Those of you that know me probably know that I don’t particularly enjoy being the centre of attention. That’s perhaps a by-product of being raised in the generation before social media encouraged us to share our breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Instagram!
But, maybe, my approach is a little selfish rather than selfless. As leaders, we have a responsibility to act as role models and use our voices to encourage positive change.
Last week, I had a moment where I let flattery get the better of me – and it got me thinking. I was delighted to make the 2019 Staffing Industry Analysts Top 100 European Influencers list. For 24 hours, I received lots of supportive and congratulatory messages from good friends and contacts I have made over my 21 years in the sector, and that felt really good – a nice, warm feeling on an autumnal Tuesday afternoon.
But when I looked at the full SIA list, my heart sank a little. It’s 2019 and we work in a sector that has excellent female representation at many levels – so, why are there only 23 women on the list of 100 selected from the whole of Europe?
Before I get an onslaught of comments, I am not saying that any of the men that are on this list do not deserve to be there. I know many of them, and they are outstanding (including several who are leading advocates for diversity and inclusion – particularly, my fellow Impellam colleague & Guidant Global CEO Simon Blockley). Their credentials speak for themselves. But there are definitely more than 23 women in Europe who have influenced our sector.
I am genuinely grateful for the recognition by the SIA. But I feel that our industry awards and lists of recognition need to cast the net far and wide; and look beyond the obvious and visible nominees.
Speak up to stand out
I wrote a blog earlier this year on International Women’s Day. In it, I referenced my advice to women looking to get into the boardroom and I said: “Don’t be silent.”
If you have an idea or an opinion, then make sure that you voice it. We can’t expect to be heard or listened to if we don’t speak up.
Maybe, I need to take a bit of my own medicine.
I read the SIA’s response to a complaint about the lack of diversity on the 2018 40 under 40 list. They said the list was “reflective of the nominations we receive. If more than 80% of nominations we receive are for men, what is fair and reasonable? Should we force an evenness that isn’t there by setting a minimum for women? But that’s not how we work. Rather, each nomination is given the same consideration regardless of the name attached... The nominations we receive, however, are in your court. Take the time to send people whom you think are worthy of the list, and give us the data to help us understand their contributions and achievements...”.
I agree! We have a shared responsibility. As an industry and as business leaders, we need to shine more of a spotlight on the breadth of talent within our sector; we need to use our voices to create the platform to showcase their achievements. Not just to give them “a warm fuzzy feeling”, but to ensure that they too can be seen as role models by the next generation.
Changing and championing
The SIA also said: “…three years ago, the low numbers of women on our Staffing 100 lists led us to create our Women in Staffing list….but it was always our hope that the Women in Staffing list ultimately would prove unnecessary. That the industry would catch up and recognise the value women offer and put them in more places of leadership. Because without women reaching those places of leadership, our lists of staffing leaders will remain unbalanced”.
I couldn’t agree more. I am not an advocate for “women-only lists” in perpetuity, but they are a means to an end; a way of highlighting the breadth of female talent in the industry. They are also a way of encouraging all businesses leaders to understand and be actively engaged in their own Diversity & Inclusion programmes.
I have recently been involved in hiring several fantastic senior females to join both the Impellam and Lorien leadership teams – they had outstanding careers, but just couldn’t break into the boardroom in their current roles. To be clear, I didn’t hire them because they are women. I hired them because they had valuable experience, a determination to prove they could make it at the next level, and because I knew that we could provide the environment where they could truly realise their ambition.
When will companies realise that diversity and inclusion fosters the retention of great talent, ultimately building better and stronger businesses?
I am proud to be part of an organisation like Impellam, where we recognise talent and provide equal opportunities for everyone (it’s no coincidence that my boss, Impellam CEO Julia Robertson, is also on the list, another leading advocate for diversity and a positive influence on my career).
This is the real privilege of having a long tenure and visible presence in our industry; it enables me to be the kind of “influencer” that makes me truly proud, someone who can create great opportunities for great people and play my part in ensuring they are recognised for their success.
So, here I am – using my voice and the platform generously gifted to me by the SIA to speak up and ask my fellow Top 100 European Influencers, and anyone else that reads this blog, to nominate at least one female for the list next year.
Nobody wants a “free pass”. Let everyone be judged on merit and achievement, but let’s take accountability for helping the SIA to find our great women and hold them up as role models…because I am certain that there are more than 23 out there!