In her first blog as the new Women’s Business Council (WBC) member of the month, Sue O’Brien the Group CEO of Norman Broadbent PLC, and WBC member since 2012, tells us about her experiences so far.
Since the Launch of the WBC report, I have ensured that our recommendations are promoted at every speaking opportunity and business debate I have attended. I have also arranged proactive sessions with businesses to look at how they can embrace the recommendations and keep up the momentum of the report to make a difference. It is vital that we network and engage with business leaders and the wider community in order that they see how easy it is to make a difference with the WBC recommendations through existing programmes such as Speakers for Schools, and Inspiring Futures programmes. For example at the Opportunity Now Bench Marking Conference, I pledged to encourage all to send apprentices into schools, encourage men to work part time to promote an agile workforce and not restrict employees on maternity leave to have access to the business. All of which were well received by the attendees.
I also attended this year’s Women’s Business Forum, which brings together the current and next generation of leading business men and women from all sectors and corners of the UK and Europe. We discussed the positive effect gender balanced boards and workforces can have on business management and performance, in line with Lord Davies’ report.
Looking back at my journey with the WBC, my key learning points are as follows:
• It would be easy for organisations to link back to schools with age appropriate and aspirational employees, spending an hour of their training programmes back in a school. This activity would help young people see how tangible the first step into a career can be. Organisations will then be champions of the ‘Starting Out’ recommendations and be seen as such.
• Companies and organisations can do more to get young women connected at an early stage. Reaching out to year 9 and 10 students. Educating young women on business statistics rather than just maths, encouraging financial literacy before school-leaving age. There should be an intervening period where women can gain access to financial literacy and courses at an early stage, thereby raising young girls’ aspirations.
• More should be done to promote public appointments, both their validity and credibility in developing women. A new communication process for vacancies should be led by business.
I recently hosted the 6th annual Women in Business Christmas networking event with 80-12 business leaders in attendance. This was an opportunity to give young women entrepreneurs brand exposure and also hear from a young and determined woman Chemmy Alcott, the alpine Ski racer who will be representing her country in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
I will also be speaking at the UBS working breakfast and the Global Diversity Practice annual meeting.This week I will be going to the 30% Club launch of cracking the code today and the Power of Diversity breakfast hosted by Fiona Woolf, Lord Mayor of the City of London on Wednesday 11th December.
Despite the Christmas distraction I am looking forward to more planned activities and engagements with business leaders and the community over the coming weeks.