I was fortunate to attend a recent conference organised by The University of Greenwich, The University of Birmingham and Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers Kingston Smith. The conference was focusing on SME Success and Winning New Business in the UK.
Although such areas as Technology and Fintech have dominated the discussions presented by Sir Michael Snyder, Professor David E Gray and Professor Mark NK Sauders, the facts are business performance in the UK has improved for over two thirds of SME’s compared to three years ago.
The financial technology sector attracted more money last year than at any time in its history, according to business services firm KPMG.
Research published yesterday showed global investment in fintech companies totalled $19.1 billion (£13.4 billion) in 2015.
In Europe, deal activity increased by 30% year on year. The UK consolidated its position as clear leader, with financing deals for the likes of Funding Circle, Atom Bank and WorldRemit meaning half of all European fintech investment came to Britain.
Previous perceptions about the typical profile of an entrepreneur would probably suggest that the person would typically be male and middle-aged, but business in the UK is changing and women are generally taking a more prominent role when it comes to business leadership.
It is interesting to note that at least 25% of registered self-employed workers in the UK are women and the number of female entrepreneurs is rising nearly three-times faster than the rate for men.
There are understood to be more than 1.2m self-employed women in the UK who are involved in full or part-time work and according to the Office for National Statistics, the number of female entrepreneurs has risen by nearly 10% in the past two years, which compares very favourably to men (3.3% increase).
TheBoardlist, https://theboardlist.com, sent out surveys to more than 750 CEOs in the tech industry, and while responses are still coming in, a preliminary cut of the data reveals that while some CEOs (38%) believe gender diversity is very important, just as many believe it is not.
The Boardlist founder Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, refers to the fact that there is a perfect split in her opinion. “What CEOs are telling us is that it’s a much more nuanced issue,” she says, see below video:
With services like the Broadroom and the Boardlist now available, the question becomes, is any of this making a difference?
Recognising that women are significantly under-represented in engineering and technology careers, the UK government has repeatedly called for organisations and business to bring more women into the fold through its campaign Women into Technology and Engineering Call to Action.
The campaign focuses on helping to remove barriers to science for girls and women, and builds on previous schemes including work on equality by the Research Councils.
The Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) diversity programme led by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering is also funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, while the Equality Challenge Unit runs the Athena Swan scheme supported by the funding councils and Universities UK.
The imbalance of equality has been in business forever, there is a shift and the research above clearly states that the shift is changing with an improvement in woman leadership and business, A previous blog that I wrote on inequality, titled ‘It’s risky business to ignore gender inequality in the work place’
summarised that more sponsoring may lead to more and faster promotions for women, but it is not a magic bullet: There is still much to do to close the gap between men’s and women’s advancement. Some improvements such as supportive bosses and inclusive cultures are a lot harder to mandate than formal mentoring programs but essential if those programs are to have their intended effects. Clearly, however, the critical first step is to stop over mentoring and start accountable sponsoring for both sexes.
History shows us that minority groups cannot change the status quo without the support of the dominant majority. The Civil Rights Movement in America is a good example of how a campaign became mainstream when it won the support of powerful “allies” from the white community.
To date men have been left out of this conversation as women have been told to “fix” inequality in the workplace themselves.
Irrespective of the shift, women are still less likely to be given the “hot jobs” key to getting ahead at global companies, despite having more development training than men. Instead, they’re more likely to have projects with a smaller budget, smaller teams and less visibility to senior leadership.
What actually needs to be “fixed” is an organisation’s culture and systemic biases. We know, for instance, that many women are not asked career-changing questions. There’s a huge difference between “do you want this job?” and “you don’t really want that job, do you?” Or, even worse, the question isn’t even asked.
Male leaders need to start challenging these assumptions in order to make change. Real equality in the workplace will only come about when diversity is something that male leaders are actively involved in.
They need to know that even though it may not be their fault that inequality exists, it is their responsibility as leaders to work for change and to call out protocols that may be holding women back.
As Sonia Sotomayor once said:
“It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand.”