#BreakTheBias: Why women deserve to be leaders

By Katharine Spence

Tuesday 08th March

This year’s International Women’s Day focus is all about #BreakTheBias.

It got me thinking – what does ‘bias’ mean in today’s western society? We have equal opportunities by law, and we and the next generation of women expect equality in all aspects of our lives, from treatment in the workplace to the equal sharing of household chores in a partnership.

In fact, it’s so expected it’s easy not to give it a second thought.

I spoke last week to an extremely successful female entrepreneur, who has pivoted from a role in a management consultancy firm to setting up businesses and doing well. She has fought her way to the top and it would be disingenuous to equate her challenges to the more blatant form of sexism that I am sure still exists – she’s done brilliantly, so what’s the problem?

In that very language lies the problem. We talk of women fighting their way to the top – still.

No-one would ever say a male CEO fought his way up. There is still the perception of considerable challenges in the workplace for women, and that the women who make it to the top are an exception.

The figures bear this out.

It has been well documented that there are a tiny handful of women CEOs in the FTSE100. Organisations such as the 30% Club or 25×25 run by the incredible Tara Cemlyn-Jones are committed to ensuring that women are promoted to the top jobs. The barriers that exist are complex, and there is no one silver bullet to make sure it happens for more of us, but the case for women leadership is compelling.

Companies in the MSCI World Index with strong women leadership generated a Return on Equity of 10.1% per year, versus 7.4% for those without strong women leadership, according to MSCI ESG Research.

The figures for women-owned businesses and startups are even more staggering. According to Forbes magazine, women-founded companies in First Round Capital’s portfolio outperformed companies founded by men by 63%.

Again from Forbes, In a study of over 350 startups, Mass Challenge and BCG determined that businesses founded by women deliver higher revenue—more than two  times as much per dollar invested—than those founded by men, making women-owned companies a better investment for financial backers. The authors calculated that VCs could have made an additional $85 million (around £65 million) over five years if they’d just invested equally in both the women and men-founded startups.

Covid has not been kind to women, and the PWC Women in Work Index shows that for the first time it has slipped back, as women had an undue burden of managing work and home life during the pandemic.

But, to return to #BreakTheBias, and what it means. It means recognising the enormous contribution that women make to the workplace, in the culture, creativity, and ultimately to the economy. Celebrating that success and looking to the future is the best way to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Have a great day and a sparkling 2022.

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