A dose of confidence is good for business
To mark International Women’s Day, Veolia’s Estelle Brachlianoff discusses why championing diversity makes business sense
“There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women” said Madeleine Albright, the first female US Secretary of State. That sounds like a terrifying prospect but the sentiment I agree with. As leaders I believe we should not just act as role models and show what is possible, but also take steps to help make succeeding in business a reality for other women.
We have to create a culture that makes more women believe they are capable of rising to the top even in once male-dominated sectors. I should know; I work in what is known to be a man’s world of technical engineers and dustbin “men”. But this has changed. By attracting female talent to our benches and putting top performing women on our corporate leadership programmes we are succeeding in changing the culture, and growing our business at the same time.
And we’re not the only ones. The Fortune 500 reveals that businesses with the highest representation of women in management are among the highest financial performers. With returns on equity of +35 per cent, what business can afford to turn that down?
For me, achieving this is largely about building confidence. This International Women’s Day if I could bottle self-belief and put it in a jar, I would deliver it to every woman in business that self-deprecates, rather than just going for it and not looking back.
Embarrassingly there are still more men called John than women leading the UK’s biggest companies. I hope that by doling out bottles of self-belief will mean that in the future there will be as many leading women in business as men and the higher percentage of female graduates is mirrored in the proportion of women into the upper echelons of UK plc.
However it’s not just about more Janets and less Johns. We must look beyond simple gender disparities and promote people based on talent at all levels by including the other groups in society that are excluded from employment, let alone the business hierarchy.
If we are serious about promoting equality and inclusion rather than just diversity we need to start reaping the benefits that everyone in society has to offer.
Ultimately I believe it’s all about empowerment and helping people achieve their goals through training, mentoring and coaching – so they gain the self-confidence to take their next step up.
I never said I would become a CEO, but I never said I couldn’t.
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