Alice Gibson, family law solicitor at Shakespeare Martineau, shares the key takeaways from an Anthropy 23 panel event that shed light on the pressing need for gender equality and the advancement of women in leadership roles in the 21st century.
The future of female leadership matters for several reasons. Firstly, diverse voices at the leadership table bring unique perspectives and ideas, leading to better decision making and innovation. It is imperative to have women and people of all backgrounds in leadership positions to ensure equitable representation.
Our country boasts a rich tapestry of diverse talent and tapping into this resource is essential for a prosperous future. A more diverse group of decisionmakers can address complex challenges and crises effectively. Adding to this, when women are empowered, society as a whole benefits. Diverse boardrooms foster heated discussions and diverse perspectives, which ultimately make good business sense.
Finally, businesses that embrace gender inclusivity and diversity outperform those that do not. Growth is driven by innovation, which, in turn, depends on collaboration and a diversity of thought.
What is happening today to enable a prosperous future?
1. Changing times: Our society and businesses are facing complex challenges, demanding leaders who can navigate these challenges. Leaders must embrace diversity of thought, influence, partnership, flexibility, and agility to succeed in this evolving landscape.
2. Role models: We now have more senior women at the decision-making table, which serves as an inspiration for the next generation of leaders. Progress has been made in attitudes and what is considered acceptable in the workplace.
3. Bravery and taboo-breaking: Individuals have become more courageous in calling out sexism, leading to a snowball effect that is transforming society. The stamping out of taboos is making it easier for women to discuss previously sensitive topics openly.
4. Changing the game: More senior male allies are actively working to shift the gender imbalance, leading to changes in laws and attitudes regarding the representation of women in various fields.
What can accelerate progress?
1. Male allyship and bravery: Male allies need to actively support gender equality and speak out against discrimination. It is crucial to shift the mindset from viewing diversity as a cost centre to seeing it as a value-creating force.
2. Moving beyond quotas: Representation isn’t enough – we must aim for equality of opportunity and equity. This requires addressing cultural pockets that resist change, creating safe spaces, and empowering bystanders to become upstanders.
What can individuals do to make a difference?
1. Be brave: Encourage discussions within your organisation, challenge policies and flexibility, and make your voice heard.
2. Challenge generalisations: Question sweeping generalisations and ensure policies are truly flexible and open-minded to retain talent.
3. Listen and learn: Leaders must actively listen to employees and foster an environment where employees can freely share their insights.
4. Kindness and mentorship: Offer support and mentorship to aspiring leaders, and promote the sharing of stories and experiences.
5. Support one another: Women should uplift each other and see other women as allies, not competition.
6. Know your numbers: Collect data on female representation, attrition rates and diversity within the female workforce to make a compelling case for change.
7. Collaborate: Participate in initiatives and groups that promote gender diversity and share stories to drive change.
The future of female leadership is not just a matter of equality – it is an essential element for the success and growth of businesses and society as a whole. Accelerating progress toward greater diversity and inclusivity in leadership positions requires collective effort, courage and a change in mindset. It is up to each of us to contribute to this transformative journey and ensure the future of female leadership is not just a distant dream but a vibrant reality.