From Greta Thunberg to Dina Asher-Smith and Megan Rapinoe, 2019 has seen a long roster of inspirational brilliant women “breaking laws, speaking up and standing out,” as Kate Bassett, Head of Content at Management Today highlighted. Bassett’s words provided the opening to the Inspiring Women in Business Conference hosted by Management Today at the Hilton Canary Wharf. Bassett also emphasised the reality that while the gender pay gap has only got bigger this year, there is a powerful truth that “gender equality is progress for all.”
Over the course of the day, the talks examined a whole host of topics from women’s depiction in the media, to how to become a person of influencer and the value that real diversity and inclusion can bring to a business. Gemma Greaves, CEO of the Marketing Society hosted a brilliant Fish Bowl session entitled, ‘I’m a Middle Manager, Get Me Out Of Here‘, which saw members of the audience stand up and share their experiences. As Greaves concluded, what we all need to be is “a radiator, not a drain.”
Nicola Kemp, Managing Editor of BITE hosted a panel to examine the myths that surround flexible working. The right to request flexible working was actually introduced in 2014 but, said Kemp in her introduction, many people are afraid of asking while many businesses are afraid of implementing it. Mamta Singhal, a design engineer and consumer goods expert, talked about the importance of the development of technology when it comes to flexible working. Technology has allowed flexible working to become a viable reality for every company.
The panel, which also included Mark Eaves, Co-Founder of Gravity Road and Rosie Brown, Co-CEO of COOK, all agreed that flexible working had to be led as an idea and a policy from the top down. As Brown said, “how leaders behave is important.” Eaves outlined his agency’s ethos, which is rooted in the idea of “time well spent.” He believes that the idea of a working week measured by hours is simply a “Victorian hangover.” The reality is that if you “do one brilliant thing every day, you’re probably doing your job.” Eaves, and consequently Gravity Road, believe that each individual should examine the “impact you’re having, not the time you’re spending.”
For Brown, the success of flexible working comes down to “good manners” and common sense. She believes that what’s important is to listen to each individual and find out what works for them. She was also realistic as she spoke about the fact that, no matter what, people will have their reservations about the flexible working process. But, she says, we need to “listen with compassion and understanding to people’s fears about flexible working.” Only then will conversations begin to happen and proper progress emerge.