By Ruby McGregor‐Smith, CBE
former Chair of the Women’s Business Council
The UK faces unprecedented challenges in the current financial climate, with businesses operating in one of the toughest economic situations the UK has ever seen. It has never been more important to fully capitalise on the skills and talents of all people, regardless of their gender.
I passionately believe that by creating opportunity for all, raising aspirations and enabling people to maximise their talents, we will deliver stronger economic growth.
We need to create a business culture that embraces flexible working and provides better support for working parents.
Today’s workforce is changing and is becoming more diverse, however further change is required to create a national skills base that can meet the demands of a global market. If we don’t take action to address this, the economic impact will be significant and we will lose competitiveness internationally.
It is for these reasons that the work of the Women’s Business Council could not be more timely.
As a working mother with two children I know the challenges faced in balancing a career and family life. I agreed to chair the WBC in order to make a difference, to make things better for the next generation and to ensure our children do not face the same barriers I faced. I believe in choices at every stage of our lives. I fully respect the choice of parents to stay at home with their families, but those who do wish to return to their career should be able to do so and have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
Our national economy needs women’s contribution, and action is required to remove the obstacles that currently restrict women from realising their full potential. These obstacles appear at all stages of women’s working lives and I am committed to working to reduce their impact.
To achieve this, we urgently need to broaden girls’ aspirations and career choices. We need to create a business culture that embraces flexible working and provides better support for working parents. We need to support more women in setting up their own businesses. We need to ensure that at every stage of a woman’s career she has the opportunity to learn skills, develop and contribute in a dynamic business environment. If we can achieve this, we will unblock the talent pipeline that for so long has restricted women from reaching the most senior levels in business – and we will deliver economic growth.
We need to ensure that at every stage of a woman’s career they have the opportunity to learn skills, develop and contribute in a dynamic business environment.
Our recommendations are addressed to both Government and business, and cover women’s opportunities at all stages of their working lives. The strategy we set out looks to the future, and will actively support growth over the long term. In developing these recommendations we have considered a broad range of existing research, whilst also commissioning new research that provides further evidence in support of the link between high performance and gender diversity.
Creating better business cultures attracts the best talent to organisations. Our evidence shows that businesses with more diverse workforces are stronger performers, better at supporting individual needs, and more attuned to their customer base. Many of the best employers and businesses are ahead of the game in recognising this. There are individual examples of best practice where our recommendations are already delivering results. But more needs to be done.
The WBC membership was drawn from a wide range of business sectors and they have brought significant experience, insight and commitment to the table. I would like to thank all the members of the WBC, our partners and the Government Equalities Office for their support. We will continue to work with the Government and business to ensure that our recommendations are implemented, progress is made and activity is accelerated in those areas where there is much to gain.
Now is the time for action. Through the implementation of these recommendations we have the opportunity to raise aspirations and allow talented people to reach their long term potential – ultimately, this will improve the talent pipeline and drive economic growth, positioning the economy for success.Next: Introduction