I’m just in the throes of moving.
Moving home, moving area, moving my life really. The only consistency being that I will be doing the same work, running my business as normal. This big change in my life has meant that I’ve been going through all of my personal financial and life commitments. I’ve looked at each considering whether I wanted to continue with them or not.
My furniture is in store, so I’ve cancelled my home/contents insurance. I’ve reviewed several other policies, deleting those no longer fit for purpose. I’ve changed my bank, my accountants and my imbalance of working name and personal name is also now aligned.
This admin housekeeping has brought me up short, however.
As I went through to all the different websites to cancel policies, my rates bill, water etc, whilst I was there, I checked out the board, trustees, team that ran the companies or organisations to which I had been paying money.
I was shocked on several occasions.
The lack of diversity was astounding. Men represented a significantly higher presence than women and in several cases made up the entirety of the board or leadership team. Needless to say there were remarkably few BAME partners, and the age bracket was severely limited. But as we approach International Woman’s Day, it was the first point that really struck home. I was appalled. As an engaged working businesswoman I had given them my money before I had checked out who I was paying.
When I voiced my own shock to a friend, I was asked why it mattered.
The answer is simple. It matters to me because companies that have women on the board and in high level positions are run better, are more profitable, take less risks, are generally focused on the long-term rather than taking short-term positions. They are companies where new young women entrants and those growing their careers have role models ahead of them. All of which is consistently shown up in research, whether from PWC, Deloittes, the Harvard Business Review, Government or where ever.
But it is not just the lack of women on boards that concerns me. I need to ask the same question for companies that lack men on their board. Society is made up of men and women, so companies should be too.
It is a matter that crops up in my everyday work. When I am brought in as an innovation consultant tasked with helping a business grow, my wide-ranging remit looks at every aspect of that operation. If they are primarily female led and run, I ask where the men are. And vice verse. Growth comes in many ways – a diverse team contributes richly and differently to growth in a way an imbalanced team can’t. There is a breadth of perspective and experience. Different ideas and audiences emerge. The dynamic in the room is better.
As business people, as consumers, as customers of insurance companies, banks, local councils and the like, let’s take a closer look at those companies we choose to spend our money with to see who runs them. Are they representative of society as a whole? Do they welcome and promote women to high positions? Are they organisations that we would feel comfortable employing our friends, our children? Do they walk the equal pay/opportunity walk, or are they only talking the talk?
A good example of this is to look at the 12-strong leadership team of award-winning Starling Bank. Six are women. Of their 10-strong board of trustees – only three are women, but 25 per cent is better than most banks. It looks and feels like a company that values people, that values their relationship with you too. And this should matter increasingly in the future.
As I start having new commercial relationships with businesses, practices, councils in my eventual new home, I’m going to ensure I’ve checked them out thoroughly before they get my money. I will look at who is running them to ensure there is a good balance because I know those in general will be better businesses.
Why don’t you check out the organisations you have a financial relationship with… are they as balanced as you would like? If not, find one that is – they do exist. And when you leave your current supplier, let them know it was because you were dissatisfied with the leadership team being so imbalanced.
Happy International Women’s Day to you all.
About the author
Erica Wolfe-Murray works across the creative, cultural and tech sector helping companies to innovate through imaginative use of their intellectual assets/IP. Referred to by Forbes.com as ‘a leading innovation and business expert’, she is the author of ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas: Build a Bigger, Better Business’, shortlisted for the Business Book Awards 2020, Business Self-development category (judging 23.3.20). It’s full of easy-to-use advice on innovative ways to grow your business and isa vailable from Foyles, Amazon and all other good bookshops.