Time for bold moves to improve gender equality

Women are making great headway in the workplace, but International Women's Day shines a light on the need to redouble efforts, says Emma Newlands.

Stacey Winters of Deloitte knows first-hand that a career and family life are compatible. Picture: Contributed
Stacey Winters of Deloitte knows first-hand that a career and family life are compatible. Picture: Contributed
Stacey Winters of Deloitte knows first-hand that a career and family life are compatible. Picture: Contributed

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is #BeBoldForChange, calling for efforts to forge “a more gender-inclusive world”. According to Stacey Winters, Deloitte’s sector leader in the UK for aerospace and defence: “To be bold means showing a willingness to take risks, to be confident and courageous, and have a strong and vivid appearance. These traits don’t always come easily to people, and sadly even less so among women — particularly in the workplace.”

She cites research from the Chartered Management Institute and XpertHR that found men in the UK are 40 per cent more likely than women to be promoted in management roles, while the Scottish Parliament has launched an inquiry into Scotland’s gender pay gap, currently 15.6 per cent for all employees.

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Winters adds that while progress has been made in tackling gender equality, “it still exists in a range of professions, sectors and industries; reflected not only in pay or a chance at a leadership role, but in many others too”.

Her comments come as new research from Accenture found that globally, a woman earns an average $100 for every $140 by a man. But the Getting to Equal 2017 study also reported, more positively, that women graduating in 2020 from universities in developed markets around the world could be the first generation to close the pay gap in their professional lifetimes.

Conditions to hit this milestone by 2044, bringing it forward by 36 years, include women taking advantage of career equalisers such as boosting digital skills. Winters recounts her own experiences of working in industries where men are the majority.

“However, proudly, I built a team that is 90 per cent female in a traditionally male-dominated sector – a situation that would have been unthinkable when I first started out. It’s encouraging to see such change, and while the pursuit of a career in this line of work often resulted in me being the only woman in the room, it was being bold enough to take action that helped bring about that change.”

She also stresses the “power” of women’s networks, and law firm DLA Piper is in fact hosting an event today in Edinburgh to celebrate the success of its female lawyers. Hazel Moffat, head of its litigation and regulatory practice in Scotland, said the aim of the occasion “is to inspire women in business to be bold, confident and successful”.

Also coinciding with IWD is fellow law firm Shepherd & Wedderburn highlighting the achievements of its female partners and solicitors. These include Emma Carmichael being named by the Association of Women in Property as chairman of its Central Scotland branch, while Leigh Herd has also just been confirmed as honorary secretary and treasurer of the Scottish branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. The law firm also said that this week, Who’s Who Legal has cited partners Yvonne Brady and Gillian Carty as among Scotland’s foremost restructuring and insolvency practitioners — two of only three Scots lawyers to be listed.

Also regularly mentioned as a factor for women is flexibility in the workplace, and Winters is vocal about the benefits this has brought her after having children. Since Deloitte launched its Agile Working Strategy in June 2014, “I have been able to work hard, and dedicate a healthy amount of time to my family – something I promote to all women around me.”

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She says that in August 2015, she relocated back to Scotland for purely personal reasons, remaining a London based-partner. “For the first time ever, I got to take my kids to nursery and pick them up twice a week. “And moving didn’t limit my career – I became the head of risk advisory for Scotland in January this year, giving me a work reason to be here!”

Also looking at the benefits of a tailored approach is Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), which works to improve the commercial culture for female-led business ownership. It has revealed the launch of its Business Advisor Gender Balance (BAGB) Training and Certification Programme to “pioneer the transition to a more gender-aware business support environment”.

It comes on the back of WES research into female entrepreneurship, finding that about 80 per cent of respondents say business advice services should be more aware of differences in support needs between men and women. Business Gateway Fife and Business Gateway Edinburgh will be the first organisations to undertake the BAGB programme, with training starting at the end of this month.

Lastly, Winters believes that for women, there is “no reason you can’t go far in your career while maintaining a happy and grounded home life”. She adds: “Let’s create a culture of both women and men in business who are there for each other, not afraid to talk about family life and priorities; to be confident and courageous and #BeBoldForChange.”