Marking International Women’s Day, UK Music CEO Jo Dipple looks at the challenges women face today at the top of business and leading organisations.
I grew up working in a male-orientated work environment, forging my career at the heart of the newspaper industry and government before joining UK Music, where I work representing music organisations across the country. Throughout my life I’ve been driven by the need to compete on an equal footing with male colleagues. Positive discrimination has not to my knowledge been something I have benefited from and in a male-dominated world of business, women need to be recognised on merit.
As a female boss of a leading trade body looking back, I have had fabulous male and female role models throughout my career. The men and women I’ve worked for have encouraged and taught me. I’ve been exceptionally lucky, however, I’m also ambitious and work hard.
The job of running a trade body like UK Music is hard whatever gender you are. We are a membership body. Every trade body has to balance the views of its members – the biggest, the smallest, the loudest and the quietest. They might have common interest in industry but are often in commercial conflict or competition. UK Music’s role is to lobby for regulations and legislation that benefit the entire music industry. We work hard to raise the profile of music through economic research, lobbying and implementation of a progressive skills agenda.
I shouldn’t be judged on whether I do my job as well as a man, just on whether I do it well, because in all likelihood I will be doing it differently to a man.
Getting the balance right
On the issue of women at work there are a few things to say: Firstly, the older I get, the fewer senior women there are in meetings and we need to challenge this. Secondly, women’s pay is undoubtedly an issue in the UK: 53% of women earn less than £16k. This is an issue for UK Plc, not for music businesses that are good at benchmarking salaries. We all need to do more to promote equality of pay. We want the top jobs and we also want the commensurate salaries.
Leaving work to have a family should not be an issue for women. Whilst there are some superwomen who do it all, employers need to allow women the flexibility to have a family and support their needs so that they can still be ambitious at work. Casual sexism in the office is also an issue that needs to be challenged at all levels, for example I’ve hosted meetings where male guests instinctively ask junior male colleagues, however good, for the finite opinion from my organisation when they should be asking me. There are specific obstacles that women have that men do not – periods, childbirth and menopause. Maybe these are terrifying to men but they need to be acknowledged.
While I started saying women need to be promoted on merit, I also think we should celebrate how damn good we are every now and again. UK Music, teamed up with Music Week and AIM last year, to launch the Women in Music Awards.
I am committed to making sure that whether it’s through skills and training, apprenticeship schemes, an intern code of practice, or the women in music awards, UK Music and the wider music industry wake up to the need for equality of opportunity; opportunity that does not alter course for reasons of race, gender, sexuality or disability.