The other day I was rooting through boxes
in my parents attic and discovered a story I’d written. I was eight at the
time. It was about my adventures on a rocket ship and featured a cute
brightly-colored illustration of said ship, looking rather like an ice lolly.
So far so good. However the story ended
with two major disappointments.
Firstly, the story contained (just before
the end) the painful cliché of ‘and then I woke up…’ — an early sign
that I was unlikely to make it as a literary original. And then it concluded
with a truly heart-sinking final part of the sentence ‘I knew it was a
dream because I knew girls can’t be astronauts (sic).’
Oh, the horror. So self-limiting at such a
young age. Reading it, I consoled myself, that it was written (quite) a long
time ago. Surely things have changed so much since then? Surely my two
daughters and seven nieces would never think similar things? It’s unlikely as
they’ve all been raised by fierce feminists (their mums and their dads).
However… it then occurred to me that I might be being complacent. Astronauts?
Possibly? I wouldn’t blame them if they might have some doubts about whether
girls can be CEOs in business though — in a world where Indra Nooyi stepping
down has winnowed the number of female CEOS in the S&P 500 even further in
the States. In the UK the number of female CEOs in the FTSE100 has not
increased AT ALL in the past five years — the same period of time which has
seen phenomenal change in technology and business. It’s a world where there
are more FTSE 100 CEOs called Dave than there are women. And while I tell
my nieces and daughters to believe they can do anything, might they still have
doubts in the sort of world where women are chastised for ‘wanting it all’ and
men are quite rightly asking ‘can’t we have it all too’?
I believe that equality is good for
everyone. I believe that equality and diversity is good for business and the
world. I believe that the workplace is changing Superfast. It’s changing so
Superfast it places new challenges on leaders and opens new opportunities for
them. I’ve written a book about business leadership in this world of speed
which will be published in September in hardback in the UK and the US
(Superfast: Lead at Speed). I researched the topic because I wanted to find
ways to help clients and friends who were either keen to accelerate things
and/or wanted to work out the best way to deal brilliantly with the pace of
change in business. But I decided to publish this book and to do it with the
great team at John Murray Press because I realised women do not often write
business books. And I wanted to add to the voices which are writing about time
and business and those who are also saying ‘it’s time.’
As I write this there is only one book in
Amazon’s top ten of business books written by a woman (June Sarpong’s
Diversity) and no books at all in their subsections on Business Management,
Change management, Strategy or Entrepreneurship. If you fancy changing
that then one option is to help me — then let me know if you have any ideas for
how I can promote the book through speeches or press coverage… or if you’d like
to read Superfast: Lead at Speed
pre-order it here.
It’s time for businesses to speed up. As
the rate of technology gathers space the opportunity for more innovative
working practices means its more possible for more flexible working approaches
which are good for business efficiency and for life-flourishing for people.
I’ve run a business which won an award for its ‘sexi-flexi’ innovative working
style. For Superfast: Lead at Speed I’ve spoken to forward-thinking
leaders who recognize that diversity doesn’t just mean diversity of appearance
but diversity of styles and that also comes from diversity of working
structures and support. It’s time. Time for organizations to wake up, time
for gender equality in leadership to speed up… and it’s time for women with a
point of view to speak up.
So I am very proud that I was nominated for
an award and even prouder that I’ve made it onto the shortlist (the Corporate
Leader category for Forward Ladies — an inspirational programme that showcases
diversity in the UK and recognizes the doers, trailblazers and inclusive
leaders across the UK). And I’m overcoming my natural inclination not to talk
about this kind of thing because if we don’t talk about it and if we don’t
speak up, how will we speed up the change? It really is time and I want to keep
playing my part.
I may be a long way from a rocket ship but
I’m happy that things are moving in the right direction and to continue to do
whatever I can to help make more girls’ dreams a reality. Let’s make this a
time of real change and press for progress in a more equal workplace. It’s
Superfast: Lead at Speed is published by
John Murray Press in hardback in the US and UK and on Kindle on the 20th
September. To find out more about Forward Ladies, see here.
The article is originally published by Sophie Devonshire, CEO, The Caffeine Partnership and is republished with the author’s permission.