Last night I had the pleasure of being in the company of a group of inspiring, talented, women from the UK at the Northern Power Women Awards in Manchester. Northern Power Women is a collaborative campaign to accelerate gender diversity from the North of England. The organisation encourages transformation of business culture to increase opportunities for women in business and showcase role models and best practice businesses that are driving and leading economic growth.
It was both an enlightening and rewarding experience as we jointly celebrated the success of powerful, visionary women bringing about a change in their professions, personal lives and society.
Many women found a stage and spotlight last night. Together, we shared in our stories, struggles, successes and our paths to success.
The singular narrative that leapt out to us was our collective goal: to develop and nurture a culture and environment where everyone, regardless of gender or background can develop, while also finding the time to be good parents, partners, and community members.
The right role models and mentors
When I was a young junior school student, my father would come home and talk about his life running an engineering firm and he would always say that technology is the future. At my all girls’ convent school, the nuns encouraged interest in science and maths. I was brought up with the belief that women could do anything and that the future belonged to engineers and scientists. This had a profound impact on me and my decision to study electronics and telecommunications. It led me to pursuing a career in engineering, and becoming an encryptor – the first step towards who I am today.
In my own career, I have striven to break through glass ceilings, and by sheer hard work, will and determination, I have, because I’ve always had compassionate leaders to look up to, and learn from.
It all starts with culture
In the last two weeks, there have been several media articles about how women are treated at the workplace, especially in the tech industry. There is a common thread you can draw across all these individual stories of women: culture. What is the culture you’re propagating in your organisation? Is it inclusive and respectful of people of all backgrounds?
There’s enough reason to invest in programmes that encourage diversity, and there’s a good amount of research that demonstrates a strong link between diversity in decision-making and business growth. For example, research conducted by Grant Thornton shows that the 35 companies in the S&P 500 with at least one female exec had a nearly 2% higher return on assets – 8.68% compared to 6.77%.
Diversity and representation
Representation is a crucial part of culture – whether it’s in the arts, science, television, or business.
As we strive to bring about both organisational and industry changes, it’s important to remember that these changes begin with people and their natural conditioning. We need to create opportunities to have a positive impact on society to truly bring about a cultural change. This is something I practice with my own two teenage sons – who will soon join the working world in whatever field they choose and grow to become open, inclusive adults, who respect people of all backgrounds and gender.
Remember, this is not just a conversation for women, it’s a conversation for all of us.
At Tata Communications, our continuous efforts and focus on enhancing our diversity slate have resulted in 27% of our new hires being women (as of 31st January 2017) compared to 19% in 2014. We have a clear, compelling and aspirational goal to attract and retain a diverse talent pool – a quantified commitment that begins from the top and cascades down to personal accountability for every single member of the workforce. My CEO is incredibly passionate about this and holds each of the leadership team responsible to ensure 30% of our workforce are represented by women by financial year 2018.
This International Women’s Day, I hope you all take the pledge to embrace diversity. Regardless of your level in the organisation, take it upon yourself to nurture talent and bring women into the workforce and give them the tools and opportunity to develop and thrive.
Creativity and innovation can truly come alive from bringing together different experiences and points of view. Join us in building a culture is representative and inclusive of all people.
To learn more about Julie’s thoughts on the industry and beyond, read her previous blogs here.