Cilla Snowball, Women’s Business Council member, Group Chair and Group Chief Exec of the AMV Group, discusses driving change to create more opportunities for women in the workplace.
I was delighted to be invited to give the keynote speech at the National Work-life Balance Week Conference run by Working Families.
Just over a year ago I was asked to sit on the Women’s Business Council (WBC)– an independent one-year working group advising government and business on how to maximise women’s contribution to economic growth. All the members of the WBC are business practitioners and we set out to come up with recommendations that were evidence-based, practical and achievable.
And what a year it’s been. From our appointment and those first tentative steps around the vast and complex agenda of women’s economic participation and advancement, through to the launch of our report at the London Stock Exchange in June, the members of the WBC have been actively promoting diversity in the workplace to encourage business growth and economic impact.
That’s why conferences such as the one run by Working Families are so important because they provide a forum for discussion on solutions, such as how we can best help maternity returners to re-join the workforce and meet their full potential. Working Families is a tremendous advocate for the benefits of smart and agile working arrangements and has done a huge amount to stimulate change in the modern workplace.
Improving opportunities for women
But it’s imperative that we act now. If we are really serious about improving opportunities for women, we have to make the case for diversity – from the classroom, to the boardroom, starting right at the beginning with subject choices, schools engagement and inspiring work experience.
Role models are equally important, particularly in those sectors in which women are traditionally under-represented. I believe you are never too young to be a role model, nor too old to need one. We heard some inspiring stories at the Working Families conference, from a wide range exemplar organisations, where innovative working practices are really making a difference. It was great to see the impressive work being taken forward by worthy national winners such as Barclays, Plantronics and British Gas, to name but a few.
So what is our priority now? We are seeking to accelerate change by engaging men and women at the top of organisations in actioning the findings of the WBC Report. I’ll be speaking at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Conference on 10 October to do just that.