Happy International Women’s Day! The day that always seems to creep up on me and then I kick myself that I’ve not been proactive around a subject that is so very important to me, the importance of promoting and insisting on an equal and fair world. IWD is about celebrating how far the world has come in making life more fair and equal for women, but crucially it’s also about putting a spotlight on how far we still have to go. So here are a few words inspired by IWD, written on IWD and dedicated to the celebration and continued improvement of women’s lives and rights.
Women, brilliant women all around me from my amazing mum and sister, such strong women with great capacity to love and to laugh in all situations, to friends like Caz, who I bumped into this morning, with 9 week old Zander, embracing the very early days of motherhood and her role as a mum, to the brilliant and impressive women I work with day in and day out at Livity. We are 70% made up of women at Livity, a company of about 50 people and growing. I’m extremely proud that the 70% women representation continues to be reflected in our Leadership Team. Kate, Alex, Lyeloon and Caroline are all inspiring and effective leaders, coaches and do’ers and examples of how ambitious career progression and pathways can and should play out. If you also take a look to their their right hand women: Lianre, Anna, Melissa, Rachel, Mira, Erica and Naomi all of whom are achieving similar levels of short and long term effectiveness and leadership and ditto all the other amazing Livity women beyond them, including our newest and youngest recruits, Livity Interns, Cherokee and Frances, I hope it begins to paint a reassuring picture that businesses like ours, that are achieving 30% year on year growth, are flying, in part (and I think a 70% part is pretty significant don’t you?) due to the brilliant women driving them forwards (Livity guys, you of course make up the other 30% and equally brilliant part, but today is and should be in celebration of the gals.)
What I observe in the women that I have the privilege of working with is an openness and willingness for self-development, both professional and personal, and this means that they are constantly raising the bar. Ours is a far more difficult Leadership Team to get on these days compared to the one we created a few years ago, because the same women who were a part of forming that team have played their part in raising the bar. What is truly exciting is that the women coming up and through in our business are now aiming for that new bar, and be assured they are going to reach it. The impact of all of this is that our business becomes better and stronger. The glass ceiling has no place to even be considered a challenge in our business, however, across the marketing industry there is still some work to be done. I’m Chair for Youth and Diversity for the MAA and in our recent MAA Census, some figures were almost converse to ours at Livity, in that 67% of executive leadership are male, with the make up of the industry being 49% male/ 51% female – so there clearly is still more work to be done on encouraging pathways for women to achieve leadership and executive roles. Beyond our MAA member agency world the figures are even worse than our 33% of women in executive positions, with an IPA 2012 report revealing the average proportion of women accounting for roles in executive management or higher had reach 25%, and this was a good increase on previous years. The music industry is hard to get figures for, but the one woeful figure I managed to pick up was that 15% of membership of the Music Managers Forum is women and a quick play with the Creative and Cultural Skills really useful data generator revealed that overall the number of female ‘Managers and Senior Officials’ in the industry is only 13%.
So yes, on IWD we must celebrate the improvements, the great stories and stats that demonstrate progress, but let’s face it, you only have to sit and look at a few stats to realise that we still have so much to do and achieve and I believe that to gain any meaningful traction it must start at a leadership and executive level. In business, any major challenge or change that is big and important needs leadership. At Livity we have no specific programmes for women or indeed diversity, equal opps policies yes, programmes no. Yet we have great numbers of women and a really diverse team (58% white / 42% non-white) why? Well, one half of our co-founding team is female (me!) and the other half of the partnership, my inspiring biz partner Sam Conniff, is a human being and leader who has a phenomenal sense of fairness and open-mindedness, he is also someone who grew up in a family of impressively strong women, I’m certain they have contributed to his inherent sense of equality for all. We need to set examples, challenge traditional thinking and behaviours and create business environments in which everyone can thrive, be ambitious and have a clear, compelling and equal pathway. One of the most important things I’ve learnt on this topic is that once you have momentum, once you are experiencing first hand the numerous benefits of a diverse and equal business, you’ve now set a precedent and you’ve created the environment for success, you then begin to naturally attract those brilliant people who also ‘get it’. That’s extremely exciting, because then you can all just get on with enjoying, creating and delivering brilliant work, in our case, for our clients and for the benefit of the young people, the very reason Livity exists.
Change for women in business needs to come from the leadership of the business and it might indeed need a programme or specific push to support it, but the leadership is essential, because without leadership it’s an uphill struggle whereas with the support of the leaders it is simply a natural evolution, that might take time, but that will have momentum and promise and above all benefits for both businesses and the clients, customers or communities they serve.
So there we are, International Women’s Day, yes you have crept up on me once again, but this year I’ve responded to you and I promise to continue to do my bit and hopefully even a whole lot more by the time you come around again next year.
Written for my daughter, Liliana aged 10.