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Stop talking and start acting to promote women in business – Leimon

by: Averil Leimon, director of The White Water Group
  • 10/08/2017
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Stop talking and start acting to promote women in business – Leimon
I am getting bored of all this women’s equality stuff. Go on, admit it. You are too.

All the latest information revealing the outrageous differences in pay for senior presenters at the BBC was just the last straw.

How can male presenters be worth four or five times more than their female counterparts?

I doubt anyone did this consciously. It just happened. Unconscious bias in action.

I am always preaching about the commercial benefits of a diverse workforce and the impact on performance of fishing from the entire talent pool rather than just half of it.

For goodness sake, I am a psychologist. Why am I having to point out that the haemorrhage of female talent is a pernicious waste of money and commercial advantage?

Surely everybody gets that point now.


What holds women back?

  • If a woman asks for more money or advancement, she is 30% more likely than a man to be labelled bossy, aggressive or intimidating
  • Women are often passed over for promotion with the words “she’s not ready” spoken by the very people who have not pushed her to have the experiences and opportunities that would ensure she was promotion ready
  • Men feel encouraging women would be like turkeys voting for Christmas – “they are going to take our jobs”. Fat chance
  • Women make the mistake of believing life is fair and you will be judged on merit by your results. Many others believe that being a tall, white man is what will actually give you advancement even if their numbers aren’t as good
  • Women find the work environment a bit like a school common room and they are disdainful of the noise, shouting loudest and so don’t play the game


Why has change been so abysmally slow?

This is especially concerning when you consider that every large organisation has a head of diversity, women’s networks and a myriad of initiatives, yet the senior levels are not much altered.

In the words of the inimitable Elvis, ‘a little less conversation, a little more action’.  Let’s just do it and then we can all stop talking about it and get down to doing good business and having fun lives.


What prevents change?

Case study 1: Just hire women

I had a recent conversation with key figures from an asset management firm that has come a long way in a short time from traditional to embracing flexibility and agile working.

They want to increase gender diversity and have now instructed recruiters to put women on the lists for jobs.

It is a small firm, just having one or two extra women would shift the balance.

I suggested that they asked the recruiters to only supply women until they reached balance. That would sort it and they could disband all their other gender diversity initiatives.

They are still in shock at the very idea.


Case study 2: Grow up

Executives in a bank (almost all male, naturally) wanted to do the right thing and actively sponsor women into senior roles.

However, they found that they were subject to gossip if seen ever speaking to a less senior woman, let alone going off to meetings together.

We agreed the only answer was to do it and call people out every time there was a snigger.

We need to stop talking and start acting differently.


Here’s an extract from our plain guide to achieving equality:

  • If your team is balanced – hooray. You are a hero. If it isn’t, pick a woman next time, and the next, until it is. You will still be leading the pack and revered as a modern leader
  • If you can’t find a woman, try harder, look further, take longer. They are out there, getting on with their work and putting in good performances. Ask your network to find them
  • Run good meetings where you, as leaders, ensure everyone gets comparable air time. Women often say that they left companies because they were talked over one time too many. Learn how to run great team meetings or women vote with their feet and you will never find out what the introverts are thinking.

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