To be taken seriously, I’d have to learn about business, so I could have conversations that were outside of ‘press releases’, I should probably know a bit about sport or current issues, and I’d need to think about what I wore. I don’t recall this conversation taking place with any male graduates when they started.
It never really occurred to anyone that perhaps I was genuinely interested in business, sport and would dress to make me feel good. But that’s beside the point. I hope I never have to have that conversation with any colleague, friend or family member, whatever gender they identify with.
I hope I don’t have to tell my daughter she needs to work twice as hard because of her sex or that she needs to change parts of her personality or appearance to achieve her ambitions. Improve your skills, knowledge and experience – absolutely, but not because you’re a woman and the scales aren’t tipping in your favour. Do it so you can add value to any role you take, as an equal.
The thing is we all assume that things will get better for each generation. I’m guessing I’ve faced less sexism and judgment than my mum did when she went back to work after having me and I’m assuming that my daughter will find it easier to achieve a senior role than I did. But progress only happens because people take action and don’t assume it’s someone else’s fight or that it will just change naturally – it won’t. We have a responsibility to the generations before us and the generations to come to actively make changes – whether that’s transparent action on the gender pay gap or introducing more female mentors to help support and advise within businesses.
Addressing the balance isn’t just about making it better for women, it’s about making it better for all. Men, women, employers, employees will all benefit from having a more balanced representation at every level of business. A gender diverse workplace generates more creativity from varied perspectives, better engagement and can help retain and attract talent.
I’ve had to work hard but I’m extremely privileged that being a woman has never really held me back or made me feel inferior – but that doesn’t mean that others haven’t faced it. PR in particular is often heralded as a female dominated industry but proportionally there is still not enough female representation at a senior level. We have work to do to achieve a #balanceforbetter.