Why business needs women

Why business needs women

Kim Antoniou argues that the inherent differences that exist between men and women can be utilised for the benefit of organisations and businesses.

When the idea for this opinion piece was first presented to me, my initial reaction was, ‘I am no feminist.’ It does feel as if there are a large number of women in high profile roles nowadays, especially holding top Government posts, as well as in the media. And it seems a lot more than ever before, or so I thought. 

But perception rarely gives the full picture and can’t always be relied upon to tell the truth, as I soon discovered. When I started to research this subject, I was genuinely surprised to read the following statistic: ‘Only 8% of the CEOs in the Fortune 500 are female’. So, for what it’s worth, here are my views on the subject.

The reality is that there’s a distinct lack of women sitting on the Boards of big companies or in major leadership roles across the business landscape. I think it’s both a real shame and a wasted opportunity. Generally speaking, women have so much more to offer, with markedly different skill sets to our male colleagues. We are often able to bring a totally different dynamic to decision making and success. Just imagine how dynamic a board could be if there was a better balance between the sexes.

It is no longer acceptable to simply group women together, using those old-fashioned attitudes and terms by referring to ‘motherhood’, ‘lack of confidence’, ‘not bold enough’ or even describing women as ‘failing to stand up for themselves’ or having ‘poor negotiating skills.’ These descriptions are not only ‘out of date’ but they were never true in the first place.

I realise it often falls on women to juggle the needs of family against business. But hasn’t the Covid pandemic shown us the importance of a good work/life balance? It has highlighted the need for couples to share responsibilities more evenly, both at work and also in the home.

Women can bring a totally different dynamic to the mix, quite often providing an alternative and more relevant perspective to issues than our male colleagues. We are intuitive, compassionate and emotional, but not in a negative way. We are excellent communicators, mentors and, thanks to centuries of taking control in the family home, have developed an innate ability to multi-task with ease.

Women do need to ‘grasp the nettle’ and act for themselves. They need to stand up and be heard, and become more assertive. We need to celebrate our differences, rather than trying to emulate our male counterparts. We need to support and promote other women throughout their business journey and, we must value our own skill sets.

And this is not simply a ‘blue print’ for seeking out top jobs ‘ where a clear gender imbalance currently exists ‘ because this positive mind set is relevant and required at every level. Are we doing enough in schools to level the employment playing field? Should more women be visiting schools and colleges to promote themselves as well as change wrongly held and deeply entrenched viewpoints? Or perhaps that’s already happening? 

For example, my own 16-year-old granddaughter understands that the difference between having a ‘good job’ and having a ‘bad job,’ is down to education, not gender. She works incredibly hard to maintain her high level of A* performances at school. She believes in herself and doesn’t lack the confidence needed to reach the very top. 

Maybe she is typical of the latest breed of young women who have already made their presence felt in the workplace. Will this new generation prevent discrimination from rearing its ugly head in the boardrooms of tomorrow? 

As a woman in business myself, I regularly try to encourage other females to take roles that may appear daunting or intimidating at first glance. I am proud of the impact that this has made when I see many of these women now holding top positions. They are impressive leaders, successful business women and entrepreneurs.

I do not want to denigrate the role of men in business, nor replace them all with women. But it would be good to see a better balance between the two. There needs to be a merging of skill sets, and an end to this ‘glass ceiling’. I would like to believe we are making some progress towards achieving equal opportunities, and moving closer to a greater parity in pay packages. And it’s vital we celebrate the distinct differences in our make-up.

Let’s start 2022 by taking some positive steps to try and redress the imbalance within the global business world. Let’s use all of the positive knowledge we have gleaned during the past two years to try and make some big changes.

Kim Antoniou
Kim Antoniou

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