14 Apr You need a push from the top and from the bottom!
The FT are running a campaign and a series of articles on how a ‘Push to close the gender gap starts at the top.’
Whilst I agree with the notion that everything starts at the top, whether that’s to close a gender gap or a gap of any kind, you also need a push from the bottom too. A push from the top in itself won’t work and having actively taken part the ‘Genda Agenda’ for nigh on 20 years I’m saddened by how slow change has been – academic reports call it ‘glacial’.
So whilst I enjoy work at the top (helping bring in fresh ideas, new people, different opinions, new ways of working to help make organisations better) I feel some of the best work I do is in schools, talking to pupils about what awaits them on leaving school. This is what I call ‘pushing from the bottom’ – working with pupils encouraging them to think big about their future careers, supporting social mobility and career opportunities for all, irrespective of class, colour, creed or gender.
If we want more women (and a greater mix of people around the board table) that work has to start in schools. And I’m more convinced than ever it has to start as young as possible. I mean when you get figures like only 6.4% of board members at companies quoted on Aim (London’s junior market) are women you think terrible, but then you get the explanation that’s because most of the board members of those companies founded them – ie men are still significantly outnumbering women setting up in business.
It’s only by looking at the underlying issues that you realise deep seated change will only come when you begin tackle the root causes and that’s getting more women to aspire to set up in business. By the way that’s quite different to stopping boys aspiring to set up in business – we need to encourage both and from an early age, and it is also very different to imposing quotas and positive discrimination which also do nothing to tackle the underlying issues.
So, if you want to make a real difference, you can’t wait to do interventions and ‘pushing’ when women are in their 30s you need to get into schools and talk to girls. They need to know about opportunities and choices as young as possible, so they have as much information as possible to choose the best path for them, so come 30 they can decide what’s the right path for them and be in with a shout to achieve it.