Gender equality is – thankfully – being spoken about more and more in all sectors. It seems that, finally, organisations are realising that there are not enough women at the top table and that something needs to be done about it.
Of course, many individuals and organisations are hugely behind, whether because it suits those at the top to maintain the status quo or through a head in the sand mentality – it takes a huge amount of energy to change an ingrained culture. However, from what I’m seeing, the tide is turning for the better.
I’ve spent the past ten years working with people to increase their visibility and be the leaders they deserve to be and so this is music to my ears. I’d like to highlight two initiatives that have made my heart sing in the past few weeks.
The first is the wonderful LSE (London School of Economics). A couple of weeks ago I was invited to deliver a talk to a room of 85 leaders and managers as part of their Power Professional Women’s Network. The talk was about confidence, women and power.
I shared the contents of my Confidence Kitbag and went through the six tools that power you forward and the three rocks that weigh you down (there will be a whole other post about the bag contents at a future date).
The energy in the room was fantastic as all the phenomenal women shared personal experiences, worries and frustrations about climbing the career ladder, opportunities available and challenges around not feeling ‘good enough’ to step up to senior positions.
I’m chuffed to say the feedback was overwhelming and I had some wonderful notes from attendees about how it made them appreciate their inner strength and capabilities.
What I admire about LSE is that not only have they conducted robust research to understand the complex and multidimensional character of inequality and power imbalances between women and men, but they have formulated a professional women’s network whose aim is to work with all gender groups to encourage and champion behaviour change and gender equality.
As a well-respected academic institute, they are first to hold their hands up to say that they themselves suffer from gender inequality at the senior leadership level and have a lack of female representation in high level professional service roles. And the good news is that they are publicly committed to addressing this.
The work the LSE is extremely poignant to me and incredibly timely. New research by PR Week indicates that despite the fact that two-thirds of PR and communications professionals are female, only a quarter (24%) have spoken at industry events, highlighting a ‘gender say gap’ in the industry. This echoes research in the media and tech industries which reports that on average, only 30% of speakers are women. As Cadi Jones, commercial director at Beeswax and head of partnerships at Bloom UK put it: “We’re seeing a vicious cycle at the moment where women are absent from panels and discussions, so it’s less likely they’ll put themselves forward for such speaking opportunities.”
Before setting up my company eleven years ago, I enjoyed a wonderful career in PR, working with some extremely inspiring female leaders. Despite that, there was a lack of women role models at the top table or on the main stage. I was first inspired to set up The Gravitas Programme when as a 27 year old Senior Account Manager I was told that if I ever wanted to get promoted – let alone pick up a microphone – I needed to develop more gravitas.
This issue is massively personal to me. If we are to see more female speakers on stage, we need to encourage more women to find their voice. If we want more women to step up, we need to make the platform a more welcoming place to be.
The great news is that both Women in PR and Women in Media and Tech are tackling this head on through the Women in PR Speaker Directory and Women Present, both of which I’m proud to be featured in, together with a plethora of amazingly talented women.
As I see it, there is a huge onus of responsibility for us all to flag the inequality, to promote female speakers and to champion other women in our industries.
Change is happening – it has to.
If you’re a female professional looking to develop your speaking skills please do get in touch to find out more about The Gravitas Programme.