Looking back over the last decade, I now find it hard to believe that for the first 20 years of my career, I worked in a predominantly male world recruiting CFOs and MDs and accepted it as the norm.
However, in 2008, whilst addressing a room full of male CEOs and realizing the only other woman in the room was the waitress filling their glasses, I had an epiphany and the course of my life veered off in a completely different direction.
Founding the business network Inspire in 2008 enabled me to meet 1,000s of successful senior business women and It has been fascinating to observe the fundamental differences between men and women and how they represent themselves and indeed how much stronger they can be when they work together. The many stories the women have told me about their fight for recognition, inequality and the challenges they have faced along the way has been a real eye opener.
I have reflected long and hard on how I managed to reach a fairly senior level relatively unscathed and have two daughters along the way without it impacting on my career. I have come to the conclusion it must be attributable to the self-belief and tenacity instilled in me by my dad, who is both a Yorkshire man and, as we both came to realize, a proud feminist. But it is also a testament to the positive attitude of the many male colleagues I have worked with. Like most women I have encountered my share of sexism, bullying (by both men and women) and harassment, and dealt with each case head on, so that it was known it would not be tolerated. I would hope in years to come my daughters will not have to learn how to deal them in the first place, but will give them the tools just in case.
Over the last 10 years I am pleased to say I have seen a marked change in attitudes and even those most resistant to change have come to accept that there is a need for greater diversity at the top and throughout any organisation and that it is the responsibility for that change lies with government, organsations and individuals,
I firmly believe that if men and women work together, we can make change happen. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to create something like One Loud Voice and was so happy to meet Elaine and Kate who had been having the same conversation. There are so many people calling for change. Building on the sheer volume of media coverage, events and articles from International Women’s Day, if we all shout together, it will be impossible to ignore. #pressforchange.