“Little boys are told ‘you’re very clever’ whereas little girls are told ‘you’re very pretty’”

How does this culture impact business and how can we ensure the female workforce is truly valued? 

XYZ Event’s fourth event drew over 60 women, along with a handful of men to debate, discuss and make progress on this developing topic.  

Hosted at RBS Manchester, the event inspired a host of questions and answers between the four guest speakers on the panel and the audience. From women who have just taken a leap of faith in starting their own business, to women in leadership, such as event host Rebecca Taylor (Global Head of HR, Response Tap) and there was an inspiring sense of unity throughout.

The panel consisted of a varied group of individuals with separate interpretations to offer on a woman’s place in business, flexibility and the future possibilities of diversity. Whilst there is clearly progress with an “estimated £75b from female led SME businesses contributing to economic output in the UK every year” as mentioned by Chris Reay, Spinningfields Estate Director – there is also great room for improvement with Rebecca Taylor highlighting that “33% of tech firms have no women in senior roles and only 27% of women are employed in the UKs digital industry.”

All four panelists; Coral Grainger of Capital Relations, professor Lynn Martin, MMU, Katy Winterborn, Senior Security Consultant at NCC Group and Vaqas Farooq Partner, Shoosmiths LLP had a different story to tell of their experience with women in business. 

Katy Winterborn spoke positively about her position in leadership as a woman in business. Although she is only 1 of 7 women in her job (surrounded by 100+ men) she spoke about never feeling pressured because of her gender. Flexibility in the business world is fast growing, with a “4 day week” becoming more popular. The audience was clear to clarify that this should not be misinterpreted as a ‘part-time’ week, however as this does not always account for the logging on that is done during late nights. One audience member suggested that we “lose the language of ‘part time’ as this suggests we only work part time – we should introduce the term ‘flexibility’ instead”. 

Debate was sparked over what the difference is between men and women in terms of flexibility: what is ‘acceptable’ and what is the norm? One audience comment highlighted the need for cultural change by commenting “if flexibility becomes normality, it stops being flexibility and starts becoming a chain”. Eventually our future expectations for flexible working will become normality and the mass workforce will crave fresh change.

The event concluded with ideas for improvement, including vocalising workplace concerns, the need to discover one’s own personal work/life balance and the fitting comment by panel member (and XYZ tenant) Vaqas Farooq who rightly stated that “we are all judged by what we deliver”, irrespective of gender or working hours. 

The XYZ Events programme is on  a tour of the four corners of Manchester ahead of the launch of the building early next year. The next event is on the 22nd September at the studio, Lever Street, for details click here.

Blog entry by Chloe Barrett, 20th September 2016. Edited by Daisy Barnes. 

See press coverage of the event here.

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