It’s encouraging to see in the latest McKinsey report into ‘the future of women at work’ that women’s jobs will be equally if not slightly less affected than those of men by the rise of automation and AI, but that ignores the underlying problem. The world of work is still skewed in favour of men, even in the PR industry which is traditionally thought of as a female profession. Figures show that while women might make up more of the workforce in the more junior stages of the industry, as you move higher up the ladder, more of the senior roles are filled by men.
At an FT event last week about women in work, Nigel Wilson, the CEO of Legal & General, talked about the company’s policy to try to get 50-50 gender equality in senior positions by 2020. While the company won’t quite hit this goal, Wilson explained that it had been hugely beneficial to the business, both culturally and commercially. He made the point, however, that it had been very much an active policy, with women encouraged to apply for promotions they might not otherwise have gone for. Worth noting then that gender parity has to be something that is championed from the top and can’t be a passive goal – it has to be pushed for. At Ballou, we have a senior team that is more female than male and an almost 50-50 split throughout the agency. We’re proud of this but know we need to work hard to maintain it. Having the right policies to support and encourage women and working mothers is also key.
We may be making headway, but when you consider that, as recently as 2018 there were more people called Dave or Steve heading up FTSE 100 companies than there were women, we still have a very long way to go.