Laurence, we are going to need considerably more buns
When I joined BMJ, I was told by my then boss that it was an “industry run by and for and populated with middle-aged men, usually in glasses, often balding or grey”. It was meant neither as commendation nor condemnation; he was just telling it how it was. That was 25 years ago. Somethings have changed. Not least the fact that middle-aged, due to my own advancing years, no longer seems the insult it once did. The gender balance has also evened out slightly. Enough? Probably not.
Look through the back issues of BMJ and you won’t find many features that highlight women in the industry just because they are women. I’ve always been a little wary of that kind of thing fearing to a) come across as patronising or tokenistic and b) of falling foul of the ‘well, she’ a girl, so she would write that wouldn’t she, ‘ syndrome. I didn’t get the job on BMJ initially because I was a women. I got it because I was the younger candidate and therefore the cheaper option. Whether that would have been the case had I been male and the younger candidate who knows.
All that being said, there is a push across the industry to increase the number of women at all levels and I am hugely supportive of it. Not just because it’s nice these days to go to events where I’m not one of just a handful of women (although the queue for the ladies has lengthened correspondingly) but because we are half the population, and because diversity brings diversity of thought and perspective.
People are different and they think, act and react differently. That doesn’t of course, mean that men think all the some or that women think all the same. A man and a women might react very differently to one another, but then so might two men and two women. Age, ethnicity, business experience, upbringing and basic personality will have affect an individual’s responses to situations whether social or business, just as much as gender.
One of the nice things about last week’s NMBS-championed Women in Industry conference at the London Stock Exchange last week was the way it brought so many people together from all areas of the industry, with a huge range of experiences and myriad points of view. There was lots we had in common as well as plenty that we didn’t, and only one thing that every delegate had in common with every other delegate. And throughout the course of the day, that seemed the least important of all.
As NMBS finance director Julie Langford put it when she opened the event: “I believe in equality and in fairness and for too long women have not been treated fairly in the workplace…A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted on the basis of their potential, women are promoted for their past accomplishments. That’s not right is it? That’s not the world I want for my daughter or my grand-daughter or even for myself.”
I’s not the world I want my daughter to grow up in either. Nor, for that matter, my son. A better, fairer, more inclusive, increasingly diverse world is going to be better for women and men. And the businesses they run.