoyed a three-course dinner whilst Kirsty kicked off by talking about her own personal journey and the choices she has made over the years as well as the progress being made in the UK to increase the number of female leaders. Kirsty spoke about what we can do proactively in our executive roles which included the importance of building a bigger regional talent pool and shifting the focus from London “being the magnet for all careers”.
“When I started out in my career, I applied for every job that wasn’t in London but I got sucked in. I think we fall into this perception that if you want to have an amazing career you have got to be in London. Please can we try and break the cycle? I have met fantastic women in this room already tonight which goes to show it does not have to all happen in London. The Northern powerhouse supports this and the whole effort going on in the Midlands. There is so much opportunity, so how can you do something in this region? I really believe this is an important message. So many women still believe they have to go to London or won’t push on in their careers. How can we create better opportunities in the region? We have Wi-Fi, airports, soon HS2. I moved back up north eight years ago and continued working in London head office, but I am able to make more noise and do more to tackle this issue in the north, because I am there more often and I’m running my schedule now. So I urge us – do something about building the regional talent pool."
Kirsty talked about the progress made to get more women into board positions in the UK and the wider executive pipeline:
“There are now so many more prominent female CEOs in the FTSE 100 and certainly from a BP point of view by the time I left, nearly 50% of the graduate intake was female and we all know the statistics from a university perspective. There are far more women going to university so there are some headlines stats that say the future landscape, statistically must be improving! But we also have to make choices to take the opportunities that are opening up. The tsunami of jobs growth that is taking place in digital, technology overall, supply chain, procurement, wider STEM - these are all areas that as women we are not entering into fast enough or in enough numbers. How can we educate ourselves about what working in these areas is really like and choose to step in, and how can we help the next generation of female talent choose to enter straight into those sectors?. If we don’t, we risk losing the progress we’ve made so far in terms of gender balance”.
Kirsty then went on to talk about the gender pay gap where progress hasn’t been so great:
“The world economic forum had run some statistics which showed that by 2095 there would be equal pay globally. It would take that long to equalise and actually at latest rates, it will now be 2133 so we are going backwards. That’s a world figure. We’re not doing brilliantly on progression, and also not on retention. I suppose I am an example of the retention problem, having left the executive world, although I am on the board of a FTSE 250 so still very active in the corporate world. Do you know there are more CEOs in the FTSE 100 called John than there are female CEOs? On progression, I don’t think maternity is the issue. Plenty of women are choosing not to have children or can’t have children and are still not progressing at a fast rate. I don’t think we can say it’s all about maternity leave, there are some great policies around (as well as some insufficient ones of course) but women are not progressing as they could particularly in their late 20s and early 30s which is where the progression between men and women typically diverges.”
Kirsty spoke a lot about growing the pipeline of female talent and the five opportunities she sees to effect positive change on this going forward:
1. Changing mindsets:
“There are biases. We see it in the media when people talk about ‘The female boss of’ not the boss. We don’t say ‘the male boss of’ so little things like that. I don’t know if any of you follow on Twitter a guy called manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall). Follow him! He talks as if he’s a woman but he uses the man. It’s really, really ironic but it shows you the biases we all still have today. Yet on the plus side, there are rafts of data showing the case for change – improved business performance through better diversity in senior teams. How can the data overcome the bias?”
2. Continued noise and momentum:
“There is a lot of it and it has been going for 5-6 years but the downside, could be, that there’s fatigue in the system? If I was a man I would probably be thinking are we not done yet? There are women around its enough isn’t it?” Once you have put an executive woman on the team, getting a second woman is 50% harder. In the latest study done by Fortune magazine, 67% of men believe there are equal opportunities for women, but only 38% of women think that. So there is progress, but keeping that momentum up to reach a tipping point is not yet achieved.”
3. Creating opportunity through policies, processes and practices:
“There are always the different policies and practices inside any organisation that need to provide a level playing field for opportunity. There’s more to do there. And on the gender pay gap, companies are gong to have to start reporting it imminently. You can do something about that – it’s about the will to do so. The Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff recently spent 3 Million dollars on fixing the pay gap. He went through all of his staff (men and women) according to location/skills/level and function and said let’s equalise. So you can choose to do it. The FTSE 100 generally have a lot better processes and there is an awful lot going on, but more to do.”
4. Using social media as a networking tool – and network anyway:
“I think social media can help women network hugely. Of course there are the potential issues that we all know about. But on balance, I think this is a real opportunity. I personally love twitter it’s a hugely beneficial tool to me and I think it can give women much more voice. If you don’t want to stand up in a room you can still tweet a lot. For my new business, I do a tweet a day, every business day and build followership like that. I think social media can have some huge benefits for women. And to network more widely – network as women which each other. You will get more done, aid retention inside your organisation, and you never know what opportunities will spring from it. My entrance to the NED world was as a result of networking with senior female colleagues at BP and sharing with each other our ambitions and focus areas.”
5. Challenging social norms:
“In terms of norms, norms of dual income, single income, who stays at home, who doesn’t, whatever! Norms are getting far fewer. 27% of US households now have women who are the major money earner. Women make 85% of household purchase decisions. Women buy 58% of cars and are 52% of gamers. So when we look at norms and assumptions they aren’t the same anymore, they are not really there – so let’s not fall into the trap of presuming things are expected or not. The world of work is changing – faster than we are keeping up.”
The evening was rounded off with a Q&A with Kirsty taking a number of questions from the floor.
Feedback from attendees has been very positive with many wanting to know when and where the next event will be held. The Page Executive team have started planning for the 2017 Executive Women in Business event so look out for details over the course of the next few months.
If you’d like to attend one of the future Page Executive Women In Business events in the Midlands please contact Helen Schwarz.
T: +44 1212 309460