I have been thinking about International Women’s Day and I asked three of my colleagues on bartlett mitchell’s board to say what International Women’s Day means to them.
Shelagh Butcher, Finance Director
When I started work in the seventies there was a very clear distinction between the type of job a woman would be considered for compared with the type that was available to men. Women were mainly placed in supportive roles even if that role was a senior one – they were rarely “in charge”.
It wasn’t because the men I grew up with didn’t want women to be equal to them, it was mainly because the men who could or should give women the same opportunities as men were my parent’s age and older. They were conditioned to treat women as homemakers, carers and assistants rather than serious contributors to the success of an organisation.
Gradually as these men were replaced by younger models this attitude in the work place changed. There were a lot of famous high achieving women and a few public confrontations between men and women but the idea of equality in the workplace started to become the norm.
I look back over the last 40 years and am amazed at how much the work environment has changed. Many of my female friends have a job that is as senior as their husband’s and yet both of them do their job and share bringing up their children.
Now it’s less to do with equality and more about creating partnerships in the work place. Much as women wanted the career a man could have, so do men want to have more time with their family. The idea of equality in the workplace has been achieved but it has led to something far more rewarding for both sexes.
Lin Dickens, Marketing Director
Equality has improved since I started working in the early 1980s, however I still feel we have a long way to travel for there to be true equality in the workplace and society at large. I don’t remember many female role models from my early working life apart from Anita Roddick and Laura Ashley. Thankfully I can name a lot more now, however I still feel that most women make it successfully in business because they have set up their own business (like Wendy) and not because they have been promoted within organisations. The FTSE 100 and 250 bear this out.
There still isn’t equality in politics, the judiciary the medical profession, education and all the other places that influence our life. And for young women and girls at school there aren’t enough positive role models for them to feel and believe “I could do that”.
I am a mentor for an organisation called ‘Kerning the gap’ which was set up to specifically address the issue that women in marketing are under-represented at management and senior level. My observations from this experience are that women in the main undersell themselves in comparison to their male counterparts.
We all have a responsibility (men and women) to encourage young women who have potential by coaching, guiding and mentoring them so that they can have the self-belief that matches the obvious ability they have.
If I can make one wish on this International Women’s Day, it would be to make #IWD2017 meaningful by inspiring future generations. Visit your local primary school whatever profession or walk of life you are from. Don’t wait until the careers evening at secondary school, because it’s too late. Visit girls at primary age because that’s when stereotyping of social and cultural norms starts. This is what holds us all back and only by changing this will we make the world a fairer and better place. #BeBoldForChange
Ingrid Newbould, HR Director
For me International Women’s Day means a great opportunity to reflect on the value and respect we can all show our colleagues and friends and those we share this beautiful planet with.
I consider being female a great privilege. I also recognise that in many places women can have fewer life chances, lesser education and often greater poverty. Shouting loud and proud of each and every person and their value and contribution is engaging and means so much more than any definition or gender can.
Integrity, honesty, love, wit and wisdom know no bounds and gender should not limit each person’s ability to achieve their potential. This is the age of technology, where brain and heart matter rather than brawn.
Welcome sisters and thanks to those who have helped the path of fairness and enlightenment: The Suffragettes, artists, business leaders, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Teresa May, Diane Abbot, Nicola Sturgeon and so many others, and last but not least our inspiring monarchs who have also pushed the boundaries of ageism whilst in power, Elizabeth 1 and Queen Elizabeth 2.
Here’s to a great day and even better future.
Wendy Bartlett, MBE Executive Chairman
When a TED talk on women and feminism is so powerful that the Swedish government gives every 16 year-old a copy of the talk, you have to take note. Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie broadens the definition of feminism and explains why every person should be a feminist, men included. It’s worth listening to because if you think that it’s someone else’s role then it reiterates that point particularly. The equality of women is something everyone needs to take responsibility for and in particular our everyday behaviours.
At bartlett mitchell equality is ingrained in our culture. Both Ian Mitchell and I feel that this has been a unique point of difference and as a business we have benefited hugely from this and it has shaped our culture. Our board is made up of nearly 50/50 male and female and research proves that when there is a gender balance, teams perform more effectively. The Women’s Business Council projects that if this was reflected in all walks of life we could add 10% to GDP by 2030, surely something to act on. I have noticed that compared to other companies I have worked in, a balanced workforce encourages much less ego tripping and in particular a lot more honest conversations. This means not always saying ‘yes’ which results in lots more heated conversations and healthy conflict. I believe greater debate stimulates progress and opportunities are taken advantage of. It’s not one person’s view but a collective. We do this by nurturing our team members, and colleagues, to be a more sharing and caring organisation that respects and values individuals. We certainly believe all are equal in their need for respect.
I am proud to be a positive role model to show that all barriers can be overcome as a female. There are a lot of people who believe in you and will support you, if you are focused and work hard to achieve your goals.
All that said, there is still a lot to do. In our skilled roles such as chefs we want to encourage more women into the industry. There is nothing wrong with anyone saying they need support to achieve their career goals, especially if they are returning to work. We have many examples in bartlett mitchell of return to work mums who have achieved amazing things with us and shown how their wider experience has added even more value.
My experience is a balanced mix of men and women makes a successful company. Embracing our differences is a positive for business but to do that both male and females need to be feminists.
Don’t forget to watch the Ted talk.