News that UK firms will be required to publish gender pay audits is to be applauded. Gender diversity in the workplace has been ignored for too long by UK companies and it’s about time businesses that fail to employ, support and promote women are named and shamed.
Why am I so passionate about this topic? Because I am acutely aware of the invaluable contribution women make to a business. My opinion is not study-based – although McKinsey in its Diversity Matters report states “gender diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely to outperform the least diverse” – it’s formed from experience.
The Fourfront Group operates in the construction industry and in particular the fit out sector. This is an industry with only 24 per cent of women on FTSE 100 boards. Small companies are less diverse, with woman accounting for 18 per cent of directors of all FTSE 250 boards and even lower in fit out.
The reality is that a major source of talent, innovation and business intuition is not being tapped into.
Last year I launched Women in Fourfront – a 10 month programme of group workshops and individual coaching, aimed at women within the business.
Starting in May 2014 and concluding in March this year, we ran four workshops for 15 women focusing on confidence, communication, contribution, credibility and career success. Participants were supported by personal profiling and individual coaching sessions. All women have a mentor to help further develop their skills and the aim is for them to mentor the third set of participants in the 2016 programme.
So has this encouraged greater gender diversity and enabled people to be the best they can be?
I think so.
We have more women securing promotion and ideas that originated in the programme are now being implemented group-wide. To me this is just common sense as simply recognising the talents and abilities of all our people.
I’ve seen a significant change in how some women in our business perform and interact with others, plus it’s unleashed unprecedented interest in the overall progression of our business.
Participants have emailed me advising the programme was “life-changing”. Unleashing the potential of women in business is an excellent way to grow and develop organisations and if any further proof was needed, last year we recruited 100 people bringing our headcount to 240.
Programmes like Women in Fourfront can play a key role in building any business to be more honest, open and focused on developing its people and recognising their potential.
And that’s just got to be a better business.
It’s just having the courage to let the genie out of the bottle.