International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. In the UK we focus very much on gender pay gap and reduced opportunities.
Disappointingly such an important day is being used by some corporations purely as a marketing tool. For one day a year, a few large corporations suddenly notice and support half the population, then firmly pack the pink banners back in the box and retreat to the safety of the glass ceiling.
I am pleased to say there are organisations who do make an effort to change and truly celebrate and commemorate in the way it is intended. I attended two such events in Bristol.
There are organisations who do make an effort to change
7.45am saw me gather with many other women, and a few men, at Nat West offices near Temple Bridge for an event to celebrate women in business, hosted by Steve Lovell. Nat West bank seems to take their responsibility seriously. They provide 400 Women in Business specialists to apply business expertise and tangible support to help female-led businesses to “set up, scale and succeed”.
Since 2014 Nat West have partnered with Entrepreneurial Spark to grow what has become the world’s largest free business accelerator with hubs in all four nations of the UK. Their impact report announced recently an impressive performance of the organisation and includes nearly 4,000 business supported with £255m investment raised by entrepreneurs on the programme. Many of them women led.
This glass ceiling may have been cracked, but it’s certainly not smashed
Key speaker Sharon Critchlow ACCA Global Council Member reminded us that it is 40 years since the phrase “glass ceiling” was adopted to describe thwarted careers and ambitions – especially for women. Yet, this glass ceiling may have been cracked, but it’s certainly not smashed.
Forty years on the ACCA is calling for business leaders to show real and measurable progress on diversity and social mobility issues, as it marks International Women’s Day 2018. The global theme for this year’s event is #pressforprogress, seeking advances on a number of issues from gender pay parity to equality of opportunity.
Sharon also pointed out that “The tone of any organisation must be set clearly from the top with a transparent culture that’s committed to diversity. And diversity progress should be measured – after all, what’s not measured can’t be managed. There are so many more large and small ways that all of us can work to improve opportunity and diversity in our workplaces.”
I am pleased to say there was not a pink ribbon in sight during either Steve’s or Sharon’s talk!
The key challenge is to ensure the benefits of the city’s growth is shared equally
The event just down the road at The Engine Shed hosted a little later by OSCA (Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator) was equally unpatronising. Led by the always impressive Marina Traversari, the event was showcasing the business of the recent cohort. Not too surprisingly the women were greatly outnumbered both in the presentations and the audience. However, both Marina and guest speaker Bristol’s Deputy Mayor Asher Craig highlighted IWD and the need to address diversity in the tech world.
Bristol has developed a reputation for it’s diverse, creative and innovative culture made up by people from 187 countries. The key challenge is to ensure the benefits of the city’s growth are shared by all. The deputy mayor pointed out that “…. on this International Women’s Day, in this city, women are still paid less than men, are still less likely to be in full-time employment and more likely to stay at home due to caring commitments.”
At the end of the day, I was pleased that both these events hosted by large organisations did more than pay lip-service to equality. Given the plight of so many women who are persecuted around the world, it is essential that we highlight the injustices perpetrated on people just because they were born female.
If all the companies that for one day jump on the bandwagon to use it as a marketing ploy were to maintain that position throughout the year they just might be taken seriously and make a real impact.
If you would like to view the presentations made by the OSCA businesses click here.
Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is here: www.accaglobal.com
If you would like more information about The Nat West Accelerator programme click here