DCMS blog

Women’s Business Council six months on

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In her second blog as Women’s Business Council (WBC) member of the month, Sue O’Brien tells us about the progress being made by the WBC in its six month on report

What another busy week! Yesterday, the WBC launched its six month update and published two documents to help those in the business world better understand the Council’s aims and priorities.
We have all been busy over the last few months and have spoken to over 400 companies and individuals since the launch of our report in June. Many of those companies are passionate advocates for our work and we are all keen to spread the word.
Our economy needs women’s contribution and the work of the Council has been to clearly segment the different stages of women’s lives so that we can shine a spotlight on the different obstacles girls and women face in realising their full potential.
A resource for employers which helps identify the simple steps they can take to help remove some of the institutional and historical barriers was published yesterday and we will all be promoting this when we speak to businesses during the next six months.
In addition, we, as business practitioners, have published a fascinating set of case-studies of women at different stages of their careers in different companies to showcase what they have achieved and how they are doing it.
Yesterday I attended a Women in Parliament debate at the House of Commons hosted by Mary Macleod MP. There was a fascinating discussion on the theme of “Quotas: Standing up the EU” with participants ranging from Parliamentarians to representatives from all walks of the business world.
Although there were strong arguments for and against quotas – the one thing we did all agree on – was the importance of widening the debate about quotas and women’s key role in shaping it.
The focus has to be on critiquing and amending the environment in which women compete for the top posts and a growing need to change the language to better support the insight women bring to the table. I pointed out that we needed to help promote and sponsor women to positions on the executive committees of companies, after all, these are the engines that drive business and where women can make a real difference to competitiveness.
There was also widespread support for the need to go beyond equality for women and look to ensure there was access through the talent pipeline for people from all social backgrounds and from black and minority ethnic communities.
I was delighted to be able to talk about the work of the WBC. We need to increase the number of women on company boards, but it is about women being economically active in the first place, to enable them to climb the latter to the very top. And it’s as relevant for women in middle management in Bradford and the regions as it is in London.
Women should be encouraged to apply for public appointments, because these environments are excellent incubators for developing strategic insight and financial skills; the currency of the listed business.
The WBC has long championed the need for girls and young women to have inspiring role models, a point made very powerfully by Mary Macleod in her summing up. But I was struck by the comments of a younger participant who had told us that most of her University speakers had been men who had provided a relatively narrow perspective on the business and political world.
The women who were present yesterday were compelling evidence of the rich seam of talent and life experience that is at hand and we need to build on the schools and college speakers campaigns to ensure that these women are reaching young people in all educational establishments – to help shape their futures. We should sign up to inspiring futures and speakers for schools.
That is certainly going to be my priority in the next year.
Merry Christmas and very best wishes to you all in the New Year.

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