Personally Ive never experienced first hand gender equality being an issue, although I know some peers would vehemently disagree. Maybe its because of the digital world I work in, or maybe Ive been fortunate enough to work at modern companies with forward looking views.
But the debate still rumbles on. Are women given equal opportunity to advance in business or are there barriers in place which stop them doing so? Certainly in
some industries there appears to be a lack of female representation at the highest level, but whether that is down to institutional sexism or just a natural order in certain sectors is difficult to determine.
One thing is for sure though, the way Labour Leadership Candidate Andy Burnham has set about addressing the balance is not the way to do it. In a bid to win the party leadership seat he has announced he will have a forced 50/50 gender split in his shadow cabinet should he win. And will also guarantee he has a female deputy leader, regardless of who should win the vote.
No doubt Mr Burnham has thought this through, and worked out this wouldn’t be too far from the natural order anyway, making this a PR stunt aimed at winning votes. However forced quota of gender in either direction is not helping anything, and he is setting a poor example in his actions. Jobs, promotions, senior positions, pay-rises should be based on one thing and one thing only, merit. The best person for the job, or the person worthy of the promotion or pay-rise, regardless of gender, race, age or anything else you can come up with.
One of the worlds largest advertising agencies, MediaCom, has a senior team in the UK which is largely dominated by females. The roles of Chairman (Jane Ratcliffe), CEO (Karen Blackett), CSO (Sue Unerman) and Managing Director (Claudine Collins) are all held by women.
Did they need to enforce a quote to achieve this? No, they just created a business and a culture where individuals are rewarded on merit. No doubt some of these women have had to battle through discrimination in their careers, but none needed a quota to get where they are and I would like to think any challenges they have faced in the past, are not going to be faced by the workforce of the future.
The prevailing thing that all of these successful women had, and continue to have, is work ethic, drive, determination, and a belief that nobody is going to tell them they cant do something they set their mind to.
If you want gender equality, don’t focus on forcing it. Focus on building a generation of individuals who have no predetermined limits to what they can achieve, and the drive and determination to achieve their goals. The rest, I am confident, will take care of itself.