"We acknowledge that diversity in organisations, board rooms and events is a really positive way to help the Northern Powerhouse economy flourish."
Julian Wells, Director of FinTech North
FinTech North is holding its first conference in Liverpool (12th June 2018) as part of the International Business Festival. Whilst being chaired by Sara Parker, Director of North Invest, the FinTech North Liverpool event features four male experts for a panel discussion on funding, prompting both Peter and Sara to improve the diversity on the panel.
Corporate event organisers have come under scrutiny of late for assembling all-male panels and prompting a ‘call-out culture’ across social media, encouraging both organisations and panellists to address the normalisation of male dominance in public speaking.
FinTech Expert and Director of Baltic Creative, Peter Lunt, chose to decline his place on the all-male panel event on the back of the ‘Give Up Your Seat’ campaign, led by Women’s Leadership Group (WLG), which aims tackle the lack of diversity in power and decision-making structures in Liverpool City Region (LCR).
Established in 2017 by a collective of female leaders, the campaign was targeted at influencing change in the currently all-male combined authority to ensure the LCR cabinet is truly reflective of the people it serves.
Peter Lunt, Director of Baltic Creative said: “I saw the Give Up Your Seat campaign last year and assumed that through momentum, men would be giving up their seats. I was disappointed to learn it hasn’t yet happened, although on reflection not completely surprised. I have seen many situations where panels or speakers comprises the ‘usual suspects’, failing to truly represent the group or sector. I believe in getting the best people for the job – male or female – but that simply can’t be all male or all female.
“When I was asked to take part in the FinTech North funding panel discussion, I was more than happy to do so, but it was an all-male panel and that just didn’t seem right, so I offered to find someone in my professional network who would fit the brief. Should more men give up their seats? Of course they should, but I guess the momentum for change might not happen if we wait around for individuals, it's more of a hearts and minds thing, a cultural change, but a cultural change that needs a bit of a nudge.”
This news comes after accountancy giant PwC recently announced a ban on all-male shortlists for jobs in the UK in a bid to increase the number of women in senior roles within the firm.
Whilst Legal and General will now only invest in companies with at least 30% of women on the Board [https://www.legalandgeneralgroup.com/media/2477/17-05-18-press-release-girl-fund-final.pdf]. What the finance sector has come to understand is that firms with women in their board or leadership are between 15% and 30% more profitable.
Gemma McGowan, successful entrepreneur and chair of social investment company, said: “A lack of women in public speaking is indicative of the wider issue we face of male dominance in senior positions. The absence of women reinforces the pre-historic notion that women don’t have the skills or status necessary to contribute in the working world, nor that their opinions are valued.
“Championing female role models is critical because young businesswomen need to look at panels and board rooms and know that these positions are perfectly achievable to aspire to. We welcome the decision of our male colleague, and actively encourage more, to use their position of power to call-out inequality when they see it and encourage others to do so too.
“This only confirms that the finance sector really is leading the way for gender equality because they know it is not only ethical, but financially profitable. Statistics have proved time and time again that diversity equates to success and whilst the economy is making small but significant steps in progression, we await the much-needed change and positive action from our local government.”
The latest report by the Institute of Public Policy Research Power to the People?
https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/power-to-the-people-tackling-gender-imbalance highlights that combined authority boards are almost entirely composed of men with women representing just 4% of the leadership of England’s new devolved institutions.
The issue of gender equality in local government is a longstanding problem that will take years to address and that is why the WLG is calling asking for direct action now.